If E3 2012 attempted to bypass the fact that a new generation was in desperate need (Wii U aside, of course) next year’s Los Angeles-based expo will have no such grace: PS4 and Xbox 720 are coming, and soon, and it’s now just a tactical waiting game to see who moves first. Sony, with what many are hoping will either be a beast of a console or some super light streaming box the size of a matchstick; or Microsoft, with a media centre to rule the living room, powered by a revised Kinect so accurate it can pick up your fingerprints from twenty feet away.
Gamescom, in any case, is likely to kickstart the end of this generation, the last big Western games event to play host to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – the stalwarts of this generation – the old faithful, the dependable but aged machines that are now straining at the seams to keep up with what developers are trying to get out of them. Tokyo Games Show will follow soon after, and the year will round off with Eurogamer’s UK-based show, but the wheels are in motion as from next week.
It’s a big one for Sony – that’s been the case of late with hardware revisions taking centre stage – and we don’t imagine this to be any different this time around. We broke the news of the new CECH 4000 PS3 back at the beginning of July and despite rumours suggesting that Sony won’t be showcasing the top loading, presumably cheaper model it makes a huge amount of sense for SCEE to at least acknowledge the various sightings, leaks and mock-ups – the so-called ‘super slim’ (a misnomer, it’s no slimmer) might not be released next week, but it’s due shortly, and Sony need only distinguish the 4000 in some way to ensure a reasonable boost in shareholder-pleasing figures.
And how they need that right now.[drop2]But for those of us already invested in PlayStation 3 with no desire for a ridged, somewhat retro looking remix, it’s all about the games. Over the years Sony have increasingly dominated in this area, their first party output often unrivalled in breadth and quality, and whilst it’s certainly true that the PS3’s twilight years are upon us, there’s little slowdown in AAA, top tier games from their most celebrated studios.
God Of War, Beyond, The Last Of Us – they’ll all be playable (and possibly demoed at the conference) and they’re likely to be joined by Battle Royale and LittleBigPlanet Karting.
That’s a strong line-up, leading well into next year, but it’s far from the whole story. Alongside the checkboxes of the above fan favourites and sure-fire hits are a series of upcoming indie titles like The Unfinished Swan (almost certainly likely to be demoed at the conference, alongside press playtests afterwards) and we’re hoping that Sony will use Gamescom to remind their European audience about the sublime Sound Shapes, which co-incidentally will be out alongside Papo & Yo simultaneously with the conference via the PlayStation Store.
Expect some PlayStation Plus promotion, too – the recent Instant Game Collection has been a great success, even if there are complaints from some gamers who feel there’s too much emphasis on older retail games. We teased some stuff on this recently, but expect some big reveals from Gamescom that should satisfy most.
Sony will – if they’ve listened to feedback from E3 – push the Vita. I’m not expecting a price cut, but bundle deals are a must – get WipEout in the box, or FIFA, or Uncharted, forget trying to scare off customers with a lack of a memory card and hopefully sales of the beleaguered portable will pick up. But Vita’s Gamescom presence needs to be about games. Call of Duty will be there, for sure, but we want to see new, unannounced titles from the likes of Sony Cambridge – a handheld Killzone would be killer – and Evolution have been all too quiet since MotorStorm: RC – a sequel, or a fully fledged handheld racer, even if it’s just a tease, would be nice.[drop]But the Vita’s killer app isn’t a game as such, it’s PS Mobile. It’s impossible to overstate how important it is that Sony get this right. The development kit’s a decimal point away from version one, and the recent addition of in-app purchases, no matter how much I revolt at the thought of the way they’ve taken over the iPhone’s app store, shows that the service is meant to be taken seriously.
PS Mobile could be huge if the platform’s presented well, it’s integrated quickly into the store and developers are behind it enough to get punters interested. I’ve heard good things over the last couple of weeks – but I should probably leave it there.
The Vita’s got a lot to prove to early adopters – just ask Peter – but it’s Sony’s to mess up. Everything’s in place, Sony just need to lower the cost of mainline games (nobody’s paying £40, guys) and ensure that the options open to them are explored with intelligence and respect for their consumers. Get the games flowing, get PS Mobile up and running, get Remote Play working with those PS3 games and make the kit indispensable.
And then, it’s all eyes on PS3. There are new games still to come, and whilst it’s likely Wonderbook wll show its head again, there’s the recent rumours about something called Rain to watch out for – likely to be a Sucker Punch game and potentially Move-based; there’s also something mysterious from Sony’s Japan Studios coming, and again as far as we know Gamescom is the target for that one. And then there’s the clever way that Vita can be used as a controller for its big brother – the lovely looking indie title Guacamelee! will apparently offer this, but LittleBigPlanet 2 is also a supporting title – hopefully we’ll hear more on that this week too.
There’s a lot to get excited about for Sony this week – the games are still very much the key for the PS3 despite the looming shadow of a successor – but it’s the overwhelming amount of possibilities that excites the most. With the sheer amount of exclusives and a handheld potentially capable of incredible things (and a huge loyal fanbase) Sony should be absolutely dominant. They’re not, the industry has changed since the PlayStation days, but the promise is still there: the tinge of excitement at every press conference, the surprise at every new announcement.
Microsoft are still hugely powerful, and Nintendo have new hardware out in a few months, but this week should be Sony’s week.