No 3D glasses. Not a mention of Blu-ray. Just a footnote for PlayStation Move. Instead of the familiar kitchen sink sales pitch, Sony went back to basics and spent nearly all of its E3 press conference talking about video games.
“As we leave E3, our one wish for all of you is that you never stop playing,” said Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, capping off a presentation that began with a montage of hit titles and familiar Sony video game heroes.
Sony’s attitude seemed to be the polar opposite of rival Microsoft, whose biggest announcements focused on entertainment unrealted to video games. Although Sony made the obligatory mentions of the video services available through the PlayStation Network, and of its Music Unlimited service, they were only reminders, not news. Games alone took the spotlight.
There are some impressive-looking games in Sony’s lineup of PlayStation 3 exclusives. Quantic Dream, makers of the high-minded thriller Heavy Rain, are working on a new game called Beyond, starring a young girl (voiced by Ellen Page) who can communicate with spirits.
Sony’s Santa Monica studio is developing God of War: Ascension, which looks like another button-mashing serving of over-the-top gore. Naughty Dog, fresh off the release of Uncharted 3, is making a new game called The Last of Us, a survival story in a city overrun by mutants and killers.
In a way, Sony is following a strategy made famous by Nintendo. It has built its own roster of dependable franchises and familiar faces, along with studios who’ve made names for themselves in the process, and is now leaning on those properties to try and sell more hardware. The company’s so confident in its stable that it’s developing PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale, an arena combat game with a strong resemblance to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, but with Sony characters.
Even with this approach, Sony still had some miscues. The PlayStation Vita could have used some rallying points, but it seemed neglected during the press conference. Sony didn’t announce any new Vita games that it’s developing in-house, and showed only tidbits of the third-party offerings Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation and Call of Duty: Black Ops Unclassified. The price cut that gamers were hoping for didn’t come.
Meanwhile, Sony’s attempt to get in on smartphone gaming still seems like an afterthought. Its “PlayStation Suite” for Android devices — now renamed Playstation Mobile — offers little aside from 15-year-old original PlayStation games, and the only new announcement was a partnership with HTC to certify its phones for those outdated games. Sony could be a dominating force in Android gaming, but it’s still hemming and hawing on a strategy.
Sony didn’t completely ignore PlayStation Move, though. Tretton noted that 250 games support the motion controller to date, and that support continues with upcoming games like Dust 514.
But the company didn’t spend much time showcasing games designed for Move.
Instead, Sony’s trying something a bit different with “Wonderbooks” — a series of augmented reality books for children. J.K. Rowling is collaborating on one of these projects, called Book of Spells, in which players use the Move as a magic wand to cast spells over a book-like piece of hardware as the pages come to life on the screen.
Aside from that lone curveball, however, Sony is holding steady with lots of games for its core audience. Although Sony never said it, there’s clearly a new PlayStation in the pipeline, and this batch of big-budget games is meant to carry the PlayStation 3 through. And so we have Jack Tretton imploring his loyal base to keep on playing until the next chapter is ready.