E3 09: Sony Conference Summary

Sony had their press conference today, where they announced the worst-kept secret of the week: the new PSP Go. For those who don’t want to spend 6 hours trying to stream the 90- minute conference, here’s a quick summary:

          Opening trailer montage of Sony games set to Queen’s “One Vision.” Nothing exciting.

          President / CEO Jack Tretton gives a decent opening with a few jokes. “We consider ourselves industry leaders and press leaks are no exception.”  

          Jack talks high-level stuff: Sony accounted for 30% of sales in 2008; Sony is committed to the PS2 as long as consumers are; PlayStation Network had a “monster year” in 2008.

          Uncharted 2: heavily scripted / cinematic stuff, but a really fun live demo where your character fights his way through an old hotel until choppers fire missiles on it and you have to dive out while it collapses.

          MAG: this is the 256-player online multiplayer FPS, demoed fully live with 8 players on stage and the rest of the players at various locations worldwide.  It’s sort of a deeper, more tactical Battlefield game; looks intriguing, but wow, what a challenge it’ll be to balance.

          Handheld time: Tretton talks about the PSP, market position, upcoming bundles and introduces …  

          … Kaz Hirai, who comes out to unveil – surprise! – the PSP Go!. As reported, it’s a smaller unit with a slide-down control pad, 16GB on-board memory, and no UMD player — all your games and other content are downloaded. A just-launched PC app called “Media Go” is the new (and hopefully easier) way to access PSP content, and a host of new video partners also start providing video today as well. The PSP Go! will be available Oct 1 in the US for $249.

          Gran Turismo PSP: 60 FPS, 800 cars, 35 tracks, Oct 1. No real footage to talk of, tho.

          Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, another PSP title, is announced by Hideo Kojima. 10 years after MGS 3, in the 1970’s. Kojima calls it “a true sequel to the Metal Gear franchise” and not a spin-off or side story. 2010 release.  

          Resident Evil coming to PSP, along with a Little Big Planet title. A trailer with other upcoming PSP titles reveals little.

          Tretton talks up PlayStation Network and Home. Of course, there’s a cheesy lifestyle video to go with it.

          Big announcement: A new Rockstar game, Agent, exclusive to PS3.

         Assassin’s Creed 2: instead of the trailer that closed yesterday’s Ubi press conference, we actually get a live demo, and it’s pretty cool. We see the main character, Ezio, use a sweet flying contraption created by Leonardo DaVinci, and the audience cheers at a rooftop double kill. Hey Ubi, you couldn’t show us anything this cool yesterday?

         Final Fantasy XIII trailer. The game looks just gorgeous. I want to go to there.

         Surprise! Final Fantasy XIV!  And, in Tretton’s words, “the PlayStation 3 will be the ONLY console” you can play it on when it releases in 2010. Whoa! The crowd gasps. But wait, there’s another reveal in the logo: there’s an “Online” in the title. Suddenly, everyone’s thinking back to PC / PS2’s FFXI, which never really took off, and the crowd’s applause is more polite after that. Tretton jokes that at least they kept one announcement quiet.

         Not to be outdone by Microsoft and Nintendo, Sony has motion sensory tech in the works, and Dr. Richard Marks (who worked on the EyeToy), comes out to perform a lengthy tech demo of a new controller with a glowing sphere on the end that can be tracked. It’s a fun, entertaining demo, but it still feels like Sony’s got a lot of catching up to do in this area.

         Mod Nation Racers is the next title in Sony’s “Play Create Share” genre, following in the steps of Little Big Planet. It’s sort of a Mario Kart-style game where you can customize your own characters and cars and build your own tracks. Not overly sexy, but could easily be a massive hit.

         The Last Guardian trailer, from the folks who made ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. Wow. Just wow. This could be the kind of game that people buy PS3s for.

         A short teaser for Gran Turismo 5.

         Finally, God of War III, with a few minutes of live gameplay. They’re gonna sell 10 jillion copies of this game.

Overall: A solid showing for Sony. The approach showed some welcome restraint, letting the games do the talking. They’ve got some nice exclusives and maybe they’ll finally turn the PSP into the handheld we’ve always wanted it to be. B+