he best? Or simply the last? Michael Ubaldi, James Day and Adam Bogert comment on E3 2010's third and final conference from video gaming's reigning triumvirate.
While Microsoft and Nintendo swapped tact between this year's conferences and the last, Sony kept things very much the same. A bloated — and at times redundant — presentation had the Game and Player team (and a great many more viewers, I suspect) getting restless and grumpy way before Mike Ubaldi was threatening to walk away from his monitor.
From the outset it fell into the same trap as Microsoft, showcasing titles — often in-depth — that have already been shown at length to the press. Killzone 3, LittleBigPlanet 2 and even the already-released Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker were given considerable coverage.
From the outset Sony fell into the same trap as Microsoft, showcasing titles that have already been shown at length to the press.A PlayStation Portable 2 announcement — which had been widely rumoured in some parts — didn't materialize. Sony did unveil a new PSP ad campaign that I thought for a moment would segue into some sort of reveal. But alas, all we were "treated" to was a couple of commercials about a street-wise kid working for Kevin Butler and extolling the "hipness" of the PSP brand. A variation on a theme if I ever saw one.
When Gabe Newell stepped out and announced that Portal 2 (and Steam, it would seem) would be coming to PlayStation 3, I thought the show might have been building momentum toward something. And in truth it was, with a late-game Twisted Metal reveal. But this was hardly a beautiful new trailer for Last Guardian or a glimpse of a successor to the PlayStation Portable that many had been expecting.
At least we weren't subjected to particularly lengthy segments dedicated to 3D gaming and the PlayStation Move, though the lack of the latter may have harmed Sony more than it helped. Sorcery and Tiger Woods were the only two games demoed for the Wiimote-like controller, and neither went particularly far in selling me on the product.
I think EA's almost twenty-minute presence here (bearing in mind they had their own conference on Monday) and the constant reiteration of existing product speaks volumes about the lack of upcoming exciting titles, both for hardcore and casual audiences.
Sony is as Sony does: manifold, gigantic, endless. But for the company's piquant funnyman Jerry Lambert and Valve Corporation's humbly eccentric Gabe Newell, whose entrances could not have totaled more than five minutes, the entertainment colossus featured the staid Jack Tretton presiding over mostly reels and prepared footage of game after game after game — placed in no discernable order and at lengths unrelated to timeliness or importance — culminating two hours later in one monumental, plastic glut.
Sony crystallized its place as the company defined by whatever Nintendo and Microsoft aren't, for those who want it.Did you know that the PlayStation 3 will import Valve's content distribution system Steam, a deal that may see Sony brushing aside the sclerotic PlayStation Network and actually competing with Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace? Maybe not. Newell's announcement was buried under thirty minutes of titles, many of which have long since been released. More time was spent on the reemergence of a niche title, the unsavory Twisted Metal, inexplicably chosen for the conference's finale. Peerless online retail, killer clowns — just another product from Sony.
How about PlayStation Move taking Nintendo's ideals on motion-control and running towards the hardcore market Microsoft has left out of Kinect? Drifting somewhere between 3D glasses and a PSP promotional riposte. Then there's the faint memory of GlaDOS.
Lambert's sardonic corporate wolverine, Kevin Butler, sneered as he always does that the PlayStation "only does everything," but as today's interminable hodge-podge demonstrates, surfeit hardly counts as variety; let alone excellence. Nintendo does casual; Microsoft does online. Sony's message today was — if anything could be deciphered from the babel — that a large enough corporation can touch every market as it lumbers along. Butler wasn't extolling Sony; he was vilifying competitors, crystallizing Sony's place this generation as the company defined by whatever Nintendo and Microsoft aren't, for those who want it.
From the beginning of this afternoon's press conference, the importance of high-definition 3D gaming was obvious, and Sony wasted no time, kicking things off with a Killzone 3 demo in three dimensions. Of course, this was preceded by the suddenly archaic phrase "put on your 3D glasses," but the fact that Sony already has major titles (also mentioned were Gran Turismo 5, Crysis 2, and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier) with full 3D and PlayStation Move support should be greatly reassuring to PS3 owners.
The demo of Sorcery, a "third-person action game designed specifically for PlayStation Move," was entertaining if not exactly groundbreaking, showcasing a variety of spells that can be cast quite literally with a flick of the wand. A flaming cyclone drew loud cheers from the audience, and simulated potion-drinking resulted in an amusing on-screen transmutation.
It's hard to complain: the emphasis on games over tech was refreshingly different from Sony's major competitors.Sorcery may not ship $100 worth of new tech, but it does a good job of demonstrating Move's potential; also, it looks like a more engaging wizardry game than any use of the Harry Potter franchise to date. Likewise, Andrew Wilson's demonstration of the 1:1 responsiveness of Move with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011 was impressive — so much so that it may be worth wondering whether non-golfers will even be able to play the game.
The real jaw-droppers came at the end of the conference though. Seeing Insomniac, Naughty Dog, and Sucker Punch teaming up to put all their characters in a single game was like watching Sony fan-fic come to life (though admittedly Heroes on the Move sounds shockingly generic). LittleBigPlanet 2, gorgeous as ever, may just be the most comprehensive, accessible game creation tool ever released, rivaling the Mania Planet tool announced last night for PC.
Exclusive content and partnerships, particularly with EA and Ubisoft, helped bolster Sony's closing lineup, though the big surprise was of course Gabe Newell's amusingly candid admission that Portal 2 on the PS3 will be "the best version on any console." Final Fantasy XIV gameplay, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer beta coming exclusively to the PS3, and a fully 3D Gran Turismo 5 were mere icing on the cake.
And then came the actual surprise as a gritty ice cream truck loaded with evil clowns pulled out on stage along with the premier trailer for the long-absent but ne'er forgotten franchise that helped make the original PlayStation a "hardcore" console, Twisted Metal. Though admittedly not up-to-par with the console's visual capacity, the mere existence of the game is enough to excite the inner Sony fanboy, and a playable demo featuring helicopters and a handful of new modes suggest that the franchise's comeback will be anything but lackluster.
It would be nice to know a bit more about Sony's plans for its portable branch, especially since a PSP2 failed to make an appearance, but with so many excellent games coming to the living room in the next year, it's hard to complain, and the emphasis on games over tech was refreshingly different from Sony's major competitors. We'll see if PlayStation Move, and the 3D experience, adequately speak for themselves this holiday season.