Sony 2007 E3 Media and Business Summit Plea

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by Kyle Ackerman

Sony's press event at the 2007 E3 Media and Business Summit was the most like past years of any event, yet the least like Sony. Once again, Sony held its conference on a Culver City sound stage (though the conference setup took less than half the space of previous years, and had fewer than half the attendees). What made this year so different was that Sony seemed almost... humble. Starting with Jack Tretton's (President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America) self-effacing manner, Sony's tone was less smug than in past years.

Gone was the typical tone in which Sony proclaimed itself market leader, claimed the most powerful new console, and smugly emphasized its many exclusive relationships. The tone this year was a more contrite and pleading effort to convince the word that Sony has content.

In a way, Sony is still entitled to gloat about its success. Most people forget that if you exclude handhelds, the PlayStation 2 is still the dominant console. But right now, financial analysts, press and hardcore fans are all focused on the PSP and PlayStation 3. And neither of those platforms is doing as well as Sony would like.

The PSP has recently enjoyed a price drop to $169, and Sony pointed out that sales of the PSP were up 90% compared to the period before the price drop. But that's still not enough. Sony confirmed that it will release a new version of the PSP (the PSP-2000) that responds to criticism of the system. The new PSP will be 33% lighter, 19% slimmer and boast improved battery performance. The new PSP will also include a port that can be used to output PSP content (such as video or games) to a television. In addition to the standard black version of the PSP, Sony plans to sell two bundles. One, called the "Entertainment Pack" will be released in September and will include a copy of Daxter, a 1 GB memory stick and a silver-colored PSP. The bundle will retail for $199, as will another bundle, introduced by Chewbacca himself. The Wookie showed off the bundle that will include a white PSP with a picture of Darth Vader and a copy of the upcoming Star Wars : Battlefront game for the PSP. That bundle will be released in October, and Sony hopes the new bundles will spur further PSP sales.

When it came to the PlayStation 3, Sony emphasized the power of the recent price cut (taking the 60 GB PlayStation 3 to $499). It talked up the PlayStation Home virtual space that Sony introduced earlier this year, but mostly talked about games. Admittedly, Sony showed some good-looking downloadable games, such as Pain, in which you fling a ragdoll figure at a cityscape (sort of like Burnout's crash mode, but with people instead of cars). There was the fascinating looking Echochrome, in which you manipulate Escher-inspired objects to create an impossible landscape on which simple figures can successfully walk.

Mostly, Sony harped on the fact that there really are games for the PlayStation 3. They showed some of the exclusive titles, and emphasized how closely Sony is working with Epic to help the Unreal Engine 3 take advantage of the PlayStation 3 hardware. But basically, Sony showed the same trailers that Microsoft had shown the night before. The exclusive Metal Gear Solid 4 garnered cheers from the crowd, as did some of the other exclusives, but Sony was simply trying to convince everyone who doesn't have a PlayStation 3, that should they purchase one, and there will be games to play.

Sony harped a great deal on the advantages of Blu-Ray as a format (bringing to mind Microsoft's noticeably absent defense of HD-DVD), but one of the most remarkable announcements was severely underemphasized. Sony announced that NCsoft will be bringing some of its online games exclusively to the PlayStation 3. Those games will simply be both new and existing NCsoft games. Specifics weren't mentioned, but it seems likely that something like Lineage II or City of Heroes might find its way to Sony's platform.

It should also be noted that Sony did show off Buzz: The Mega Quiz a game for the PlayStation 2 it plans to bring from Europe with a similar format to Scene It? and controllers that look similar to the ones Microsoft announced last night. The difference is that Buzz is for the PlayStation 2, and its controllers have cords. But they have the same big red button, once again showing how the two companies are racing for every corner of the console market.

If anything was remarkable at Sony's event, it was the company's lack of haughty pride. Clearly the opening blows in this latest generation of the console war have left the company bruised, and Sony isn't too proud to admit it. And, Sony is smart enough to avoid forcing the focus onto its popular, but aging, PlayStation 2.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 11, 2007 11:42 PM.

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