Sony has had a hell of a run this year as far as press conferences are concerned. They started off with a bang in February, when they announced the PlayStation 4 to the world, generating insane amounts of hype not seen since the PS2 launch hysteria.
Then they continued that with their E3 presser, by giving people exactly what they wanted- a look at some great upcoming games, along with a cheap price for the most desirable looking next generation system. There were people who were expecting a hat trick from Sony, for them to knock it out of the park at their third big showing at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. One of those people was me.
Unfortunately, as history has shown us time and time again, the third part in a trilogy always sucks.
Sony completely failed this time around. With Microsoft and Nintendo handing them Gamescom by pretty much not having any big shows, it wasn’t exactly going to be difficult for them to take all that positive momentum they’ve had going their way all this while and to generate even more hype for the console.
Unfortunately, they stumbled. They tripped, they fell, flat on their face. They might actually have hurt the hype for the PlayStation 4, because the entire 90 minute long conference gave off the impression that there isn’t much available on this supremely powerful piece of hardware that Sony has engineered, nothing beyond indie games that are available not just on the PC, but also on the PlayStation Vita, and in many cases, the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or hell, Wii U as well.
Let’s talk about the good things to come out of the conference, first, though. For starters, they showed the Vita some love (about damn time), not via games (all it got was indie game announcements, which, as mentioned above, are available at least on other PlayStation systems, if not other systems period as well), but because they finally dropped the price down to $200 and announced a ‘price drop for Memory Cards too.’ So that’s a start, maybe that stimulates Vita sales, and game development for it too, as a result. Of course, though, they undercut the Vita price cut announcement by announcing a $200 PS3 with 12GB of memory that you don’t have to buy why a family would pick up a Vita instead of a PS3 now is beyond me.
Speaking of the Vita, Sony also showed off Remote Play, and it works flawlessly. We’re not sure how well it will work in conditions that aren’t as well controlled as a conference showing, but I like what we saw.
Other highlights of the conference included the showing of Rime (a beautiful, gorgeous game coming exclusively to the PlayStation 4, which looks like a cross between The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Ico), the world debut of the PS4 UI (it looks good, fast, and slick; Sony clearly seems to have taken a lot of leaves out of Microsoft’s book), and the PlayStation 4 launch dates finally being confirmed (November 15 for NA, November 29 for EU; no date announced for Japan).
They also announced new bundles (GTA bundle for PlayStation 3; it was announced at E3, but they announced a headset will be included as well, and it will remain exclusive to PS3; also anyone who pre-orders GTA V at E3 will get 75% off on all Rockstar games on the PS Store), free fourteen day PS+ trials included with each PlayStation 4, and the fact that for select third party games, buying the PS3 version will get you a discounted PS4 version as well.
Okay, that was the good stuff, which took up about twenty minutes out of the total ninety minutes. The rest of it was something like watching a trainwreck, whether we’re referring to the ‘game announcements’ Sony lined up (as mentioned, all indie games, none of them even exclusives- each game was ‘a console exclusive on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita at launch,’ meaning the false exclusivity those games have to begin with isn’t even permanent. The fact that the announcers actually stopped after naming every game for applause only made it worse. The fact that we spent a major chunk on these games, which, while great, are no way to sell anybody on a $400 superpowerful next generation system, and can already be played on PC, was just sad.
There was also Sony’s baffling insistence to talk about movies- Gran Turismo is getting a movie. Watch Dogs is getting a movie. Yay? Why do we care? How does it matter?
Or there was the fact that Sony was talking about services so much. They talked about Music Unlimited, and how they were spending time on rebuilding it for the PlayStation 4. They talked about Twitch, and its availability for the system. I mean, what was this, a Microsoft event? For an event that started with Sony telling us it was ‘all about games,’ why not actually talk about games? Their big trump card for ‘exclusivity’ was console exclusives, or exclusive content in a multiplat version of a game. Yep, seems like a Microsoft event, all right.
The best games showing, apart from Rime, were, crushingly enough, the same games that Sony announced in February, six months ago. inFamous: Second Son looks great. DriveClub, Knack, Killzone: ShadowFall were mentioned, and yes, those look good too. Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag? Look good, although we’ve seen them both two dozen times already at this point. But Sony announced no new games. Their big headliner game was Shadow of the Beast, a remake of an old Genesis game. Bleh.
The worst part was when they tried to make it seem better. ‘We have games in development by Media Molecule, Sony Santa Monica Studios, and Naughty Dog.’ Brilliant, time to sit up and see what Sony’s excellent first parties have been cooking up. ‘But we won’t announce them yet.’ Then why bring them up, Sony? Why talk about something you won’t talk about?
The worst part came at the end, where Sony tried to take another jab at Microsoft like they did back at E3. Except at E3, Sony’s jabs a) made sense, since Microsoft’s policies then were flat out anti consumer, and b) were backed up by some quality content showings (Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV alone made the Sony conference worth it back then). This time, their insults were hollow (Microsoft retracted those policies) and they did not have the games to even back their insults up.
Overall, it was just a bad, sad conference with very few highlights. It probably would not even have come off as disappointingly as it did, had Sony not tried to drum up so much hype around it, like they had something big planned. Viewed in context of a Gamescom event, it was still a poor showing, especially compared to their great one last year (Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, Tearaway, Killzone: Mercenary, Call of Duty: Declassified). Viewed in context of the hype, it bombed. Viewed in context of generating some interest in the PS4 or PS Vita, it was a failure. Viewed objectively, however, it did have a nice, long list of announcements for the PlayStation 4, some good games at that, available for the system, even if they are not necessarily exclusive. And wasn’t that what it was all supposed to be about anyway? Games? They showed the games. They may not have been the games you or I wanted to see, but they showed the games. In the long run, that may be what matters.
The Good: PS Vita price drop, Rime looks awesome, we finally got the PS4 launch date
The Bad: No major game announcement at all, first party or third party; inordinate focus on indie games and services; the sad jab at Microsoft at the end; ‘we have games in development, but we won’t talk about them'; the best parts of the conference being games we’ve seen at at least two major events this year already