Well that was emotionally taxing.
Never before have I felt so euphoric followed by so let down followed by euphoric again, in such a short span of time.
In what is perhaps one of the most memorable E3 pressers of all time, Sony ripped a new one to Microsoft. They specifically held a segment near the end of the presser, where they clarified, explicitly, that PS4 owners can expect no DRM against used games, no required always online connectivity, none of those negative, anti consumer policies that plague the Xbox One. They also proceeded to very nicely score a win over the Xbox in terms of price, by announcing a $399 price, which is a full $100 cheaper than the Xbox One’s rather ludicrous $499 asking price.
In addition, they demonstrated support for the PS3 by showing off some brilliant upcoming titles- Gran Turismo 6, Puppeteer, Rain, Beyond: Two Souls- and even managed to squeeze in some token ‘we still support the Vita’ talk in there (although that’s all it really was, all talk, with very little substance beyond indie games).
Everyone did expect them to completely steal the show with the PS4 proper, and that’s where things began to turn into a mixed bag. The unveiling of the console proper was very well done. The hardware itself looks pretty nice, like a slightly bigger, slanted PS2. It was hard to tell if it was bigger than the Xbox One hardware or not, without a proper sense of scale, but it looked nice, and it looked as if it might be volumetrically smaller.
Sony also took the chance to detail some games for us- in probably the evening’s biggest megatons, they confirmed Final Fantasy XV (a reborn and renamed Versus XIII) and Kingdom Hearts 3 for the system (carefully avoided as being labeled exclusives, though). They also confirmed that Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 will be hitting the Playstation 3 exclusively for consoles later in the year. That part was flat out the best part of the conference- some long awaited games, finally unveiled in all their glory, and they looked every bit as good as we thought they would. They also announced Santa Monica’s new IP, an action game that looked heavily Dishonored inspired, especially because of its steampunk setting.
Sony also took this opportunity to demonstrate a whole lot of indie support for the PS4, highlighting a whole lot of titles, as well as reconfirming Diablo III for the system, while also announcing The Elder Scrolls Online for the PS4 as a console exclusive. There was nothing special here, we knew most of this, while the ones we didn’t know about are either available on other platforms. They also showed off a bit of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs. Finally, there was also a rather extensive demonstration and world premier of Destiny. Whether you liked Destiny or not will depend entirely on what you expected to it, but suffice it to say, it was an important and well done showing.
The problems start right up there- there was no real ‘new’ game shown outside of FFXV and Kingdom Hearts 3, arguably massive megatons, but none of them exclusive. Worse still, Sony committed the cardinal sin by not showing any gameplay footage for any game, except for Destiny, Watch Dogs, and Assassin’s Creed. Adding salt to the wound was the fact that that Sony spent a baffling amount of time going through the exact same games again that they already covered back in February. Killzone Shadow Fall, inFamous Second Son, Drive Club, Knack, and The Witness. That was time wasted, time that could have been spent on showing off some other games. The one good thing that came out of this, though, was the confirmation of Killzone, Drive Club, and Knack as launch titles- seriously, that is one hell of a launch lineup.
There was also a painful 20 minute segment where Sony did the exact same thing that Microsoft got so much flak for back in May during the Xbox reveal. They started talking about interactive entertainment, talking about movies and music, and how it would be made available to PS4 owners, and how it would be integrated into the system. It completely stalled their momentum until then, and was very, very confusing as to why they didn’t reserve all of this for a later date nearer launch.
The final bombshell came when they announced that you will need a PS+ subscription to play online on the PS4. On a principled stance, that rubbed me off the wrong way. Sony had garnered so much goodwill leading up to that segment, and they suddenly seemed to be succumbing to Microsoft’s temptations for a minute. It is true PS+ is an infinitely better deal than Xbox Live Gold will ever be, but I still wish that they’d stuck to their guns and retained free online multiplayer. As it stands now, Nintendo and PC are the only way to go if you want to play free online.
In the end, this was a conference of ups and downs. When it went up, it scaled dizzying highs. The Final Fantasy XV/Kingdom Hearts 3 duo announcement was legitimately a megaton. On the other hand, when it went low, it was almost as bad as the infamous Xbox One reveal, such as when they wouldn’t stop talking about TV, entertainment, and apps.
In the end, it is, yet again, the sheer strength of the system, and its lineup, that carried the entire conference on their back.
Bravo, Sony. As of right now, next generation is yours to lose.
Some legitimate surprises and big announcements; the PS4 price announcement; the unveiling of the console was incredibly well done; the ten minute portion near the end where Tretton wouldn’t stop taking jabs at Microsoft
Pay to play online announcement; no new exclusives announced; no gameplay footage beyond Destiny and the Ubisoft titles; the Vita did not get much love; a baffling focus on entertainment, TV, and apps.
A conference of dizzying ups and downs, Sony’s lineup and the strength of the console that is the PS4 ultimately pulled through to make this the best E3 conference this year yet.
E3 Conference Score: 9/10