Back Online With More of the Same - Sony's Presentation at E3 2011

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Sonyby Kyle Ackerman


Despite the substantial leaks surround the PlayStation Vita (previously dubbed the "Next Generation Portable"), there's no question that the biggest issue on everyone's mind coming into Sony's E3 presentation was the PlayStation Network outage. Sony's Jack Tretton opened the presentation apologizing for the outage, eager to move on to the benefits of the PlayStation Network and the planned announcements for the show. What could better distract the angry core audience from the PlayStation Network outage than rapidly moving on to a spectacular demo of Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception? The obvious subtext was, "You can't abandon our platform, we've got cool s**t like this that you can't get anywhere else!"

Even if you catch the trailers online, you won't see Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception in the full 3D that everyone in the presentation audience enjoyed, thanks to the 3D glasses the crowd was asked to wear. You're willing to give up regular network connectivity for polished 3D play, right? Sony also showed off an impressive Resistance 3 demo in 3D, then touted upcoming remastered collections, including the previous God of War games released on the PSP, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus all being re-released on the PlayStation 3 in 3D. Sony also touted an inexpensive (small) 3D display and 3D glasses, emphasizing that 3D can both be used to play in 3D, or to give two players a full play experience on the same screen. The 24" display will be packaged with a set of 3D glasses, and HDMI cable and a copy of Resistance 3 for $500.


Having hammered through Sony's emphasis on 3D, the presentation moved on to the PlayStation Move. As with Microsoft's Kinect, every game is seeking to shove the Move controller into play, whether it adds to play or is simply shoved in carelessly. It's hardly a surprise that so many games are adding Move support, as many of them are the same games integrating motion controls on other consoles. Sony chose to emphasize the Move controller using 2K Sports' (part of Take-Two Interactive) basketball franchise NBA 2K12, with some showy help from Kobe Bryant. If you're not a sports fanatic, Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest (in 3D) lets players use the Move controller to slash with a sword, hurl throwing stars and fire arrows from a bow. It was nice to see an example of a game that actually benefits from the Move controller system.

There was the usual parade of titles, exclusive and otherwise. Some looked keen, such as Starhawk, Saint's Row: The Third, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and my most anticipated title for 2012, BioShock Infinite. I continue to be curious concerning CCP's previously announced Dust 514. CCP confirmed at the presentation that Dust 514 will be exclusive to the PlayStation 3 (at least on consoles), will support Move and will be integrated into the Eve Online massively multiplayer online game.

Surprisingly, Sony didn't place the usual emphasis on purely exclusive third-party titles. With skyrocketing budgets, the economics of game production presumably just don't easily support single-platform exclusives. Instead, Sony heavily emphasized extra exclusive content for many games. Many upcoming major titles will have additional downloadable or on-disc content exclusive to the PlayStation platform. Of course, the conference didn't exclude the possibility that there might be different, equally exclusive content on other platforms.

At this point, the PlayStation Vita is hardly a surprise, but Sony was happy to finally confirm details of the device it claims will blur the line between games and reality this holiday season. The WiFi-only version will cost $250 while the 3G-enabled version will cost $300. The device will have two analog sticks, touch interfaces on the front and back, a five-inch OLED screen and front and rear cameras. The emphasis in the presentation seemed to be on smartphone-like capabilities rather than gaming power. The emphasis was on buzzwords like "augmented reality experiences," "social networking," "cross-platform functionality" and "location-based gaming."

The most horrific announcement concerning the PlayStation Vita had nothing to do with gaming. Rather it was that the Vita will partner with AT&T, because that went so well for the iPhone. Unlike the usual thunderous applause that follows announcements at these presentations, the AT&T announcement garnered groans, boos and belly laughs from the audience. There were a few demos on the Vita, including an Uncharted game and an action-oriented role-playing game called Ruin. The demos tried to emphasize the visuals, but the real focus was on the interface (with the Uncharted demonstration tapping enemies on screen to punch them) and social integration (with the Ruin demo making the game sound like Diablo with Twitter functionality). Of course, the Vita will also have versions of ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet.

Once you got past Microsoft's focus during its presentation on the Kinect, Microsoft's narrative was all about control of the living room. Sony didn't dwell overwhelming on that, despite touting some strong statistics. For example, Sony claimed that 30% of all Netflix streaming takes place through a PlayStation 3, and emphasized that it has an ever-growing stable of content, including near-term plans to add CinemaNow and other content streaming.

As with Microsoft's presentation, Sony's presentation was disappointing. The Vita is simply yet another iteration of the PSP (after the failed PSP Go). While I have no objection to a longer console cycle, which this clearly is, I don't appreciate trying to pretend that a half-assed implementation of motion controls is enough to create long-tail sales for the current console generation. Give me games that uniquely use the motion controls, or give me polished games using the old interface. Don't waste my time with a version of a game whose only benefit is that it burns more calories.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 6, 2011 9:10 PM.

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