Like a game of high-tech, multibillion-dollar poker, the big three console makers are all laying their hands on the table at this year's scaled-down E3 Media & Business Summit. First came Microsoft, which alternately shocked and baffled attendees at its press event by unveiling Final Fantasy XIII for the 360 and an avatar-based Xbox Live redesign. Next it was Nintendo's turn to show off its latest, which included Wii Music, a Wii Sports semisequel, and the first Grand Theft Auto title for the DS.
Last but not least comes Sony Computer Entertainment. In the famous downtown Shrine Auditorium, the maker of all things PlayStation gathered many already-weary reporters for its press event, which also has numerous executives and analysts in attendance. Suitably sated on the ample hors d'oeuvres and cocktails served outside the historic theater, the audience filed in in an orderly fashion, without any of the frenzied jostling that preceded Nintendo's event.
[11:34] The Shrine is filling up fast as seven large screens show off gameplay from SOCOM Confrontation, MGS4, Echochrome, and other PlayStation titles. The lights dim...
[11:35] A round platform sits in front of the stage, with several staffers sporting the SOCOM Bluetooth headsets.
[11:35] The lights dim a bit more, and it looks like it's actually starting now...
[11:36] Here comes the opening trailer, a black and white CG montage of the DualShock's triangle, circle, square, and X.
[11:38] Shots of Rainbow Six, MotorStorm Pacific Rim, Uncharted, BioShock, LittleBigPlanet, SOCOM, and...was that Heavy Rain?
[11:38] Pain, and....that looked a LOT like a God of War 3 concept shot.
[11:39] Enter SCEA President Jack Tretton.
[11:39] Again, playing off his notorious stiffness, Tretton jokes with the audience with some self-deprecating banter.
[11:41] He talks about the history of the Shrine, where Jack Palance did one-armed push-ups when he won the Oscar. He starts talking parallels between games and film "To the pantheon of Robert De Niro...we now add Solid Snake, Kratos, and [LittleBigPlanet] hero Sack Boy."
[11:44] After ad-libbing, Tretton gets on script, talking about the history of the 12-year-old PlayStation brand. He emphasizes how Sony always looks ahead, introducing "DVD to the masses with the PS2." He talks up how "it took some time" for mass migration from the PSone to the PS2, and how each PlayStation has a 10-year life cycle.
[11:45] He reminds the audience that Grand Theft Auto III, God of War, and Guitar Hero all came along late in the PS2's cycle--farther along than where the PS3 is now.
[11:47] Now he's talking up the Blu-ray format's victory over HD-DVD, but then quickly switches the subject to the "waterfall" of "kick-ass games" in 2008: Grand Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.
[11:48] He emphasizes the importance of exclusives, claiming the PS3 has more exclusives than any other platform, "and that's just in North America."
[11:49] Claiming 2008 is the year of the PlayStation, Tretton cedes the stage to Insomniac Games' Ted Price, who demos Resistance 2.
[11:50] Price wastes no time, taking on a Chimera behemoth in downtown Chicago with a rocket launcher. The thing looks like a cross between Gears of War's Brumak and the Colossus from Shadow and the Colossus.
[11:51] Price tales on the behemoth from an unstable-looking scaffolding before hiding inside a study stone building...which the Chimera starts taking apart, Godzilla style.
[11:52] No, the City is San Francisco...an alternate-history 1953 San Francisco which is partially submerged and has a gigantic Chimera fortress in the middle. Sorry, the creature is actually called a Chimera Leviathan.
[11:54] Price gives the backstory of Resistance 2, and touts its eight-player online co-op and 60-player multiplayer battles. "The thing we talk about at Insomniac is scale," he says, and the game does look truly massive.
[11:55] Now onto a new trailer for Resistance, set in the ruins of Twin Falls, Idaho. All the footage is in-engine. The small Northwestern town is overrun with Chimera tanks with a huge airship hovering overhead. The tone is truly spooky and dark.
[11:56] Huge shot of a Chimera airfleet bombarding San Francisco. R2 and PS3 logos come up, trailer ends.
[11:57] Tretton is back, now extolling the virtues of user-generated content. Unsurprisingly, the paradigm of this trend he holds up is LittleBigPlanet. "It isn't a new game, it's a whole new user experience which combines social gaming and creativity," he says.
[11:59] Oh, hilarious. They're using LittleBigPlanet instead of PowerPoint to present all the Sony earnings. Sack Boy comes out and dons a Boston Celtics jersey, in honor of Tretton's hometown.
[12:01] On a special level of LBP, Sack Boy dances from level to level, unleashing a series of Rube Goldberg machines listing sales stats. Five million PS3 units in North America alone so far this year. He talks up an expansion to Latin American by having Sack Boy visit a train yard loading PlayStations.
[12:03] Announces new Greatest Hits games: Warhawk, Oblivion, Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Need for Speed Carbon, Resistance: Fall of Man, and others. Sack Boy proves hilariously distracting as he intros each game on a cartoonish conveyor belt.
[12:03] The Media Molecule guys leave the stage, and Tretton moves on to the PS2.
[12:04] "The success of PS2 has allowed us to be more aggressive with the PS3, and we're seeing increasing up-conversion from PS2 owners to PS3," he says.
[12:05] Cue PS2 game montage. The console's graphics are starting to show their age, but don't look much worse than many Wii games.
[12:08] Tretton says that at $129.99, the PS2 is the "perfect introduction to social gaming" via Guitar Hero, Singstar, and the Buzz! games. He's touting it as the perfect entry-level console for families, and introduces a new autumn PS2 bundle which will include Lego Batman and a Justice League Heroes cartoon DVD.
[12:09] Saying "we live more and more of our lives online," Tretton introduces the PlayStation Network.
[12:10] Starting this fall, all PlayStation owners will be getting a single GamerCard-like identity, which will be accessible on PCs, PS3s, and PSPs.
[12:10] 180 million pieces of content downloaded from the PlayStation Store since November 2006.
[12:12] "What is an E3 press conference without a surprise?" Tretton intros an all-new downloadable game, Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for Booty. Game will be shorter and cheaper that a regular game, and will being when the last R&C Future game left off. Sounds almost episodic.
[12:13] Developed by Insomniac, it's coming to the PS3 later this year as a $14.99 download.
[12:16] Montage of upcoming PlayStation Network games: Crash Commando, R&CF: Quest for Booty, Fat Princess, PixelJunk Eden, Pain Amusement Park, Flower, the Resident Evil-esque Siren Blood Curse, and Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic.
[12:20] Next up: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and its television offshoot, Polyphony Digital's pay-per-view Gran Turismo TV. The channel offers hundreds of hours of high-definition video content from around the world, including races from the Nurburgring, Super GT racing, and a variety of other television shows, including the BBC's popular Top Gear. It will be available August 1 to GT5 Prologue owners.
[12:22] Now it's trophy time, which Tretton says players will be able to "call BS" on other gamers. Quickly, he shifts to PlayStation Home. "I promise you when PlayStation Home emerges from closed beta, your patience will be rewarded," he says. He reveals some new Home partners, including EA, Ubisoft, and Nike.
[12:23] Quick collection of clips of Home, including a bombed-out-looking Warhawk lounge.
[12:25] Without further adieu, it's on to the PlayStation Video Store. On day one, it will offer content from Lionsgate, Warner, Disney, Paramount, Turner Entertainment, MGM, and (of course) Sony Pictures Entertainment.
[12:26] Unlike Xbox Live marketplace, the PS Video Store will also offer movies for purchase for $9.99 to $14.99. Purchased videos will be portable, allowing players to download them onto their PSPs to view on the go. (Guess that's that for UMD...).
[12:29] PlayStation Network director Eric Lempel puts the PS Video store through its paces, showing how the store is divided by studio. He selects Walk Hard for rental. First, though, he selects an HD preview, which expands to full-screen with one click. He says it will take about an hour to download a two-hour HD movie, but a progressive downloading scheme should speed things up.
[12:32] There are two ways to download purchases to your PSP. The first is from the PS3's XrossMediaBar direct to a connected PSP, the other is from a PC to your PSP. If you buy a TV show or film on the PlayStation Store on your PS3, you can download it to your PSP via your PC at no extra charge, since the store will remember what content you purchase wherever you access it.
[12:32] The PS Video Store will be available tonight. Wow, they didn't waste any time.
[12:34] Next up, the PSP. Besides a new Ratchet & Clank Size Matters bundle for the fall, Sony is revealing: Resistance: Retribution for the handheld. The latter is developed by Sony Bend, an internal studio, and is a third-person shooter which looks like one of the more bloody and impressive shooters for the platform yet.
[12:35] More games: LocoRoco2, Patapon 2, and Midnight Club LA Remix. Cue the next montage!
[12:38] On display in this collection are the aforementioned games and Madden, MBA 09, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Lego Batman, Buzz!, and Valkyrie Chronicles.
[12:40] Tretton retakes the stage and returns the subject to the PlayStation 3. He speaks about Sony's partnership with Google and YouTube, which allows direct video uploads. Slides behind him talk up Life of PlayStation, which is Sony's collective name for these services. It will launch by the end of the month.
[12:42] Tretton formally welcomes Sony Online Entertainment to the SCEA family, and introduces Jim Lee, executive creative director of DC Universe Online.
[12:43] Lee gushes about his "dream project" before showing the first public viewing of the mystery-shrouded massively multiplayer project. He speaks about his twin love for comics and games.
[12:45] "Imagine being able to create your own superhero and join Batman as he defends Gotham City...or being a villain and helping all the inmates escape from Arkham Asylum," he says. "That would've made my 12-year-old brain explode."
[12:47] First footage of DC Universe Online. Featuring character designs from Lee, the world is brightly colored, and shows Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Green Hornet, as well as a passel of user-generated heroes and villains. The PlayStation 3 logo comes up at the end.
[12:49] And, out of nowhere, Tretton announces Sony will introduce a new 80GB PS3 in September for just $399.99. He says the console will "have the same functionality as the 40GB PS3," perhaps hinting it may not have backward compatibility. No word on what's happening to the 40GB model.
[UPDATE] After the conference, SCEA senior vice president of marketing Peter Dille confirmed the 40GB PS3 is being discontinued, and the new 80GB PS3 will not have backwards compatibility.
[12:51] Onto a clip reel of developers gushing about the power of the PS3, including members of the Fallout 3 and Prince of Persia teams saying the cell processor's extra processing units allow for a lot more versatility in programming.
[12:56] Tretton is back to talk about what he says in SCEA's most valuable assets, its software lineup. Cue another montage of games, MotorStorm Pacific Rift, MGS4, Quantum of Solace, SOCOM: Confrontation, Ghostbusters, Force Unleashed, Soul Calibur, Resistance, Naruto, Mirror's Edge, Resident Evil 5, Singstar, Guitar Hero: World Tour, NBA 09: The Inside, Buzz! Quiz TV, Killzone 2, and Fallout 3.
[12:56] And it's official: God of War III is coming to PS3. Here's the first trailer.
[12:58] A dark CG movie shows flaming ruins of Olympus. Shot of an extremely detailed CG Kratos, looking straight out of <em>300</em>.
[12:59] Next up, a trailer for infamous, which shows a city in ruins with a hero wielding what looks like Force powers--lightning, telekinesis--in a postapocalyptic landscape.
[1:01] Brand-new "massively action title" being revealed now, which "even gives the PS3 a workout. ... There's nothing on the market today," says Tretton. Enter Andey Beaudoin, lead designer at Zipper Interactive.
[1:02] Called MAG (Massive Action Game), the title will allow for 256-player battles, with players divided into squads for a tactical feel. Players will have character growth, including experience and skill sets such as demolitions and medics.
[1:04] CG trailer shows a massive scrub desert battlefield with a whole army of seven-man squads advancing on a fortress. Their dress, weaponry, and technology is near-future, with advanced versions of many existing weapons.
[1:05] The attack on the fortress is repulsed, but then the place is attacked by a fuel-air bomb follows by a paratrooper attack. Correction: The game will actually feature eight-man squads.
[1:05] And that's it! The crowd files out, and the lights come up.