Sony E3 Conference Finished
Sony has delivered the third and final E3 platform holder press conference.
It was rather light on announcements, but did unveil PS3 exclusive MAG and show God of War 3 and InFamous trailers. There was lots of talk about the future of PSP as well, with a handful of new games heading its way.
What follows is a blow-by-blow account of all that happened.
Our live coverage has now ended. Here's what you missed: Updating...
Ready for round two? After much frantic driving and wandering around downtown, we're inside the Shrine Auditorium sitting in front of a bank of giant wall-mounted screens showing PS3 games in action - echochrome, MGS4, GT5, LocoRoco. The show may start late given the amount of people being shipped in from Nintendo's event.
We're having a few internet connection issues at the moment, so if things go haywire we may go to our secondary solution, which isn't as, er, verbose. Hopefully that won't happen, but apologies in advance if it does.
Anyway, the stage has 58 regular-sized LCDs hung around it on scaffold, a massive main screen above the centre and three still-massive LCDs hung to its left and right. There are PS3s on little white coffee tables all around the stage under spotlights. It's elbow to elbow with no spare seats as far as I can see in any direction.
Here we go. All the screens dim and face button icons rain down across the seven big ones as swirly music plays and lights flash. The face buttons all snap together in the centre and make a PS icon. Now there's some gun noise and game video from the likes of inFamous, MotorStorm and Uncharted.
Buzz, Resident Evil, Killzone, BioShock, LBP. It's all very slick with a coordinated light show to back it up. Now they're showing PS2 games and PSP.
PSN logo. Here's PAIN and Ratchet. Soldiers running, SF IV, Ghostbusters. Not sure how this relates to PSN. Anyway, all over, applause, and we welcome...Jack Tretton, president and CEO of SCEA. "Wow, thanks for coming out everybody." Back off, Jack.
He makes a joke about the "brief 12-hour rehearsal yesterday". It's "the most stressful event you can ever imagine". But he's doing it for us. Thanks Jack. "Over the past 80 years, this room has played host to some of the biggest events in the entertainment industry."
Oscars jokes. He's doing well. The one-arm push-up/isn't that guy dead/I'm fat spiel is warming the crowd up nicely.
He mentions Kratos among Nathan Hale, Sackboy and Solid Snake as people who will feature.
He's promising a line-up with "the biggest exclusives in the industry" among other things, and says Sony is "just getting started". History lesson: 15 years ago this week, execs at Sony made a final decision on whether to green-light a Sony videogame console.
The PlayStation "ushered in CD technology to millions of households worldwide just as PS2 introduced DVD technology to the mass-market". Sony "took a longer look ahead", he says. "We committed ourselves to a ten-year vision and then we executed against it."
He's saying 2 years into the PSX they had Crash and Tekken but GT, FFVII, GTA and Tony Hawk were a distance ahead. His point is that PS3 is still in a relative infancy.
GTA San Andreas was year 4 for the PS2, he says, and God of War was year 7. "It took some time for mass migration from PlayStation to PlayStation 2." The PS3 is also a ten-year vision, he says - a high definition experience with Blu-ray standard. "PS3 drove the Blu-ray format to victory and now the Blu-ray format is poised to return the favour."
IBM's using Cell to power its newest supercomputer, he points out, and the Folding@home project set a Guinness world record using the PS3. "1.7 million PS3 users worldwide" had signed up to make it the most powerful distributed computing system.
He's talking about the PS3's versatility - multimedia, games and all the other jazz. He's quoting Henry Ford. "If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they would've said a faster horse."
You get the impression he quite likes the PS3. "Games like MGS4 aren't just exclusive to PS3, they're only possible on PS3."
"PS3 is the obvious choice for a deep pool of functionality and capability." Play games, load pictures, play music and watch HD films. But we're not here to talk about that he says, we're here to talk about "genre-defining kickass games" and 2008 is "all about software".
2008's "waterfall of games" began with GT5 Prologue, GTA IV and MGS4. Those three exceeded expectations, he says. "This is why you buy a PlayStation 3." "While exclusive DLC is nice, exclusive games is what makes up consumers' minds," he says, referencing Microsoft's GTA DLC drum-banging.
Now the PSP. God of War, Patapon, echochrome. And he likes the PS2 as well. Refers to SingStar PS3 and how it flooded the console "with a lot of really really bad singing". Here we go with some PS3 stuff, he says.
It's on the big screen and isn't it a handsome devil. "2008 is the year of the PlayStation 3...but it was also be remembered as the year we set in motion things that will define the industry" for blah blah blah. And now Resistance 2 from Insomniac Games.
Live demo. We're in a US city under skyscrapers and an alien building hanging over the cityscape. Bloody hell, there's a gigantic Cloverfield-minnowing boss climbing through the streets and leaning on skyscrapers for support. It picks up Hale and he fires a rocket into its mouth. The city's partly submerged, we can see as we're waved around. Hale reloads and darts inside a building.
The monster peers in through the half-broken windows as Hale ascends a stairway around the edge. It flobs through the windows, charmingly. Hale's still going up the stairs to get above the monster, and stares it in the face. It looks like a blowfish Godzilla or something. Hale goes across a giant crane into an adjacent building as it slaps the ground from behind him.
Down the stairs he goes as it scrapes at the walls. The level's similar to Resistance 1 in detail levels apart from the draw distance, which is epic, and the enormous stupidly ugly alien boss whose mouth he's just shot another rocket into. He's thrown across the skyline through a skybridge walkway. He's told he needs to lure it under the bridge as the demo ends.
Ted Price (I think) is onstage. The Chimera are converting the population in the early 50s and Chicago has been abandoned and is enemy territory. The 300-foot tall leviathan we just saw and mile-wide Chimeran battleships are examples of how generally screwed the US is. The spires rained down are full of "twisted creatures" spreading a plague.
"Resistance 2 is much more than a single-player campaign." It's got eight-player co-op and 60-player competitive, as you know. "Scale" is their buzzword for Resistance 2. It describes the bosses, the expansive environments, the giant Chimeran warships "looming over the country", and the "epic battles" of SP, co-op and competitive.
"Resistance 2 offers more than any shooter in 2008." We're going to see the new Twin Falls, Idaho level with captured footage. Ted exits as the trailer comes on.
A radio VO accompanies shots of Twin Falls looking brutalised. Chimeran walker robots as big as your house, playgrounds smouldering, streets awash with wrecked cars, battleships hanging over autumnal scenes and "burning disfigured wreckage" - thanks Mr VO.
The leviathan pokes its head out again as we get flashes of other huge Chimeran monsters. Nathan Hale switches off the radio and we see a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge as half a dozen Chimeran warships float eerily across the fiery background. That's that. "That game looks amazing, Ted, as always," says Jack Tretton as he comes back on-stage.
User-generated content is "one of the most exciting possibilities" for current gamers, says Jack. LittleBigPlanet is a poster-child for it, of course. "We all take pride in mastering a new game, but LBP allows gamers to design their own games." So to speak. User-generated content, social networking and gaming all come together in LBP, he says.
He's going to do the biz update and industry overview. But he's going to do it in LBP!
Alex Evans from Media Molecule is going to come on-stage. The level has a Sony stage on-screen and Sackboy is there standing in front of the PS logo. Alex, controlling, decks Sackboy out in a Boston shirt and Sackboy grins broadly and runs to the side of the stage into the level.
Heh, it's a big graph and as Sackboy runs across coloured panels they rise to bring up signs - 6.6 billion dollars of revenue in the first six months of 2008 for gaming. Sackboy stands under a 23 billion dollars logo to show what the industry might generate.
1.8 million PS3s have been sold this year and 1.6 million PSPs. Sackboy reveals this with a lever. 1.5 million PS2s. More than 5 million units across PlayStation family in the US in first six months of 2008. Sackboy stands in front of a 5 million logo and runs right to the top of a hill above a flower.
Sony is "turning our attention south" to Latin America, and Sackboy demos this by standing in front of some trucks trundling along. 9m PS2s, 10m PS3s, 15m PSPs - fiscal 2008 projection. Sorry if this is a bit bland - it's hard to keep up!
New games to join Greatest Hits programme in the US on PS3. USD 29.99 retail for Resistance, MotorStorm and WarHawk later this year, plus COD3, Fight Night, NFS Carbon. Sackboy is riding a conveyor belt past the game boxes. R6 Vegas, Ass Creed, Oblivion, Ninja Gaiden Sigma. All going Greatest Hits.
Sackboy exits right in a pink LittleBigPlanet truck with a "Coming October 2008" banner on top of it as the crowd laughs and cheers. That was a bit more amusing than the usual graphs. Hopefully they'll release that as a video. Alex says that he finds it amazing that the concept of creative gaming has been accepted completely by people.
He reiterates the October date once again. Jack sends Alex away and heads back to centre-stage. "Personally this is one of my favourite games with absolutely unlimited potential," he says. It's a "tentpole release".
Next, then, PS2. The console's success has "allowed us to be more aggressive with our approach on PS3" says Jack. It's always been a platform "for the biggest games". 130 titles for PS2 this year and they're doing a showreel to remind us what to expect. Yakuza, Star Wars and others pop up. NCAA Football 09, Tiger Woods, Force Unleashed...
...Warriors Orochi 2 (calm down Dave), SingStar Pop Vol. 2, Yakuza 2, Madden XX, Mercenaries 2. Remember, this is all PS2. And the reel ends and Jack's back. He says the PS2 is distinguished by its history of games for everybody. "The biggest brands in the industry are still delivering games on PS2."
SingStar, Rock Band and Guitar Hero exemplify PS2's social gaming strength, says Jack, and Sony helped establish this trend. Buzz has a bunch of new products out this year, for instance, including the PSP version we got the other month (out in the US this September) and there are themed packs for PSN for PS3 users.
SingStar's had more than 15 million global sales across its many SKUs, he says. Loads of songs downloaded on PS3 (I think he said 1.9 million but can't be sure). LEGO Batman PS2 bundle coming with console, game and a Justice League video DVD for USD 149 in the US later this year.
Our next topic of discussion is PSN, he says. Phew. "This is a generation whose digital identity is as important to them as their driving licence." Single sign-on for all the PlayStation Network will be online this year - PC, PS3, PSP etc.
This will make it easier to migrate from PS2 to PS3, he reckons, and Sony shares gamers' goal of establishing PSN as the industry-leader, he says. Here's the PS3 Store on-screen. More than 20 million pieces of content downloaded last month - over 180 million downloads since the PS3 launch, he says. 40 days to hit 5 million PSN accounts, 10 million accounts since.
And now he's going to show us some games. "And what's an E3 press conference without a few surprises?" (Well, Nintendo's on this morning's evidence.) Here's Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest For Booty.
It's a "new concept" says Brian Allgeier from Insomniac. It's a shorter game with action, suspense, mystery and humour as per Ratchet. Graphically it looks as good as the PS3 release, of which this is a continuation. "It begins where Tools of Destruction left off." Platforming, exploration and a bit more thinking is required. Wrench head pops up and you get an energy tether to manipulate objects.
You can pick stuff up with the wrench - e.g. grubs that light up caverns as a torch. We see a 2D-perspective bit as well as the majority in 3D. Brian reckons it's a great introduction to what R&C is all about. Jack looks impressed as the demo ends. It's PS3-only this summer for USD 14.99.
They have a lot more like that planned, he says. "You don't have to choose between quality and quantity - you can have both." He knocks XBL a bit by saying they're not interested in filling up the store with games no one wants to play.
PSN trailer reel shows us Ratchet & Clank again, Crash Commando (nothing to do with Bandicoot mind - a 2D shooter), Fat Princess (top-down shooter/slasher in colourful graphics), Pixeljunk Eden, PAIN Amusement Park, flOwer (which we're seeing tomorrow - core, gorgeous), Siren Blood Curse (out 24th July, remember)...
Ragdoll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic (from Media Molecule presumably). And that's that. Jack's back. PSN has "a wide library of great exclusive content".
Another "visionary use" of the PSN is evident in GT5 Prologue, he says, referring to GT TV. It offers lots of automotive videos, he says. Pay-per-view stuff soon and we've got a trailer for that too. "This is the true beginning of Gran Turismo TV" says the movie trailer voice-over man in that voice. '08 Nurburgring 24h footage, All about Ferrari (showing inside Ferrari HQ with Kazunori Yamauchi and the Fiarano test course), The GT-R Legend review.
D1 Grand Prix, etc. And of course Top Gear. Distribution starts on GT TV, says VO man, but doesn't do any dates or anything. Jack's back, maybe he can shed some light. And say something interesting.
"This content will be available starting August 1st." You show me up, Jack.
Gamers are "in it today for the community experience" he says. Trophies etc give users bragging rights functionality and this will be expanded upon in some vague way soon. Which brings us to PlayStation Home. "Your patience will be more than rewarded", he says, when the open beta happens. But when, Jack?
"We've made incredible progress and we've got some great developer and publisher support" for game-spaces etc. Ubisoft's already been active in the Home beta, with EA, Activision, LucasArts, Nike and so on are interested. We're going to see a video to show us what the experience will be all about...
"Meet new friends", it says. Some avatars dance in a disco. "Make it yours." Customising homestead and clothing. Some bowling and snooker. "Living game spaces." Uncharted space has posters on the wall and here's some Resistance-inspired pods. Warhawk area looks like the bridge of a Klingon ship. And that's the video. A smattering of applause.
And he's not saying anything else! He's moving on to the TV/film download service, which he's unveiling today. He's saying thanks to the other bits of Sony for making it possible. "But this isn't just about Sony content," so he thanks other people. The PSN's video delivery service will have Sony Pictures, Fox Film and TV, MGM, Lion's Gate, Warner, Disney, Paramount, Turner and Funimation on day one.
"We're offering both rental and electronic sell-through". USD 1.99 per episode of TV in SD, 2.99 to 5.99 for HD rentals and up to 14.99 for HD purchases. This will all be handled from a single PSN login.
"This content is portable." You can put it on PSP as well, and take it with you on the road, "or both". Multiple devices at the same time. Eric Lempel from PSN is coming on-stage to walk us through it. Eric loads up the XMB and goes to the PS3 Store and has to sign in first. In the upper-left there's a Video tab and it loads the video store.
The interface is similar. Categories down the left - New Arrivals, Movies, TV, Anime, HD, Rental, Purchase, Top Downloads. He goes to Movies and can go to sub-categories - he views by studio, which brings up the logos we saw earlier.
He clicks on Lion Gate and icons on the right let you pick stuff while three boxes on the left highlight the big ones. Each movie studio's page has custom background. He shows how you can change to a list view and loads up Walk Hard which can be rented for USD 2.99 in SD. He can preview the content with a trailer and go full-screen by hitting square.
Jack asks how long it takes to download an SD movie. An hour for a two-hour SD movie, he says, probably, and you can start watching a movie as it's downloading. Eric's going to talk about the difference between rental and purchase, apparently. He goes to Cloverfield and you can buy the HD version for USD 14.99 or rent it or whatever.
He's showing how you can instantly copy a movie to the PSP. You can go to the PS3 store and hook up to the PC and PSP and PS3 and PC and blah blah blah blah. "That's awesome," says Jack. Everyone claps. Good demo, like, but a bit flat. Still, the video store's a "huge step" according to Jack, and it's "one of the purest expressions yet of this company's ultimate value proposition". The video store goes live TONIGHT, he says. That is quite cool.
"Check back often as we'll be adding new titles each week." This store is key to Sony's overall strategy, says Jack. And now we're going to "talk a little bit more about PSP". He points out that the PSP Slim drove sales "through the roof" last year. He likes how he can play games "everywhere I go in gorgeous resolution. And 13 million [people] in North America have come to the same conclusion."
He says the Entertainment Pack hardware bundles "contributed significantly" to sales and the God of War pack did the same thing earlier this year. He's also announcing a new Entertainment Pack targeted to the younger demographic. Ratchet & Clank Size Matters Entertainment Pack - silver PSP, game, National Treasures 2 film UMD and 1GB Memory Stick DUO, and a PSN voucher for echochrome, for USD 199 in total.
Resistance Retribution announced for PSP. By Bend Studio. A video shows Nathan Hale doing some climbing and third-person shooting. Chimera getting some in much the same way they do on PS3, in familiar-looking environments - cities, storm drains, alien ships.
Spring 2009 release date for that one, says the screen. Jack puts on a broad grin.
He says the PSP's 35m worldwide installed base demonstrates why there's "such traction" in the PSP development community. "Let's take a look at some of the new PSP software highlights for this and next year." More video.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Madden NFL 09, LocoRoco 2 (looks wicked - lots of tilty puzzle goodness), NBA 09 The Inside, Super Stardust Portable (ooh, that's nice - lacks the world-surface movement in favour of a more familiar shoot-'em-up style), LEGO Batman, Patapon 2, Buzz! Master Quiz...
Valkyria Chronicles. The bloke next to me has given up watching and has been emailing for about the last ten minutes. Trailer reel over and Jack's back, hands clasped again. "Frankly we've always felt that PSP is one of the keys to Sony owning the living room," he says. It's got flexible memory capacity, movies, crystal clear sound, amazing screen - it's "every bit the hybrid device inside and outside the living room that we've all imagined".
We're into hour two and they haven't actually announced any PS3 games yet. But here we are back with Sony's headliner and Jack's having a swig of water while we admire the big graphic on-screen.
"We're the only player in the industry that has embraced open platforms," he says. Google likes that for instance. You can record MLB 09 The Show video and send it to YouTube, he points out. Meanwhile Life with PlayStation (out this month) will bring news and weather to your lounge. He brings up SOE and "officially welcome Sony Online here today".
They're going to show us DC Universe. Ironically, Eurogamer's rat-punching editor Oli Welsh is off seeing Champions Online right now, so we'll have to fill him in by lovingly observing what's shown. No rats yet. Here's Jim Lee from SOE to show us what to expect. He's executive creative director of the game and he's just done some one-handed push-ups for some reason. He's "literally pumped to be here today".
He's going to show us a "little snippet". It's a dream project for Jim, apparently. He's telling us about how when he grew up his parents wanted him to be a doctor, but all he wanted to do was read comics and play videogames. He was the first Paladin on his server to get the Fiery Avenger or something in WOW. Presumably that was more recently.
"Imagine being able to create your own superhero or supervillain and enter the DC universe." You can help Batman take down the Joker and so on. "Imagine being a villain and helping all the inmates at Arkham Asylum escape to attack the Bat-cave." Or you could show us some video, Jim.
Ah, he is going to show us. "Just a sneak peak", he reiterates. Superman and Batman are shown in their usual surroundings. It's a very sexy-looking game-world and we're shown Jim Lee doing some work on a whiteboard in-between. The Flash is seen legging it around a city and running up the side of buildings. Fight against or alongside Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Joker and other "DC legends".
"Make the world your weapon. Crush your foes. And become the ultimate superhero or supervillain. The door to the DC Universe has opened. Now is the time to build your legacy. The time has come. The future awaits. The next legend is you." Some unconvincing fire to end on and a quick shot of a lanky Joker. Big applause.
Jack's back! "Great content and one-handed push-ups. I've seen it all now." Oh Jack. He's reiterating what they've done since launch on PS3 and says they're increasing the value proposition. "We've decided to make the 80GB PlayStation 3 the primary focus of our hardware line-up." The next 80GB Core Pack will have the same functionality of the 40GB model, he says, at USD 399.99. That's the current price, I think, but I guess the SKU has been revised.
He says that he wants to make the transition for PS2 owners to PS3 as easy as possible, and reckons this initiative will assist with that. My battery's got 19 minutes left so I hope he's winding up, but at the same time I really hope he isn't. We need some new games, Jack!
Now we're getting a reel of devs saying how much they like the PS3. A man from Treyarch says they're "a lot more at home". An EA man says there's "a lot more we can do". A Far Cry 2 Ubi man says that they can do more of everything. Fallout 3 producer Gavin Carter says "the SPUs are much more important" than they were on Oblivion.
Ben Mattes says it's "night and day" difference between AC dev and Prince of Persia. Now we're getting some of their views on storage. It's going to be "very useful for Far Cry 2." Is this a parody? A Star Wars man says they want to "push the technology further in games". Carlos Cuello, lead producer on BioShock PS3 says they're "really only limited by your own internal processes".
Gavin says built-in HDD "is a gold mine". And now their views on long-term PS3 development. EA man says PS2 owners are migrating in large numbers. Treyarch man says they're going to see AI being done on the SPU and stuff. 2K man says there aren't "many games that even use 80 per cent of the SPUs".
Jack's back. "As you can see, there's a tremendous amount of support from our publishing partners." He says that they've had an unprecedented line-up of exclusive content with "23 exclusive games on PS3 alone". He's going to show us a line-up that will "actualise what I've been saying here today". So here's the inevitable PS3 reel. MotorStorm 2 video first.
Nope, sorry, that was just a teaser. Now they're into it properly. LBP is on-screen - lots of funky levels. Now MotorStorm (TV show about this going up soon by the way), MGS4, Quantum of Solace, SOCOM Confrontation, Ghostbusters, Soulcalibur IV, Resistance 2 (bit of multiplayer here - nice and sunny for once), The Agency, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, Mirror's Edge (slick as ever), Resident Evil 5.
SingStar PS3, Guitar Hero: World Tour, NBA 09 The Inside, Buzz! Quiz TV, Killzone 2 (same level we saw at PS Day), and a bunch of others in quick succession. That's it for that trailer and Jack's back again. "I'm sure you can see why we're so excited about the rest of the year," he says.
Beyond holiday season, "God of War 3 is coming to PS3." They're going to show a trailer.
Rain falls on a storm-ridden Lord of the Rings-looking Olympus. Kratos silhouetted. "In the end there will be only chaos." Logo. Lightning bolts. More of a teaser than anything, that. Applause from the crowd.
Now they're going to show a bit of inFamous. Choose between being a hero or an anti-hero, says Jack. It's Sucker Punch's openworld superhero game. They're reiterating the story at the start of the game - the player emerges from a blast in the centre of a city, and something was "beginning" inside the character.
"Why did I survive?" We see the player doing Force Lightning-style attacks and big rooftop jumps. Violence is very compellingly animated.
Spring 2009 says the screen. "One final title we'd like to talk about." A massive action online game from Zipper Interactive. MAG.
MAG, says Andy Beaudoin, lead designer, is a new IP from Zipper. MAG stands for Massive Action Game. Battles of up to 256 players with large-scale airdrops, heli drops, multi-front assaults. Only real players. Teams being broken down into squads led by players who have proven themselves as strong leaders.
Character advancement tree will allow you to fine-tune soldiers to fit play styles, and rank up to assume greater roles within the squads. It's supposed to combine large-scale combat with the intimacy of squad combat. They're showing a first trailer.
The trailer's showing a huge army advancing on a military encampment. It's all CG though unless we're being presumptive. There's a flick to a top-down view of the battlefield - a kind of commander's view. There are rocket emplacements and APCs and swarms of infantry and rooftop snipers.
One soldier pulls out a rocket and fires it just as he's shot, and it still hits filling the screen with fire. The pace changes and we see soldiers stepping over bodies as jets fly from above and air-strike the base. The camera zooms out into the sky and reminds us: 256 players, 8-player squads. End of trailer. Big round of applause.
And with my battery on fumes, Jack seems to be winding up. "If this is what year 2 of the PlayStation 3 life cycle looks like, imagine what years 3 and 4 look like," he says. He thanks everyone and we're out. That's it.
Thanks to everyone for tuning in to EG's live text coverage of the E3 conferences! See you in Leipzig!