Everything is relative. I’ve seen some disastrous E3 conferences in my time, but few made me as frustrated as Microsoft’s ode to everything but video games earlier today. In that light, it was hard not to enjoy Sony’s conference this evening, if only for its humility and dedication to the medium.
The show was hosted by SCEA president Jack Tretton, who has been with Sony for more than a decade, and has hosted these things for several years. He’s not the most exciting presenter, but he comes off as genuine. I was disappointed to see new company president Kaz Hirai make only a cameo. I guess he gets to sit these out now that he’s the big boss at Sony. No “Riiiiidge Racer” this year.
The conference was kicked off by an introduction to a new title called Beyond, from the makers of Heavy Rain. I don’t think any actual gameplay was shown, but the emphasis on story and character development was intriguing.
Following the intensity of Beyond, things were lightened up by an extended demo of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal. Nothing new was really shown, with the whole thing looking as Smash Bros.-y as ever, and even the character reveals of Nathan Drake and Big Daddy having been leaked earlier. I have to point out though, at least it was a game, and at least it wasn’t an FPS.
The second most impressive game of Sony’s show was Assassin’s Creed III. The game simply looks fantastic, with the ship battle demoed being especially impressive. Almost as compelling was the Vita spin-off game, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Not much to say on either game beyond that, however. Assassin’s Creed sequels are Assassin’s Creed sequels.
Liberation was one of just a handful of Vita titles shown at Sony’s conference. A hardware bundle for the game was promised, but no price announced. I’m not certain of this, but it felt like Vita got less time at the show than even Move, which is shocking considering the age and slow sales of the add-on. The minimal attention paid to the Vita, and conspicuous lack of a price cut, makes it feel like Sony has given up on the handheld space.
The low point of Sony’s conference came in the debut of Wonderbook. This is a new push for Move, which enables special books to be used in conjunction with the PS Eye and Move wand. The game demoed, Book of Spells, comes from the Harry Potter universe, and enables players to “learn” spells, even using the Move as a wand. It’s an interesting concept, and I credit Sony for trying something truly new. The demo just didn’t belong on the big stage, and went on for far, far too long.
Sony did manage to recover to a large extent hitting first with a God of War Ascension trailer, and then an utterly compelling look at Last of Us. Frankly, the slow-burn intensity of Last of Us, both its story telling and combat, puts the title in serious contention for game of the show.
Sony showed a genuine dedication to variety this year. Not just FPSes were shown, but third person shooters, action adventure games, a fighter, and even some craziness to do with learning magic spells. Sure, it didn’t all work perfectly, and there could have been more shown, but at the very least what I saw from Sony was an interest in promoting video games.
This conference was not a resounding success by any means. Certain segments dragged on for far too long, while lingering questions about the company’s catatonic Vita remain unanswered. Still, the things that were shown and discussed were relevant to gamers and the medium of video games. What was evident from Sony’s conference is that despite any number of failings, the company genuinely believes in interactive entertainment, and that’s more than I can say for Microsoft.