While Microsoft has usually been the one to kick off the trio of E3 press briefings, this year Sony took the lead. Last year we were treated with first looks of games like Killzone, a game whose graphic quality is still debated. Is it really that indicative of the PS3’s power, or merely a pre-rendered fake? Monday was Sony’s opportunity to silence critics and dispel rumors surrounding the PS3.
The show kicked off with Kaz Hirai, president and chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, giving an overview of the company via his yearly PowerPoint presentation. Hirai announced that over 1 billion games have been shipped for the PS2 and that the support for the system isn’t going to end anytime soon – even with the release of the PS3. By the end of the year, over 216 new titles will be available, including SOCOM: Combined Assault and Guitar Hero II. High-profile support will continue into next year with the releases like God of War II.
Turning to the PSP, Hirai mentioned that the PSP is Sony’s fastest selling system ever. A video montage was then shown of upcoming games that included Ape Escape Academy 2, Killzone: Liberation, Gangs of London, Loco Roco and World Tour Soccer 2. A new PSP microphone attachment was also shown in video form alongside the game Talkman. Hirai also announced that the PSP will see its first in a line of Greatest Hits titles. Priced at $19. 99, these titles include best sellers ATV Offroad Fury, Twisted Metal, Ape Escape, Hot Shots Golf and Wipeout.
After another short montage, the highly anticipated PS3 portion of the show began. After recapping last year’s show, Hirai began to clear away all of the myths and debates that have surrounded the system. The first announcement (which was reiterated several times) was that the system would ship with a preinstalled hard drive. The hard drive will not only be used to save game saves and other downloads, but will also be used cache data, which will result in fast load times.
To date, over 10,000 systems have been sent to developers so they can begin work on games. This marks the largest shipment of development systems for any Sony system to date. Hirai also remarked that developers are just now beginning to receive final development kits.
Next, Phil Harrison, Executive Vice President, Sony Computer Entertainment, took the stage to show off some incredible games coming to the PS3 in the near future. The first game shown was Gran Turismo HD, which was presented by series' producer, Kazunori Yamauchi. Rather than being a completely new entry into the series, Gran Turismo HD is a conversion of Gran Turismo 4 made for the PS3. The game will show roughly 3 times the detail of a normal HD TV signal, and 12 times the resolution of Gran Turismo GT4. On top of that, the game will run at 60 frames per second and feature few load times thanks to the included hard drive.
Gran Turismo HD is expected to be released sometime after the PS3’s launch, most likely next Spring.
Richard Marks, the creator of the Eye Toy, then took the stage. Rather than show the water and duck demos from last year, Marks' presentation took a different route – this time showing off a Magic-like card game called Eye of Judgement. As Marx placed cards on the table, the Eye Toy would read the cards and cause monsters to appear on the TV screen and attack each other. This innovation alone could change the way video game card games (like Yu-Gi-Oh! Or Magic) are played – or usher in new ways to interact with characters on the screen.
Hirai once again took the stage, this time to talk about the PS3’s network features. He began by mentioning that over 3 million are active on the PS2’s online network. The goal with the PS3’s network is to create a virtual community of gamers. Not only will gamers be able to compete and play games together, but Sony will also offer downloadable content such as movies and music. Content will also be available for transfer to the PSP, including PlayStation games that can be saved right to the PSP’s memory stick.
The basic system, which includes online play, will be free. The system will also allow for microtransactions, or content that can be purchased for a small fee. In order to illustrate how the system works, Hirai showed off SingStar, a karaoke game similar to Karaoke Revolution. Hundreds of songs will be available for download and will be saved on the hard drive. SingStar will also feature an online feature known as My SingStar Online, which will allow players to see if their friends are online and playing or allow them to share videos of their performances, which are recorded with the Eye Toy.
The next game shown was Genji 2. The game will once again take place in Japan, this time showing off recreations of battles that actually took place in ancient Japan. In addition to swiping down hundreds of enemies, you’ll also be able to hot-swap between characters and chain together combos as well as battle on horseback.
Next up was Heavenly Sword, which was shown at last year’s show. The game, which is sort of like Dynasty Warriors but with slightly deeper combat mechanics, showcased some impressive visuals. Worlds and characters were detailed and featured armies of enemies onscreen at the same time.
The demos then gave way to a video montage showcasing first looks at other games lined up for the PS3, including The Getaway, Everybody's Golf, Monster Kingdom, and Lair.
Eight Days, a new game from Sony London, was also shown in video form. The video told little about the game’s premise, but did show that you’ll be able to fight on foot with guns or get behind the wheel of vehicles. Naughty Dog also showed off a new title, which features a jean-clad hero running and jumping through a jungle.
Next up was Insomniac, who showed off their new game, Resistance: Fall of Man (which was shown last year as I-8). Taking place in the 1950's in a world where WWII never happened, Resistance is a first-person shooter coming from the team behind the Ratchet & Clank series. Little else was shown of the game’s gameplay mechanics, but the visuals looked impressive.
A video then ran showing the third party support for the PS3. The video showcased games like Coded Arms Assault, Gundam, Sonic the Hedgehog, Virtua Tennis 3, Virtua Fighter 5, Tekken 6, Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, Ridge Racer 7 and Fatal Inertia. Also featured were EA’s upcoming sports games. Square-Enix also showed off Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Few details were released, but the game looks to take a more futuristic route.
The highlight of the show was, of course, the highly anticipated trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4. Taking place in a bleak future, Foxhound is tapped to take on armies of nanomachine enhanced soldiers.
Ken Kutaragi, who is regarded as the Father of the PlayStation, took the stage for the official unveiling of the PS3’s controller, which has taken the bulk of anti-PS3 criticism since it was first shown off at last year’s show. Rather than going with the boomerang-shaped controller, Sony is sticking to an enhanced version of the current DualShock. The controller will be wireless and Bluetooth enabled. The bigger surprise was that the controller features a motion control that allows for freedom in control (in other words, it works similar to Nintendo’s Wii-mote). To showcase how the new function will work, Kutaragi showed off Warhawk. By moving the controller around (up, down, left and right), he was able to control the ship.
Closing out the briefing, Hirai once again took the stage, this time with details on the PS3’s launch. As previously stated, the PS3 will see a global launch, with a North American release on November 17. Two packages will be available; a $499 version will have a 20 GB hard drive and a $599 version will come with a 60 GB hard drive. Sony’s goal is to have 2 million systems available for launch and double that by the end of the year. Sony hopes to ship 6 million by March of next year.
With rumors dispelled and details confirmed, Sony is set for the next-generation of PlayStation products and services. Keep your browser pointed at our E3 coverage for more details over the next several days.