Coming off the heels of the Microsoft Press Conference, it's not Sony's turn in the batter's box. Can they hit a home run, or will they also strike out? The answer is just a click away.
When the history of this generation of video gaming is written, May 8th, 2006 will undoubtedly be one of the most significant dates in the story. Before that day, a vast amount of people from gamers to developers had more or less declared that Sony had already won the current console war. Until that day, the Playstation 3 enjoyed enough of a pre-released advantage that journalists would say that Microsoft would need a launch a new console in 2008. Fast forward 6 years later, and those glory days are an ever-growing distant memory. Despite selling 63 million consoles as of the end of Fiscal Year 2011, Sony has bled away all of the profits (around 5 – 6 billion) and brand advantage that they had built up in their first 11 years of being in the console business. Beyond the point where it could turn the perceived tide with one big announcement, can Sony at least deliver a strong message that gives the public confidence in the future? If it were only about the console games, then answer would've been yes.
How the Show came across:
Within minutes of the show beginning, the main positive difference between the Sony and the Microsoft shows were quite evident. Whereas Microsoft's main presenters seemed bored and almost indifferent towards their main product, Sony's enthusiasm for games showed throughout the parts of the Press Conference dedicated to them. In fact, Sony opened up the Conference with a montage of games that have been released over its plaforms over the generation. From there, Jack Tretton would come on to the stage, make a passionate speech about how Sony is committed to enhancing gaming experiences and introduce a representative of Project Dream (David Cage) to talk about the next game from the makers of "Heavy Rain" called "Beyond, which promises to handle its main character in a unique way for videogames. Overall, the whole entire package is extremely appealing and the gaming world will definitely be keeping an eye out as to where the game ends up.
Following up on the strong opening, Sony would continue to show off its' future with Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Sony's answer to the Smash Brothers series would take most of its cues from the game that inspired it existence. From what we saw the game looks like it's going to be a winner for those interested in it, even if the commentary was a bit grating. The game also promised to be a forefront display of a new connectivity feature that allows for the Vita to become a controller for Little Big Planet, which will allow for new gameplay features never seen before in the game.
Tretton would then go on to talk about PSN from a game and subscription standpoint and would announce new games that were free for the service starting that next day. From there, he would spend some time announcing games and the initiatives to bring them to their network. Said games announced would include "Papa & Yo", "Retro City Rampage" and "Unfinished Swan." The last thing would be announced in this section of the presentation would be "PS 1 Classics" for the Vita version of the PSN. The service itself would allow gamers to access select PS 1 titles on their Vita for the cost of 5 dollars a month.
After those announcements it was time for another segment of games that was led off with Assassin's Creed III: Liberation, where we not only got our first look at the game in motion, but learned that the game will be available on October 30th along with Assassin's Creed III proper. Speaking of the console game, we got our first look at the maritime battles that will take place. Both games looked exciting and continued what had been an exciting Press Conference up to that point. Unfortunately, this is where the conference would take its major misstep in my eyes.
Far Cry 3 would be next and unlike the other games which distinguished themselves in one way or another, this game would seem just like the million other first person shooters that seem to be available every single year around the Holidays. Not even the demonstration of 4 Player Co-Op could generate any personal excitement and just set the tone for what would obviously be the weak part of the show. Little did I know how soon I'd realize how weak this part of the presentation would end up being.
It would be Move's turn to take the stage and we got things started off with a big announcement of Wonderbook for the PlayStation Move. From the information that was given in the show, Wonderbook allows us to go into stories and affect them with our choices. To display this, the first application of this new apparatus would be J.K. Rowling's Book of Spells. Now, like many non-gaming apps on these systems, the problem isn't introducing them, the problem comes from how boring they're made to look. The demonstration of Book of Spells was not exciting in any capacity and made me scratch my head as to why this is being demonstrated in such an unappealing form.
After what seemed like forever, we moved onto a short announcement of the rebranding of PlayStation Suite, PlayStation Mobile which promises to deliver the PlayStation experience on Android Devices. Thankfully, the show would conclude with two high octane demos of "God of War: Ascension" and "The Last of Us." Both games looked quite impressive for a visual standpoint and "The Last of Us" looks like it'll be a nice Swan Song for the generation from a storytelling standpoint, as well. If the game can bring the gameplay to the party, then it could become one of the all-time classics in gaming.
To say I'm conflicted about this conference is quite an understatement. On one hand, I was extremely impressed with the grand majority of 1st Party software that was displayed. Despite not having a PS3 in my house, these titles continue to add to a list of growing reasons why I want to get one at first opportunity and it's due to such a backlog that I'm not too upset that we didn't get inklings of the next generation. At the same time it's impossible not to think about the bad taste that the Wonderbook presentation left in my mouth. For all of the eye-rolling I did during the non-gaming entertainment portion of the Microsoft Press Conference, there was still a couple of things that made me go "I might use that." Wonderbook just came across as unappealing and desperate, even if they got J.K. Rowling on for it. That being said, the worst part of the show wasn't even Wonderbook, it was the lack of time given to the PS Vita. For all intents and purposes, Sony's non focus on its recently released handheld did nothing to inspire the confidence of the consumers who bought or are looking to invest in the system, especially one that seems beleaguered by how portable gaming has changed with iOS and Android technology. By not doing so, Sony seems out of touch with the situation that the Vita currently faces.
Long story short, had Sony made a few adjustments, they would've easily been the winner of this important, if overstated aspect of the E3 Convention. However, Sony once again got in the way of Sony and degraded itself to doing no better than Microsoft by inexcusable omission.
Overall Grade: C
Written or Contributed by: Linwood Earl Knight