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Sony E3 conference roundup

New PSPs, new partnerships and high hopes for the PS3 price cut.

It's not hard to imagine that nerves were on edge in the Sony Computer Entertainment camp this morning. Memories of last year's E3 conference and the reaction to it must have been fresh in their minds - and the evidence would suggest so, judging by Jack Tretton's "Riiiiiidge Racer" reference.

The SCEA boss was first in the limelight at this year's event - appearing in the form of his Home avatar, which was shown in his virtual apartment on the big screens above the stage.

Tretton said everyone at Sony is "extremely proud" of Home, but although it was referred to and even used as a presenting device throughout the conference, he continually reiterated the importance of "games, games and more games".

"Once you've seen the scope... You'll understand why we feel we're in a very strong position," said Tretton. "We're confident we'll continue our industry-leading role in this generation and beyond."

There was much talk of the recently announced 80GB PS3 and US price cut - but no mention of whether a similar move was planned for Europe. There was also trumpeting of the PS2, which now has an installed base of over 118 million units.

What's that in your pocket, Kaz? It's the new PSP!

According to Tretton, that makes it "the most popular console of all time, worldwide". This followed, of course, Microsoft's claim last night that Xbox 360 is winning the next-gen battle, and Nintendo's declaration that DS is "unquestionably" in the lead.

DS is certainly doing better than PSP, but Sony seems keener than ever to push its handheld forward. It's also committed to the UMD format, with Tretton stating that sales are up 35 per cent from 2006.

PSP games shown at the conference included SOCOM, Syphon Filter, WipEout Pulse, Sims 2 Castaway and more. But the big announcement came from Kaz Hirai (who was another in Tretton's Home apartment, where the current SCEA boss asked him, "Are you playing Riiiiiidge Racer?").

Hirai then appeared in person to pull a new iteration of the PSP out of his pocket. It doesn't look remarkably different to the current model, but according to Hirai, "When you have it in your hand the difference is clear."

Jack Tretton and Chewbacca enjoy the Star Wars Battlefront PSP skin. Tretton later told the audience he enjoyed his wookie hug.

Specifically, the new PSP is 33 per cent lighter and 19 per cent slimmer. It's got a longer battery life and is faster at loading games - due for a worldwide release in September.

But what Tretton described as one of the best new features was still to come - the option to hook it up to your TV ("Sony Bravia", of course) and view games, movies and photos on the big screen.

He also revealed it will be available in three colours: piano black, ice silver and white with a Darth Vader logo on the back. The latter will come bundled in a Star Wars Battlefront entertainment pack, as Tretton announced with the help of special guest star Chewbacca.