The major E3 press conferences played out the way I expected, except for Sony’s. Nintendo didn’t have much, and they didn’t really need much. Microsoft needed a fresh coat of paint and wanted a broader audience for the 360, and revealed attempts to accomplish these goals. Sony needed some big fucking guns, especially after the FF13 announcement. Instead, they gave us most of the same, and the few pleasant surprises simply weren’t enough in today’s gaming climate.
Killzone 2? Knew about it. Resistance 2? Looks great, but we knew about it. Resistance PSP and God of War 3? New, but not exactly shockers. Neither is a new Ratchet and Clank, even if it is a downloadable. Sony’s wares are all last year’s models, and apparently that will not fly. I think it is clear that as companies host their own mini events throughout the year, E3 is becoming less and less important for announcing ground-breaking news.
However, the culture’s mindset is still stuck on the Expo of old. Each year, E3 wanes a little more yet gamers get further steeped in predictions and speculation and hang on to every word of liveblogs. As a result, Sony and Nintendo were looked at as shameful this year by dedicated gamers, which is often more damning to a game’s success than it should be. Dennis Dyack might be nuts but he also shows just how powerful cesspools like NeoGAF are at swaying opinions and causing lost sales. Sony has a chance to do redeem themselves with future events, but that doesn’t help them in the here and now.
E3 also elucidated what gamers seem to truly value, and it isn’t pretty. Sony had a few interesting PSN games to show, but the response has been mild at best. Fat Princess may just be Capture the Flag with a twist, but a mighty twist for this PC world. Flower is a bit too similar to failed indie project Pollen Sonata, but at least it means the concept will be seeing life in some form. And while we all knew about LittleBigPlanet, the new demonstrations show a tremendous amount of potential for user generated content.
The common aspect of these games is that they are downloads, and as I have said before, it seems that the indsutry has a very short attention span when it comes to downloadable games, as if they are only worthy of a fraction of the attention that a fully priced release is granted. I find this troubling, especially when Sony’s first party teams are trying harder than ever to make something interesting and original. I know we all wanted to see a new Fumito Ueda game, but his team shouldn’t be the only one we pay attention to.
There was also the announcement of movie rentals via the Playstation Store, which earned a reception similar to vegetables being thrown at the stage. After all, the 360 has had this for a while, and now has Netflix to boot. I will give MS credit for what they have offered, but I also don’t blame Sony for waiting so long. This isn’t something like the 2.40 firmware, which introduced basic and needed usability features. The downloadable rentals on either console are no cheaper than either a Netflix subscription or a Blu Ray rental at Blockbuster. When there are cheaper and more reliable methods of getting the content, there isn’t much for me to cry over (and with ISP’s toying with bandwidth caps, I care even less). Allowing this non-game announcement to become a highlight and focus of an Expo meant to demonstrate new games is both shocking and somewhat depressing.
Lastly, as unjustified as this lack of interest may or may not be, it isn’t good for Sony no matter how you slice it. They have already lost billions, and while figuring out the finances of such a large entity is often a fool’s game, that isn’t a good sign for a company that previously had a decade plus of unrivaled dominance. Jack Tretton was quoted as saying that they have to rely on creative first party titles because they cannot afford to throw money around for exclusives. While there may be some hyperbole in there, it is still not something you want to hear. I think they are in worse shape than anyone is making them out to be, which is probably the most fucked up observation about the industry.
Nintendo had a few years during the Gamecube era where they made less gold than in the past, posted a tiny bit of loss, and suddenly every armchair analyst claimed their time had come. Meanwhile Sony can bleed cash while everyone assumes that they’ll be around for them to heckle and insult.
That isn’t guaranteed to be the case, and I think we all need to take a more realistic look at the company. That means being more critical of their bad decisions, while also being a little more fair to them when they come up with some good products. Sony has fallen down more than a few pegs in a short time, and after this E3 I have no idea if they can crawl back up. Even if they do make some knockout moves, there is no telling if they will have an effect on whatever opinions the various gaming hiveminds will cobble up.
Conclusion – tl;dr, OMG Sony has no good games.