Sony Adds Meat to E3
To open Sony's 2009 E3 Briefing, Jack Tretton (President and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Computer Entertainment America), declared that "2009 is going to be all about content on the PlayStation 3." Truly, Sony showed an impressive array of exciting software, but Sony also had the most interesting and exciting hardware announcements of the show.
Jack Tretton said to the audience, "We consider ourselves to be industry leaders at Sony, and press leaks are no exception." Clearly, he's right. When Kaz Hirai (President of Sony Computer Entertainment) stepped up to unveil the new version of Sony's PSP, nearly everyone knew what was coming, but that didn't make it less dramatic. Many analysts think that the DS has already won the portable console battle, but Sony's new PSP indicates it is aiming at a different audience.
Hirai said, "we have two names for the new PSP, 'The worst-kept secret of E3' and the 'PSP Go.' This PSP is 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the PSP 3000, easily fitting in the palm of the hand. The screen on the face of the PSP Go slides up to unveil the gaming controls, but media controls are located on the top of the device. The PSP Go is not intended to replace the PSP 3000. Rather, it is designed for people who want a smaller form factor; to focus on media capabilities; and prefer their content downloaded.
The PSP Go does not have a UMD player, so from now on, games that are released as physical UMDs for the PSP 3000 will also be available as PlayStation Store downloads. The PSP Go will, however, come with 16 GB of internal flash memory, built-in WiFi and integrated Bluetooth. It will launch on October 1 in North America and Europe for $249, and on November 1 in Japan for ¥26,800.
Clearly, Sony is pushing hard on both the PSP and the PSP Go. The company is reducing the cost of PSP development kits to $1,500 and ¥150,000 (a massive drop in cost) to further encourage developers to work with the platform. Sony is also working to make media more accessible, particularly for the PSP Go. Sony's video, delivered through the PlayStation Network, will soon be purchasable and downloadable directly through the PSP. And Sony will launch a new music application, "SensMe," that will analyze a PSP music library to generate playlists based on mood.
Finally, Sony is working hard to ensure that the PSP and PSP Go will have top-notch games available for the PSP Go launch. Gran Turismo for PSP will be released when the PSP Go launches. Along with a slew of other games, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker will bring a Solid Snake story set in the 1970s to the PSP.
Sony also showed a prototype of the "PlayStation Motion Controller," which the company promised to release in the first half of 2010. Clearly aimed to compete with both Microsoft's Project Natal and Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus, the PlayStation Motion Controller looked a lot more exciting than either (except perhaps Project Natal's ability to navigate through menus). In conjunction with the PlayStation Eye camera, a wand that glows on one end precisely tracks all motion and position.
While still a tech demo, the PlayStation Motion Controller demonstrated everything from hurling paint at the screen to pulling and firing a bow in a much more compelling demonstration than Nintendo had done just hours prior. The interface was used to position a flashlight in 3D space to illuminate a virtual area; was transformed into weapons ranging from a sword to a flail; and was used as a paddle to strike a ball. Two wands were used together to fire a bow, hurl shuriken or very precisely control a sword and shield. The demo showed carefully pushing back a rag doll's chin with the tip of the sword before sending the whole dummy flying with a solid swing.
The wand is not yet finalized, but will have a glowing tip and buttons so that it can be used as a controller and become more than just a stick to wave. The demo even showed using the wand to control a first person shooter, with the in-game perspective moving, coordinated with the wand. Again, though the PlayStation Motion Controller was described as a tech demo, if it really launches in the first half of 2010, it will show that Sony has bested everything its biggest competitors are boasting about.
Sony showed a lot of exciting games for the PlayStation 3, but the most surprising announcements were those that they couldn't spend much time discussing. It was a big coup when Microsoft ensured that Final Fantasy XIII would be released for the Xbox 360 alongside the PlayStation 3, and a big loss for Sony, as the PlayStation's exclusive access to Final Fantasy games has helped sell the platform. Sony revealed that Final Fantasy XIV will not only return to their console in 2010, it will be exclusive to the PlayStation 3. Sony also confirmed that Rockstar North (the folks behind the Grand Theft Auto games) will be creating Agent exclusively for the PlayStation 3.
Other exciting games include The Last Guardian (a title in the same vein as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus), and ModNation Racers a kart-racing game that draws more from LittleBigPlanet than from Mario Kart. The ModNation Racers developers were able to rapidly construct an entire, functional track in front of the crowd in five minutes, making the game look like a thrilling opportunity for kart-racing fans, and as gorgeous as other top PlayStation 3 titles.
True to its initial promise, there was a lot more content than I've described, with spectacular presentations of games like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Assassin's Creed II. MAG, as promised last year, demonstrated a live 256-player battle, and promises to transform online multiplayer shooter action in a genuinely exciting way.
I've already spent too much space describing what Sony had to present during its E3 conference, so let me simply say this: Sony had me excited for this next year, particularly for the PlayStation 3. Maybe it's good for Sony to be the underdog once again. We all benefit.