Sony E3 2009 Conference Round Up

Here we go, this is the big one…

We opened with a VT montage of upcoming PlayStation releases, lots of Uncharted and God of War stuff, all images of the PSP shown so far are the 3000 model. Jack Tretton came onstage to crack a joke about leaks and being thankful people still showed up. He was natural and affable throughout, self aware without being overly smug about it. He knew they’d dropped secrets and made it alright for us all to joke about it. He points out the forty by eighty foot screen that is only usable thanks to the PlayStation’s power.

Now for some figures, 364 games on the PlayStation brand this year,  2008 a record year, only brand with three successful platforms. Sony took 30% of industry sales last year.  Jack thinks that today’s PS2 owners are tomorrow’s PS3 owners. The PS3 met its sales target of 10 million in the 2009 fiscal year. Obviously getting the figures out of the way before he moves on to the good stuff.

Now onto the announcements.

Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves. The online multiplayer beta launches at midnight for those with codes. They showed game-play in a live demo which looked gorgeous; the crowd cheered and whooped throughout. Huge environment with plenty of destruction, dynamic cover (you can flip tables) and fluid implementation of quick time events. The building collapsed with Nate in it while he was playable.

MAG live demo on stage with a couple of the developers playing against two hundred and fifty five players from their Seattle and San Diego offices. I thought that the graphics looked better than the previous clips I’ve seen. It all looked very tactical. The XP system is tied to team effort so you get more points for doing team objectives. Released in Autumn.

Kaz Hirai walked on stage to talk about the PSP. Took a PSP Go! out of his pocket (a white one!) It is everything that the rumours said it would be. Looks very small and sleek but just as the leaks suggested: no second analogue nub. It does everything that the older models do but is 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the first PSP. It comes with 16GB memory and a slot for expansion cards.

Kaz Hirai introduces a new PC media manager for PSP content. He says the PSP must be able to “consume all forms of media”. PSP Go! will ship with a new XMB function called Sense Me which delivers playlists based on mood, a feature already available in some Walkman cell phones.

The PSP DevKit price will be lowered by 80% and all future PSP titles will be available for purchase online from the PlayStation Store and on UMD from retailers. The Video store goes native on the PSP, allowing you to download video content directly to the portable wonder. A big list of new content partners was flashed, including new anime and UFC partnerships, amongst many others.

Gran Turismo PSP announced. Kazanouri Tamauchi from Polyphony Digital walked on stage to talk about the new GTPSP (his translator needed a notebook!). The game will run at a solid sixty frames per second and feature over eight hundred cars on thirty-five tracks with sixty different variations. Tamauchi called it a “full sized GT experience”. It allows Ad-Hoc play with four players and trading of cars between garages. Like GT: Pokemon. They showed a video, it looked like a slightly more polished GT4 . Impressive stuff.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker announced for the PSP. Kojima came on stage and talked about how this was the true sequel for the Metal Gear Franchise and he and the Metal Gear “main team” would be directly involved. It seemed like a bit of a swing at Microsoft and we love him for it. Kojima spoke in English to say he hoped we enjoy the trailer. Video played looked as good as Metal Gear Solid 3 on the PS2, if not better. Some of it seemed like cut-scene done with the game engine and a lot was definitely game-play. There were four Snake clones, two of which shared a box in the trademark Kojima comedy moment at the end of the trailer. Due for release in 2010.

A quick round-up of PSP stuff by Jack Tretton. Resident Evil coming to PSP, an entirely new game due for release in 2010. Mentions for LBP, Monster Hunter Freedom, Motorstorm: Arctic Edge, Harry Potter and Hannah Montana (which always got a cheer). They then showed a quick VT of upcoming PSP stuff, there was a lot of variety and a lot of different titles.

PSN figures. The usual list of figures announced, 24 million users (11 million in the US), 475 million downloads of content. They will be putting 50 new PS1 classics on the (US, presumably) Store this year, starting with Final Fantasy VII which will go up today! He then talked about Home’s 6.5 million users, 85% of whom return to the space regularly. He said that the Capcom costumes had been bought over one hundred thousand times in two months. They showed a quick VT of Home ending with Chun Li doing “the running man”. They’re not without a sense of irony it seems.

Next up was the huge PS3 VT which showed loads of different titles, I hope I got a complete list: Uncharted 2, inFamous, Madden, FFXIII, MAG, Batman AA, Brutal Legend, Saboteur, White Knight Chronicles, Ninja Gaiden, Ghostbusters, WET, Mafia II, Buzz, Tekken 6, Red Faction: Guerilla, Tiger Woods, Heavy Rain, PixelJunk Shooter, Trash Panic, Battlefield, EyePet, DC Universe, FUEL, LBP, Bioshock 2, God of War III, Ratchet & Clank, Fight Night 4.

Agent announced. Casually, not much information but it will be an espionage thriller from Rockstar set in the 1970’s. Playstation exclusive.

Assassins Creed 2 game-play footage. This looked stunning, in-game footage almost looked pre-rendered. The developer talked us through the footage, pointing out that Leonardo Da Vinci would be your own personal inventor (including the famous Da Vinci glider which was shown catching thermals to sweep over Venice). Double takedowns, new AI making it more difficult to hide and over thirty weapons (with a further six available through PSP connectivity). There were also casual glimpses of swimming and smoke bombs. This looks great.

Final Fantasy announcements. FFXIII announced to release Spring 2010. They showed a video which looked predictably beautiful and showed glimpses of the battle system. Then they dropped the big one: Final Fantasy XIV releasing in 2010 and exclusive to PlayStation 3. They showed footage, it looked a bit more “Fantasy” than XIII and was, of course, gorgeous to look at. The caption at the end of the teaser called it “Final Fantasy XIV Online” which got us all quite excited in our little Skype chat.

Motion Controller. They made a big deal out of stating that they were first to invent motion control with PlayStation 2’s EyeToy and then wheeled out a prototype wand controller which I initially thought resembled something from an Ann Summers catalogue. Basically a wand with a glowing sphere on one end that was tracked by the PSEye camera. They were careful to note that this was a prototype and not what the end product would look like. It was a live tech demo, no video presentation at all and it was thoroughly amazing.

I was initially very sceptical about it but the precision and control he had over in-demo items with it were nothing short of amazing. They showed the video captured by the PSEye that was tracking on a virtual TV in the virtual room he was playing in too and it displayed attachments on the end of his controller like tennis racquet, baseball bat and golf club. He also had a laser-whip and a huge Desert Eagle handgun which he fired off mentioning that without a button it would feel very unnatural. They demonstrated that it had precise one-to-one tracking and depth-perception too. This was extremely impressive technology which they expect to launch in Spring 2010.

Play.Create.Share. LittleBigPlanet Disney content to start filtering out soon. Tretton stated that Play.Create.Share wasn’t just a tagline for a game, it was intended to be a whole new genre. He went on to introduce United Front Games to talk about Modnation Racers, their upcoming PS3 exclusive kart racer. It was very polished and smooth with plenty of customisation and sharing of that customisation with friends. The highlight for me though was the Track Studio software which enabled the user to paint a track to race around, terrain-morph mountains and drop or paint trees and villages into the scene before dropping back into test mode and trying it out. It all looked extremely accessible and very fun. Expected release in 2010.

Team Ico. They showed the proper fleshed-out trailer for ICO team’s final part of the trilogy “The Last Guardian” it was essentially the same footage as the leaked video from a couple of weeks ago but much nicer. The level of detail was amazing with a lot more attention to the textures and lighting. There was a lot more detail on the creature but the boy was still a quite familiar ICO style. It looks phenomenally good. Even the game-play footage towards the end was beautiful.

Gran Turismo 5. A quick teaser trailer for the definitive racing game of this generation. It has rallying and NASCAR, looks beautiful too. Oh, and I think I noticed some damage in there somewhere…

God of War III live demo. This looked wonderful too, I think Jaffe may have been right when he said it was better looking than anything else on any platform ever (I’m paraphrasing). Looked like a God of War game but smoother and prettier. Kratos still insanely angry, this time with wings. A huge lava man (Helios?) was destroying scenery and making a new path for you to run. Slow motion for big combos and a demo on the show floor with a further twenty minutes playable. The crowd all groaned when they cut out of the demo because they wanted to keep watching.

Jack Tretton closed the show promising no complacency for the brand.

We enjoyed it very much, what did you think?