Hand it to Sony for knowing its audience.
Although the Playstation 3 has become a multimedia powerhouse — Sony dropped the nugget that its console accounts for 30 percent of all Netflix streaming — Sony’s E3 press conference was almost entirely about games. The requisite parade of exclusives came first, followed by launch details for Sony’s next-generation portable, now known as the Playstation Vita.
The Vita is a handheld gaming device with a 5-inch touch screen, a rear touch-pad, dual thumbsticks and a quad-core processor, but we knew that already. On Monday, Sony announced that the Vita will launch this holiday season and will cost $250 for a Wi-Fi model and $300 for a model with AT&T 3G.
Yes, 3G. I’m still skeptical that people want a data plan for a gaming device, but perhaps we’ll see some innovative pricing instead of a flat monthly rate. Those details weren’t announced. Sony says that more than 80 games are in development for the PSVita, but only showed a handful at its press conference. The highlight was Uncharted: Golden Abyss, an adventure shooter that stays faithful to its PS3 counterparts while adding some touch screen and gesture controls. I was also interested in Ruin, an action RPG that will let players continue their progress on a companion PS3 version. I plan to get some hands on time with the PSVita later this week.
Except for the new handheld, Sony’s E3 press conference was more of the same, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While Microsoft’s E3 press event was filled with lofty statements on the future of home entertainment, Sony’s press conference was more like a celebration of video games. We saw demonstrations of Uncharted: Drake’s Deception and NBA 2K12, with Kobe Bryant on stage to show off the basketball game’s optional Playstation Move motion controls. We donned 3D glasses for Resistance 3. And to boast the Playstation 3’s Blu-ray player, Sony announced that the upcoming Bioshock Infinite will include the original Bioshock on the same disc. Same goes for EA’s Battlefield 3, which will include Battlefield 1943 on a single Blu-ray disc.
There was one hardware surprise at Sony’s E3 press conference: This fall, the company will sell a Playstation-branded 24-inch 3DTV, bundled with a pair of glasses, an HDMI cable and Resistance 3 for $500. The goal is hook college kids on 3D as they equip their dorm rooms with televisions. These TVs will also allow for cooperative gaming without splitting the screen, realizing a patent that surfaced last year.
Oh, and Sony didn’t ignore the security breach that brought down the Playstation Network for nearly a month in April and May, but didn’t dwell on it either. Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, apologized to gamers, opined on the importance of third-party publishers and retailers, and gave a snarky “you’re welcome” to the press for providing them (er, us) with weeks of controversy.
And with that, it was on to the games.