Monday, June 4, 2012

Sony Press Conference Wrap Up

So after a lackluster show by Microsoft, hours later the ball was placed in Sony's court. Starting out with a montage that sweeps across the range of Sony products it was clear that Sony came with a stacked line up. Much like Microsoft, Sony already said they would not be announcing a new console prior to the start of E3, so the games need to speak for themselves, and they did an awful lot of talking.

Now I know that Quantic Dream doesn't really push units, but they continue to push boundaries in terms of creativity and storytelling. Seeing Sony's continued support of David Cage is reassuring and can only benefit the medium as a whole, so watching as the first footage from Beyond: Two Souls played across the screen, waiting to hear Ellen Paige start speaking, and trying to get a feel for what type of experience Quantic Dream would craft next had me filled with awe. Sure they tend to have a limited bag of tricks as far as gameplay is concerned, but even if this turns out to be a little more Heavy Rain with higher quality voice acting and writing, I am on board. Though no date was given, nor was a system explicitly stated, it certainly looks like a PS3 game, and as such I imagine it hits the console sometime next year. And, to be cynical, bargain bins a few months later. But I know my money is set aside, I'll be there the first day.

Perhaps not an instant purchase, but still an interesting proposition was Sony's showcase of Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale, which is basically a Super Smash Brothers clone except with Playstation characters.  Though the game itself looks a little slow and bland, I am curious to see the rest of the design. Part of SSB charm is actually the level design, and if that is addressed and it plays well I could see this being a good time.  What impressed me here was Sony's willingness to showcase cross-play between the PS3 and the Vita. My biggest concern here though is that this feature that Sony touts so heavily, one that could be used to further their communal focus (paired with a nice bit of time talking up Playstation Plus and giving all attendees a free year of the service), will be completely negated when the Playstation 4 inevitably comes out in a couple of years. But perhaps it will be addressed.

Sony also spent some time highlighting known releases, albeit with a Vita focused twist. I know that dedicated handhelds are a dying platform in the world of iTouch's, smart phones, and cheap .99 cent games, but seeing a game like Assassin's Creed III Liberation seems enjoyable. Even the Vita version of Call of Duty, titled Black Ops Declassified, could potentially be unique if executed properly. But my hopes aren't up for that one because of how Activision works.

Perhaps on the opposite end of the spectrum, and firing back at Microsoft for all of their CoD DLC timed exclusives, Sony seems to be canoodling with Ubisoft by spotlighting PS3 exclusives for Assassin's Creed and FarCry. Though for me perhaps the most encouraging portion of the press conference was Sony's open support of indie developers. Though no games were given extensive time on stage, the continued support and promotion of these products provides a refreshing alternative to Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotions and the company's decision to not promote their own Indie Games section.

Also surprising was Sony's ability to inject some sort of life in to the Move. It's basically a dead device, but their efforts to focus more on kids with the device could pay off. Their Wonderbooks program, basically bringing books to life, could be helpful in elementary school classrooms. Sadly, it seems like the book portion of Wonderbook is just for inspiration, and less about doing edutainment right, as there was very little reading in the footage shown and mostly just more motion gaming tropes. So the Get Out and Read initiative takes another hit, but maybe there are transferable skills. The more I saw, the less interested I was, but JK Rowling is doing some Harry Potter writing for one of the games, so perhaps there will be some value buried in there somewhere. It's still odd to see Sony cling on to motion gaming, but with the Kinect still doing well and the Wii U coming soon it makes sense for them. Still, the educator in me mourns what looks like a missed opportunity.

A large portion of time was spent showing that the new God of War Ascension is still definitely God of War, but finally seeing The Last of Us in action was a refreshing palate cleanser. Much like Ubisoft's earlier reveal of Watch Dogs the restraint shown in Naughty Dog's latest game took the focus off of running and gunning for a slower type of combat that focuses more on disarming rather than spraying rounds. While there seems to be plenty of action, separating it slightly from a game adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, what Sony showed seemed like it's a game ready to be released tomorrow, so any extra time ought to further build anticipation.

Though many of the stories were already out there, and even the surprises had mostly leaked, Sony's focus on the games is a late generation E3 press conference done right. Sadly The Last Guardian was once again absent, and at this point I can't image that game will ever come out, but despite that what was shown looked great. Some time may have felt a little wasted, but for the most part, even with potential hurdles they will face, I walked away excited.

It's all up to you now, Nintendo. Sleep on it and plan, you've got quite a show to follow.


Did Sony exceed your expectations or did you want to see more from them?
Were the games shown diverse enough, or is genre fatigue still apparent as it was at earlier pressers?
What games are you most excited about playing on the PS3 and Vita?
What does Nintendo need to do to top Sony's press conference?

Comments are welcome and, for anyone with a literary mind, I encourage checking out my poetry blog filled with all original works for your reading pleasure.

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© 2012 Richard James Thorne

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