Microsoft's E3 conference relied on entertainment applications and long-standing franchises to market its console. With Nintendo set to show off its new hardware Tuesday morning, Sony struck the middle ground in their conference Monday night. CEO Jack Tretton set a concilitory and sometime self-deprecating tone during the conference, perhaps still stung from the pushback of last year's event and the PlayStation Network outage that preceded it.
Still, Tretton put on his best game face and brought attendees through the next steps for his gaming brand. Sony bookended the conference with new game content, highlighted by Beyond Two Souls, a new Quantic Dream game from David Cage. Starrting Ellen Page as Jodi Holmes, the game will seek to investigate the real concept of death in video games -- something that is usually treated as little more than a nuisance.
NaughtyDog offered a new trailer for their latest project The Last of Us, showing an Uncharted-like combat system in a much darker and violent setting. Middle-aged antihero Joel and young tweener Elle roam through an abandoned hotel before forcing to engage enemies with ample resources. The trailer ends with Joel blowing an enemy's head off point-blank -- further evidence that this is not Nathan Drake's world.
Sony littered the middle of the conference with other franchise staples. God of War: Ascension, a prequel to the original series, provided the same chainblade-wielding carnage that we know and love, albeit with a slightly less menacing protagonist. Sony also played a trailer of seafare battles in Assassin's Creed III, which takes place during the American Revolution. Commanding a boat and waging war with cannons represents a unique change to the Assassin's Creed formula, which started to get stale through recent expansions.
Fans of console mascot fighting games (yeah, Super Smash Bros -- what else is there?) may rejoice at Sony's entry into the genre: Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. The company showed off a short gameplay trailer, which looks to borrow liberally from the Smash Bros. formula. Fat Princess, Sly Cooper, Twisted Metal's Sweet Tooth, God of War's Kratos, Uncharted's Nathan Drake and Bioshock's Big Daddy were among the game's listed characters.
However, Sony stumbled with two key components in the conference: Playstation Move and the Playstation Vita. The former was tied into a JK Rowling-helmed wizarding game called Wonderbook: Book of Spells. Rowling will contribute new content to the game, which has users waving the Playstation Move wand to cast spells. The demonstration for Wonderbook failed to impress attendees, who may have exhausted interest in motion control game options.
Tretton gave necessary deference to the Vita in the middle of the conference, though the titles mentioned were merely spinoffs of console franchises Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty: Black Ops. A commmunication sync technology between the Vita and PS3 was mentioned for LittleBigPlanet 2, but it pales in comparison to Microsoft's SmartGlass (which can be used by any smartphone or tablet). The Vita is Sony's black-headed stepchild, and they don't seem to have much faith in the handheld's long-term success.
Sony bookended their conference with new and engaging titles, but the creamy center left gamers unfulfilled. Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us are powerful exclusives that can help sell consoles, but the company still struggles to market its motion and portable technologies against stiffer competition.
Sony did sweeten their paywall Playstation Plus package with free full-length games, providing an incentive that outpaces similar options from Xbox Live.
Essentially, Xbox 360 looks to become a gamer's set-top box -- providing enetertainment options beyond gaming. PlayStation is still seeking to become a gamer's home console -- with the greater focus on games. We will see which company has the better long-term strategy.
Oh, and Sony isn't launching the Playstation 4 anytime soon. Not even a peep from Tretton or his colleagues. Maybe next year.