TGS 06: Kutaragi talks PS3 at keynote

Sony Computer Entertainment president kicks off Japanese gaming expo with PS3-centric address but divulges few new details about the next-gen console.

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TOKYO--After a relatively uneventful Microsoft press conference two days ago in Shibuya, Sony has an easy act to follow. But expectations are nevertheless high for the keynote address opening the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, being led by Ken Kutaragi and beginning in just a few minutes. Given the tumult that's marked the PlayStation 3's launch cycle since the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May, the assembled industry members from here in Japan and around the world are understandably ready to hang on Kutaragi's every word. The cramped conference hall is quickly filling to the brim, with every seat occupied and aisles on both sides of the room packed shoulder to shoulder with eager press. The lights dim, and...

10:10 am: The keynote address begins with thanks that we've taken time out of our busy schedules to attend. Right, like we'd miss this? Ken Kutaragi is immediately introduced, presenting the topic "PS3: Creating the Next Generation of Computer Entertainment." No video allowed, so you'll just have to read everything we've got to say.

10:14: Kutaragi references the impending launches of both the PS3 and Wii as marking the start of the next generation of gaming and welcomes us to try the large lineup of games that are playable on the TGS show floor as of right now.

Next up is the demo reel running at Sony's booth, featuring impressive footage of Ridge Racer 7, Virtua Fighter 5, Mobile Suit Gundam: Target in Sight, and Final Fantasy XIII (the same trailer shown at E3). With visuals like these, it's easy to believe the next generation is indeed upon us.

10:20: Following the video, Kutaragi espouses the virtues of the PS3's processing power and controller, the latter of which is said to continually be making progress in terms of precision. More general commentary on the evolving state of the industry, including the statement that "computers" and "entertainment" are no longer separate concepts but now a single unified entity.

10:27: Yet more comments on the rapid acceleration of network speeds and the ability to deliver and store content between large servers and smaller end-user terminals. OK Ken, we know technology's kinda cool, but what's going on with that PlayStation 3 lately?

TGS, from the outside.
TGS, from the outside.

10:34: More talk of global positioning systems allowing flyovers of actual terrain, or superagent-powered future search engines providing personalized data. Ken says it's not a reality just yet, but you can bet he wants you to believe the PS3 will make it happen.

Is this thing still supposed to play games?

10:36: Hey, he just said the words "Gran Turismo." Guess there will be some games after all. But he's still only talking about the realistic modeling of terrain and the cars' suspensions and so on made possible by the PS3's hardware. C'mon, we figured it was going to be a decent system already.

10:42: Shopping, banking, online security--the PS3 will apparently do it all, maybe, sometime in the future. Kutaragi also says the barrier between broadcasting and communication has been lowered with the advent of user-uploaded photo and video content. There's much more potential in this space, he says, which will of course be realized by the PS3.

10:46: Now, a little history lesson on the inception and wildly successful launch of the original PlayStation. Kutaragi cites ease of manufacturing and the use of the cheapest storage medium at the time as reasons for that success. Now moving on to the PlayStation 2's similar formula for success, he says it has led both systems to become valuable "long-tail" businesses, referring to their extreme longevity in the market.

The throng gathers to hear Kutaragi speak.
The throng gathers to hear Kutaragi speak.

10:50: Current networking technology--even gigabit Ethernet--hasn't yet reached the internal bus speed of the original PlayStation, says Kutaragi, so it naturally will take time for Sony to fully realize its online plans in its entirety. Consequently, he says the PS3's internal hardware may be thought of as "overkill," since online content and packaged media must coexist "for the time being" to deliver the optimal entertainment experience.

10:55: Downloadable 16-bit games? MegaDrive (Genesis) and PC Engine (TurboGrafx)? Where have we heard that before? Kutaragi also talks about the possibility of paying 100 yen (about $1) for a small or time-limited game demo.

11:00: Sony is collaborating on an experiment with the Los Alamos laboratory in the US involving the Folding@Home project, which uses spare processing power for medical research. How long before we see water-cooled, overclocked PS3s showing up in forum sigs everywhere?

11:04: So far this may be the least eventful keynote in TGS history. Last year we got our first look at the Wii-mote. Granted, most of the cats are out of the PS3 bag, but this is Sony's last big chance to give the entire world the final relevant info about the launch and subsequent plans for the system. There's one more video coming up, and the keynote is over.

11:06: It's Afrika! Maybe now we can figure out what the hell it is!

11:07: Scenes of elephants, wildebeests, giraffes, hyenas, zebras, hippos--you know, the resident fauna of Africa--all going about their business. A rhino charges the camera, a cheetah speeds with strikingly realistic animation toward its prey--and the demo is over. Oh wait, there's a pretty extreme-looking dude in a cap sitting in a jeep. Guess they still aren't going to tell us what the game is about.

11:09: Kutaragi retakes the stage for a photo op as the underwhelmed attendees begin to filter out of the conference room. Predictably, the hottest news from this TGS will come from our editors already on the floor, getting their hands on games like Devil May Cry 4, Ridge Racer 7, and more. Watch our 2006 Tokyo Game Show page like a hawk for all the updates of the next 72 hours.

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