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Sony press conference unveils a few surprises

June 2, 2009

Sony press conference unveils a few surprises
By Michael Lafferty

“We will never become complacent.”

The Sony pre-E3 press conference, which started one hour before the doors to the annual video-game tradeshow began, was predictable in many ways. There were great games driven by the solid technology that is the PlayStation console systems, and there was a certain amount of chest-thumping touting the accomplishments of the Sony video-game industry.

However, Sony backs up what it says, and the press conference did manage a few surprises – something that President and CEO Jack Trenton noted in his opening remarks.

“Given this industry’s ability to keep confidential information, I was worried that no one would show up,” he said, looking at the packed house in the Shrine Auditorium.

While he acknowledged there is a certain degree of pressure in publishing games, he went on to note that “we are in the entertainment business and if consumers are spending time with our product then clearly we are successful.

“2009 will be our best year ever, even better than the record year we had in 2008.” And he went on to say that, combined, the Sony systems will see 364 games released for the various platforms in the coming year. Some of the key points of his opening remarks included:

  • PlayStation represented 30% of all video-game sales.

  • Some of the industry’s biggest titles are coming to PS3.

  • PS2 retailing at $99 and Sony will not abandon the unit and will continue to release for it. “PS2 remains the perfect family console,” Trenton said, stating that nearly 100 new titles will be coming out for the PS2 in the coming year.

  • Sony grew the PS3 install base by 43%, and expects the growth to continue when the unit becomes available in Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay in the summer.

Hardware played a key part of the presentation with the release of information regarding the new controller being worked on and expected to release in 2010. The prototype of the new controller has a glowing sphere on the end that the PlayStation Eye can track (it is true 1-to-1 tracking). It is true 3D pointing, and the pointer can be replaced in the virtual world with objects like sports equipment or weapons. Players can move around the room and the Eye will track the movements. This is an amazing device that allows players to seemingly reach into the virtual world. One of the demos involved shooting a bow, pulling the arrow from behind the back, notching it, applying tension with the drawback and aim (two controllers working in concert) and then releasing the arrow. The possibilities for this type of technology are amazing to consider.

Prior to the talk about the new controller, the discussion focused on the PSP, a system that first released five years ago. Comparatively speaking, the unit has become more refined in the releases since the PSP 1000 released, becoming slimmer and lighter, while still featuring the solid lineup of titles, prompting Trenton to state that “For gamers looking for deeper, richer portable experience, PSP has no equal.” In addition to top titles, Sony is looking to appeal to Tweens and has even teamed with Disney for a Hannah Montana bundle.

Kaz Hirai, President and CEO of SCEA took center stage to lead the discussion on the portable unit, stating that “PlayStation helped lead the confidence consumers have with digital technology.” Hirai introduced next step in the evolution of the PSP and showed the UMD-less PSP, called the PSP Go, designed for the digital lifestyle. “Let me be clear,” he stated, “it won’t replace the PSP 3000 or the UMD.”

The PSP Go is 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the original PSP 1000, has 16 gigs of internal flash memory, with built in WiFi, will introduce some new features and comes with integrated Bluetooth. The Go will launch new content application to access the PS Store – known as Media Go. Another new application will be Sense Me, a program that will enhance the music experience by allowing consumers to program songs to fit their moods.

All of the new services, and functionality will be available in any device, from PSP 3000 to PSP Go. The PSP Go will be available for $249 and will be available Oct. 1. Video delivery service has had more than 1,900 movies available and will be available natively on the PSP beginning June 2. More content will be available from Showtime, Starz and many others.

Kazunouri  Yamauchi, the president of Polyphony Digital, backed up the continued commitment for top-end products for the PSP by announcing Gran Turismo PSP, a full-scale Gran Turismo running at 60 fps with 800 cars, 35 tracks with variants and Ad hoc connectivity. The PSP version of GT is slated for an October 1 release. Hideo Kojima was also on hand to talk about Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, also for the PSP.

“I think the PSP is getting hotter,” Kojima said, “and Snake is coming back to the PSP.”

The game is set 10 years after Metal Gear Solid 3, in the 1970s. Kojima is deeply involved with the story, in writing and the main team from MGS 4 will be involved so it’s not a spin-off. It will be a true Metal Gear franchise sequel. Expect that title to release in 2010.

Trenton noted that the “PlayStation Portable is set to have a tremendous year.”

Nods were given to the PlayStation Network. PSN has more than 24 million registered users around the world, andmore than 475 million pieces of content downloaded, with more than 90 exclusive titles. More than 50 PlayStation classics will be added to the content story, which began June 2 with the release of Final Fantasy VII. Speaking of Final Fantasy, a trailer for FFXIII was shown and Trenton shocked the crowd by announcing the previously unknown Square-Enix massively multiplayer title – Final Fantasy XIV, another PS3 release slated for 2010.  

“That is one that didn’t leak out, huh?” Trenton quipped.

Trenton announced another previously unknown exclusive for the PS3  – The Last Guardian, from the creators of ICO. The trailer shown was truly amazing.

The event wrapped up with a demonstration of God of War III, the final chapter in the story of Kratos. Release March 2010.

Trenton concluded the event with a bold statement and a promise. “Other companies ask you to imagine the future of gaming,” he said, “and it’s been our pleasure today to show you the future of gaming.

“We will never become complacent.”


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