E3: Sony sets its (3-D) eyes on hardcore gamers
Image Credit: David McNew/Getty ImagesThe main message Sony conveyed during its two-hour E3 presentation Tuesday afternoon was this: “Hardcore gamers, we’re here for you.” While Microsoft has spent most of its energy (and money) touting its intuitive motion-detection device, Kinect, and Nintendo has continued to position its Wii and the new 3DS as family-friendly systems, Sony assured hardcore gamers (men in their 20s and 30s who crave ultraviolent shooters and prefer their controllers to include 84 buttons) that they hadn’t been forgotten. In fact, Sony brought out Kevin Butler, the company’s fictitious vice president in its TV ads, to issue a gaming manifesto. “Gaming is having a ridiculously huge TV in a tiny one-bedroom apartment,” Butler proclaimed to the audience, which erupted into laughter and applause. “(Gaming is) staying up till 3 a.m. to earn a trophy that isn’t real. And it’s girls who know that the way to a man’s heart is through a melee attack. I love gaming!”
True, Sony spent a significant chunk of time on its own motion controller, the PlayStation Move (out Sept. 19), which is basically a supercharged Wii Remote. But the tech giant knew what most of the assembled audience truly wanted to see, and it delivered on that front with demos and glimpses of Killzone 3, Gran Turismo 5 (which finally received an official release date of Nov. 2), Crysis 2, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Medal of Honor, Dead Space 2, Portal 2, Final Fantasy XIV, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Infamous 2, and (as a final surprise) the return of Twisted Metal. Oh, and Sony likes 3-D. Like, really likes 3-D. Below, the highlights from Sony’s long (but still shorter than The Karate Kid) presentation:
— Microsoft was the butt of a few jokes. Jack Tretton, the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, assured the audience that there would be “no need for ponchos,” alluding to Microsoft’s eccentric Cirque du Soleil unveiling of Kinect, during which the audience was required to wear white ponchos. And Kevin Butler opened his epic monologue by asking the question: “Am I crazy, or did I just see a hundred French acrobats prancing around an arena the other night?” But Kevin, they’re Canadian!
— The first act of Sony’s conference dealt with the advent of 3-D gaming. “A decade from now, when we look back at 2010, it will most likely be remembered as the year that Sony brought authentic 3-D to the videogame industry,” said Kazuo Hirai, the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. As proof, Sony demoed Killzone 3 (out February 2011) in 3-D, which is being designed for the technology from the ground up. As in Avatar, the 3-D effect doesn’t really make anything pop out of the screen, which would be particularly distracting for gaming. Instead, it adds a considerable amount of depth to the image, essentially transforming your TV into a window that you can look through. To that end, Killzone 3 was visually stunning, especially during a segment where your character flies from iceberg to iceberg on a jetpack. (The ocean effects took my breath away, but then again, I’ve been known to marvel at a game’s rendering of grass).
However, I’m still not sold on gaming with 3-D glasses. It’s one thing to see a 3-D gaming demo on a giant theater screen, but the wow factor drops a few notches once you’re playing on a, say, 50-inch TV. And, second, there’s just the whole comfort issue of wearing those glasses while gaming. Maybe other gamers have the stomach for it, but after 15 or so minutes of 3-D gaming, I’m itching to rest my eyes and brain.
— Sony announced that the PlayStation Move would hits stores in North America on Sept. 19, but the company was a bit sneaky with its pricing strategy. The Move wand will cost $49.99, but that’s only if you already own the required PlayStation Eye camera, which I’m guessing many gamers do not. So you’re most likely going to have to purchase the $99.99 bundle that includes the Move, the Eye, and the game Sports Champions, and that still doesn’t include the $29.99 navigation controller (Sony’s version of the Wii Nunchuk controller), which will be needed for joystick games such as the demoed Sorcery. Thus, true price: about $130, which is less than the rumored $150 price tag for Microsoft’s Kinect.
— By the way, the coolest part of the demo for Sorcery (out Spring 2011), which is a Harry Potter-esque action-adventure game: In order to drink a potion, the gamer literally raised the Move controller to his mouth and pretended to drink. That moment rightfully earned the audience’s applause.
— Most baffling part of the presentation: Tretton taking the time to announce a PlayStation Move sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola, the 140-calorie soda that somehow promotes “active living.”
— Two announcements really made the hardcore gamers salivate. The first was the confirmation that Portal 2, Valve’s follow-up to its mind-bending puzzle/action game from 2007, would be coming to the PlayStation 3 in 2011. And the second was the return of Twisted Metal, the longest-running series in PlayStation history. The 2011 game (a PS3 exclusive) was announced via a trailer, which was followed by an ice-cream trunk appearing on the stage. The driver? A psychopathic clown, naturally. (The 6-year-old inside of me had to be reassured that a deranged clown with a knife was nothing to fear.)
For those of you who have followed all three major conferences, who won E3 in your mind: Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony? Are you as excited for 3-D gaming as Sony wants you to be? And which PlayStation game can you not wait to get your bloody hands on? Discuss!