Nope, no lame pun this time. Sorry guys. I thought of “Sony being a Brony”, but that one even pissed me off. Instead I think I chose an appropriate title considering Sony’s press conference. At 03:00 hours in the morning and around two hours to go, I did not expect Sony to come out so strong afterwards. They seemed to have felt the strange mood Microsoft left at gamers and were genius enough to use that to their advantage. Am I being vague? Everything will become clear in due time…
The Forgotten Handheld and Playstation Nation
Sony opened up with their poorly selling handheld Playstation Vita. Hoping to bring some more attention to this masterpiece (it is a great piece of hardware), they revealed a bunch of great games coming to Vita. Among them was Flower, a game from “Thatgamecompany”, also responsible for one of my favourites, Journey. The game has no text or dialogue, instead narrating a story through emotion and visuals. It’s hard to explain, but you play levels which are represented by flowers. If you select one, you go to the “dream” of that flower and control the wind that blows a single flower petal through the air. In doing so, you change the game world and create larger petal rows and.. Well, it’s hard to explain. It’s a game – much like Journey – which you need to feel. It’s absolutely enchanting, and it’s a good thing it’s being ported to Playstation Vita.
Another game jumping to Sony’s handheld is Dead Nation, a top-down shoot ‘em up game with a zombie apocalypse theme. Yup, not very original, but it can be pretty fun at times. More interesting was the fact that another zombie game called The Walking Dead was coming to PS Vita. This game is definitely one of the best titles among the huge amount of zombie games. It’s not a shooter, it’s more of an interactive story. Game play is minimal, but just enough to keep you busy. It’s slightly comparable to old skool point-and-click adventures from the PC. What makes this game so incredible is the choices you make, almost everything you do has an effect on the overall story, making it a wide story with multiple paths to go through. Choices are rough as well and sometimes make you a bit sick. Nevertheless, if you like stories with great narrative and ethical choices, The Walking Dead is your game. A new episode was announced as well: 400 Days. This enhancement of the existing Walking Dead game will be released for PS Vita, as well as existing platforms.
God of War 1 and 2 HD were also announced for PS Vita, bringing everyone’s favourite angry titan battling mythology to the Vita. After PS Vita, it was time for “Playstation Nation”, basically showing off all upcoming Playstation games. The trailer featured the highly praised The Last of Us (Which should be released by now), a game set once again in some sort of zombie apocalypse type setting. Like The Walking Dead, this one is actually a special one. You play as Joel, escorting a young girl named Ellie across the US. It is said to be highly emotional, featuring hard choices and realistic action, as well as realistic environments. The Last of Us is a Playstation 3 exclusive.
Another shown game was The Puppeteer, where you play a boy who has been turned into a puppet and had his head torn off. No, I did not make that up. Then there was Rain. It’s these type of games which I have a weak for. You play a nameless young boy, lost out in the rain, spotting the silhouette of a young girl. You follow her and turn invisible, just like her. Being invisible you spot other invisible creatures in the rain and you need to find your way among the world of the invisible. Sounds like pure poetry to me. Both The Puppeteer and Rain are Playstation 3 exclusives.
After that it was time for Beyond: Two Souls, a game from studio Quantic Dream, also responsible for the best blend of video games and movie ever: Heavy Rain. The trailer looked stunning. I can’t tell if I was watching a video game or a movie. It’s amazing what these guys can pull out of the processor from the PS3. See for yourself in the playlist down below. The game will be centred around questions what happens after death. Seeing all these games, it looks like Sony has some great deep exclusive titles. Considering they’re all PS3 titles, you might wonder what they’ve got in store for PS4. But we’ll get to that.
Of course Sony had a competitor for Microsoft’s Forza 5. They’re flagship racing game Gran Turismo 6 did not disappoint in terms of visuals. One fun fact: Gran Turismo 6 was announced this year to come out later this year, while Gran Turismo 5 was delayed an awful lot of times in the past. Did Sony pull out the whip for this one? Who knows. After all these exclusives they showed off Batman: Arkham Origins and GTA V. Apart from the great trailers, the only interesting fact here was that Sony announced an exclusive GTA V bundle – only for PS4 – with a sexy looking headset with a “V” on it. Well, as sexy as a massive headphone with a microphone on your head can look.
Exclusives time and Indie support
After the mash-up of trailers, it was time to get serious. Sony’s first new IP and exclusive title developed by Santa Monica Studio and ReadyatDawn was announced: The Order 1886. It seemed to be set in a steam punk setting with weird guns and stage coaches. Weird, but also interesting. The next exclusive made me kind of humble to be Dutch. It sounds a bit patriotic and silly, but it’s just something special when such a small little country only known for “smoking weed” shows off a trailer of a game which Sony sees as one of their most important exclusive franchises. I’m talking about Killzone: Shadow Fall, being developed by Guerrilla Game Studios in Amsterdam. But enough with the patriotism and awe, there were more games. Another exclusive shown was Infamous: Second Son, developed by Sucker Punch Productions. It seemed to show a new protagonist, with fiery powers instead of electric powers (It’s somewhat of a superhuman game), but Sucker Punch later revealed his power was to “copy powers from living conduits”. Sure, if you say so. The trailer looked amazing nonetheless.
After that a tech demo from Quantic Dream was revealed. It showcased the capabilities of the new PS4 hardware, creating stunning graphics and never seen before emotions by characters. The Dark Sorcerer featured an old man doing a dark ritual, later revealing him to be on a movie set doing a complicated take. Whether this demo will turn into an actual game remains to be seen, since a lot of people kind of felt it was a bit weird. If you consider Quantic Dream’s earlier work on Heavy Rain and current work on Beyond: Two Souls, it is refreshing to see them experiment with a more comedic tone. But how long can it last? Is it enough for a full game? We’ll see.
Two other exclusives shown back to back were DriveClub, an upcoming racing game and Knack, a platform video game. To little was shown for me to elaborate on them, but there is footage in the link down below. More interesting for me was yet another exclusive: Transistor. Well, it’s not entirely exclusive. It seems it will also release for Microsoft Windows, but I did not seem to find info about a Xbox One release, which is weird. Whatever the case, the game seems to be harnessing an awesome art direction in an interesting science fiction setting.
After all these amazing exclusives, Sony showed their heart (or tried to win over gamers hearts) by revealing their massive support for the Indie gaming industry. A lot of titles were revealed for PS4, which can be seen below in the picture. The games seemed diverse and fun and emphasised Sony’s expression of Playstation being there “for the gamers”. This little rhetorical trick will become even more evident later on.
Awesome gameplay, awesome games and a massive uppercut
After the rain of great exclusive titles, it was the turn of cross-platform titles. This included Final Fantasy XV (formerly known as FF Versus XIII), Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Since the Final Fantasy games confuse the hell out of me, I’ll just keep it at Kingdom Hearts III. Kingdom Hearts has always been a special series, combining the Square Enix universe with Disney’s universe. Resulting in Japanese looking characters alongside Donald Duck and Goofy, this game has been unique since it began and has had many fans. A third instalment had to be announced. One little detail Sony definitely didn’t like: the Final Fantasy games and Kingdom Hearts III are NOT Sony exclusives anymore. After years of exclusivity they will also be available for Xbox One now.
After Square Enix, two extended gameplay videos were shown for games already showcased at Ubisoft, so I’ll kindly refer you once again to the playlist down below. These titles were Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag & Watch Dogs and the game play looked amazing. AC IV showed that free running through tropic environments was no problem at all, while Watch Dogs revealed possible co-op aspects of the game.
Another awesome game shown was NBA 2K14, which showed a conversation between the real Lebron James and a video game version of him. Once again Sony showed that next-gen was indeed coming, since he looked almost creepy photorealistic.
Anyone ever seen the Mad Max movies? Well, guess what: a video game about this dystopian universe is coming out! It seemed to be a game focused on vehicular and open world action, but it’s all speculation for now: the trailer was too teasing to actually conclude from. I actually thought Fallout 4 was going to be announced, but Mad Max is also very cool. Another cool announcement was the fact that The Elder Scrolls Online will be exclusive in beta in Spring on Sony’s console. It’s not the biggest exclusive deal, considering the final game still will come to Xbox One, but it’s something.
After all these games Sony went for the assault and practically destroyed Microsoft for doubters. Not being ambiguous in whatever sense they announced the following things:
– Playstation 4 will charge no fee for second-hand games.
– Playstation 4 requires no online check-in every 24 hours.
– Playstation 4 does not have to be online in order to play single player games.
Ouch, Microsoft. Right on every soft spot. Whether this was all fancy rhetoric (Sony said some other things in an interview and e-mails with Kotaku), we will see. For now, they’ve definitely won the sentiment of the majority of gamers and that can mean a lot. Sony became the “Robin Hood” of gamers. One thing is certain though: Sony and its publishing partners will not restrict second-hand gaming. Whether third-party publishers will do so remains to be seen.
Bungie’s Destiny and conclusions
After the punches Sony dealt it was time to wrap up. They did so with a game I’m highly excited for: Destiny. Made by Halo’s original developer Bungie, this science fiction MMO showed amazing scenery and a Borderlands meets Halo atmosphere. I wanted to play myself when I saw it. After Destiny, Sony came with a final blow to Microsoft: their console will ship at 100 dollars/Euros less than the Xbox One! Set at $399/€399, Sony has a significant advantage towards Microsoft in two ways now: sentiment and price. As much as it pains me to say, I think Sony has the upper hand here right now. They even have me doubting to jump platforms next generation. With games like Destiny, Mirror’s Edge 2 and Watch Dogs also releasing for PS4, it’s only the exclusives what could help Microsoft. Or is it?
Since Microsoft has good exclusives, I thought it would be easy for me to stay with Xbox. But the whole “stay online” and “charging used games” does itch. Even if it is necessary for developers to be able to live of their games, it would have been nice of Microsoft if they were more straightforward and clear about the why of everything. But since that’s lacking, Sony is picking away doubters left and right, which is a massive mistake on Microsoft’s part. And people who are already convinced Sony is utterly sincere and Microsoft is just doing it for the money: think again. Video gaming is starting to move towards digital distribution and when it does, second-hand gaming will disappear. It’s just the fact that distribution is still physical right now, that consumers feel games are a “product”. Once you buy a product, most people have the idea they can sell it again, second-hand.
This will all change when everything goes digital and games become a “service”, rather than a “product”. As seen with Valve’s Steam SERVICE, things are entirely different. Personally I believe Microsoft was just too fast and Sony used this to their advantage. For now, it’s 1 – 0 for Sony. But wait? What about Nintendo? Well… We’ll talk about that next post!
A nice little playlist with shown footage at Sony’s “up yours MS” conference: