Category Archives: Sony

Let’s Talk About That PlayStation Experience

PlayStation Experience

Over the weekend, the industry saw two maiden voyages: Geoff Keighley’s independent The Game Awards and Sony’s for-fans PlayStation Experience. We can get around to the former later, but right now let’s talk about the latter. Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation and announced back in October, this event was a two-day celebration in Las Vegas for the brand and the PlayStation 4’s current and upcoming lineup.

It is the closest to a winter E3 we’ll get, or really any industry event. It’s a little PAX in its timing (i.e. not during the summer) and in its structure (e.g. fully open to fans and organized around panels), but make no mistake that it’s skewing closer to an E3 or Gamescom than the fan convention. Most of the games available for play on the floor were largely just announced and not available for retail.

This strikes me as a prototypical move. Testing the waters, if you will. For the past several years, the utility of E3 has started to fade. It’s fun traveling and attending parties and certainly hanging out with basically everyone else in the industry all at once is pretty cool (and overwhelming), the actual benefits of the show are becoming dubious.

None of it aside from shaking the hands of PR people you’d only ever exchanged emails with and squeezing in unscheduled interviews with industry luminaries could not also be accomplished through Skype calls and Dropboxes of demo builds. Otherwise, it almost certainly is a bust for everyone. That’s a full week of being tired, getting sick, and getting great coverage getting swallowed up by a deluge of other great coverage. It’s numbing for developers, journalists, brand reps, and readers.

Similarly for the past few years, though, Nintendo has taken a slightly different tack. They don’t participate in the traditional keynote madness anymore, instead opting for a couple Nintendo Directs during the week topped off by a press roundtable. And instead of making the games exclusive to the industry folk angrily meandering the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center, they let fans take part all around the country. Not only that, but those Nintendo Directs? They can happen whenever Nintendo wants, and they happen all during the year, albeit when convenient for Japan.

And guess what: Nintendo won developer of the year at The Game Awards. And do you know how many of the games that won their categories were Nintendo games? One: Mario Kart 8. (Granted it won in two different categories.) Then, when you consider the ratio of nominees as well, Nintendo falls far behind. Their win is…strange.

Mario Kart 8

But that’s if you don’t consider what they do. No, not release games. It’s about what they do differently, and it seems that Sony caught on, hence the PlayStation Experience. They’re testing the waters with this inaugural event. It’s just convenient that it managed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the original PlayStation. Aside from a few obligatory mentions and the LittleBigPlanet 3 video, the anniversary might as well have not even been a factor.

Instead, we had a keynote packed with announcements—a few of them were genuine surprises, too—and premiere trailers. It felt an awful lot like the efforts and energy you’d usually feel at Day 0 of E3. And the floor definitely carried the teeming joy you’d find in the weeklong LA showcase. Certainly the timing of the event was a huge factor as well. With the holidays right in people’s faces and Amazon shipping deadlines looming, what better than to remind people that PlayStation has great games out right now.

Microsoft’s response was, more or less, Phil Spencer’s Twitter. He absolutely handled it with tact, but it’s very much an impossible world where Redmond execs didn’t see the response to the event (which coincided with the similarly major fan-based The Game Awards) and didn’t feel a pang of panic. Especially when prompted with a question about the X0 shows, it’s hard not to wonder why Microsoft wasn’t already riding this wave.

Xbox X0 Event

The answer, of course, is the fans. They carried Nintendo to the Developer of the Year award and they—straight from the floor in Las Vegas—made Sony the talk of weekend and certainly will make Sony the talk of the pre-holiday sale rush. You take the mix of fans finally taking in hand the journalist privilege of playing unreleased games and interacting with press coverage and YouTubers posting reaction videos and you get a storm of organic hype.

Microsoft has gotten off to a slower start this generation than Sony and now it’s falling behind in its media handling as well. Much like the overt use for E3 has shifted (though the secret E3 still goes strong), Sony and Nintendo have recognized not only the growing influence of fans in fresh coverage but also that they way they consume and interact with news is evolving. While Spencer is not wrong about having an important E3 and Gamescom, he fails to recognize that it’s not just about trade shows.

Nintendo has its Nintendo Directs. They sponsor SXSW Gaming. They showcased their games Best Buy locations all over the country. And Sony came storming out of the gates with the PlayStation Experience, riding the wave of their strong start of the PlayStation 4 to an equally strong holiday buzz. And where’s Microsoft? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask the fans.

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Highlights from Sony at E3 2014

Highlights from Sony at E3 2014

Well, as good as Microsoft was on Monday morning, the general consensus seems to be that Sony somehow surpassed the Redmond efforts. Honestly, I’m inclined to agree. Not only did we get a far more varied selection of game demos thrown at us with Sony, there were more significant surprises, which is really what a press briefing should be for.

Granted, journalists really shouldn’t be cheering or hollering (as someone much better at this job once told me, you only clap for people and not for spectacle), but some of the announcements Sony pulled out of their seemingly rabbit-filled hat really made me want to fist pump. I guess, however, it only serves to highlight how even press has been reallocated to something on par with seat fillers at the Academy Awards.

But let’s put such depressing ruminations behind us (and likely save them for another time). Let’s relive Sony’s numerous tweet-worthy shenanigans like they didn’t just happen on Monday!

Entwined

My immediate reaction to this was similar to everyone else’s: this is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons + Tempest. But once I played it, I realized you definitely need to throw a little Panzer Dragoon and Child of Eden in there, too. Its one-line summation is heartbreaking (“it’s about two souls that are in love but can’t be together”) and it plays just beautifully. And it’s out now for $9.99! A review will come sometime when it’s, you know, not god damn E3 week.

The Order: 1886

The Victorian Era aesthetic is one of my favorites. And I’m not crazy about the button prompt situation going on in the video, but the lurking in the darkness and the pacing and pretty much the other 99% of what was shown on stage seems pretty great. Besides, it’s about time those Ready at Dawn guys get a shot at their own IP. Look for it on February 20, 2015.

Infamous: First Light

You know what? I liked Infamous: Second Son. And more than that, I thought Fetch was a pretty cool character with an interesting backstory, so I’m pretty excited at the prospect of learning more about her within a framework that I already know I enjoy. The only problem is that instead of multiple powers, now we’ll just get the neon set, but come on, that was everyone’s favorite anyways. Releases August of this year.

LittleBigPlanet 3

While substantial that LittleBigPlanet 3 is indeed being made, it’s hard to not notice that 1) it’s being made by Sumo Digital and not Media Molecule (and their attention is being split a high profile exclusive for Xbox with Forza Horizon 2), and 2) it seems to feature basically every fundamental problem that has not been addressed in LBP 1 or LBP 2. However, it does look as charming and fun with friends as ever. I loved that the demo seemed so natural. Expect it this November.

Bloodborne

This is where the hype led. Project Beast is now Bloodborne, though I honestly like the name Project Beast a lot more. But this game, led by Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki, looks to be everything we’ve been hoping for: creepy, gross, and wholly compelling. It also kicked off the day’s trend of trailers with double title cards. Double! Set for release sometime next year.

Dead Island 2

The complete polar opposite of the original Dead Island announcement trailer. That’s what this is. It’s unfortunate that trailer even exists because this is quite fun and the E3 demo is quite solid as well. But my god that trailer hard to live up to. Also, it’s not being developed by Techland (they’re busy with Hellraid and Dying Light) but Yager Development. Expected early 2015.

Grim Fandango

This was basically the surprise of the briefing. This is what these sorts of things were made for. Journalists get big news pieces and questions to ask and interviews to set up while fans get to drool and hoot and holler while executives roll around in their money pits. Also, Tim Schafer confirmed via Twitter that this remastered version will eventually make its way to other platforms. I’m also going to go ahead and guess John Vignocchi had something to do with this.

Abzû

Much like the Mesopotamian breakdown of the title itself, Abzû is a beautiful game. I do mean on a purely visual level since I’ve yet to play it, but it surely seems like this game was made just for people like me. It looks a bit like Journey (not unexpected considering Giant Squid was founded by Journey art director Matt Nava and the project itself includes composer Austin Wintory and thatgamecompany’s lead designer Nicholas Clark) while certainly something all its own. It will launch in 2016.

Magicka 2

I love how stupidly and impressively absurd every Magicka trailer has managed to be despite, you know, reality. I mean, I also like Magicka and how surprisingly deep the co-op elements were, but the trailers are just so fun and ridiculous. I guess that also applies to the game as well.

No Man’s Sky

I can tell you firsthand that even hours after the event, this trailer and this game is all people were talking about. It’s still something I want to talk about. It looks like the game has grown even more impressive and that’s considering that the studio Hello Games flooded around Christmastime and had to redo quite a bit of work. And this quote: “We’re dealing with planet-sized planets. Even if a million of us played on one planet, we’d still be really far apart.” Yes please.

Let It Die

Yep, definitely looks like a Suda game. And apparently it’s being shown somewhere at E3, but you have to either know the right people or be lucky to see it. I have one more day to find out if I’m one or both of those things. I’m not even entirely sure what Let It Die is about, but I’d really like to find out.

PlayStation Now, Free-to-Play, and TV

The free-to-play thing was weird. It was more like they were trying to get away with saying “these games are free!” and then whispering “…to play.” It was definitely not well received. PlayStation Now and PlayStation TV, however, were pretty well on point. Now is Gaikai rebranded but still totally a gaming streaming service and TV is a little $99 microconsole that pairs with a controller to play games and watch things. PlayStation TV come this fall, as will PlayStation Now, though the latter will go into beta on July 31.

Ratchet & Clank Movie

It was only a matter of time. It and a “reimagined” game will be hitting PSN in 2015.

Remastered The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V

I promise you I will play both The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V in their entirety over again just because. I did it for Tomb Raider and I will do it again because I think all of them are fantastic games. The Last of Us will come out July 29 and Grand Theft Auto V sometime this fall.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

If the title wasn’t telling enough, Nolan North, voice actor behind Nathan Drake, also believes this will be the last Uncharted game that Naughty Dog will make. It makes sense and I sincerely hope so. No matter how good Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End ends up being (or bad, who knows), I don’t think anyone wants to see this storied franchise end up becoming a commoditized burden, especially without Justin Richmond and Amy Hennig behind the wheel. Look for it in 2015.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

While not as classic as last year’s E3 trailer, this is classic inscrutable Kojima. I can’t wait to look at my TV with a dumbfounded layer of confusion plastered across my face.

Batman: Arkham Knight

One word: Batmobile. Glad to see Rocksteady Studios back at it. Comes out in 2015.

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Sony Gamescom Recap

Sony Gamescom Recap

Yesterday was pretty interesting. It was basically press conference day, or Day Zero, of Gamescom over in Cologne, Germany, similar to the day before the madness starts in Los Angeles for E3. The difference, however, is that there are far fewer than E3. Yesterday saw EA and Sony take the stage (Microsoft just went for a smaller showcase event) and both highlighted what they have currently going on and what they have to look forward to.

EA was, well, EA. There were no big announcements, though there sure were big trailers, the biggest of which were for Titanfall and Battlefield 4. They also showed off The Sims 4 (with an extremely…odd example of human psychology and emotion), FIFA 14, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Need for Speed: Rivals, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Command & Conquer. Titanfall, if you weren’t aware, looks great and, based on what I’ve gotten my hands on, plays great, and Battlefield 4 looks pretty and, well, that’s about it. Not much to say there besides Levolution. (God damn nonsense marketing.)

But then Sony went up and opened with what can only be called an interactive theater art piece. Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, sat motionless in a giant armchair facing away from the audience. Then he just began to mess around with the PlayStation 4, signing in and streaming Killzone: Shadow Fall before seamlessly jumping into the action himself (and then tweeting a screenshot). It was nearly five whole minutes before a single word was uttered.

Things went less stranger from there, though the camera man was regrettably chaotic. So here are the highlights!

Sony’s Indie Acquisitions

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

After announcing that Borderlands 2 would be making its way to the Vita, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Jim Ryan revealed that Fez, Starbound, and Velocity 2X would all be headed to the Sony portable as well.

We’ve known for a while that Phil Fish was in talks with Sony to get Fez onto the PlayStation Network, but combined, the three acquisitions (with Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games and Wasteland Kings from Vlambeer and and and, talked about later in the event) represent that Sony isn’t just interested in bringing developers into the fold but also getting interesting games along with them. Starbound and Velocity 2X have existed for quite some time before yesterday, and Sony saying that they managed to convince the developers to partner up and port those games over show a commitment to their new philosophy.

Vita Price Drops

PlayStation Vita at Gamescom 2013

As of yesterday during the press conference, all Vita models are $199, down from $249 for the Wi-Fi and $299 for the 3G models. This coincides with a price drop in memory cards, the 4 GB going from $19.99 to $14.99 and the 32 GB going from $99 to $79. Both of these are pretty big news seeing as how price is probably the biggest hurdle for consumers to clear now that Sony has put on display their commitment to making the handheld work. They’ve got new games, they’re porting over popular games, and they’ve got new, lower prices. This could be a big move from the company.

Gran Turismo Date and Movie

While the Gran Turismo has long since stopped getting me all revved up, I do realize that each release into the franchise is a fairly big deal. As such, we can all look forward to Gran Turismo 6 on December 6, 2013, though a new trailer should hold us over until then.

We also got confirmation on those weird movie rumors floating around a few weeks ago: The Social Network and Fifty Shades of Grey film producers Michael de Luca and Dana Brunetti are indeed working on the big screen adaptation of Gran Turismo. Because that makes sense.

More Potshots at Microsoft

Andrew House at Gamescom 2013

Overall, you could say Sony is confident. They’ve got some great exclusives lined up, they’re getting great feedback, and they’re console ostensibly works. I would say they’ve earned some of that swagger. But they also continue to take potshots at Microsoft. Remember when they made that video demonstrating how sharing games works on the PlayStation 4? Well, now they’re eschewing the production values and just going for body blows. Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, had this to say as he announced the launch date of their upcoming console:

“While others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent in maintaining policies and a model that is fair and in tune with consumer desires.” (They also tweeted something to the same effect.)

It’s an obvious and pointed jab at the fact that Microsoft did a 180 on pretty much everything people were complaining about. It started out fun and cute, but now it’s becoming, I don’t know, aggressive? Instead of pointing out what they’re doing right, it feels an awful lot like Sony is pointing out now what Microsoft is doing or has done wrong. At what point does it become too much?

Indie Announcements

So we already know Sony is bringing over a few existing, high-profile indie games over to their platforms, but they’ve also got new ones coming, too. The big one that really grabbed people was this horrifically strange and dark game called Murasaki Baby, a side-scrolling touch-control platformer for the Vita from Ovosonico. You play as this girl with an upside-down(?) head and must traverse a terrifying landscape by seemingly breaking through the fourth wall to aid her.

Tequila Works is also developing Rime, a beautiful action adventure game that looks like a cross between Ico and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. You may recognize the studio as the one behind Deadlight, the 2D survival horror game from late last year. It was a promising game full of neat ideas but ultimately failed to execute many of them. Hopefully they can get both halves working together this time because boy is my interest piqued.

The Chinese Room, the developers behind the fantastic and hard-to-explain Dear Esther, is working on Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture for the PlayStation 4. They’ve already got Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs in the works, so it’s obvious they’ve got a thing for atmospheric titles, and this looks extremely that. It’s a first-person adventure game made in CryEngine 3 and, well, that’s all we know.

There’s also a band festival simulator thing called BigFest where you’ll promote events and bands and I don’t know but it looks interesting, thought admittedly we’ve known something named BigFest has existed since January. Helldivers and Resogun, a top-down and a side-scrolling shooter respectively, also look pretty neat.

Launch Date (and Other Things)

PlayStation 4 with controller

Perhaps the biggest piece of news from yesterday is that the PlayStation 4 will officially be launching in North America on November 15th and in Europe and Latin America on November 29th. Pre-orders are already over one million, so jump in now if you so desire. Or don’t, whatever. I’m not your accountant.

In regards to services, Sony has officially partnered with Twitch for streaming and you can now listen to music while you play games via Sony’s Music Unlimited service. Plus there’s this new broadband access plan that sounds pretty gross since it includes tiered access priority, but who knows. It might prove fruitful for those struggling to get consistent Internet access.

Oh, and we also got a new trailer for both Infamous: Second Son and Watch Dogs (with a movie incoming) and a new gameplay demo of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

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