E3 2013 Preview: Sony
Sony is the last of the console makers in our daily series of E3 previews, who will take the stage on Monday June, 10 at 6 PM PT/9 PM ET.
This is the first E3 I can remember in a long time where Sony has a new console coming out and the vibe surrounding them isn't very chaotic. Due to holding their PlayStation 4 unveiling in February, they've been able to stay cool, calm, and collected since then and let Microsoft take the heat, which has only risen since the Xbox One reveal a few weeks ago. Of course, their relative silence means that now they have to show the console itself, give us more details about how the experience is improved over PS3, and what games their studios are working on. To add more work to their plate, they still have two more consoles to talk about in the Vita and PS3 since both platforms still have a lot of life in them.
While we know what's in the system, the biggest hardware question about the PlayStation 4 is what the outside looks like. It's really the least important aspect of the entire system, but it gives everyone a real thing to look at and imagine themselves using when it launches. We know about the DualShock 4 and the new PlayStation Eye camera, though it would be nice to see how developers use the DS4's touchpad and what the Eye can do compared to Kinect. Between the two next-generation consoles, I can see Sony taking the first shot to announce a price and/or release date at E3. They have the last show of the day, so they can make sure that they beat the Xbox One if Microsoft doesn't give us a date or price.
Like Microsoft, we've seen glimpses of the OS at the PS4 reveal in February along with plenty of details about their core philosophies about the user experience, but this seems like a good time to give us more complete details on what to expect when we get our PS4s at home. We will likely see partnerships for the streaming support and video sharing features, which will probably include the likes of Ustream, Twitch, YouTube, and some more local ways to share those things amongst PSN friends. We also need to see some details on what Sony's doing with PSN and PlayStation Plus, as rumors have suggested that Sony will start charging for online multiplayer to take a page out of Microsoft's book despite the success of PlayStation Plus showing that alternate subscription services can work with the right ideas.
The games are really the biggest question mark due to the lack of knowledge about what Sony's stable of developers are working on. We know Sucker Punch and Guerrilla Games are working on sequels to their established IP, but will Naughty Dog show a new Uncharted or are they going to follow up The Last of Us with another new game? We can more easily count on Sony taking plenty of chances with their initial lineup of games than we can for Microsoft, so this will easily be the most exciting part of the PS4's presentation at E3. Sony's already shown that they're willing to put up some money for exclusives with Bungie's Destiny providing exclusive content to PS3 and PS4 owners, but will we see them step it up with exclusive games like the rumors have been saying about Microsoft's Xbox One lineup?
The next system that Sony has to cover is the Vita, which is still struggling in all territories, but Sony has steadily kept it going with an increased focus on courting indie developers to the system and promoting more consumer-friendly features like PlayStation Plus and Cross Buy support to hardcore owners. The west has been waiting for the prices to drop on the system and this seems like the most optimal time to do it. Memory card prices also need to drop like a rock, though I'd prefer them to add bigger cards (64 GB and 128 GB) at the top two tiers and bump the rest down. The increased focus on digital games for Vita means that we need bigger cards to make sure that we can keep everything on one card with the way that sales and PlayStation Plus has made sure even 32 GB isn't enough. I don't see any sort of redesign being announced since what's out there isn't selling enough as it is.
The Vita's OS has gotten quite a bit of support to add some necessary new features and fix the issues that arose, but they still have work to do on that front. The incoming mandatory Remote Play support for all PS4 games that reasonably allow it will be a huge feature for the Vita. Continued support for cross-platform features that were first introduced for PS3 onto the PS4 will further enhance the need to stay within the ecosystem. If PSN on the PS4 is going to have more of a social network vibe to it, then the Vita will need to embrace that more than it currently does.
Games are easily the Vita's weakness right now. There are a ton of them in the works from indies and small publishers, but the big boys are mostly ignoring it. Sony has Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway coming later this year, but that's about it from them. They have to have more games coming from their portable studios to help prop up the system with big releases. How much third-party support will we see? We know that Ubisoft has Rayman Legends and Square Enix has the Final Fantasy X/X-2 Collection, but it will be very worrying if the extent of third-party support only comes from the little guys.
The PS3 enters its ninth E3 with a great few months coming up with The Last of Us out at the end of E3 and upcoming Sony titles like Beyond: Two Souls, Gran Turismo 6, and Puppeteer hitting this fall to make this a much stronger fall than it has in 2012. Sony's going to keep the train going through the launch of the PS4 and well beyond that, so now it's a matter of positioning the system to keep selling with a much-improved successor looming over it. The PS3 is currently the most expensive current-gen console on the market and the sales have said that it's not enough, so this seems like as good of a time as any to drop the system to around $200 and drive more sales to get it out to more of the people that may want to grab a cheaper, more mature system this summer and fall. There probably won't be much else for Sony to do on the hardware front for the PS3.
While PSN is kind of set in stone at this point, there are some things that Sony can do to improve some aspects of the system. The PlayStation Store has had the option to pre-load pre-orders in some territories, but not in North America, so that would be a nice bonus to announce. PlayStation Plus will be getting a big new announcement this year to reveal the three big Sony PS3 games that will be available for subscribers for the next year. There will still be a lot of PSN games to come for PS3 with the way that Sony has courted developers to make multiplatform games amongst their three platforms, which is a way to help ease some of the concerns about the lack of BC with the PS4.
At this point in time, you're not going to see much more from Sony on the games front in terms of big games. I'm sure that there will still be games from Sony, but you'll see Quantic Dream, Polyphony Digital, Naughty Dog, and Sony Japan move on to PS4 development after their games are done. I'll be surprised if there are still big exclusives from Sony shown at E3, though maybe they will have gone crazy and let what's left of Team Ico actually finish The Last Guardian on the PS3? Stranger things have happened. Third-party support at this point will be all about multiplatform games that also appear on the Xbox 360 with smaller Japanese publishers still releasing exclusives due to the Xbox 360's death in Japan, though I'd expect a few highlight games like Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain to get major screen time.
Sony has the luxury of being able to take on their press conference without any major negative issues or controversies to address, which gives them the opportunity to send us to bed happy if they have the right cards in their hand. They can more easily adjust and react to what Microsoft does with their late press conference, which will probably be a big part of the messaging about the PS4 during the press conference. The Vita definitely needs some big announcements to revitalize the system's future in terms of big releases, which includes more attractive pricing on the system and memory cards to bring more people in and give the big publishers a reason to develop for it. The PS3 can pretty much stay the course at this point, though a good price cut would be nice to keep Sony's traditional ten-year strategy on track.
We will be liveblogging the announcements Sony's press conference on Monday, June 10 at 6 PM PT/9:00 PM ET directly from our Twitter account, so feel free to follow us in ahead of game to get ready for all of E3. There are press conferences all day long, so be sure to stick around all day as we keep you up-to-date on the latest announcements at each show.
To cap off this E3 Preview, I’ve asked my fellow staffers for their thoughts on what to expect from Sony’s showing at E3:
"Sony must be dumbfounded on how well this is playing out for them. Wii U: meh? Check. Xbox One: bungling announcements and burning bridges? Check. Sony won't need to be perfect, but they need to back up their "gaming machine" statements. Show us what it looks like, what it will do, in terms of online capabilities, and what awesome games should be coming out. I don't want to call this a cake walk, but it's hard not to walk in a straight line when you're sober."
"Depending on how the DRM thing goes, I just don't see any possibility of Sony screwing anything up on Monday night. The PS4 is probably the most awaited next generation console amongst hardcore gamers, and the social features of the console really look to be a step forward. All we need now is solid information… like what the console looks like and how much it'll be."
"Sony has a bit of anadvantage by virtue that they'll be presenting last. They can see what the others have done and adjust accordingly. I don't think they really need to do all that much though. Focus on games, developers, and finally show us what the system we'll be buying looks like."
Jonard La Rosa:
"Sony's new controller design looks great to me. Along with launch titles, I hope they prove that their new implementations are more than just gimmicks and actually have practical uses with games from now until the next console. As far as games, I'm not too worried about gorgeous and groundbreaking games coming from the new generation; it's inevitable."
"I don't think Sony could possibly stack the deck any deeper for themselves if they tried. With Microsoft having made a gruesome example of itself over such subjects as internet connectivity and DRM, and Sony already having established perhaps the most pro-gamer management in its history, Sony just has to hit us with a barrage of games whilst avoiding making any of Microsoft's mistakes in the process. However, simply avoiding questions won't do; Sony MUST flatly renounce any practices that would tie them to Microsoft's philosophy, or otherwise call the PS4's post-retail-lifespan playability into doubt. The gamers are paying attention."