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PS3 online, Sixaxis shown off at Sony Gamers' Day

[UPDATED] Executives demonstrate the next-gen console's controller and online capabilities--including store and downloads; multimedia functions and game demos dominate San Francisco presentation.


SAN FRANCISCO--With less than a month to go until the North American PlayStation 3 launch, Sony is holding a Gamers' Day. Today's event will show off the system to the assembled gaming press--and perhaps answer a few final questions about the system. The PlayStation Network Platform, the PS3's answer to Xbox Live, seems to be the biggest question mark, particularly its downloadable content, online store, and suite of features for online play.

Sony chose Dog Patch Studios to host the event on an unexpectedly warm October afternoon for the Bay Area. With any luck, it will be here, south of downtown in a neighborhood where residential homes jut up against industrial buildings, that Sony chooses to detail the remainder of its launch strategy.

1:30 p.m.: Half an hour after early attendees started lining up outside the building, Sony lets them start filing in. A stage at the front of the room features a large screen running a PS3 promotional video--all shots of the system and controller. Before long, a couple hundred members of the press have crowded the room and the din of chatter threatens to drown out the house music.

1:52: A voice asks everyone to take their seats. The show will begin in five minutes. Apparently their clock is ahead.

1:55: Banks of speakers flank the side of the stage, with TV displays on either side showing the same footage as the big screen. "Two minutes," the voice says.

1:57 p.m.: The music fades and chatter soon follows. SCEA president Kaz Hirai and fellow Sony execs take their seats in the front row. The voice says, "During this Sony event, video and still photography is not allowed. Thank you very much."

1:59 p.m.: Another voice says "Can I get an encore? Do you want more?" The music kicks up loud again and a montage of gameplay footage is shown as the lights dim. If you can name a PS3 title, it's probably in here. All kinds of games from all publishers are shown. The date "11/17" is shown, and Kaz Hirai is introduced.

2:00 p.m.: Kaz takes the stage. Apparently starting the show on time caught the techies by surprise; it takes a second to turn the microphone on.

2:01 p.m.: Kaz, Jack Tretton, and Phil Harrison will take us through what comes in the box, launch titles, peripherals, the PlayStation Network, and the PlayStation Store, including downloadable content.

2:02 p.m.: They're going to try and show us as much as possible in live demos during this session. After the presentation, we'll be able to get our hands on the games, so check back later for GameSpot's hands-on coverage of all the titles.

2:03 p.m.: Hirai teases a surprise guest providing entertainment at the night's event.

2:04 p.m.: Hirai says the final boxed product is rolling off the assembly lines as we speak. Then he shows the retail packaging. He says they will have 22 launch-window titles, including games like FEAR, Call of Duty 3, Full Auto 2, Genji: Days of the Blade, NBA Live 07, NBA 2K7, NHL 2K7, Rainbow Six Vegas, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Untold Legends, and Riiidge Racer 7. (Yes, he said "Riiidge.")

2:05 p.m.: He talks about specific games, including Genji and NBA 07, which he touts by saying "there is no more realistic NBA action than NBA 07." Now he's turning to Resistance: Fall of Man. He calls it "the most robust lineup of any console launch for titles." And it's another montage.

2:11 p.m.: The video ends with the Play Beyond slogan and a round of applause from the crowd. Kaz talks about going deeper into what we'll find on launch day and introduces Jack Tretton.

2:12 p.m.: Tretton welcomes everyone to the event and says Sony is very excited for the big launch date. Now he's going to tell us what we'll find at retail on November 17. We hope he says "a system." Nope. He says "a crowd." He recaps the two different PS3 packages and reiterates the previously announced US prices.

2:13 p.m.: He mentions the array of movie studios and tech companies supporting the Blu-ray format. He emphasizes that it does play DVD, CD, and Blu-ray video, so they're going to pack the Blu-ray edition of Talladega Nights in the first 500,000 PS3 systems.

2:14 p.m.: The movie doesn't hit retail until December. Now he's showing us a trailer of Talladega Nights. Who doesn't love John C. Reilly?

2:16 p.m.: Props to whoever decided to put Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Kind of Man" in the trailer.

2:17 p.m.: Tretton says they worked closely with Sony Pictures to make the promotion happen and says "there can only be one number one because two number ones would be 11, and we don't want that." I think someone snickered. That might have been a sneeze, though.

2:18 p.m.: Tretton brings up the Sixaxis controller, emphasizing that it doesn't require any outside sensors, and says we'll see some wonderful uses for it in the very near future. Also in the box is an AC cord (no brick), a USB minicable, an Ethernet cable, and a multi-AV cable with composite connector.

2:19 p.m.: First-party software will debut at $59.99 for Genji, Resistence, and NBA 07. The controller will be $49.99. Memory card adaptors will be $14.99, while the Blu-ray remote (in December) will be $24.99.

2:20 p.m.: Now it's time to talk demo kiosks. Sony will send out 15,000 kiosks that will debut October 26. They will feature Sony Bravia HD monitors. "Universally, PS products will have the lead-in position. They will have dominant shelf space," he says. He also says the kiosks will be networked so they can stream game demos, and they'll no longer be dependent on someone carrying a disc into the store and loading it up.

2:23 p.m.: Harrison says the team is in the home stretch and stresses how proud Sony is of what they're going to show us today. He introduces Insomniac Games' Ted Price to the stage to talk about Resistance and give a live demo.

2:24 p.m.: Price is showing Nottingham, England, after the alien invasion. He demonstrates some of the weapons, like the standard assault rifle, the bullseye (tag an enemy and then fire tracing bullets at him), or a temporary shield.

2:25 p.m.: Now he brings out the lark, a rocket launcher that lets him pause a rocket in midair and then control its speed with the analog stick or have it splinter into a barrage of tinier missiles.

2:26 p.m.: He pauses the game and moves the camera around the frozen world in a debug mode. He fires a hedgehog, a spiky bomb that jumps into the air and shatters into shrapnel.

2:27 p.m.: The other thing he wants to mention is the game's online mode. He talks about the 40-player online mode, a first for a console launch title, a lobby with community features including buddy lists, clans, and stats. He asks everyone to check out the PS3 online with Resistence at launch and turns it back over to Phil Harrison.

2:28 p.m.: Harrison brings up Blu-ray again, talking about the ratio of disc-based storage to the system's main memory. He mentions that historically a balanced system has about 100:1. Hey, what a coincidence! That happens to be the PS3's ratio!

2:29 p.m.: Now Harrison is talking us through a live demo of Genji. The main samurai slaughters enemy after enemy before switching out for a guy with a gigantic pole, Shizuka, and then back to the original samurai.

2:31 p.m.: Harrison ends the live demo and brings up high definition. He mentions that NBA Shootout was the first fully polygonal five-on-five sports game on the PlayStation and compares it to NBA 07 being the first sports game in 1080p resolution.

2:33 p.m.: He talks about the detail in the player faces and has the guy giving the live demo go into the instant-replay mode to show off the sweat on players in the middle of gameplay. "I'm told that's a cool thing," Harrison says.

2:34 p.m.: Now Harrison is talking about the Sixaxis controller and welcomes the founder of Factor 5 to demo Lair.

2:36 p.m.: It starts off with a soldier walking up to a dragon. The player uses the controller's motion sensitivity to control the camera and then jumps on the dragon. Once on the dragon, he uses the motion sensitivity to control it. He says it's the ideal way to implement flight control and compares it to holding the dragon's reins. By jerking the controller to one side, the dragon moves evasively in that direction.

2:37 p.m.: The dragon lands and starts wandering through a field of enemy archers, spilling them on one side before taking off again.

2:38 p.m.: Now he enters into combat with a dark dragon. Upon closing the distance, the dragons enter into melee combat, the enemy rider is dismounted, the protagonist drives his weapon into the dark dragon's head, and jumps back to his own winged terror.

2:40 p.m.: That ends the demo, and Harrison is now talking about the PS3 features again. He says it can be turned on from the controller and intros the launch sequence. A smokelike wisp on a black background lies behind a few icons that players will use to log in their profiles. He hints at the parental-control features and then dives into the PS3's PlayStation Portable-like cross-media bar, which will also be used in Sony TVs.

2:42 p.m.: He says it's a very intuitive, simple setup (the settings menu is very similar to the PSP's), then moves onto the photo menu. He shows a high-res photo and says players that do have high-res displays will never want to show their friends photos any other way once they've done this. Instead of just scrolling through the pictures, he shows the photo album, which basically creates a 3D representation of all the user's photos spread out on a blank white table.

2:44 p.m.: Harrison moves over to the music bar, where players can manage their MP3s. He plays a Beyonce/Jay-Z song for a few seconds to show off the music visualizer and then moves on quickly to the video icon. All the videos on the system are being previewed in real time as thumbnails on the cross-media bar.

2:46 p.m.: He shows off the Spider-Man 3 teaser trailer and then the trailer for the new James Bond movie Casino Royale, which launches the same day as the PS3.

2:46 p.m.: Harrison continues to play up the PS3's multimedia features. He talks about how easy and quick it is to jump in and out of videos and then moves onto the Network Functionality part of the cross-media bar and a friends list. He has a bunch of friends with some familiar gamer pictures next to them, including God of War's Kratos and Sly Cooper. The keyboard interface to send messages uses predictive text, but you can hook up a USB keyboard, as well.

2:47 p.m.: In the Network Functionality part of the media bar, there's an Internet browser. Harrison says it is fully functioning and free out of the box. He opens up a YouTube page with a quick recap of Sony's Electronic Entertainment Expo conference. "Riidge Racer!"

2:49 p.m.: "When we talk about PS3 being not just an entertainment platform but a computer, as well, this is what we're talking about," says Harrison. Now he's talking about Remote Play, the intersection of a PSP and the PS3. He's running the PS3 cross-media bar on the PSP and loads up the Casino Royale trailer where it left off.

2:51 p.m.: Harrison then goes to the PlayStation Store icon on the Network section of the cross-media bar. He says they turned to Sony Online Entertainment to help out with their approach to the PlayStation Store and network service, and he then introduces SOE president John Smedley.

2:53 p.m.: Smedley takes the Sixaxis from Harrison and begins the demo. The PlayStation Store hub has a blue background with headers for Featured Items, Demos, Downloadable Games, and View All. It also has a featured graphic (this one for Resistance) and a couple sidebars with the top downloads and what's new listed.

2:55 p.m.: He says the image is just the out-of-game experience. Developers will be able to build the store directly into their games. There are a number of icons in the featured items tab, including Lemmings for the PS3. On the demos list, there is Blast Factor, Cash Carnage Chaos icons, and the Downloadable Games tab has original PlayStation games listed like Jet Moto, Syphon Filter, Twisted Metal, and MediEvil.

2:57 p.m.: To demonstrate, Smedley clicks on the Blast Factor icon, which takes him to another page with the price ($.01 in the demo) and the ESRB rating. He adds it to his shopping cart. That takes him to a cart-viewing page that lists his Wallet amount. The Wallet has $76.38 in it, so it looks like it'll be done in dollars instead of Sony Points or anything like that. Smedley says parents will be able to set an online allowance.

2:59 p.m.: He confirms the purchase, and Harrison interrupts to emphasize that this is a live demo that will work exactly like this at our own homes. If you buy it on one PS3, you can go download it on up to five more PS3s.

3:00 p.m.: Harrison says they haven't priced everything just yet, but they expect downloadable games to be $14.99 and under, with very low pricing for game components. Smedley shows off the View All tab, which breaks the content down into categories like demos, game content, standard-definition trailers, high-definition trailers, and so on.

3:01 p.m.: "We think that the PlayStation Store is the next generation of online gaming," Smedley says and turns it back over to Harrison. It doesn't appear that most demos or trailers will need to be bought. The ones shown had "Free" listed next to them.

3:02 p.m.: Now Harrison introduces a live demo of MotorStorm and mentions that gamers will be able to download a demo of the game on day one.

3:03 p.m.: The demo shows a red truck racing along treacherous canyon roads as the terrain blurs by. The demo's player takes the truck off a cliff where it falls for a few seconds before resetting on the track and then completely wrecks it to show off the car blowing up and flipping before the demo ends.

3:05 p.m.: Harrison introduces Blast Factor, noting that it was developed by just five people. He mentions it will have full multiplayer online rankings and will support the Sixaxis motion-sensing abilities. He says it will have adaptive difficulty levels. Jolting the controller to one side will tilt the playfield and affect the enemies on it. Harrison mentions that this will be key to strategies on later levels.

3:07 p.m.: Back to the cross-media bar again, Harrison introduces God of War director David Jaffe to show off what he's been working on for the last few months. Jaffe takes the stage and says the most exciting thing about the system for him is Sony's support for original content and downloadable games on the PlayStation Store. He says it's the most exciting part of gaming today for his studio.

3:08 p.m.: It's Criminal Crackdown, and they're looking at a February release for the game. They're working with Incognito to make a game "that hearkens back to the old 16-bit era," giving the example of Bomberman. Gamers pick a variety of vehicles and play bounty hunters who have to chase after criminals and then take them back to a jail. Gamers get more points depending on which entrance of the jail they use. The front door is one point, the ramp that lets players jump their vehicles into the jail is two, and the twisting ramp up to the roof is three. Ramming enemy cars ejects criminals from them.

3:10 p.m.: Criminal Crackdown will have up to four-player split-screen running at 60 frames per second in 1080p, and Jaffe says they'll show a lot more in the coming months.

3:11 p.m.: Harrison says that's the whole PS3 experience. The games, the network functionality, the store, the downloadable games, the Web browser. He says Sony is proud to show it to everyone and asks people to enjoy the rest of the afternoon playing games, then hands it back to Kaz.

3:12 p.m.: Kaz says Sony has "an unparalled lineup of launch titles" and emphasizes that there are a lot more exciting titles after launch, like MotorStorm, Lair, Warhawk, and a few others.

3:13 p.m.: "We've been keeping our cards pretty close to the vest on the PlayStation Network," Kaz says, adding that it's "an incredibly robust offering" and it's only going to grow with revisions.

3:14 p.m.: Kaz thanks everyone for coming, gets a round of applause, and then leaves the stage as one last montage plays. The show is over. Once again, the PS3 Killzone shown at E3 2005 is MIA.

Thanks for reading and check out GameSpot's PlayStation 3 launch center for continuing coverage from the 2006 Sony Gamers' Day.

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