LAS VEGAS--For the tech obsessed, the Consumer Electronics Show is like the Coachella music festival: full of exciting things to see, mind-boggling crowds, and bathrooms that make medieval sewers look hygienic by comparison. Luckily, the 120,000-person-plus expo's focus isn't plumbing--it's consumer electronics of all varieties, from the smallest Bluetooth headset to towering 3D HDTVs fit for a movie mogul's living room.
As is the case every year, games and game technology fall under CES' aegis, with two of the industry's giants--Sony and Microsoft--delivering major press briefings. However, given the expo's wide purview, usually games are just a small section of the companies' presentations.
Last year, Sony's event was more memorable for Tom Hank's onstage mocking of Sony Corp. CEO Sir Howard Stringer than for any game announcements. The biggest news was that the PlayStation Network had reached 17 million users, with the PlayStation 3 and PSP's service going on to nearly double by the end of the year. Sony also used the event to announce that its cuddly platformer Little Big Planet had sold 1.3 million units worldwide, a figure it has since far surpassed.
Now, the dawn of a new decade sees Sony ready to announce the dawn of a new PlayStation era--motion control. Six months after the so-called "Sphere" system was unveiled at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, many industry watchers expect it to be trotted out again ahead of its planned spring launch.
Other possible topics for Sony's presentation include its upcoming slate of high-profile exclusives, such as January's MAG, March's God of War III, and Team ICO's still-undated Last Guardian. The company might also inform the gadget-mad audience about the performance of the PSP Go. The digital-distribution portable was launched with much fanfare October 1, but Sony has been largely mum on sales of the platform, which abandoned the UMD optical-disc format used by prior PSPs.
With such possibilities hanging in the air, several thousand CES attendees and members of the press will assemble at Sony's booth Wednesday afternoon to see what the company has up its collective sleeve. Stay tuned.
[4:06] Once again, Sony has gathered press, analysts, and electronics enthusiasts for its annual CES briefing.
[4:08] This year, the event is straight from the CES show floor, where Sony has set up several hundred chairs smack-dab in the middle of its booth.
[4:09] The bad news: Attendees outnumber chairs at least 2-to-1, forcing a polyglot throng to stand around awkwardly among displays of HDTVs, digital cameras, and an imposing sign saying "3D World: Created by SONY."
[4:10] The good news: There's free booze and snacks.
[4:11] At the center of Sony's book is a large round stage emblazoned with the Sony logo and its motto: "Make.Believe." Right now, many in the crowd wish the company would make more seats available.
[4:23] "Ladies and gentleman, put on your 3D glasses for a 3D experience," she says. Out come several hundred black glasses provided to the audience.
[4:24] On a large screen, a 3D version of Jimi Hendrix's set at Woodstock appears. You can see the unwashed hippie masses in great detail. Luckily you can't smell them.
[4:24] And out walks Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer to announce a new deal with Sony Music to offer Jimi Hendrix music over a variety of formats.
[4:26] Then he announces that Sony will be recording and playing a series of concerts in 3D. The program's new spokesperson comes onstage--and it's Taylor Swift, looking impossibly perky and sweet.
[4:27] Swift talks about a project that will see Sony document her tour over the next year in 3D. She then starts pimping Sony's "beautiful products" and how they'll be used on her tour.
[4:28] Now she's giving a live performance in 3D on a large screen…even though she's sitting onstage right in front of it in real 3D.
[4:29] So for everyone wearing 3D glasses, there's one Taylor Swift on the big screen and a double image of her on the stage.
[4:30] Swift dutifully belts out one of her pop-country ditties as a 3D camera swarms over her on a crane.
[4:32] BOOM! Huge cannons fire a cloud of glitter into the air…completely obscuring the 3D screen. Presumably this will get right into the faces of viewers of the performance on video.
[4:32] Applause as Swift exits, off to the People's Choice Awards in LA.
[4:33] Stringer is back onstage, praising Swift's youth and charm, and then he leaves.
[4:33] On comes Stan Glasgow, president and COO of Sony Electronics.
[4:33] He is offering a brief overview of what the company has on tap.
[4:35] First mention of games comes 20 minutes in, and it's only a brief mention of "interactive games."
[4:36] Glasgow talks about the challenges the electronics industry faced in 2009, but Sony electronics sales grew in the US during the year.
[4:36] He says holiday sales of Bravia HDTVs and CyberShot cameras were better than expected.
[4:36] Now he's talking about the philosophy of Sony's tagline, "Make DOT Believe."
[4:36] Says this applies to all its products, including games.
[4:38] He says they want to empower consumers to believe that they can make anything real that they can imagine.
[4:39] Cue first sizzle reel, which touts Sony Music's inspirational effect on art students. The reel is packed with arty slides and album covers, presumably made by some of said students.
[4:40] Glasgow is back, promising more "make DOT believe messaging" on Sony products. Um, great?
[4:40] Time to unveil the latest 2010 Bravia televisions, with "a new Monolithic design."
[4:41] One, the NXA 8000, is lowered from the ceiling.
[4:41] Bravia TVs will come in sizes from 22 to 60 inches and are designed to be viewed at a 6-degree slant to compensate for too-low stands.
[4:41] "Available in glossy and matte," he says. Ladies?
[4:43] Now Glasgow talks about how Bravia TVs were the first to provide content directly from the Internet, including Netflix.
[4:43] New Bravias are coming in March.
[4:43] Preorders begin tonight on SonyStyle.com.
[4:44] Now it's time for the new Monolithic home theater system with wireless speakers.
[4:45] Now he's talking Blu-ray, and mentions the PS3 for the first time. Huzzah!
[4:46] The PS3 is helping Sony lead in the Blu-ray category, but Glasgow is focusing on the new Blu-ray player, which is part of a new Internet-enabled home theater system.
[4:47] After saying consumers "want content anywhere and everywhere," Glasgow cues sizzle reel No. 2.
[4:48] A new touch-screen device, the Dash, is the center of this initiative.
[4:48] The touch-screen-enabled new platform can download video movies from Bravia media servers and is integrated with such services as Facebook.
[4:49] Finally, the games! Onto the stage walks Sony Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai.
[4:49] Over the five-week holiday period, 1.7 million PS3s were sold in North America, with 3.8 million sold worldwide.
[4:50] But he's not just here to talk about PlayStation--he's here to talk about Sony's new content service based on the PlayStation Network, which was first revealed last year.
[4:51] Now, the PSN video store has over 2,700 movies and 16,000 TV episodes.
[4:51] All video can be transferred to PSPs, and PSN is now available in 36 countries.
[4:52] 780 million pieces of content have been downloaded on PSN to date.
[4:52] "Now it's time to leverage the PlayStation Network to new platforms."
[4:54] The PSN's payment and delivery structure will be extended to all Bravia TVs, Internet-enabled Blu-ray players, Vaio PCs, and any Windows PC, starting next month.
[4:54] They will use their PlayStation Wallet and ID to buy content on these other platforms, with the goal of having a single ID over all Sony products.
[4:55] These efforts will be part of a new division, Sony Network Entertainment Inc. The division's president will report to Hirai.
[4:55] Kaz exits, and Stan retakes the stage.
[4:56] Glasgow says that leveraging the PSN to other platforms is just the beginning…and busts out the latest Sony Reader e-book.
[4:58] By the way, the new PSN-based video store will let players buy standard-definition movies outright as well as stream HD and SD video.
[4:58] Glasgow announces that all cybershot digital cameras and camcorders will now support standard SD cards as well as Sony's proprietary Memory Stick Duo format.
[4:59] To some cheering, Glasgow also says that Sony will be releasing its own line of high-capacity SD cards.
[5:00] Glasgow touts Handycam camcorders, as well as the V500's "Golf Shot" feature.
[5:01] Now he is introducing a new line of Flip video-camera-like ultra portables, called Bloggie. "Yes, I said 'Bloggie,'" jokes Glasgow.
[5:02] Moving at a fast clip, Glasgow talks the new Cybershot camera, which will have GPS capabilities.
[5:04] On comes professional photographer Nigel Barker to offer a "professional perspective" on cameras. He tries to mooch a Bravia off of Glasgow, to no avail.
[5:05] He says the same optics that are in a DSLR camera can be found in Cybershot cameras.
[5:05] Now he is playing up the TransferJet functionality and its level-autocorrect system, which doesn't overcompensate color and light levels.
[5:06] Barker takes a panoramic shot of the crowd as he would a fashion shoot.
[5:07] "I worry you're going to be getting a fierce detector in your cameras next year and put [fashion] professionals like me out of work," says Barker. "You'll be having Magnum next," he jokes, referencing one of the three looks in the fashion parody Zoolander.
[5:08] Barker and Glasgow trade photos wirelessly with their Cybershot cameras in a somewhat awkward exchange.
[5:09] Next up: Sony's suite of Vaio PCs and laptops.
[5:09] Sony has recycled 24.5 million pounds of waste. Did you know?
[5:10] By 2013, they are planning on reducing greenhouse emissions by 30 percent from 2000 levels.
[5:11] The Vaio W-series Eco-edition will be extra-eco-friendly, with a chassis made of recycled CDs and plastics and a carrying back made out of recycled plastic bottles.
[5:11] Next up, the F-series Vaios, which will have 16x9 screens, Blu-ray Disc players, and HDMI outputs for HDTVs. Their Intel chipsets will be optimized for gaming.
[5:12] The Z-series Vaios will have a quick-toggle switch between graphics-intensive and low-power modes.
[5:12] Now we've come full circle to 3D, with Sir Howard retaking the stage.
[5:14] "We intend to take the lead in 3D," says Stringer, saying it is the only company that has a stake in "each link of the 3D value chain."
[5:15] He mentions a deal with a 3D-glasses maker and a new partnership with IMAX and the Discovery Channel to make new 3D content.
[5:15] On go the 3D glasses again.
[5:16] They will be available on an all-new TV network launching in 2011 called…Discovery IMAX Sony 3D TV.
[5:16] Yes, that's the actual name.
[5:17] On come the chiefs of Imax and Discovery to talk about 3D being the future of TV.
[5:18] The IMAX exec said the success of such 3D films as Avatar and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs from Sony" show that "3D is ready for prime time."
[5:18] Next month, Sony Pictures will offer a new 3D technology center at its Culver City, California, studio.
[5:19] A 3D concert movie of Sony Music's country crooner Kenny Chesney will be available in the spring.
[5:20] Now Stringer announces a deal between Sony and his old company, GameSpot parent company CBS, on a new 3D research group.
[5:21] Sony cameras will also be filming this summer's World Cup in South Africa in 3D. Goaaaaal!
[5:22] And the deals keep coming! Sony is announcing a new partnership with ESPN: ESPN 3D. Sony will be the official sponsor of the new "service," which will provide 25 World Cup matches in 3D this summer.
[5:23] Oh wait, we're back to the PS3 again.
[5:24] All 30 million existing PS3s will be firmware upgradable to play both 3D games and 3D movies.
[5:24] As was announced last year by Kaz Hirai.
[5:25] Glasgow is back to announce the launch of 3D Bravia TVs this summer, each of which will come with two sets of glasses.
[5:27] Sony will begin releasing Sony 3D Blu-rays soon, one of which will be…Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs!
[5:27] And that's it!