• [E3 2011] Sony Press Conference Summary

    The PSN, and the Uncharted Apology

    The Sony E3 press conference begins with an actual apology from Sony's US President and CEO Jack Tretton about the PlayStation Network outage, saying that it was something they "don't take lightly" and that they hoped to "win back" disillusioned users of the PSN with some of their offerings tonight. Perhaps wisely then, they opted to begin with Uncharted 3, in 3D. The audience are advised to put their 3D glasses on - I hope you like 3D, friends, because there's going to be a lot of 3D in this conference.

    We cut to Uncharted 3, as Drake fights his way through a flooding ship that is sinking, taking on water and capsizing. The water looks exceptionally nice, as it bursts through cargo hold doors and washes across upside-down rooms that flip as the ship sinks. We are told that June 28 is the date that the multiplayer beta begins, unless you're in the USA of course because Sony are doing a special promo with Subway that will give access to the full multiplayer game, rather than just the beta. We're then treated to a new trailer for the game, one which I would swear up and down contains Helen Mirren. Launch date is put at 1 November this year.

    "We are going to sell a few copies of that bad boy", giggles Jack Tretton as he struts back on stage....

    Sony's 3D Focus

    ...to introduce Marcus Smith from Insomniac Games. Marcus shows us Resistance 3, and we are reminded several times to put on our glasses, because it's 3D, remember? We see a gunfight in a ruined city, with shield drones flying in like TF2 medics and bathing Chimera soldiers in bulletproof shields. Take down the medic first, remember. We skip ahead a bit, and we're running through a demolished series of buildings to find a power core while a gigantic beast stomps around the city destroying everything. Applause is muted. Jokes seem strained. There's quite an odd feel to the whole thing.

    Let's talk pricing. There's a Resistance 3 "Sharpshooter Bundle" coming on September 6 that will include the game, a sharpshooter, a pair of Playstation Move controllers and an Eye Camera for $150 USD. Even more excitingly, Jack announces two special 3D collections coming to PS3: God of War: Origins Collection, which is a remastered collection of Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, the two PSP games. The second collection brings both ICO and Shadow of the Colossus together in 3D and HD, proving once again that Sony know what it takes to get you away from your money.

    Jack moves on to talk about hardware. Two new 3D hardware products are going to become available this year: a Playstation-branded 3D display, a 24" screen specifically designed for 3D gaming and entertainment. It has some sort of unique technology that allows two people playing on the same screen to see two different images without split screening. This got a lot of applause, perhaps the first actual applause of the evening.

    The second piece of hardware is a, in Jack's own words, "less expensive pair of 3D glasses". These pairs of glasses will retail for $69.99 USD separately and will apparently be broadly compatible with existing 3D TV technologies. Sony is trying to lower the price barrier and drive 3D adoption forward to the market. We also learn of a bundle: the Playstation 3D monitor mentioned above will come with a pair of 3D glasses, 6-foot HDMI cable, and Resistance 3 for $499 USD.

    Don't Forget About the Move

    Now of course, it's time to talk about the Playstation Move, and we learn immediately that there's 8.8 million Move units sold so far. Several new Move games are demonstrated, including NBA 2K12 (with Kobe Bryant coming out on stage), Medieval Moves: Deadman's Quest (sadly not the reboot of Medievil I was hoping for, but rather a motion-controlled sword-and-shield-and-bow game much like the Ryse we saw at Microsoft's showing).

    Next up it's a discussion of adding Move functionality to titles we already know about, including inFAMOUS 2 and Little Big Planet. We also learn of a new title by Lightbox Interactive, the team behind Warhawk: it's called Starhawk and it's basically Warhawk in space but with a sci-fi-western-theme. It looks cool, but it's all CGI. Who can really tell?

    Jack also teases us for a while, saying he "personally gets hundreds of emails" about this franchise each year. He is of course referring to Sly Cooper, and we are treated to a trailer announcing that Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time will be with us in 2012. A bit of applause, but not too much.

    Now CCP hits the stage, fronted by Hilmar Petursson, to talk about DUST 514. Turns out it actually is a PS3 exclusive, as predicted by the internet, and that it will share the same single shard as EVE Online, as well as supporting Playstation Move functionality and having a dedicated Home space. "One universe, one war" is the slogan, and we also learn that it'll be "extending the experience" to the Vita, though no details are released. We are treated to a gritty trailer narrated by someone who is quite clearly an American marine, an odd choice for a game set in space with aliens and no Americans, but the gameplay looks good if light on the details of exactly how it'll interact with EVE Online. Closed beta is coming at the end of 2011, with a full release aiming for spring 2012.

    Next up, it's Irrational Games - Ken Levine in fact, and he's talking about Bioshock Infinite and showing a brief new trailer. Ken regales us with an anecdote, talking about how he may have said some "uncharitable" things about the Playstation Move in some interviews, and how Sony rang him up and said "Ken, we want to make you a believer". And apparently make a believer they did, by telling him how much the motion control can "remove the barriers of entry". Yes, the end result is of course Move support for Bioshock Infinite. More details to come.

    Star Trek, Snowboarding, and a Free Copy of Battlefield 1942

    There's a brief interlude, where we learn that Saints Row: The Third will launch in North America on November 15. We also learn of a new Star Trek game, timed to launch with the new film. It's a co-op action adventure by Paramount, and will come bundled with a Move peripheral designed after the phaser from Star Trek, of course. Pre-alpha footage of the new game is shown, and it's quite pretty, but apparently not pretty enough to impress the thoroughly muted audience.

    Suddenly, Electronic Arts appears on stage. There's three more PS3-exclusive EA offerings coming, and one of them is a return of snowboarding game SSX, with a "death-defying race down Japan's Mount Fuji with the track created from actual satellite data of the mountain". We already know about NFS: The Run, but PS3 owners will get a special blu-ray disc with 7 extra supercars for PS3 only. Battlefield 3 is getting a similar treatment, with the PS3 version of the game coming bundled with a copy of Battlefield 1942.

    The Big Reveal

    The man of the hour arrives: Sony president and overlord Kaz Hirai walks on stage, and CEO Jack Tretton is clapping like a madman into the microphone. Kaz congrats him on his tie, before moving on to say that they have been "overwhelmed" by the support of their fans in the face of the PSN outage. There's talk of the "Playstation Suite" bringing Sony's games to Android smartphones and tablets, but nothing we don't already know. Instead, we're hanging out for what Kaz keeps calling "this product".

    "This product" is really good, says Kaz for a number of minutes, before deciding to just cut to the chase. Well, what is "this product"? It is of course the PlayStation Vita: all the naming rumours are absolutely correct. "Vita means life", says Kaz, and he's confident that it will truly "blur the lines" between entertainment and your real life. We are treated to a show of the product, but we've seen it all before. The new stuff comes when Kaz mentions that the Vita's connectivity "requires the nation's fastest mobile broadband network" - Sony has locked the Vita into an exclusive partnership with AT&T.

    The crowd boos. They literally boo, and very loudly! The crowd is not happy! Kaz looks slightly shaken but manages to continue. Vita users will get exclusive access to AT&T's wifi hotspots around the USA, with pricing and carriers for other territories (like, you know, Australia) to be announced "soon". Kaz details some new Vita features, such as a feature called "Party" that lets users in the same "game room" on Vita chat on voice no matter where they are or what game they're playing. A social networking tool called "Near" is also announced, that lets you recommend games and update your friends on what you're thinking. No details yet, just some screenshots.

    Re-vita-lised Gaming?

    Senior VP for Worldwide Studios North America, Scott Rohde, takes the stage. He says they've been "truly inspired" by Vita, and announces that Uncharted: Golden Abyss is coming to the-console-formerly-known-as-NGP. It's definitely very pretty, and looks basically as good as the first Uncharted game on the PS3, leaving one to wonder exactly how good the battery life will really be on this device. The demo shows off the versatility of the touch screen, buttons and sticks, and six-axis movement. The strained undercurrent of the presentation continues, probably not helped by the insistence on referring to the Vita's unfortunately-named "rear touch" capabilities.

    Next up we're treated to Ruin, an action-RPG for the Vita. Inevitable Diablo comparisons follow, as the game looks and appears to play exactly like the top-down loot-em-up of yore. The kicker for Ruin is that it's real-time multiplayer: you can harm, help or hinder other players and break into their fortresses and dungeons to mess them up. You'll need to react in real-time when your grill is being got all-up-in by some dude, and fortunately it works on both PS3 and the Vita, with seamless cloud-saving and loading between them. It's a pretty neat feature, with a scattering of applause from an audience who are suggesting they could possibly be thinking about the potential of warming up the idea.

    More Vita games are shown: ModNation Racers is coming, and you'll be able to access all the content created for the PS3 version, a neat selling point. Wipout 2048 will have "crossplay" allowing up to 8 players to compete against each other whether on PS3 or Vita. Little Big Planet is also coming, and uses the motion control and touch screen of the Vita to deliver some new gameplay modes.

    Out of nowhere, Capcom are here, to demonstrate SF X Tekken for the Vita, garnering some honest-to-god actual applause from the audience, which only swells when Yoshinoro Ono from Capcom Japan announces that they're working with Sucker Punch to bring Cole McGrath from inFAMOUS into the game. Yoshinoro gives us a live demo of Cole, giggling happily as he plays. Again, people are actually applauding. It's quite amazing. No release date is announced, but "it won't be long".

    The Price is Right, Apparently

    Now the juicy stuff. More than 80 titles in development for Vita from all the major developers and publishers, and Vita is coming "holiday season this year". So what's the price? The wifi-only model will retail for $249 USD. The crowd goes wild, all the applause apparently saved up for this moment. The 3G + wifi model for will retail for $50 higher at $299 USD. No Australian prices are announced.

    Jack Tretton takes the stage to conclude the conference, remaking that he should have made fun of Kaz for "that Ridge Racer line", but "he likes his job too much". We all chuckle to ourselves, and the conference closes.