E3 2009: Assessment: Sony Conference


Uncharted 2 made for a great opener.

As with the other systems, in my pre-E3 assessment for the PS3 I broke the console’s strengths and weaknesses down into three categories: Hardware, Software (Hardcore) and Software (Casual).  With the Sony press conference out of the way (which should cover all their significant announcements) I’m going to take a look at each of those categories again and see how Sony fared (in my opinion).  After that is an assessment of each individual item revealed/shown, and my verdict on the conference as a whole.  Click through for details.

Assessment: Hardware

I said that the PS3’s sole hardware problem is that it’s too expensive when compared to its rivals, and that as long as it stays so high it seems unlikely that any amount of great software can boost its fortunes, especially when their rivals are both cheaper and have better marketing.  I also said that Sony may well not do anything to solve this problem at E3, which turned out to be the case.  Despite expecting them to do nothing it is still disappointing, and if a price cut or hardware revision doesn’t come in time for the holiday period then Sony will be wasting arguably the best software line-up in its history.

Assessment: Software (Hardcore)

I said that Sony’s line-up is pretty solid and that just by doing nothing they would still be fine.  Bizarrely though, Sony almost treated ‘2009’ like a taboo word at their press conference.  Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and MAG were shown but had no date, while Heavy Rain, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, White Knight Chronicles and Demon’s Souls were given no time at all (with Heavy Rain subsequently confirmed to be delayed to 2010).  With no new 2009 exclusives revealed at all, Sony have possibly come out of E3 with a worse 2009 line-up than they went in with.  However, none of the games are cancelled and most likely just weren’t confirmed, and if any of those games were delayed then it would simply make for a fantastic 2010 for the console when added to Gran Turismo 5 and God of War III.

Assessment: Software (Casual)

I said that the console’s issues with the casual audience seem to mostly stem from its price, seeing as it has most of the key series that appealed to that audience in the PS2 era, with that audience either sticking with their PS2s and waiting to upgrade to PS3, or simply opting for a Wii instead.  I suggested that a reveal of the rumoured motion control device might help, which is what they did.  Despite talking about a Spring 2010 launch the hardware wasn’t even finalised and there were no games revealed for it, so it remains to be seen what impact it could have.  If the casual audience’s issue is with the PS3’s price then this might not help at all.


The display of all 256 MAG players made for an excellent visual representation of the game's scale.

Individual Assessment

Following is my opinion on every individual item discussed, after which are some more general verdicts for the conference and the PS3’s fortunes for 2009 and 2010:

  • Uncharted 2: Among ThievesGood
    • This game was an excellent way to open and a sign of how confident Sony were, choosing to open with a likely Game of the Year, and it still looks fantastic. The lack of a release date was odd but I suspected that it didn’t mean the date had shifted, and the beta test reiterated the expected fall 2009 release.
  • MAGGood
    • I think this improves every time it’s shown. The initial CG announcement last year raised all sorts of questions (will everybody be separated into small groups or one chaotic lump? How do you keep everyone on track? Is there a fee? etc.), then the Sony media blowout earlier this year said it will be free to play and that fights will start small and ease into the big one. This time they showed the actual objectives and talked about the objective-based rewards to keep people doing what they’re supposed to. No date though.
  • PSP Go!Good
    • We all knew it was coming, but it was still exactly what the PSP needed. A huge amount of first-part support, cheaper dev kits, and a revitalising hardware revision. This is the make or break moment for the handheld.
    • The software reel later to show off more first- and third-party games was good too. “The PSP has no games” is officially put to rest, I’d say.
  • Gran Turismo PSP – Good
    • Again, my interest is non-existent for racing games, but I know it’s big news, and it’s nice to see that the game does still exist and is pretty much complete.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Peace WalkerGood
    • “Sequel” to possibly the most highly thought-of MGS game. That’s good news however you slice it, even if it is a handheld version with co-op multiplayer.
  • Renewed PS1 Classic Support – Good
    • The PS1 had a great library that Sony are just sitting on, so renewing their efforts to put them on the PSN is all good.
  • Home Talk – Poor
    • It’s not an industry joke any more, but interest in Home is very low generally. Talk of it being the de facto standard seems odd, because nobody is exactly rushing to emulate it.
  • PS3 Games Reel – Good
    • It’s a little disappointing that no proper time was given to Heavy Rain or Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, but Sony did have lots going on. The footage did a good job of showing there’s lots coming. Likewise for the PSN games.
  • Lost Planet 2Good
    • It wasn’t much, but the casual mention that a game people were talking about as a timed 360 exclusive is indeed launching simultaneously was well played.
  • Agent – Good
    • Granted, they revealed almost nothing except to give it a name and setting (and acknowledge it does still exist, of course), but an exclusive Rockstar game isn’t something to be sniffed at. News in the following days that it’s a proper AAA Houser project only makes it even better.
  • Assassin’s Creed 2Okay
    • Much like The Beatles Rock Band at the Microsoft Conference, it was pretty much present here to talk about the exclusive (and minor) connectivity gimmick. It had the gameplay footage that was apparently too exciting for the Ubisoft conference, and was excellent.
    • It’s a little disappointing that the one assassination they showed automatically alerts the target when Ezio enters, as the ideal should be to allow players to complete their assassinations without any guards even realising they’re there.  It makes for a more cinematic affair than Hitman, but 47’s a much better silent assassin.
  • Final Fantasy XIIIOkay
    • This did little more than acknowledge again that the game exists which (as well as everybody already knowing) was done better in the Microsoft showing the day before, and implied that the 360 development was much further on than we’d (or at least I’d) thought. There was no mention of spin-offs Versus or Agito, which was already expected.
  • Final Fantasy XIV – Good/Okay
    • As an announcement it was huge and probably the biggest of the whole event. The entire industry was seemingly shocked and a little confused at first, then thoroughly deflated by the “Online” bit, and then the Q&A the next day reduced it down to being a possible temporary exclusive, unless Square change their minds.
  • Motion Control – Good
    • I thought it was a good showing. It took them a while to get comfortable but they soon got a good banter up, and despite it for the most part being just a step up from the Wii MotionPlus they did a good job showing the potential hardcore applications for it.
    • The archery and sword and shield parts of the showing seemed to need two controllers.  Such a requirement would limit any games using it, unless it will ship with two in each pack or if there will be some kind of nunchuk equivalent, but I imagine Sony know what they’re doing.
  • LittleBigPlanetPoor
    • I really like the game for sure, but only discussing more costumes was pretty underwhelming as they add almost nothing compared to the MGS level pack, the one significant bit of DLC the game has had. They should have showed off the Ratchet & Clank pack if it’s in any way able to shown, or at least mentioned that we’re going to get more than just costumes. If you’ve nothing to show, then don’t show anything.
  • Mod Nation Racers – Good
    • On its own, the suggestion that they’re turning LBP’s Play, Create & Share spiel into a design ethos is pretty good. Mod Nation Racers also looks fun, fitting well into the Mario Kart style of racers (ie. racers I could actually enjoy). The editor looks very simple and intuitive.
  • The Last Guardian – Good
    • It was a bit of a shame that this leaked shortly before but it’s still a good bit of debut footage, showing you lots about the game. No date.
  • Gran Turismo 5Good
    • It was good that they actually did show it, and the trailer showed additional licenses and hinted at (possibly only superficial) damage. No date, though Mr. Gran Turismo has hinted that it could be ready at any time, which makes a 2009 release at least slightly possible.
  • God of War IIIGood
    • It’s going to be huge and the demonstration showed everything it needed. Familiar combat, huge Titan, enemy leaders, etc.. That the audience collectively groaned when they stopped the demo says a lot. Locking down a date was something we all wanted, even if it wasn’t 2009.

God of War III served as a mighty finisher to an impressive event.

  • The Press Conference itselfGood
    • It was a very confident showing, with Sony knowing they had lots of big games. They took the leaks in their stride and made jokes about it, and had some big reveals and announcements.
  • 2009 VerdictOkay/Good
    • Sony went into E3 with Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, MAG, Heavy Rain and Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time for the end of the year, but then in their conference didn’t put a 2009 date on any of them. Uncharted is pretty much a lock for 2009, as is R&C, but Heavy Rain is officially gone and I don’t know about MAG.
    • They also didn’t reveal any new exclusives for the end of the year. As I said above, GT5 has an outside chance of being revealed as a 2009 game later in the year, if it really is as near-finished as suggested.
  • 2010 VerdictGood/Excellent
    • They’ve for sure got God of War III and Heavy Rain next year. Throw in MAG, Gran Turismo 5, The Last Guardian and a launch for the motion control and it could be pretty damn stellar.

Image Sources:

Uncharted Conference Photo: Flickr (popculturegeek.com)

MAG Conference Photo: Flickr (popculturegeek.com)

God of War III Conference Photo: Flickr (popculturegeek.com)


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