Last night’s Sony press conference gave us a lot to chew on. The deeper look at the PlayStation Vita (nee NGP) was significant, as was its $249 starting price point. Not all of the news was so positive, of course, but good or bad, I’ve compiled some personal reactions to the event here, as well as some thoughts from PlayStation: The Official Magazine Editor-in-Chief Gary Steinman.
Prior to the show, there was a lot of speculation about how Sony would address its lengthy, massive and now infamous network outage – or if it would even acknowledge it at all. Would we get a lame joke? A jab at Sony’s detractors? Pompous self-praise over the network’s restoration?
In the end, we got something much better: an apology. Not one that sought to deflect blame or attention, but a seemingly heartfelt, humble and direct appeal to Sony’s customers for forgiveness. “You are the lifeblood of the company,” said SCEA’s president and CEO, Jack Tretton, addressing PlayStation consumers. “Without you, there is no PlayStation, and I want to apologize both personally and on behalf of the company for any anxiety that we’ve caused you. I know we took you away from doing what you enjoy most ... and it is you that both causes us to be humbled and amazed at the amount of dedication and support you continue to give to the PlayStation brand.”
It was a surprising moment, and while it had a little too much corporate-speak about how great the PlayStation brand is doing at market, it was good to see Sony actually own up to its missteps. Also good: the conference kept chatter about sales figures and brand cohesion to a minimum this year.
The other big surprise of the night was, of course, the price of the PlayStation Vita. The memory of the PS3’s $600 launch price is still relatively fresh, and when the Vita’s impressive suite of features was first announced, a lot of us expected that we’d be asked to fork over $400-500 for the thing. Shockingly, Sony actually priced it competitively, announcing that the basic, WiFi-enabled model would retail for $249 this holiday, the same price as a Nintendo 3DS. And the 3G model wasn’t far behind, clocking in at $299. So that’s great.
Of course, when Kaz Hirai announced that AT&T would be the Vita’s exclusive 3G carrier, a chorus of boos went up through the stands, only to slowly die out and be replaced by embarrassed applause. Can’t have everything, I guess.
I got a bit of hands-on time with the Vita after the conference. It’s lightweight, its second analog stick makes an enormous difference in 3D games, and while the touchpad on the back made it easy to accidentally activate game features just by grabbing the system wrong, it’s an extremely powerful little piece of hardware. Demos of Ruin and WipeOut 2048, running side-by-side with their PS3 counterparts, looked maybe not quite as impressive as their larger cousins, but nearly as. And Uncharted: Golden Abyss, which leveraged seemingly every new feature the Vita had to offer, was a blast for the duration of its 10-minute demo; it turns out that being able to trace a path for Nathan Drake to follow using the touchscreen is just as fun, if not more so, than guiding him across ledges manually. And if you don’t like it, you can still play the old way.
Also impressive was the PS3/PSV connectivity, which in WipeOut 2048’s case allowed for PSV and PS3 players (with WipeOut HD or Fury) to race against each other on WipeOut HD tracks. Again, the visuals weren’t quite on par, but the actual racing worked beautifully.
Sure, we kind of already knew Sly 4 was coming, but it’s difficult to consider a shadowy teaser trailer, released without fanfare or comment on the Sly Collection disc, as an “official” announcement. Now that we’ve got full confirmation from Sony, however, it’s a bittersweet moment, as original Sly developer Sucker Punch isn’t working on the project. Instead, developer Sanzaru Games – which worked on the Sly Collection and Ninja Reflex – will handle Sly’s return to action. We’re not saying Sanzaru can’t do a good job with the franchise, but after six years of Sly being mostly ignored by Sony, we can’t help being skeptical of anyone but his creators handling the project.
Oh well, at least the trailer looks interesting.
The St. Louis gameplay segment from Resistance 3 that Insomniac decided to show was probably a lot of fun, but it wasn’t much to look at. In fact, it was unexciting, underwhelming and even a little confusing, and the highlight was a Chimera getting bashed in the head by a ragged resistance fighter. And that’s a pity, because on the occasions we’ve played bits of Resistance 3, it’s actually been a lot of fun, with varied gameplay, swarming enemies and weapons that are enjoyable to shoot. Sadly, the press-conference demo made it look like just another shooter, albeit one with a giant monster at the end.
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