Marketing taglines usually serve as little more than memory triggers, but there’s actually some truth to Sony’s claim that the Playstation “only does everything.” Today’s press conference showed a company desperate to make its console the jack of all trades, adding 3D gaming and motion controls to the Playstation 3.
I think it’s a mixed result, but that’s because I’m skeptical of the glasses-wielding, nausea-inducing 3D experience we’ve seen so far. It was impressive to see Killzone 3 running in 3D, but I found it hard to concentrate on the actual action with everything looking like paper cut-outs that pop from the screen. And of course the jump to 3D on the PS3 is an expensive proposition, requiring a special television and glasses. Still, I won’t write off 3D console gaming until I’ve had a chance to sit in front of a proper TV with proper glasses, rather than the cheap ones Sony handed out before the event.
It’s clear that Sony’s not being particularly innovative with the Playstation Move motion controller — it’s essentially a more sophisticated Wii Remote that tracks motion with the Playstation Eye camera — but the company has a clear goal of building complete games and integrating support into games that also use a standard controller. Most impressive was a game called Sorcery, which has players performing Harry Potter-style flicks of a magic wand to dispatch bad guys with an arsenal of tricks. We also saw Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, which will get a software update to enable the Move this fall, and Sony promised compatibility in other existing games, including Heavy Rain and Resident Evil 5 Gold.
Unlike Microsoft, which appears to be roping off Kinect from its controller-based games, Sony plans to push Move with a combination of optional and mandatory motion control. The only problem is price: $100 for a bundle with the main controller ($50 alone), the eye camera and pack-in Sports Champions, plus $30 for a secondary controller similar to the Wii’s nunchuk. That’s a $130 investment for just one player (see what I mean about Kinect’s flat pricing?)
The other big news was Playstation Plus, a premium online service that will debut later this month. The Playstation Network’s existing free online play won’t change, but for $50 per year, gamers can get discounts on PSN games, free content, early demos and other exclusives. It’s not the combination of content I was hoping for, but it could be valuable for people who already spend alot of money on PSN.
Sony’s event was a long one, covering 3D and the Playstation Move in depth before moving on to the usual chest-beating about exclusive games and downloadable content. But it was the most entertaining of the three console makers’ press conferences, with an appearance by wisecracking ad mascot Kevin Butler (played by actor Jerry Lambert). He jabbed at Microsoft’s elaborate Kinect event (“So am I crazy, or did I just see 100 French acrobats prancing around an arena the other night?”) and delivered a hilarious speech that you should just watch. The games industry may be having a rough couple of months, but at least Sony wasn’t all serious.