We close out our round-table discussions of the major first-party companies with a look at Sony's booth. What did Team USG make of the upcoming PlayStation offerings?
Jeremy: My god, it’s full of games.
In fact, Sony’s booth has so many games this year that the company representatives I spoke with had trouble giving exact figures; they were caught by surprise by the appearance of unexpected titles on platforms they manage; and, finally, I think it might be physically impossible to complete 15-minute demos of every title in the booth within the three days alloted to E3. Sony’s message here at E3 is simple: “GAMES, GAMES, GAMES.”
I actually found the company’s press conference to be fairly unimpressive -- very much business as usual, with a few promising titles and announcements surrounded by an ocean of the expected and typical. On the other hand, the booth absolutely delivers. By pulling in both first- and third-party games, would-be blockbusters and plucky indies alike, and PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita, Sony makes a compelling case for PlayStation as the platform(s) to go to if you want to play video games.
The booth has its odd sidelines, like the Morpheus virtual reality system (it’s cool, but I still have trouble believing the world is ready to play video games with a computer strapped to their faces). But they’re few and far between and easily missed amid the thousands of hours of play time these games represent.
And Vita, my God, Vita! Vita has games! So many games! You’d never have known it from the way Sony treated the system during their press conference, but there are dozens of cool retail and digital titles on their way to Vita later this year. It’s taken years, but at long last the PlayStation platform lives up to the “It only does everything” marketing line.
You have your cookie-cutter AAA titles, your intriguing core action collaborations, retro-flavored platformers, casual titles like Invizimals, goofy licensed stuff (Dynasty Warriors Gundam!?), artsy genre-busting visual experiences that strain the definition of “video game” in a wonderful way, and more. About the only thing missing from Sony’s booth is Nintendo games (sorry, grouches, Nintendo still hasn’t gone third-party). But they do have Halo, more or less.
It is a hell of a sales pitch.
Bob: Would it surprise you if I said Sony’s booth had a metric butt-ton of games? Their sprawling setup offered enough to keep me busy during all three days of E3, though I could only spend an hour of my precious work-time combing over everything they had to offer. During my appointment, I immediately gravitated towards the weirdest-looking experiences, especially those for the Vita -- based on Sony’s conference, you’d think that thing was deader than the Virtual Boy.
Murasaki Baby stands as one of the few Vita games that actually makes good use of the rear touchscreen; you drag a hideous monster-girl by the hand through strange, Ralph Steadman-y backdrops, all while swiping the system’s backside to change the environment’s “mood.” I only took on a few of its puzzles, but this inspired concept seemed to hold a lot of potential -- and the thing is just fun to look at.
Freedom Wars was another standout Vita game, which I stumbled upon mostly due to its empty demo station. Though its misleading name might make you think it’s a Call of Duty knockoff, it’s actually a Monster hunter-like that offers the novelty of giving your character much more mobility than what’s seen in Capcom’s game. You can spring through the air on a whim, and use a grappling tether to send yourself into the distance a la Bionic Commando. This item can also be hooked onto the giant enemies so you can hang off of them to attack, or pull them to the ground. Freedom Wars is being localized by Sony themselves, so obviously they see the value in bringing these kinds of experiences to the Vita, which has become the home for niche titles like this in America.
Sony definitely has the most confident showing at this year’s E3, and no matter who you are, you can definitely find something there that suits your personal tastes. I’ve been a little wary about this new console generation, but Sony’s booth convinced me that’s it’s finally turning into something worthwhile.
Mike: Sony lacked the big major draws that overwhelmed the Microsoft and Nintendo booths. Sure, there were games like LittleBigPlanet, Bloodborne, Far Cry 4, and Destiny, but the Sony booth is structured so those titles were in covered kiosks on the far end of the space.
No, Sony is all about highlighting variety and showing off all the various titles coming for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita. The interesting thing about Sony setup is how indies were treated just like major developers and publishers. Their games weren’t segregated into different sections. Source stood next to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls and Counterspy wasn’t far from UFC. While Microsoft kept the ID@Xbox games in their own space at Sony’s booth it’s all just games.
And the company came out in force, with games like Order 1886, Driveclub, Alien Isolation, Axiom Verge, Nidhogg, Entwined, Helldivers, Tales of Xillia 2, Galak-Z, Project Cars, and Chasm. Just look at this list, which is not even everything the company has at the booth.
No, the major hits for Sony are expected sequels or games coming out in 2015, but when it came to having a booth you could just wander around in and have a ton of fun in various ways, Sony delivered. If you own a PS4, PS3, or Vita, Sony came prepared to show you why they were worthwhile purchases. If you were on the fence, they made a compelling case for buying one of their systems.
Microsoft’s press event may have won my heart, but Sony’s booth found a place there too.
Jaz: Walking onto the Sony booth reminded me of walking onto Nintendo’s booth at CES in 1989: the incredible number and range of games on display is almost overwhelming. I walked the booth several times, and each new lap I discovered something I’d missed, or a row of monitors I’d somehow overlooked. I really was hard to take everything in.
Without putting too fine a point on it, Sony put in a star performance at E3 this year, and a more effective advertisement for its console you could not wish for. The breadth and variety of PS4 games is deeply impressive, and many of them are of a very high caliber. There are so many games I’m looking forward to playing it's hard to know where to start, but to boil it down to my personal highlights so I’m not here all day, the LittleBigPlanet 3 demo was exceptionally fun and made me feel happy, DriveClub drove straight onto my most wanted list, I’m in love with Axiom Verge, No Man’s Sky seems almost too good to be true, and GRIM FANDANGO? Yes! But that's the tip of the iceberg, and there's so much other stuff too. Entwined. Nuclear Throne. N++. Murasaki Baby. Hohokum. And it goes on...
The takeaway from E3 this year is that we’re heading into some golden gaming years. Every manufacturer has something great to shout about. Sony, however, is bellowing loud and clear: PS4 owners will be absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to games.
And even the Vita’s looking good too!
Kat: Sony's booth is ridiculous. It's absolutely loaded with games, almost all of which are indies. At one point, Jeremy tweeted that he felt like Sony's selection of games was bigger than the last couple years combined. He may not be far wrong.
It's an understatement to say that Sony has really doubled down on indies over the past couple years -- a strategy that is clearly evident in their layout of their booth. Indies are front and center, with more traditional tentpole releases like The Order 1886 being pushed off to the side. Bloodborne -- the game that everyone wants to play -- is there, but only as a shrouded theater sitting off to one side. Third-party games get a tiny corner in the back.
Sony's strategy has thus far paid dividends for their platforms. It's kept the PlayStation 3 afloat; animated PlayStation Plus, and even given the Vita some new life (despite the belief by some that Sony is getting ready to bury their erstwhile handheld once and for all). I expect more of the same from them as we head into the holiday season and then 2015.
As for tentpole games, well, there weren't all that many on display. Uncharted 4 only seems to exist as a trailer at this point, and God of War was nowhere to be found. That leaves the Order 1886, which has been panned by several people in these parts, LittleBigPlanet 3, and uh... Destiny. In this case, Sony seems to be pulling a Microsoft in positioning a third-party's multi-platform game as a de facto exclusive. Ironic that it should be Bungie getting that treatment from Sony.
I've previously gone on record saying that I like both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this generation, and I stand by those comments. Sony's approach to the PS4 has been really smart so far, which is evident in the way that Microsoft has rushed to push their own indies. Whatever advantage they've built thus far won't last forever though. Already, Microsoft has two of my favorite indies of the show—Ori and the Blind Forest and the incredibly beautiful Cuphead.
For now though, Sony holds a strong hand; and while they don't have a truly transcendent blockbuster, they make up for depth with breadth. After a strong launch, they've earned themselves a little breathing space. But with this E3 being solid but unspectacular, Sony may soon find themselves looking over their shoulders as Microsoft catches up. As they surely know, the status quo can change in a hurry. In fact, that change may have already begun.