Welcome to the second in my attempts to rapid-blog the big three E3 press events. It’s late, I’m exhausted and yet I’m shaking with anticipation at the same time. I’ve never seen such an absolute, total, thunderous beatdown as Sony delivered to Microsoft tonight. I’ll break things down into sub-topics like I did with the Microsoft event but I have to address the elephants first.
The PS4 will have no restrictions on used games, rentals, lending or any elements of the secondary market whatsoever and will be $100 less than the Xbox One. Let me say that again: The PS4 will have no restrictions on used games, rentals, lending or any elements of the secondary market whatsoever and will be $100 less than the Xbox One. This is a kidney punch to Microsoft and as far as I’m concerned, makes Sony the winner of next-gen before it even starts. Word of this will spread like wildfire. Sony has stated firmly and decisively that they believe in consumer freedom and choice. I guarantee you that they had a similar used games restriction in place that Microsoft had at one point. I’m absolutely certain they did, publisher pressure was simply too great. I hoped (in vain I thought) that Sony would listen to consumers and tell the publishers “We’re important enough that you won’t be able to drop us if we don’t do this!” and that’s exactly what they did, to my absolute surprise and delight. They get that supporting customers first, not publishers first, is the path to long-term success. As if that wasn’t enough, they announced that the PS4 (which is believed to be more powerful that the Xbox One) will be a full 25% cheaper on day one which is epic. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a last minute change too but it doesn’t matter! I will be pre-ordering one of these systems the second I can and Microsoft can pound sand. No amount of first-party exclusives from Microsoft (another area in which Sony rules over them) will sell me an Xbox One at launch, if ever. I can maybe live with their price but if they don’t drop the used game restrictions, I am done with Microsoft for console gaming. I imagine Nintendo is desperately considering a Wii U price drop now too. I really hope they are. Sony has shown what happens when a company that was big and arrogant gets backed into a corner and threatened with its very life. They get vicious and bite back hard! I’m amazed how they and Microsoft have completely switched places from the current generation. Alright, on with the show. Oh but first, watch this:
I can’t believe a company so large can have such massive brass balls! Amazing!
Conference As A Whole
-Excluding everything I said above, it was a solid show. Better presentation, much more charismatic executives (Shuhei Yoshida is the most lovable executive I’ve ever seen) and a tight, laser focus on games.
-They talked about media for maybe 10 minutes tops. They gave it it’s due but even then, they were focused on talking about how the media would appeal to gamers. Not a single mention of live TV. I dare say that Sony knows what this box is, Microsoft clearly doesn’t know what theirs is.
-I’m more convinced from this that the (many) live game play demos were actually real. The major hiccups during the Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag demo did call that into question some though.
-They finally revealed the hardware and it’s as fugly, if not more so, than the Xbox One. Once again, I don’t care and after making some snarky remarks about it, neither will anyone else.
-The Gaikai thing is real and though they never said “backwards compatibility”, it looks like their goal is to bring the massive library of previous PlayStation games to PS4 (and PS3 which is nice) via streaming. Not launching until 2014 and he said US only which worries me. I’m very interested to hear more about this.
-They very quickly glossed over it but it sounds like PlayStation Plus will now be required to play online. I would have gotten annoyed about this were it not for the fact that PlayStation Plus is already a far better value than Xbox Live. If Sony can bring quality multiplayer features to the PS4 that overcome the shortcomings PS3 had over Xbox 360, it’s well worth it. The instant game collection alone makes PlayStation Plus worth it, Microsoft ‘s paltry offerings today can’t compare.
-Apparently the new triple-A racing game DriveClub will be free for all PlayStation Plus members at launch. That’s a massive deal, assuming this is a complete game and not a shell for microtransactions.
-We already knew PS4 would have live streaming and online video sharing but I don’t remember a word being breathed about either which is quite surprising. I imagine they will have press events to demonstrate this fully later on but I thought they’d at least touch on it tonight.
-No mention of the size of the hard drive or whether users will be able to upgrade it themselves.
-They mentioned that Vita remote play is built-in to PS4 at the hardware level. And that’s all they mentioned about it.
-They didn’t mention the camera accessory at all but I’ve read reports that it will not be included with the system as previously expected. That’s fine by me, I didn’t want it anyway.
Vita & PS3
-As a Vita owner who loves the system and is chomping at the bit for new games, I was very disappointed. Almost everything that was shown was stuff we knew about already.
-Puppeteer and Rain look neat but we saw no real game play of either.
-I want to see more about Tearaway.
-Walking Dead is cool I guess but is anyone going to play that on Vita who hasn’t already played it elsewhere?
-No new Assassin’s Creed game appears to be coming for Vita this year, if ever. The first one was flawed but showed a lot of potential for a portable Assassin’s Creed experience. I hope we get another.
-I really hope PS4 remote play and the new focus on indies will breathe life back into the Vita. Sony had very little to show this time around and I really worry they’ve given up on it.
-For PS3 games, there is still a lot of good stuff coming for that machine.
-Beyond still looks great, I’m glad we got to see more stuff that didn’t come with a big introduction. The story looks even crazier than I thought. I’m curious if it still plays a lot like Heavy Rain.
-Gran Turismo 6 is definitely more Gran Turismo. I like racing games but don’t like that series’ obtuse menus and rubber-banding AI in what’s supposed to be a simulation. They’ll have to sell me hard on that.
-More Batman is always good. I hope the largely unproven WB Games Montreal can bring the quality level that Rocksteady can but I think this game is just a stop-gap until Rocksteady’s proper next-gen one arrives. Platform exclusive content sucks.
-Sony managed to wrestle a Rockstar co-branding deal for GTA V. That’s a pretty smart move on their part and I bet that bundle will sell a lot of units.
-This is another area where Sony soundly destroyed Microsoft’s paltry attempts to show they care about indies.
-Self-publishing on PS4 and Vita for indies is a massive deal in the console space. Sony and now even Nintendo are allowing this. Microsoft is completely out to lunch to continue ignoring this for Xbox One.
-Adam Boyes made a point of talking up the indie developers as much as their games. He demonstrated that these are games made by small, passionate groups and that’s vital to demonstrating the creative value of indie titles.
-Transistor will come out first on consoles on PS4. Given what a breakout hit Bastion was on consoles, I’d say this is significant. I’ll likely be playing Transistor on PC but this is nice to see. Same for The Witness.
-Bringing Don’t Starve to PS4 shows more than you might think. That’s a game that is relying on extremely rapid iteration and updates on the PC side. By allowing this on PS4, presumably Sony will be allowing Klei Entertainment to adhere to a similarly rapid iteration process, meaning that the normally bureaucratic certification process may become much easier for indies.
-I backed the Mercenary Kings Kickstarter and I’m thrilled to see it coming to consoles too! Please come to the Vita as well, I’ll buy it again there.
-OctoDad is cute but it’s not a game I care about. Neat to see it on consoles though and the impressive tidbit from that reveal was that the team made it work on PS4 only a month after their free dev kits arrived.
-They didn’t show much of Secret Ponchos and I’ve never heard of it before now but it looks neat.
-I missed most of the Outlast reveal due to the stream glitching out but I caught a tiny glimpse and want to see more.
-So happy to see that Oddworld Inhabitants is back after getting repeatedly stepped on by douchebag publishers. An Oddworld 1 remake on PS4? Yes please!
-It’s a huge deal that they stole 17 Bit Studios away from Microsoft and they made that point by specifically mentioning Skulls of the Shogun. That game came out for Xbox 360, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. And now they’re making games for Sony. Ouch. I didn’t care for Skulls of the Shogun but their new game is an open-world space shooter? Give me now!
-Every one of the games they showed will either be console exclusive to PS4 or at least debut there. Just these announcements alone are huge and I have no doubt at all we’ll be hearing tons more very soon. Sony clearly gets indies. This is a battle I don’t know if Microsoft can win now.
-Despite their big indie push, Sony clearly hasn’t forgotten triple-A.
-Supposedly 12 new IPs coming from SCE Worldwide Studios and their second-party partners. So glad to see both Sony and Microsoft pushing into new ideas.
-Lots of CG once again which is too bad.
-Ready At Dawn’s new game is original IP, not a contracted sequel which is very cool. I was hoping that team would get a chance at something big. Their game kind of looks like Dishonored with monsters I guess? CG only but I want to learn more.
-Killzone still looks like Killzone but more more colourful. People seem really down on that franchise but I actually really enjoyed Killzone 2 and 3. I hope this is good. At least it’s not a modern military game.
-Driveclub looks like Yet Another Racing Game but it does interest me more than Gran Turismo and I suspect this is their more “arcadey” title. The trailer showed nothing really.
-I loved the InFamous games and Second Son looks like a neat shift in direction for the series. No game play again but it’s the Sucker Punch team so I have a good vibe about it.
-Knack still looks like a neat idea but the trailer was even shorter than the one back in February and still didn’t really show what the game’s about.
-Killzone, Driveclub and Knack will all be out at launch. Which makes the lack of details shown on them even weirder. InFamous Second Son will be Q1 of next year. Too bad it couldn’t make launch.
-I wish they didn’t spend more time fellating David Cage’s “emotions through better graphics” idea but I guess they had to. Don’t get me wrong, his stuff looks gorgeous but I’m still not convinced the best way to convey emotion is through more polygons and better lighting. The Dark Sorcerer tech demo was really good. It looked incredible for something running in real-time and I love that it took a comedic twist in the middle, showing David Cage can actually be lighter and funnier. I kind of wish they could find a way to make an actual game out of that.
-Diablo III is still coming to consoles. I still don’t care because it’s still a poor game compared to Diablo II and Torchlight II.
-Square Enix brought yet another CG trailer and it was way too long. These endless teases are getting tiresome, show us something being played. Final Fantasy Versus XIII certainly looks different from normal Final Fantasy games. I’m sure that’s a big deal to a group of people, I’m just not among them
-Similarly, I’m sure the existence of a new Kingdom Hearts game is a big deal to some. I couldn’t care less.
-Ubisoft is clearly very buddy-buddy with Sony. That had a presence at Microsoft’s show but only with CG trailers. Everything they showed at Sony’s show had game play demonstrations.
-I still love Assassin’s Creed and am even more stoked for Black Flag now, though I’ll likely be playing on PC where it is apparently the lead SKU. The demo started slow but got pretty intense near the end. If that’s real-time game play, it’s very impressive indeed. That it had major technical difficulties made me call into question if it was a real person playing. Exclusive content still sucks.
-Watch_Dogs still looks very awesome. Ubisoft is clearly all about open world in the next generation. This looks like a modern day Assassin’s Creed with hacking elements and that’s A-OK with me. My big problem with this demo is there was a lot of watching and minor interaction and not a ton of really doing stuff. The bit about someone on a tablet causing a chopper to crash in your game is also a dumb gimmick and I really hope it can be avoided easily. Exclusive content still sucks.
-The only sports game showed was a short clip of the new NBA game from 2K Sports. Other than a quick mention that some EA Sports titles will exist on PS4, that was it for sports entirely. I don’t care about sports games but if EA have in fact really got into bed with Microsoft for sports stuff, that’s a big potential hit to PS4. FIFA is a big part of what drives PS3 in Europe.
-The Elder Scrolls Online is coming to PS4 (though they didn’t say exclusively) and is getting a beta as well. No one seems to care about Bethesda’s attempt at World of Warcraft on the PC side so I guess they’re trying to see if the console crowd can give the the users they need to not lose their whole shirt on this project. I’m curious if it will work out but I somehow doubt it.
-A Mad Max game could be neat I guess. The trailer showed nothing of value. Then I heard Avalanche Studios was making it and suddenly really wanted to see more. A Just Cause type game in the post-apocalypse? Yes please!
-Bungie is also clearly buddy-buddy with Sony. The irony in that is thick considering they made Halo for Microsoft. I think Halo is the most overrated series of all-time and while Destiny looks neat, a lot of it’s game play and narrative makes it look an awful lot like a Halo that isn’t called Halo. I hope Bungie surprises me but if this really is a Halo by another name, I’m not really that interested.
-There was only the tiniest mention of Call of Duty: Ghosts and no game play or trailer. I’m stunned that the only place it was talked about (and only briefly) was at the original Xbox One reveal. Either Activision has their own big event planned for this game or the console makers are really distancing themselves from it. I was really surprised by this.
-There was no discussion whatsoever about free-to-play. Microsoft actually had more and they only showed World of Tanks. I’m floored by this. I was (and am still) convinced that free-to-play is going to be a massive part of the next console generation and Sony is already behind it with DUST 514 on PS3. Maybe they plan to dig into this after launch, once their infrastructure has a chance to settle. Both companies ignore this space at their own peril.
I so hoped Sony would come out fighting and bring their A-game tonight and holy crap, did they deliver! Microsoft got well and truly served and made to look like complete idiots tonight. I don’t think Xbox One will fail purely because of these details but I think Sony stole the thunder back in February and grabbed it with both hands tonight. I am 100% in for PS4 and unless Microsoft makes some drastic changes, there a very good chance I’ll avoid Xbox One completely and I’m certain that I’m not the only person who thinks that. Only a severe scaling back (if not total abandonment) of their used game plans can recover the Xbox One in the eyes of many gamers and now they’ll have to spend a ton of time and money delivering that message if that’s the path they choose to take. Given all the extra media functionality Xbox One offers, I could see them successfully making a case for the higher price. But now, all we have is a more expensive box that’s unsure of where it’s focus should be and sends a clear message that business is more important than customers.
Other than showing more game play and less CG and giving the Vita more attention, I honestly don’t know how Sony could have done a better job tonight. I expected them to come out swinging but I didn’t expect them to bring crowbars wrapped in rabid tigers. I normally hate it when so-called “journalists” cheer at press conferences but when they had massive sections of the audience cheering “So-ny! So-ny!”, you know they did something very right.
Tonight, Sony showed that they care about customers first, that triple-A is still a big deal but also that indies matter. They’re trying to cater to everyone and unlike almost everyone else, they might seriously have a shot at making it work. They sold me and I can’t wait to get my PS4. Let’s get this new generation started!
I do hope to do one of these on the Nintendo Direct tomorrow but work may be a bit crazy so if I do one, it could be delayed. I am exhausted now and have to go to bed but I’m really glad I’ve been able to challenge myself to do these and keep them up. Hopefully you’re liking them too. Talk to you tomorrow!