LOS ANGELES--Of the Big Three press conferences at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Sony's could be the most newsworthy if even half of the announcements rumored to take place actually happen. Whether it's a UMD-less version of the PSP, a new motion-sensing controller, a redesigned PlayStation 3 (perhaps with a price cut), or, say, actual games, the scuttlebutt and speculation surrounding the press conference has been building for months.
[UPDATE] As it turns out, one large cat was let out of the bag days before Sony executives could flip on their stage teleprompters. On Saturday, leaked video from Sony's in-house, PlayStation-focused magazine Qore revealed the PSP Go, the long-rumored fourth version of the handheld. In the clip, Sony Computer Entertainment America hardware marketing chief John Koller described the handheld's features, which include 16GB of flash memory, a sliding control panel, a smaller 3.8-inch screen, and no UMD drive. Koller also mentioned that the PSP edition of Gran Turismo--first shown off in 2004--would be formally "announced" at E3 and appeared to confirm reports of a new PSP Metal Gear Solid game.
While much of the anticipation for Sony's conference is built around whispers of what might be, there are some safer bets about titles that might be featured. Sony already has a lineup of heavy hitters confirmed for the show, including God of War III, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, MAG, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer, and Pixeljunk Shooter, all of which will be featured during GameSpot's live stage show direct from the E3 show floor.
[11:02] Once again, Sony is tail-end charlie of the Big Three console makers, and this year it got some fierce competition from Microsoft's massive press conference.
[11:03] Nintendo's less so, other than some major game announcements.
[11:04] Also once again, Sony's largesse is undermining its attempts to get attendees seated on time. It's finding it hard to separate the throng of underpaid media, unpaid bloggers, and pampered executives from the lavish spread of food and cocktails in front of the Shrine Auditorium.
[11:05] However, with the obligatory female voice asking the audience to turn off its phones, the presentation should get underway shortly.
[11:06] Unfotunately, one of its centerpieces was revealed over the weekend, when video of the new sliding-control panel, UMD-less PSP Go was leaked onto the Internet. Right now, in an executive suite in Tokyo, grumbled curses are being coupled with the word "YouTube."
[11:07] "Ladies and gentlemen, we are 2 minutes away from starting," says the dignified female voice. Its owner could be a professor, a barrister, or a villain in a Star Trek episode.
[11:07] The crowd continues to be packed into the Shrine, which was the site of the Oscars until the turn of the century.
[11:08] Its interior feels very early 20th century, with an upholstered ceiling and creaking seats.
[11:09] "Ladies and gentlemen, we are moments away from beginning."
[11:10] Lights are going down, applause coming up.
[11:11] A PlayStation logo fills the screen, yielding to a field of square-circle-x-triangle patterns. The PS3 and PSP rise from the field. Apparently they're BOTH made by Sony.
[11:11] Game montage now to Queen track.
[11:12] Red Dead Redemption, Dark Void, Ratchet & Clank, Brutal Legend, Uncharted 2, God of War III, Modern Warfare 2, Buzz all flash by.
[11:12] Singstar, Ninja Gaiden Sigma II: The Re-Sigma-ing, and Final Fantasy XIII.
[11:13] The music swells, and the sizzle reel ends. The crowd goes wild--for SCEA CEO Jack Tretton.
[11:14] "Thank God you guys showed up. Given this industry's ability to keep confidential industry information confidential, I was amazed anyone came."
[11:14] 364 games coming to "PlayStation Platforms" this year, he says.
[11:15] Only the PS3 has the resolution to show graphics on the 40'x80' behind Tretton, he says.
[11:15] "2009 will be our best year ever--even better than our record 2008."
[11:16] PlayStation games accounted for 30% of all retail sales in 2008, says Tretton.
[11:17] Some of the biggest titles are coming to PS3: Modern Warfare 2, Heavy Rain, Rock Band: Beatles, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time.
[11:17] "Let's get started with the PlayStation 2," says Tretton.
[11:17] PS2 outsold "next-generation systems in April in its 9th year."
[11:17] So they're playing up the fact the PS2 outsold the PS3 now?
[11:18] 100 new titles coming to PS2 this year.
[11:18] 10 million PS3s sold last year, bringing the console's global installed base to 22 million.
[11:19] 24 million PlayStation Network customers currently.
[11:19] Now to the games
[11:20] Infamous up first--Tretton gives shoutout to GameSpot's 9.0 review.
[11:20] Uncharted sold over 2.6 million units globally, and is a huge hit.
[11:20] Evan Wells from Naughty Dog takes the stage now.
[11:21] To talk about Uncharted 2--multiplayer beta begins tonight.
[11:22] Cut to scene of our man Drake in a mountainside town.
[11:22] He scales the side of a building and looks out on a stunning valley vista before taking a zip line over to the next building.
[11:23] Then, while shimmying across a beam 70 feet in the air, he is attacked by an HIND assault helicopter.
[11:23] He runs from rooftop to rooftop, then from awning to awning to a roof with some cover.
[11:23] Not for vertigo sufferers.
[11:24] He escapes inside to what he thinks is safety…only to find the building packed with gun-wielding thugs.
[11:24] He guns down many with an AK47 and tosses grenades to finish off some more--seems more combat-oriented than the first game.
[11:25] The building is hit by so many rockets it starts collapsing--a moment similar to the ship sinking in Call of Duty 4.
[11:26] They jump to safety. Drake deadpans, "Hey, we were almost in that!"
[11:28] Tretton is back to talk about the "only on PlayStation" philosophy--and to show off the first public demo of MAG, the 256-player multiplayer combat game. Eight Zipper staffers take the stage--to fight with and against 248 other real players elsewhere.
[11:28] The people on stage are in a squad of 8, and are tasked with their own assault mission.
[11:28] An overhead view shows dozens of blue dots--one for each player on the Zipper team.
[11:29] For each blue dot, there's a red dot, though, hidden by the fog of war.
[11:29] Cut to ground-level first-person shooter view, and the player runs along a road, assisted by an LAV.
[11:30] They see a bunker, and the view switches to the squad leader's view, who can issue commands.
[11:30] They assault the bunker, racking up XP in the process. They blow up the bunker and run through the ruined base.
[11:31] Once the area is secured, the spawn point moves--anyone who dies will respawn in this new area. Helicopters deliver reinforcements.
[11:31] Advancing they call in a massive air strike, and rush in before the enemies can respond.
[11:32] LAVs run in, and the Zipper folks reveal the game will be playable on the show floor during the entire show with 256 players.
[11:32] MAG is coming out this fall.
[11:32] Now it's PSP time…what could this be about?
[11:32] "Over time, it became slimmer and lighter, and our content and services have improved with it."
[11:32] Over 400 PSP titles released in the US alone to date.
[11:33] 15 million PSPs sold last year, pushing global installed base to over 50 million.
[11:33] Plugs for Final Fantasy and Rock Band Unplugged.
[11:34] Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines coming to PSP November 10, one week before Assassin's Creed 2.
[11:35] Pink PSP Hannah Montana bundle coming--because Miley Cyrus needs more money and Billy Ray's mullet stylist won't pay his own wages.
[11:35] SCE CEO Kaz Hirai takes the stage, after just hanging out backstage last year.
[11:35] Two years ago, they began asking publishers and consumer how they could make the PSP better.
[11:36] Now comes the official announcement of the PSP Go, for the "digital lifestyle consumer" who "does have room for UMDs, CDs, or DVDs in their pockets or backpack."
[11:37] "We have several names for this device: The worst-kept secret of E3, and the PSP Go," he jokes to polite laughter.
[11:37] Integrated Wi-Fi, plays the same games.
[11:38] It's 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the PSP-3000. As leaked, 16GB of flash memory, integrated Bluetooth, and Memory Stick Micro--aka M2.
[11:39] Lanching a new PC service, Media Go, to allow faster and "intuitive" download and transfer of content to PSPs.
[11:39] Another new service, Sense Me, will analyze consumer's listening habits of music, and will suggest playlists based on it.
[11:40] Now for a price cut--of PSP dev kits, which will be 80% cheaper this year.
[11:40] Going forward, all new PSP titles will be released both as UMD discs and digital downloads.
[11:41] PSP Go coming to US and EU for 249.99 and 249.99 euros on October 1.
[11:42] PlayStation video store will be available, as of today, natively on the PSP
[11:42] New content partners, including Showtime.
[11:43] Over 1,900 TV Shows and 1,400 movies released on the service as of last year.
[11:44] Polyphony Digital founder Kazunouri Yamauchi takes the stage, and officially unveils Gran Turismo PSP. He has it running on a PSP Go right on stage.
[11:44] Despite the small hardware, the game is a "full sized Gran Turismo" and runs at 60 frames per second.
[11:45] 800 cars, 35 tracks, and 60 layouts of those tracks.
[11:45] Single-player modes contain time trials and a mode to improve driving skills.
[11:46] "This is not a shrunken down subset of the series," says the nervous translator.
[11:46] Game will use ad hoc to offer up to four-person races on the go wirelessly.
[11:46] Gran Turismo PSP will also allow the sharing and trading of cars between friends.
[11:47] The game is designed to foster sharing and co-operation with friends to boost car collections.
[11:48] Gran Turismo PSP will be on the show floor, says Yamauchi, though it's unclear if it will be playable.
[11:48] Now for a trailer!
[11:49] Video looks at PSP Go with same hardware fetishism as Gran Turismo does cars.
[11:49] Game looks flawlessly smooth, indeed running at 60 fps. I think Yamauchi made a few sales.
[11:50] Coming October 1, 2009--at last!
[11:50] Yep, it is indeed launching alongside the PSP Go.
[11:51] Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker logo comes up, with the Big Boss picture teased on the Kojima site. Hideo Kojima pops out, fresh off yesterday's Microsoft conference.
[11:52] The game is set in the 1970s, 10 years after Metal Gear Solid 3. "It's a true sequel to the MGS franchise," says Kojima.
[11:52] Game's logo has a B-52 bomber inside circle--forming an ironic peace symbol.
[11:53] Trailer shows clips from 1950s nuclear bomb tests.
[11:56] Set in Latin America, the game involves some more jungle sneakery, with Snake running through brush.
[11:56] Apparently Outer Heaven is stirring up trouble in the Caribbean.
[11:57] Shots of Snake, climbing bridges--then a whole team of Solid Snakes facing off against some kind of airborne Metal Gear.
[11:57] Comic ending has two Snakes hiding in a box.
[11:57] Game is due in 2010.
[11:57] Der Kazzer is back.
[11:58] And now he's gone again!
[11:58] Tretton strides back out, and promises that "The good news doesn't end there…"
[11:59] Resident Evil: Portable logo comes up--it's a whole new game designed from the ground up for the portable, and is due out next year.
[11:59] Cue sizzle reel of PSP's 2009 lineup.
[12:01] Little Big Planet, Jak & Daxter, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge playing on a white PSP Go.
[12:02] Echochrono, PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe, NCAA Football 10, Hot Shots Tennis, Crimson Gem Saga, Fat Princess…
[12:03] Unbound Saga, Star Wars: Battlefront, Petz Hamsterz Bunch, Hannah Montana, Madden NFL 10, Rock Band Unplugged
[12:03] The white PSP Go may have just been part of the presentation graphics, by the way.
[12:04] Now it's PlayStation Network time--11 million subscribers in North America, 24 million worldwide.
[12:04] 475 million pieces of content downloaded globally to date.
[12:05] More than 90 exclusive titles.
[12:05] Final Fantasy VII coming to PSN today, the first of 50 classic PlayStation games coming to the network.
[12:05] Over 6.5 million PlayStation Home users worldwide, and is growing "by leaps and bounds."
[12:05] Over 100 new items available each month.
[12:06] EA, Ubisoft, Activision, Capcom, Namco, Eidos are all on board, among others.
[12:06] Roll the Home montage!
[12:07] Video of a boring average Joe walking into an apartment with a home logo on the door--cue to his edgy home avatar, who is rocking a red mohawk.
[12:08] Shots of EA Kart Racing, Guitar Hero stage, Godfather II casino, Red Bull Air Racing.
[12:09] Polite applause as lights come up.
[12:09] Now it's time for a PS3 montage, showing its latest and greatest.
[12:09] Uncharted 2, Infamous, Madden NFL 10, Final Fantasy XIII, MAG
[12:11] Batman Arkham Asylum, Brutal Legend, White Knight Chronicles, Dirt 2, Ghostbusters, Ninja Gaiden Sigma II: It's Sigma Time, Mafia II, Buzz Quiz World
[12:12] Tekken 6, Overlord II, Red Faction Guerrilla, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, Dark Void, G-Force (The guinea pig movie, not Gatchaman), Planet 51, Karaoke Revolution, Heavy Rain, Battlefield 1943, Gravity Crash
[12:12] Hustle Kings, Trash Panic, Critter Crunch
[12:13] Katamari Forever, Fat Princess, EyePet, Singstar: Queen, DC Universe Online, Fuel
[12:14] Booming bass ends the montage.
[12:14] Lost Planet 2, shipping in early 2010.
[12:14] Rockstar Games logo comes up--is this the exclusive announced in 2007?
[12:14] Yes, it is.
[12:14] All-new game, Agent, exclusive to PlayStation 3.
[12:15] Agent will take players all around the globe in the shadowy world of late 1970s espionage.
[12:15] Assassin's Creed 2 crew hops on stage to show off their wares.
[12:17] In a live demo, Ezio sits on a bench. When a man approaches him, he casually stabs him under the rib cage and props his body on the bench.
[12:18] Ezio climbs up a tower with fireworks in the background, throwing the guard off.
[12:18] Apparently, Ezio is friends with Leonardo Da Vinci, who will craft inventions, like a small glider.
[12:18] Ezio uses the glider to soar above the crowds below. "Winged demon!" cries one eye witness.
[12:19] Catching updrafts over fires will be important to sustaining flight…oops, Ezio just trashed the glider.
[12:19] Cut to day scene, with Ezio sneaking up to two guards and stabbing them both in the throat simultaneously with "poison blades."
[12:20] He drops into a courtyard (thank you, conveniently placed straw cart) and faces off against three guards.
[12:20] He disarms them, killing them with their own weapons.
[12:20] He kills his target, but then faces a whole army of guards.
[12:21] He throws smoke bombs as a diversion, and makes his escape.
[12:21] The demo ends with a reminder that the game is due this holiday.
[12:22] Apparently the PSP version of Assassin's Creed will have some sort of interoperability with the PS3 version.
[12:22] Now it's Final Fantasy XIII time, with another trailer.
[12:23] A fleet of aircraft fly over a coastline, then the game's heroes fight a blue tentacled demon.
[12:25] Lots of CG cutscene exposition talks about a gathering evil, followed by some scenes of combat.
[12:25] The heroes run across a grassy field, and then approach a massive portal, with Lightning leading the way.
[12:25] Trailer ends.
[12:25] Wait, what? Final Fantasy FOURTEEN?
[12:26] Coming in 2010, says Tretton, with a straight face--it's a PlayStation 3 console exclusive.
[12:27] Cue a trailer of giant dragon creatures fighting over stunning vistas.
[12:27] Final Fantasy XIV Online logo comes up to massive applause. [UPDATE] The MMORPG is also coming to PC.
[12:28] "There's one that didnt leak out, eh?" jokes Tretton.
[12:28] Now he's talking about motion control--looks like Sony has an answer to Project Natal.
[12:29] Dr. Richard Marx, creator of the EyeToy, takes the stage to show off new motion controller. It's been in the works for several years.
[12:31] Marx holds aloft a prototype of the device, the final design of which will be different. It's the device from the patent filed last year, a controller with a glowing globe at the end. The PlayStation Eye can track the controller, and even can sense the light's color.
[12:32] He says that changing the color would let players cast spells in an RPG.
[12:33] In a short demo, they show a Tennis game. The demoer swings the racket in real time, tracking its motions perfectly. The tennis racket turns into a crossing guard's sign, a sword, a flail with spike ball, then a fan.
[12:33] A brief first-person view shows the demoer shooting up a virtual living room, and then wielding an energy whip.
[12:35] Now the demoer holds two controllers, one with a blue light at the end, the other with a red light. Move over, rave glowsticks.
[12:35] The controllers are so accurate, the demoer can actually write his name on a virtual pad.
[12:36] He then does some graffiti with a virtual spray can. The angle effects the paint, and the pressure on the controller's trigger regulates its flow.
[12:37] One controller's light turns purple as he uses it to direct an RTS battle. He then clicks on a tank for a first-person turret view.
[12:38] Shifting to a third-person view, he controls a virtual warrior battering a punching-bag like skeleton who sways with the blows.
[12:38] With very response one-to-one 3D action, the demoer dispatches some foes with throwing stars.
[12:39] Finally, an archery mechanic demo shows the demoer pull an arrow from a virtual quill, pull back the drawstring, and start slinging arrows into foes.
[12:39] The farther back the string, the more powerful the arrow.
[12:39] The demoer drops to one knee to get a steadier shot, and the demo tracks him flawlessly. The device is due out in spring 2010.
[12:40] Demo is over, and Mr. T is back.
[12:40] Little Big Planet is now the subject, with 500,000 levels made.
[12:42] Disney Sackboy costumes coming, including an adorable Captain Jack Sparrow outfit.
[12:43] An all-new game in the LBP's "play create cheer."
[12:43] ModNation racers is announced.
[12:43] This new PS3 exclusive is a "thoroughly modern take on the kart racing genre."
[12:44] The game's adorable characters are totally customizable, like LBP. The demoer created a monkey butler and a pink dune buggy.
[12:44] Large selection of pre-made cars, which are all totally customizable and sharable. Tracks are also customizable.
[12:45] Now for some very Mario Kart-like gameplay, with racers using weapons to knock out competitors.
[12:45] The game will come with a very easy track-maker with a tool called track studio.
[12:47] Using a tiny bulldozer as a cursor, the demoer creates a track in seconds, using driving controls to lay a pay and using side buttons to raise and lower elevation.
[12:48] That creates a basic track, which the demoers quickly customize with mountains, forests, and river hazards.
[12:48] They then tweak the surfaces, spraying sections of the racetrack with a dirt-road finish.
[12:48] They then line the sides of the track with buildings. Not sure if there's a tool to plop pedestrians into the road, Death Race 2000-style.
[12:50] Actually, they do, as a herd of sheep is dropped on one side of the road, with half the animals in the road.
[12:51] The track is immediately playable as well--think DIY Mario Kart.
[12:51] The demo ends.
[12:51] The game is in the works at United Front Studios in Vancouver, and is due out in 2010.
[12:51] Now it's another PS3 exclusive…from Fumito Ueda and Team Ico.
[12:51] Trailer rolls for The Last Guardian.
[12:52] It's a more polished version of the trailer that leaked several weeks ago, with a feather falling down a stone well.
[12:54] A young boy--but older than the original--runs out towards a cliff, nearly falls off it, but is saved by a giant griffon-like creature with an oddly puppy-like face.
[12:55] The boy and the creature bond, with the smaller party feeding entire barrels of food to his towering quadruped companion.
[12:56] They then fly off through a valley, and wade through a river, the boy riding the beast.
[12:56] Alone, the boy is menaced by some soldiers in armor--he runs away.
[12:56] We then see him sleeping in the feathers of the creature, safe.
[12:57] No date is given for The Last Guardian.
[12:57] And now a trailer for Gran Turismo 5.
[12:57] Nearly photo-realistic graphics show jets soaring over a racetrack.
[12:57] The camera zooms into show insane levels of detail.
[12:58] Sports World Rally Championship and NASCAR races--the level of detail is staggering.
[12:59] Last but not least, its God of War III, and the Sony Santa Monica studios crew takes the stage to show how Kratos is coming along.
[12:59] It's the final chapter in the "God of War trilogy," showing Kratos' final revenge on Zeus and the rest of the gods.
[1:00] As some soldiers brutalize villagers, Kratos makes short work of them.
[1:01] Then he's underground, battling some harpies.
[1:01] He sticks his chains into one and rides it across a chasm.
[1:03] The bare-breasted harpy leaves the underground, and on the surface, a giant god--perhaps Hephaestus, god of the hearth--is ripping apart a temple with his massive hands.
[1:03] Kratos then squares off against a centaur with a deadly lance.
[1:04] After a brutal battle, Kratos cuts the creature open like the Tauntaun in Empire Strikes Back.
[1:05] Helios, God of the Sun, flies overhead as Kratos faces off against a real chimera, lionhead, snakes tail, and all.
[1:06] Kratos finishes the creature with a horn to the face--God of War III is due in 2010.
[1:06] March 2010, specifically.
[1:07] Tretton wrapping up now, saying everything the audience has seen is "only on PlayStation."