Sony had a lot riding on its E3 Media briefing this year. Not only did it follow an impressive show from Microsoft and two big announcements from Nintendo, but on the whole the PS3 needed a strong E3 to change public opinion in the wake of lagging sales. Did it deliver with a strong of new announcements, gameplay demos and hardware revisions? Mainly yes, with just one or two disappointments.
After a flashy video showcasing a number of upcoming titles for Sony platforms, first and third-party, Jack Tretton, president and CEO of SCEA took to the stage. Showing some must needed humour, he acknowledged the press leaks that have occurred over the last few days and said he was relieved that anyone turned up at all - then went downhill slightly by making a claim about the PS3's video output being higher than the competitors, which harked back to the Sony of old. According to Tretton 364 games are coming out on PlayStation platforms this year and 2009 will be the best year ever for Sony.
To hammer home the point that all the best games will be on the PS3 Tretton mentioned that Modern Warfare 2, FF XIII, Ratchet and Clank, Arkham Asylum, Heavy Rain and Rock Band Beatles will all be coming to the console this year. "In 2009 if you want to have the ultimate gaming experience, you need PlayStation."
Talk moved to the PS2 after that, with a few numbers to make some of Sony's rivals jealous. According to Tretton the PS2 outsold next-gen systems in April, in its ninth year on the market. Sony stated that it's committed to the system as long as consumers see value in it. More than 2000 titles are available for the console and it remains the perfect family console - it is set to receive more than 100 new titles this year.
Some more stats followed. 22 million PS3s have been sold to date. PSN had a monster year in 2008 with 24 million accounts registered worldwide. More than 35 exclusive titles will be released on PlayStation platforms in 2009.
The first big demo of the show came from Naughty Dog, with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Naughty Dog's Evan Wells feels Uncharted 2 is the studio's most ambitious game to date. The multiplayer beta will start from midnight tonight. The gameplay demo that followed proved to be one of the most spectacular of the entire show and something to show what the PS3 is really capable of.
Another game we knew about already came next, with Zipper Interactive taking to the stage to demonstrate MAG, the 256-player first-person shooter. The live demo featured 256 real players. As well as showing the game in action in public for the first time, we got a look at the impressive 3D map system that will assist you while on the battlefield. MAG will debut on PS3 this autumn.
The focus then switched to the PSP, with Jack talking through the handheld's evolution since it was first released. 15 million PSPs were sold last year, taking the global install base to more than 50 million units. As well as continuing to offer great bundles for core gamers, Sony will target girl gamers with a Hannah Montana bundle and a Lilac PSP later this year.
Kaz Hirai, president & CEO, SCEI sat out last year's conference, but he returned this year to talk about making the PSP better. While it leaked days ago, he officially announced the PSP go, whipping out a white model from his pocket. It's been "designed for the digital lifestyle". Sony will continue to support and market the PSP 3000 alongside the PSP go.
As for games, 2009 will see more new games released than any other year in its history. Media Go will allow users to access the PlayStation store from their PCs and Sense Me will enhance your music experience by suggesting playlists to suit your mood. In an effort to aid PSP development, the tool kits required for developers will receive an 80% price cut. Kaz also revealed that all future PSP titles would be released as digital downloads and at retail on UMD, easing the fears of many gamers.
The PSP go will retail for $/€249 on October 1st in North America and Europe. It'll arrive in Japan a month later on November 1. Speaking about the video service for the PlayStation 3, Hirai revealed that it will also be available natively on the PSP and that new content is being launched today from a variety of new partners.
Kazunouri Yamauchi, founder of Polyphony Digital then took centre stage to finally announce Gran Turismo PSP - a game that Sony teased right back at the launch of the PSP. According to Yamauchi, Gran Turismo PSP will run at 60fps and is a fully featured title. Topping the bullet point list are 800 cars, 35 tracks and 60 layout variations of those tracks. It'll feature four-player local wireless play and car trading. Finally he introduced a trailer for the game which revealed it will be released alongside the PSP go on October 1 2009.
Not to be outdone by Microsoft, next up on stage walked Kojima Production's Hideo Kojima to announce Metal Gear Solid Peace walker for the PSP. The game is set in Costa Rica ten years after MGS3, in the 1970s. It is a true sequel. He emphasised that he'll be deeply involved in the game, writing the script and producing - it's not a spin-off or a side story. We then got to see a trailer for the game which heavily hinted at four-player co-op. It also revealed that it'll be released in 2010.
Kaz then left the stage, but the PSP news wasn't over. Jack Tretton returned to announce that a brand new Resident Evil game would be arriving on PSP next year. He also reeled off a string of titles arriving on the PSP this year, including Monster Hunter, Harry Potter, LittleBigPlanet, Jak and Daxter and MotorStorm Arctic Edge.
Jack then moved onto PSN, stating that more than 475 million units of content have been downloaded worldwide. Home got a look in too, with Tretton announcing that more than 6.5 million gamers use the virtual community worldwide.
After the deviation to the PSP and PSN it was back to the PS3 with a montage video showcasing some of the great games coming this year and beyond. These included Uncharted 2, infamous, Madden NFL 10, White Knight Chronicles, Final Fantasy XIII, MAG, Batman, Brutal Legend, DiRT 2, Ghostbusters, Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, Wet, Mafia II, Buzz!, SAW, KOF XII, Ice Age 3, Tekken 6, Overlord 2, Red Faction, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, Dark Void, BioShock 2 and more. Jack also confirmed that Lost Planet 2 will be shipping on PS3 in early 2010.
Big news next, with Rockstar bringing Agent exclusively to PS3. No details as such, but surely one of the biggest announcements of E3 and one that earned quite a cheer from the crowd. An Assassin's Creed 2 demo followed, giving the gathered crowd the first public glimpse of to what to expect from the game due out this November. The demo showcased the flying machine created by Leonardo Da Vinci, with the hero able to glide around the city. There will be 30 weapons in the game, plus six more if you connect Assassin's Creed Bloodlines on the PSP to the PS3 version of Assassin's Creed 2.
We already knew Final Fantasy XIII was coming to the PS3 in the spring of 2010, but Jack teased us a little more with a new video put together by Square Enix. We were treated to some dazzling cutscenes and stunning in-game footage. There was more Square news too, with Jack announcing that Final Fantasy XIV will be playable only on PS3 in 2010 - although the the twist is that it's the second MMO in the Final Fantasy universe.
Jack then introduced Dr Richard Marks to demonstrate the PlayStation 3 motion controller. - another poorly kept E3 secret. The wand features numerous motion sensors and a glowing ball on its end, which the PlayStation Eye is capable of picking up. Some impressive tech demos showcased the new prototype device, including a first-person shooter demo. A second demo showcased the precision of the device, while a third featured a combat scenario featuring a sword and shield - again, the precision was very good. Tretton announced that it'll launch in spring 2010.
A smaller but no less significant announcement came next, with news that Disney is coming to LittleBigPlanet. Jack revealed that a number of costume packs, including Pirates of the Caribbean, will be coming to the PS3 platformer.
More game demos followed, with a brand-new IP next: ModNation Racers. The game is in development at United Front and is a kart racer for the PS3. In it you'll be able to create, mod and share characters and karts. Track Studio will allow users to create their own tracks - by driving around you'll be able to instantly create a track, modifying elevation on the fly. By choosing objects from the library you can simply paint them into the environment. It's another game due for release in 2010 and looked very impressive indeed.
The big one next, with Team Ico's Trico revealed as The Last Guardian. It'll be exclusive to the PS3. You've no doubt already seen the leaked video and what was shown at the conference appeared to be the same with a few new sections showcasing the young boy's encounters with enemies. No release date was given.
The big guns just kept on coming, with a teaser for Gran Turismo 5 up next. The trailer showed a number of racing disciplines and revealed that It'll feature the WRC and NASCAR licenses. Again, while we know it's coming there wasn't even a hint of a release date.
Finally it was the turn of Sony Santa Monica, who took to the stage to demonstrate God of War 3, the final chapter in the trilogy that started on PS2. After a spectacular live demo the game was given a March 2010 release date.
All in all a very impressive showing from Sony, with plenty of games coming to PSP and PS3 this year and beyond. News of Agent from Rockstar being a PS3 exclusive raised a few eyebrows and the PS3 motion controller looked to be a big step up over what we've seen on the Wii - although perhaps not as advanced as Microsoft's full body motion technology. The key was some great looking games, with the likes of Uncharted 2, MAG, The Last Guardian and God of War 3 all likely to please the hardcore. Thankfully the PSP seems to be getting some great titles too, with Sony showing that the handheld is definitely a big focus.