E3 2013: Sony and Playstation 4
Posted on Tuesday June 11, 2013, 17:46 by Matt Kamen in Infinite Lives
Sony’s E3 press conference was a bit overlong, with demos that occasionally dragged. Yet, at pitch perfect intervals, the console manufacturer got the crowd roaring, and with very good reasons. We’ll get to those later though.
Sony opened with a big – and somewhat surprising – push for the PS Vita. It’s a great handheld but it has suffered from protracted and repeated dry spells in content. It’s a problem Sony seems to be aware of though, and opening their keynote with a focus on new titles coming for the portable was bold and necessary. Key amongst the upcoming games are Batman: Arkham Origins, and season two of TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead. Dubbed ‘400 Days’, the second episodic outing will be premiering on Vita alongside a bundle of all five chapters of the first season. A new raft of media apps were also spotlighted, including Skype for Vita, and the interactions between the console and PS3 and PS4 were strongly emphasised.
Mirroring Microsoft’s panel somewhat, Sony’s Jack Tretton then reminded us of the success and remaining importance of PS3, including the overwhelming positive reception to The Last of Us and upcoming titles such as Puppeteer, Gran Turismo 6, and Beyond: Two Souls. The latest game from the developers of Heavy Rain and Fahrenheit, this showing put attention on the action elements, showing Ellen Page’s character Jodie engaging in some very shady-looking government military training. Grand Theft Auto V was also praised, to the point a new PS3 bundle will be released to coincide with the game’s release, packing in a branded console and headset. Arkham Origins will also benefit from some exclusive DLC on PS3, including skins based on Knightfall Batman and Adam West’s turn as the not-so-Dark Knight.
When President and Group CEO Andrew House took the stage though, Sony’s conference went into overdrive. First, the PS4 console itself was finally shown and, true to the quotes of “it’s just a box” following the original announcement, it really is just a box. It’s sleek and angular, with an italicised side profile when laid flat but nothing mind-blowing.
New services were then announced, with Michael Lynton, CEO Sony Pictures, discussing Music Unlimited, Crackle, and other Sony media services. The big news here was original content for PS4 and PSN – no doubt inspired by the success of Netflix’s original shows such as Hemlock Grove and the returned Arrested Development. Music and Video Unlimited services will be available on day one, and pay-per-view options are being looked into in each territory.
The Order: 1886
More important was the torrent of new games. Sony’s Santa Monica studio has The Order: 1886 coming up, a Victorian era supernatural title that offers a secret cabal patrolling “the line between life and death”. There’s more at work though, as anachronistic weaponry and possibly alien airships are peppered through the trailer. It looks considerably deeper, thematically speaking, than the studio’s hack-and-slash God of War titles.
Infamous: Second Son, set seven years after the previous game and with a new protagonist, Delsin Rowe, looks to escalate the open-world superpower adventures, with vastly bigger areas and more versatile powers. Unlike the electricity wielded by Cole McGrath in the first two Infamous games, Delsin can absorb the abilities of other conduits, which should allow for far more diverse gameplay – combat especially. It’s due for release in first quarter 2014.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
The titles kept coming – Killzone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club, and Knack (a quirky adventure with a robot that changes form based on his surroundings) are all launch titles for PS4. Quantic Dream teased a title called The Dark Sorcerer, playing it up as a dark fantasy before switching to gag mode as the characters flubbed their lines while filming. Expect more on that soon. Diablo III was confirmed for PS3 and PS4, bringing with it exclusive items and in-game content. Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs gets an hour of bonus content on PS4, The Elder Scrolls Online sees an exclusive beta on PS4 in the spring, and the surprise announcement of a gritty Mad Max game delivers bonus content to Sony’s formats. Square-Enix then co-opted the conference to send crowds into “crazy screaming Americans” mode with the announcement that Final Fantasy Versus XII is not dead – it’s morphed into the official Final Fantasy XV. The screaming only grew louder when the incredibly long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III was confirmed also, promising to tie up the Square-Enix/Disney crossover tale.
Supergiant Games, developers of Bastion, revealed new title Transistor, kicking off a raft of indie focus. Gems such as Don’t Starve and Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty are to be joined on PS4 by new independent games Mercenary Kings, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Outlast – a terrifying first person horror – and more. Sony’s Adam Boyes reiterated that the company does allow indies to self-publish, and illustrated this by having the developers of each game up on stage, given prime focus. Boyes’ statement was the first of what would be a barrage.
As Tretton returned to the stage, he began to address the proverbial elephant in the room. In the wake of Microsoft’s unpopular announcements on pre-owned games, many were wondering how Sony’s own plans would fare. In short:
- There are no restrictions on buying, selling, trading or giving away used games. You buy it, you own it.
- The PS4 does not need to connect to the internet for authentication – “not once every 24 hours, not ever”, stressed Tretton.
- PlayStation Plus memberships transfer to PS4, and media content – Netflix et al – will not be restricted to PS+ subscribers only.
Cheering, hollering and whooping persisted for almost a full minute. Tretton even went so far as to emphasise that consumer rights were of utmost importance, all but calling Microsoft out directly. Throw in announcement of ersatz backwards compatibility through the recently acquired Gaikai streaming service (though we’d be surprised if a subscription or higher-tier PS+ subscription didn’t factor into this) and Sony ended its conference on a high.
Tretton could have dropped the mic and walked off stage right then but the announcement of prices were yet to come – the PS4 will retail for £349 on launch ($399/€399), a full £80 cheaper than Microsoft’s offering.
The excitement this E3 has been almost palpable, and with the battle lines drawn between Sony and Microsoft, the coming months will be incredibly exciting.