With plenty of games and appropriately smug announcements to show, Sony’s E3 conference was something of a stonker. But we’ll save the editorialising for later. Here is a blow-by-blow account of everything announced and shown at their press event in the early hours of today.
Jack Tretton took to the stage after an intense highlight reel of all things PlayStation to tell us about the Vita. On average, Vita owners buy 10 games, and 60% of those purchases are made through the PlayStation Store. This year, the Vita will receive a heap of support in the form of The Walking Dead‘s first and second seasons alongside first-party support in the form of titles including Killzone Mercenary.
The PS3 received more adequate levels of love. A rapid-fire montage of game footage included new and upcoming titles: The Last Of Us, Puppetteer, Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and Gran Turismo 6. Beyond:Two Souls showed main character Holmes being recruited by the military to make extensive use of her supernatural powers; less interestingly so, GT6 promoted the game’s new simulation models for tyre wear, suspension and something called Adaptive Tessellation. Batman: Arkham Origins made its worldwide debut alongside the news that Grand Theft Auto V would be appearing in an exclusive console bundle with the PS3, and would also garnish special edition headsets later this year.
Moving onto the inevitable star of the show, Sony’s Andrew House revealed the PlayStation 4 hardware. Smaller than the Xbox One, square from above and slated from the side, the PS4 is a ridged parallelogram of tech – an 80s vision of how electronics would look in 2013. It’s remarkably stylish without being loud and overstated.
Likely fulfilling contractual obligations to the parent company, House introduced Michael Lynton of Sony Pictures. Lynton promoted Sony’s device-spanning Music and Video Unlimited services alongside the inevitable tie-ins to streaming services such as Netflix and plans for “brand new original programming” exclusive to the PS4.
SCE Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida took to the stage to talk about the PS4’s gaming credentials. There are 30 first-party games in development, 20 of which will release within the console’s first year. These include The Order: 1866, a steampunk-themed adventure game set in Victorian-era London developed by Santa Monica Studio and Ready At Dawn, the latter best known up to this point for its work on the God of War PSP releases.
A PS4-flavoured showreel was packed to the brim with titles such as Killzone: Shadow Fall, Driveclub, Knack and Infamous: Second Son – the first three of which are slated to be launch titles. Quantic Dream showed up with a tech demo entitled The Dark Sorceror which, much like The Casting before it, was packed with plenty of dramatic surprises (not least the return of Old Man Face from Feburary’s PlayStation Meeting).
Not looking to continually pat themselves on the back, Sony wheeled out Adam Boyes, their envoy to third-party developers. He rolled out several indie titles off the cuff including Transistor, the new urban-flavoured title from Bastion developers SuperGiant Games. He also revealed that self-publishing on PS4 is possible – providing, we assume, that the game passes a selection of Apple-style certifications.
Continuing to reinforce that indie developers are at home on PlayStation, a further handful of original titles were announced as coming to the PS4. These included cartoony survival game Don’t Starve, pixellated side-scroller Mercenary Kings, bizarro comedy stealth game Octodad, retro shmup Galak-Z (from the team behind XBLA success Skulls of the Shogun) and Oddworld: New N’ Tasty, the HD remake of Abe’s Oddysee by Just Add Water.
Third-party support continued to flood in from other, bigger developers. Square Enix revealed Final Fantasy Versus XIII in retitled form as Final Fantasy XV in a luscious and hyperactive real-time game demo alongside Kingdom Hearts 3. Ubisoft ran a real-time demo of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag notably absent from their own press conference – despite the game crashing, a weird reassurance in this time of pre-rendered demoes, it looked very pretty and ran like the Pirates of the Caribbean game we always wanted but never got.
Alongside Watch_Dogs, which was also demonstrated in extended form, Black Flag will receive PS4 exclusive content in the form of extra skins and possible extended content. Ubisoft also revealed Tom Clancy’s The Division, an open-world action RPG set in a pandemic-flayed New York City.
2K Games appeared to show off their uncanny rendering of basketball star LeBron James in NBA 2K14 while Bethesda made a surprising commitment to the next generation of PlayStation in the form of The Elder Scrolls Online. Surprising, considering the current generation all-but-broke their line-up. Avalanche (Just Cause) revealed that they are developing a game based on post-apocalyptic movie franchise Mad Max: frankly, it’s beyond overdue. These are among the 100 games that Sony plans to have available from all developers in the PS4’s first year.
With games out of the way, Sony chose to address the elephant in the room that Microsoft had ignored. Games are not locked to any system and can be traded and sold freely by the user. No internet connection is needed to play the console and there is no need – pointedly said by Tretton – to check in with the servers every 24 hours. PSN is also receiving the previously mentioned ability to play a game while it downloads, cross-game party chat and a tie-in with your existing social networks so you feel better connected to your list of gaming friends.
Choosing to bury bad news in a tidal wave of good times, PlayStation Plus was revealed as being transferable to PS4 without paying any brand new fees. The tradition of free games would continue – the first game being DriveClub – and cloud saves and automatic updating were along for the ride too. Carefully slipped in at the last second was the news that a PS+ subscription would be required for online play. This is to presumably accommodate the cost of extra servers needed for features such as PS3 game streaming coming in 2014. Tretton did stress, however, that services such as Netflix can be used without PS+.
To close the show out, Bungie demonstrated a real-time multiplayer demo of Destiny, which could feature PS4-exclusive content after its launch. There’s a little of Borderlands in there but the game stands on its own two feet with some intense team-based shooting and big, bad bosses to take down. Not willing to be upstaged by a third-party game though, Sony saved the biggest news for last: the PS4 will hit shelves at the end of the year for $399/€399/£349: a price much lower than the Xbox One’s but equally bewildering in its liberal attitude to real-world exchange rates. Closing the conference out, Tretton remarked that Sony champions “true consumer ownership…[and] consumer trust” – something that, he likely feels, Microsoft could do with trying.