Reflections on Sony’s E3 Press Conference

Going into tonight’s press conference Sony was at a crossroads. What would it reveal about it’s new handheld, codenamed NGP? Would it respond at all to the rumblings of a new Nintendo console? How would it handle the PR nightmare that was the PSN hack and outage? Luckily this last question was answered quickly as the press conference began. Jack Tretton immediately acknowledged the outage and expressed his regrets. Later, Kaz Hirai noted that the PSN usage is at 90% of pre-outage levels and said it was a testament to fan support of the PlayStation brand.

So with all that doom and gloom out of the way Sony was ready to show off its big guns. Of course fan favorite Nathan Drake led the way, with a live demo of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The demo followed Drake as he maneuvered through a tempest tossed ocean liner from the outdoor pool into a giant ballroom and ultimately into the cargo hold where all hell breaks loose. Eventually the ship turns on its side, forcing Drake to now traverse the environment while avoiding drowning and water flooding down hallways, in scenes reminiscent of Titanic. Following on Naughty Dog’s lead a host of first and third party developers came on stage to demonstrate their support for the PS3. Irrational’s Ken Levine announced that Bioshock Infinite will have Move support and that another Bioshock title would be coming to the “NGP.” Move support and 3D integration was a common theme of the night with Uncharted 3 also providing 3D support and Resistance 3 boasting Move and 3D as well. If a deluge of new info on upcoming titles wasn’t enough Sony also announced two new collections for PS3, a God of War Collection that bundles Kratos’ two PSP outings, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, onto a single Blu Ray, and the long awaited Ico/Shadow of the Colossus Collection. Sly Cooper also made a quick appearance via a teaser trailer.

A surprise hardware announcement was that Sony will introduce PlayStation branded TVs. Only a single model was revealed, titled the PlayStation 3D display, it was nonetheless impressive. For a dollar shy of $500 you get a 24” LED LCD 1080p 3D HDTV, including a set of 3D glasses, an HDMI cable and Resistance 3. The most unique feature they hyped is that split screen is a thing of the past when using this TV. If two players both are using 3D glasses then each one will see a full screen display of their perspective, and none of the other player’s display. This is part of a Sony initiative to get 3D into more homes by providing high quality hardware at a price that is more attractive to the average consumer. In addition, they are also offering PlayStation branded 3D glasses that will retail for $69.99. Look for this new hardware on shelves later this year.

Now we come to the primary focus of the press conference, and Sony’s newest baby, the PlayStation Vita. No longer called the NGP, this device boasts dual analog sticks, front and rear touch panels, and the ability to use tilt controls. Developer after developer showed off how they plan to use all these features to enhance your portable gaming experience. From Nathan Drake jumping from ledge to ledge with a tap of a finger in Uncharted Golden Abyss to creating a basic track design in under 10 seconds in Modnation Racers by tracing a line around the screen. Another major push for Vita was interconnectivity. Player’s will be able to chat over Vita regardless of what game they’re in. Cross-game chat has finally come to the PlayStation world! This interconnectivity also extends to game saves, with Ruin, a new action RPG title from Idol Minds, showing off how a player can begin a dungeon on their Vita, save their game to the cloud, come over to their PS3 and continue exactly from where they left off. Vita will also integrate with previous blockbuster franchises, most notably LittleBigPlanet. The Vita version of LBP at its release will have access to the over 2 million levels created by the LBP community. Console level experiences with unique controls to enhance gameplay, interconnectivity, and utilizing common game resources across PS3 and Vita franchises were the three advantages of the Vita that Sony really hammered home.

Of course no matter how good a new device sounds whether you buy it or not comes down to dollars and sense, and for mobile devices, which carrier is being used. The only real grumbles from the audience came when Kaz Hirai announced that AT&T would be the exclusive carrier of the Vita. No service plans were announced. Despite this misstep Kaz was able to win back the crowd by announcing that not only would Vita be available this year, but the WiFi Vita will retail for $249.99 (or 249 Euros) and the 3G Vita can be yours for $299.99 (or 299 Euros). As some people pointed out during the live blog there were actually cheers at a Sony price announcement, when was the last time that happened?

So, was the Sony press conference a success? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Jack Tretton and Kaz Hirai were able to acknowledge the PSN outage, without pandering to the crowd or minimizing its impact, and provided the first steps for fans to move beyond it. A stellar slate of titles were shown and announced for the PS3 with many now supporting the Move and 3D. Announcements like the new PS TV remind us that we can still be surprised at E3 press conferences. The PS Vita (or should we start calling it the PSV) made quite a splash with what is can offer gamers and how well it integrates with the PS3. On top of that, Sony seems committed to offering new hardware at a much more competitive price then in years past.

What else will this week bring for the PlayStation faithful? Who knows? Just remember that it’s only Monday, and officially E3 hasn’t started yet. Keep your eyes glued to as we bring you coverage from the E3 floor and all the PlayStation news that you care about.

Written by Justin Spielmann

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