Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sony's 2008 E3 press conference

Sony's conference started out slow. But by the end, I'd say their presentation was as good as Microsoft's.

Interestingly, despite having some good games on the horizon, the selling point Sony pushed was a 10-year life cycle for their consoles. On the one hand, they're telling PS2 owners and PSP owners that their time is not over. In fact, over a hundred titles are on their way to the PS2. On the other hand, Sony's telling potential PS3 buyers that their newest console is a long-term investment. Not only is the Playstation Network evolving nicely, but developers are slowly learning to tap the PS3's tremendous power to make great and innovative games.

The games
I'm not sure Sony can count on non-exclusive titles ever taking full advantage of the PS3's power, because most of the design in those games is geared toward all platforms. It's exclusive titles that are driving and will continue to drive most of the innovation on the PS3, and that's evident in the games Sony showed.

Resistance 2 looks beautiful and touts 8-player co-op. Like it's Microsoft doppleganger, Gears of War 2, scale is the main focus. Everything's bigger and better than the first game. Colossus-size monsters and epic battles. God of War III was another predictable, but great showing. I don't normally follow PS3 news, but Infamous might also fall into that category. Little Big Planet appeared again (using this during the sales summary was genius).

The idea of AAA content in smaller chunks for a lower price is being tested with the new Ratchet and Clank. The game looks great, and I bet it will do well at a $15 dollar price regardless of how short it might be. Oh yeah... you'll soon be able to buy even new blockbuster titles for 30 bucks! Smart move, Sony.

A trailer for DC Universe Online was shown. I have two reservations about this one. First, the development team is led by a guy who grinded through the original EQ in months to become the first person to secure certain paladin gear. In other words, this guy is so far from representing the average MMO gamer that I wonder about his design values. Second, the trailer seems to only show boss battles, which tells me nothing about the majority of gameplay. What do players do when they're not side-by-side with Superman or The Joker?

One of the cooler announcements of the conference was definitely Gran Turismo TV. Gran Turismo 5 players on the PS3 can watch countless TV shows and documentaries related to racing and sportscars. Anyone who loves cars will be salivating over that game now. This is a feature that will sell consoles. Do you have any idea how many auto enthusiasts there are in America alone?

Finally, a game called MAG was announced that included one jaw-dropping feature: 256 players fighting in the same FPS battle! Wow. Now that's use of PS3 hardware. Players will fight in 8-person squad and strive toward long-term goals in a single gameworld.

Starting tonight, TV and movies will be available for both rental and purchase on PSN. Being able to purchase and not just rent movies is a big feature that will convince some people to buy a PS3 instead of a 360. The interface for browsing and downloading content looked better than Xbox Live's, too. Also, those movies can be trasferred to the PSP... which still looks like Sony's strongest console to me.

In at least some games, including a baseball game, videos can be captured and uploaded to YouTube from the PS3.

Home was shown briefly. It seems that each game will have an area on Home that visually fits the game's theme. I'm assuming that these will act as visual lobbies for multiplayer.

In closing
Two of the bigger announcements were that Sony will be distributing in Latin America (glad to see our southern neighbors finally included!) and 80GB PS3s for $400. Both are great news.

In the end, I was wishing I had the free money to buy a PS3. I've never been that interested in the console until now, but it's starting to look great. I still don't believe that Sony will have more success this year with the PS3 and games than Microsoft with the 360 and 360 games. Quite simply, the Xbox has and will continue to have the better games library through the end of this year. But I expect PS3 sales will grow, and Sony's well on its way to a good 10-year console lifespan.

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