Image: Sony.

Compared with Microsoft’s conference earlier today, Sony’s was a miraculous tour de force. Compared with conferences of years past, it wasn’t anything special. Sony’s E3 2011 conference was competent, but ultimately not memorable, and not the kind of performance that “wins” you an E3.

It was nice to see Jack Tretton and Kaz Hirai out as the faces of the company. It would serve Microsoft well to take note of what Sony and Nintendo do so well in terms of presenters. Having two or three likeable corporate guys host your shows year after year builds report with your audience.

The conference opened with Tretton addressing what he called the “elephant in the room,” that being the PSN downtime. He thanked the fans and developers for their patience, apologized, and then moved on. Not necessarily the hours of grovelling some had hoped for, but it got the show going.

As for what was shown, the PS3 portion was fairly weak. Uncharted 3 was there, and it looks amazing, but it was by no means a surprise. A similar story with Resistance 3. The God of War PSP games were announced to be coming to PS3 as a bundle, as well as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus as another bundle. Again, decent news but nothing mind blowing.

Move games were demoed, but they didn’t overwhelm the show the way Kinect did at Microsoft’s. The presenters for Medieval Moves: Dead Man’s Quest were not exciting to listen to, but seeing the game reminded me yet again how much more actual gameplay the Move is capable of than Kinect.

Of course, the main focus was on “NGP,” finally revealed to be named PlayStation Vita. The system’s graphical capabilities are stunning, and the Uncharted title demoed looks like a PS3 game.

The big news was really the price of Vita. At $250 for the base model and $300 for the 3G version, the thing poses a towering threat to Nintendo’s 3DS (also priced at $250). The personal highlight was hearing that AT&T would be the exclusive carrier for the system, and hearing actual gasps of horror escape from the audience.

Overall, Sony showed a much nicer range of games than Microsoft. The XBox line-up was presented with games stuck at two extremes: “hardcore” shooters on one end, super casual Kinect games aimed at kids on the other. Sony managed to work in action games, shooters, sports titles, adventure games, fighters, and a lot of others. The menu felt a lot more balanced, and more appealing, to me.

Having said that, I can’t claim to have been particularly blown away by anything, either. No major innovations were shown or unexpected games announced. In the end, it was just a lot of sequels and repeats of old ideas.

Final Score:

Evaluating Sony’s E3 2011 Conference