June 07, 2011, 9:36 AM — By the time Sony's E3 press conference got underway, we'd seen Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft all do their dog and pony shows. That hurts Sony when it comes to cross-platform IPs (since we've likely already seen them elsewhere), but that wasn't Sony's biggest challenge yesterday evening.
Jack Tretton took the stage and immediately acknowledged the "elephant in the room," meaning of course the extended outage of the Playstation Network. I thought he handled it pretty well, right up front, first topic. A touch of humor to break the ice, as he mentioned that journalists love stories that involve controversy and bad news, so he told them "You're welcome" for all the page views the outage generated. Then he thanked the third party developers and retailers for their support, and finally apologized to consumers for "any anxiety that we caused."
I can't think of how Sony could've handled this bad situation better at their press conference, and Jack Tretton's trademark humility really worked to the company's advantage, in my opinion. What do you think?
After a few minutes spent claiming PS3 was the most-connected device available and letting us know that movie rental/purchase service CinemaNow will be coming to PSN, we got on to the games.
They led with Drake's Fortune: Drake's Deception. The demo had Nathan Drake fighting in the hold of a ship that was sinking. It looked fun, but Drake is starting to be a bit too military for my tastes. He was snapping necks like the baddest bad-ass in a Call of Duty game which just doesn't fit well with his 'lovable rogue' personality. After a gameplay demo, an extended trailer revealed that the gang is all here. Sully, Elena and Chloe are all back, and voiced by Richard McGonagle, Emily Rose, and Clauda Black, respectively (and of course Nolan North is back as Drake). Day 1 purchase for this Uncharted fan.
From there we went to Insomniac's Resistance 3, which looks like yet another brown quasi-military shooter taking place in a ruined city (this time with aliens), then side-tracked to HD remakes of two PSP God of War games, and confirmation of the long-rumored Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD remakes. Both of these support 3D. If you've never played Ico mark your calendars and but this collection when it hits store shelves. One of the best games of all time, in my opinion.
Next came a rare surprise. Sony says 3D is too expensive for a lot of people and they want to help with that issue. So they're producing a 24" 3D monitor designed for playing games, and (relatively) inexpensive active 3D glasses to go with it. For $500 you can get a bundle with the monitor, a pair of glasses, an HDMI cable, and a copy of Resistance 3. Additional glasses will cost $70/pair. One special feature of this monitor is that, via using the 3D glasses to display 2D images, it can deliver two completely different images to two viewers. The idea is to provide each player a full screen for co-op games. Of course, the game has to have support for this feature, and I'll be surprised if very many third party titles take advantage of it.
After that, the Sony press conference started feeling like Deja Vu from the Microsoft conference, only substituting Move for Kinect. A bunch of games are coming out that have Move support, often as an optional alternative control system. Kobe Bryant came on stage to play a Move-controlled mode in 2K Games NBA2K12, for instance.
There were a few surprises. The Sly Cooper franchise is returning after many years of laying dormant. Sly Cooper is a thief...and an anthropomorphic raccoon. These were fun titles back on the Playstation 2 and I'm glad to see the franchise returning.
MMO Eve Online developer CCP was there to demo their first person shooter, Dust 541. This is a console game that ties into the Eve Online universe, and it's going to be a Playstation exclusive (probably because Microsoft refused to allow a bridge between its servers and those of CCP).
Irrational Games' Ken Levine came onstage to talk about Bioshock Infinite. This felt like a big deal to me; kind of along the same lines as Valve's Gabe Newell showing up last year. The first Bioshock came out on the PS3 about a year after it had launched on Xbox 360, and Levine admitted to being openly dismissive of motion controls, but now he's come around and is adding Move support to Bioshock Infinite, and is also working on a 'side-game' in the Bioshock universe for the new Sony portable.
Speaking of which, at this point Kaz Hirai took the stage to talk about the Sony NGP, including revealing that the rumors were true: the device is now called PS Vita. Let's cut right to the good news: pricing. The Wifi-only version of the PS Vita will be $249.99, and the 3G/WiFi version will be $299.99 (and available on AT&T). It's expected out for this holiday season. In my opinion this is a great and very aggressive price; I wouldn't have been surprised to hear $350, to be honest.
Oh, Kaz also mentioned Playstation Suite briefly. This is Sony's Android gaming platform. Kaz seems to think Playstation Suite will be a 'gateway drug' to the PS Vita. People will play Playstation Suite games, and then want more, and run out to buy a Vita. I personally don't see this happening, but it'd be nice for Sony if true.
There wasn't a lot of other new news on Vita (remember we just talked about it last week) but a good number of games were shown off. The problem was that, for the most part, these were PS Vita ports of PS3 games. Mod Nation Racers Vita, Little Big Planet Vita, Drake's Fortune Vita. They looked great but I would rather see some new IP for the new hardware. The one new game they showed, Ruin, looked like a typical hack and slash RPG and not all that interesting, aside from the fact that you can play the same save game on PS3 or Vita, and there's some social stuff that lets you fight your way into the lair of other players who're nearby.
And that was about it. Overall, I think the PSN outage really took a toll on this press conference. There just wasn't a lot of energy to it. I think the price of the PS Vita is outstanding but otherwise both Tretton and Kaz felt like they were exhausted people going through the motions. We saw the games we already knew were coming, and there were some geegaws that were exclusive to the PS3 versions of some cross-platform games (extra cars in the PS3 version of the new Need For Speed game, for instance) but other than Sly Cooper, there weren't any exciting game reveals. Once Infamous 2, Uncharted 3 and Resistance 3 ship, Playstation 3 owners won't have a lot to look forward to, until some new games are announced.
I thought Sony was going to bring a lot more sizzle to E3, but in the end I'd rate their press conference a B+. I'll be there day 1 for a PS Vita, but I was left wondering what the future (past this holiday season) looks like for the PS3.
With Microsoft and Sony both having mediocre shows, Nintendo has an excellent opportunity to swoop in and 'win' E3 2011.