E3 2008: Sony Press Conference

July 21, 2008

As a total newbie to the whole E3 experience, I really had no clue what to expect when heading into the Sony Press Conference at the Shrine Theatre. Upon entering the auditorium, we were greeted by 7 massive screens and 50 some odd smaller displays. The larger screens had people playing Gran Turismo, SOCOM, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Metal Gear Solid, and Pixel Junk Eden.

The presentation had a lot more flash than the Nintendo one, but it was also a lot more mechanical in that Jack Tretton did most of the talking and at times you could tell he was reading from the prompter. Despite that, there were some real gems to come out of the press conference including Resistance 2 and the newly announced MAG.

Ted Price, the CEO of Insomniac games, came out on stage to show off Resistance 2 and talk a little about what we were seeing. The major emphasis was on the game’s ability to scale. With an 8 player online coop mode and a 60 player online multi-player mode, there is a definite focus on replayability after you finish the campaign mode. The story picks up at the conclusion of the first game and Chicago is now enemy territory controlled by the Chimera. The video trailer we were shown was 100% in game footage and not pre-rendered cut-scenes and it looked absolutely stunning.

Sony did take a kind of neat approach to covering the business side of things. Alex Evans, one of the founders of Media Molecule, came out and played through a custom level of Little Big Planet that showed off sales figures and YTD numbers for Sony. It really was quite entertaining and really went a long way in showing how flexible LBP is. I think it did more to sell me on that game than anything else.

The business numbers were nothing to scoff at with more than 5M units across the Playstation Brand being sold this year so far. The breakdown of those figures was as follows:

PS3 – 1.8M
PSP – 1.6M
PS2 – 1.5M

They also announced a PS3 version of the Greatest Hits line coming to later this year with titles priced at at $29.99. The initial run of titles will include:

Resistance: Fall of Man
Call of Duty 3
Fight Night Round 3
Need for Speed Carbon
Rainbow Six Vegas
Assassin’s Creed
Ninja Gaiden

With Sony still pushing their 10 year plan initiative, they announced that an estimated 130 titles will ship for the PS2 in 2008. The PS2 is still a viable platform for the budget minded consumer and boasts one of the largest game libraries out there. It will be interesting to see if backwards compatibility finds its way back into the PS3 line at the conclusion of that 10 year lifecycle of the PS2. PS2 titles for 2008 include:

Tiger Woods 09
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Warriors Orochi 2
Yakuza 2
Singstar Pop v2
Maddenn XX Years
Mercenaries 2: World in Flames

There will also be a limited edition LEGO Batman PS2 bundle coming this fall for $149. It will come bundled with a PS2, a copy of LEGO Batman, and the Justice League: The New Frontier DVD.

The PSN also has it’s faire share of titles on the horizon including the newly announced Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty. Quest for Booty is a shorter game at a $14.99 price point, which is very nice. It continues where Tools of Destruction left off and features some new wrench upgrades including an energy tether as well as the ability to pick up items. The addition of carrying items enabled Insomniac to build light and dark levels where Ratchet has to carry illuminated objects around to help him navigate the dark levels. It should prove to be a nice evolution to the franchise.

Other upcoming PSN titles to keep your eye on are Fat Princess, Pixel Junk Eden, Flower, and Ragdoll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic.

Another neat upcoming feature is called Gran Turismo TV and allows owners of GT5 Prologue to watch a whole host of race related programming including the BBC’s Top Gear show, live race events, and much more. It should debut on August 1st.

One final PSN announcement was in relation to Sony’s new full featured video store which is now online. It features full length movies and tv shows in SD and HD versions. The studios that have already signed on include Sony Pictures, Fox, MGM, Lionsgate, Warner, Disney, Paramount, Turner, and Funimation. The shop allows for the rental or purchase of both types of content with pricing ranging from $1.99 for a TV show and movies priced at $2.99 – $5.99 for rental and $14.99 and up for purchase.

The thing that makes Sony’s video store unique is that the content is portable. You can put your content on your PSP and take it with you. It can be present on multiple devices at one time. With PC connectivity to the PSN, you can purchase a show via your PC and copy it to your PS3 or your PSP. Approximate time needed to download a 2 hour movie in SD is only about an hour, but the movie will start streaming almost immediately.

This is a welcome change to the model that Microsoft is currently using for its video content.

Jumping into the PSP product line, Sony has a pair of new Entertainment packs on the horizon. The first one is for Madden 09 and comes with a blue PSP. The second is the Ratchet & Clank Size Matters Entertainment Pack slated for an October release at $199. It comes with a silver PSP, a copy of R&C: Size Matters, National Treasure 2 on UMD, a 1GB Memory Stick, and a voucher for Echochrome.

As far as software goes, things are looking good for the PSP. This year we will see the following titles drop:

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Madden 09
Loco Roco 2
NBA 09: The Inside
Super Stardust Portable
LEGO Batman
Patapon 2
Buzz! Master Quiz
Valkyria Chronicles (This was apparently a mistake on Sony’s part)

New for Spring 2009, Resistance Retribution.

The PS3 news was also in ample supply. First up, the 40GB Core Pack is being replaced with an upgraded 80GB version at the same $399 price point. 2008 titles on the horizon included:

Little Big Planet
Motorstorm: Pacific Rift
007 Quantum of Solace
SOCOM: Confrontation
Soul Caliber IV
Resistance 2
The Agency
Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm
Mirror’s Edge
Resident Evil
Guitar Hero: World Tour
NBA 09: The Inside
Buzz! Quiz TV
Killzone 2

The 2 final announcements that rounded out this show were the God of War 3 trailer and the announcement of Massive Action Game or MAG. MAG is a 256 player squad based online game. Squad sizes are set at 8 players and the level of customization and upgrades creates a long term growth path for your soldiers. It looks to be a truly amazing and epic title and I can’t wait to see how the guys at Zipper Interactive pull this one off.

We didn’t have enough time to get any hands on with this year’s Sony titles, but there is definitely a lot on the horizon and Sony seems to be doing just fine.