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Sony @ E3 2011: Five Things We Learned

Sony began by offering an apology, but went on to show Microsoft how to put on a show.

1. It’s Never Too Late To Apologise

There are any number of reasons for gamers to talk about your press conference, but the precise way you intend to ask for forgiveness is one of the least appealing. After the PSN hack and subsequent orgy of sensationalist news stories Sony had to say something, and guessing the wording and method of delivery was prime fodder for forum dwellers with nothing better to do. One post I read suggested that Jack Tretton should have blamed Kevin Butler for falling asleep on duty, and it sounds like a better idea all the time.

Sony’s actual plan was good, too: just get Jack Tretton on-stage and deliver a sincere, good-natured apology to everyone who got burned by the company’s mistakes. Tretton is probably the most endearing exec at any of the big three companies, and he handled it like a pro. Sony screwed up, it is in debt to its partners and consumers, but it has offered generous compensation and learned every step of the way.

Apparently, PSN traffic is already at 90 percent of what it was prior to the hack, and while I expect that to reach 100 percent in no time at all, the problem is the ground the service has lost. Xbox Live is the only world-class service of its kind on consoles, and it’s getting better all the time. It will take another console generation to change that now.

2. 3D Is Going Nowhere 

With news that blockbuster films are making more money from 2D screens than 3D screens ringing in my ears, I rather hoped that 3D would take a backseat this year. However, Sony kicked off its entire conference with a long montage of gaming goodness in a trio of eye-popping dimensions. I was no more excited by the spectacle this year than last, but, in terms of Sony’s plans at least, 3D is now in the fabric of everything it’s doing.

Sony 3D Screen

The big news was the highly attractive PlayStation-branded 3D display, which will be bundled with branded 3D glasses, a HDMI cable and a copy of Resistance 3 when it’s released later this year. The price: $499, which, for a presumably high-end 3D display and all the extras, is very reasonable indeed. People spend that much on each other for Christmas all the time, and Sony understands that perfectly well.

I would be remiss not to mention that the ICO/Shadow Of The Colossus HD remakes will also be in 3D – the only 3D-related announcement that made me stop and take notice.


3. And Neither Is Move

One of Sony’s major revelations slipped by almost unnoticed. Move, Tretton proclaimed, has sold around 8.8 million units world-wide, only a small fraction less than Microsoft’s Kinect. Now, I consume enough games media to know that Kinect is regarded as vastly more successful than Move both inside and outside the industry, but that’s a very impressive number. Did Sony get creative to reach it? I wouldn’t like to say, but 8.8 million is a more than respectable second place.

Medieval Moves

Unfortunately, the software still isn’t that impressive: integration into 2K Sports’ NBA franchise showed smart design and was genuinely intriguing, but the announcement of a plastic, gun-shaped peripheral for use with shooters left me cold, while Medieval Moves: Dead Man’s Quest seemed like just another watered down adventure game. What Sony needed was another jaw-dropper like Gabe Newell taking to the stage last year, telling everyone why he was wrong about Sony, and then pledging some unique element for the PlayStation version of his forthcoming game.

Enter Irrational Games’ Ken Levine, and the announcement that the really wonderful looking Bioshock Infinite will feature Move support. He had an almost comically small amount of detail on precisely how it will work, but my guess is that Levine will draw confidence from the extra cash now in his pocket. Fair play to them both: it is how the business works, and the deal – if it took place, mind you – will net Sony a very credible game while giving some very talented people more resources to make it great. Everybody wins, and if it’s rubbish you can always ignore it.


4. Sony Games Win Again

Last year, Sony’s line-up of software included Uncharted 3, LittleBigPlanet 2, Gran Turismo and The Last Guardian, and it made Microsoft’s paltry offering look a little silly. The gap wasn’t so dauntingly wide this year, but in terms of game that only appear on one console and nowhere else the PlayStation 3 still edges it.

Resistance 3

inFamous 2 is being released as you’re reading this sentence; Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3 are due by the end of the year, the latter a prime candidate for Game Of The Show; the excellent God Of War PSP games are being remade in both HD and 3D, and being sold under the name “Origins”; CCP Games revealed that Dust 514, its incredibly ambitious FPS expansion to EVE Online, will be a PS3 exclusive; there’s a new Sly Cooper game, a sequel to the underrated Warhawk, an action-focused Star Trek game, and exclusive DLC content for all of EA’s major releases, including Battlefield, SSX and Need For Speed.

Microsoft has Gears Of War this year, Halo 4 next year, and beyond those that’s really it for core gamers. Sony didn’t even mention The Last Guardian, Journey, David Cage’s new project or Rockstar’s Agent, but won the day nonetheless.

5. Sony Is Getting Worse With Names, But Better With Prices

In truth, very little new information was revealed about the NGP. It was re-christened as the “Play Station Vita” – a poor choice, even if we will all get used to it – but Sony had already made such a big noise about its specifications and first-party software that it left almost no room for surprise. Until it announced the price, that is.

Sony Vita

At just $249 for the basic 3G version and $299 for a jacked-up Wi-Fi model, Sony has to be selling it at a significant loss per unit. After discontinuing the PSP go and the PSN outage perhaps Sony felt it couldn’t afford to set the bar too high for consumers, or perhaps all of that technology costs much less than I thought, but my desire to buy one is swallowing my feeling that the Vita is a disaster waiting to happen. The latter is probably true, but now that I can afford one it seems far less important.

One thing is certain: the Vita already has a better initial line-up than the 3DS, with Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers all impressing, and the news that there will be an entirely new Bioshock game from Irrational on the system almost proving too much for me. As long as we agree to not discuss dreary Diablo-alike Ruin then the Vita is off to a very strong start.

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