E3 ’08: Round 3: Sony

The last of the Big 3 Conferences was, in my opinion, the best of the 3 for hardcore gamers, though some of my friends disagree and feel like Microsoft’s was the best. Jack Tretton took the stage and did his usual self-deprecating opening, talking about how nervous he was and how doing the press conferences takes about 2 years off his life. I actually like Tretton more than MS’s Mattrick or Nintendo’s Dunaway or Fils-Amie. He stumbles once in a while but at least he sounds a bit more natural. Mattrick in particular was so wooden and monotone it was like he was channeling Ben Stein or something.

Sony pushed Resistance 2 pretty hard, but we already knew about that. They talked up the PS2 and PSP as well as the PS3, of course. When it came time to talk facts and figures, instead of using the same old power point slides, they used a LittleBigPlanet level with Sackboy running through it, triggering bar graphs to grow from the ground and labels to descend from the sky. It was very entertaining and made me even more anxious to get my hands on the game (coming October of this year).

They oddly didn’t spend a lot of time on Home, showing one brief video of it. Announced a new PS2 Bundle, of all things, coming out this fall. PS2 is apparently the gateway drug to PS3, though we all know every kid in the world wants a Wii and/or DS so they can play Pokemon games.

Their video download service was announced and in fact went live later on in the day. You can buy or rent standard def movies and tv shows, and you can rent HD movies. You can move content from the PS3 to your PSP to take with you. A nice showing but wow, are they ever way behind MS and Apple in this area.

On the hardware front, they announced that the basic PS3 was getting a hard drive upgrade, to 80 gigs. It is still not clear to me if they’re going to eliminate the current 80 gig model (with its additional USB ports, media slots, and most importantly, backwards compatibility) or not. No price change for the doubling of the hard drive size, and so the 80 gig PS3 costs the same as the new 60 gig XBox 360 + XBox Live Gold membership for a year. A nice marketing bullet point anyway..

Beyond that, it was all about the games. 130 games are coming out for the PS2 this year! I guess they must still be selling. Twenty-three exclusive PS3 titles, with 10 on blu-ray and 13 on PSN. Newly announced games for the PSP were Resistance Retribution (3rd person shooter) and Valkyrie Chronicles (rpg). It isn’t clear if the latter is a port of the PS3 or a side-story or what.

New games revealed on the PS3 were Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty, a PSN game that will go for $15 and be out this summer. It looked as good as the blu-ray Ratchet & Clank, it’s just a smaller, shorter game. The PC MMO DC Universe will be coming to the PS3. The MMO space is one niche that Sony has a chance of owning if they put some effort into it. So now we have 3 MMOs headed to the PS3: DC Universe, The Agency and FreeRealms.

God of War III for the PS3 was made official and technically was a ‘new reveal’ but even Tretton kind of downplayed it since it was so obvious it was coming. The ‘blockbuster’ reveal was, apparently, Zipper Interactive’s MAG (Massive Action Game). Let’s hope that’s a placeholder name! 256-players in a modern combat shooter. Unfortunately, my DVR cut out before I could see any footage! Ah, the foibles of being on the outside looking in.

To me, Sony had the best press conference in terms of delivering info about new games to hardcore gamers. I’ll admit that ‘best’ is pretty subjective. MS’s poaching of FF XIII was bigger news than anything Sony had to tell us, for sure. And their Netflix thing was a big non-gaming announcement. But they didn’t show any new games.

I’ll back up my statement with the pretty superfluous observation that there was more applauding and crowd enthusiasm shown at the Sony press conference than there was at Nintendo and Microsoft conferences combined.

All that said, Sony did nothing to offset MS’s lead. I don’t think they’re going to be able to catch up, and if they continue with their “We don’t buy exclusives” party line, Microsoft will keep cherry picking IPs away from Sony.