Sony Stumbles at Own Expo

Let’s skip any rigamarole: Sony missed a step at their own conference.

In the weeks leading up to PlayStation Experience, you could find me on the rooftops, singing the praises of Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios. In the weeks leading up to the second annual event, the Official PlayStation Blog had been dropping some sizable bombs:

  • The PlayStation 4 had sold, not shipped, 30 million units in two years (for context, the Sega Genesis sold 30.75 million in eight years).
  • We were getting price drops on two impressive PS4 bundles. Sony Santa Monica, creators of God of War, were collaborating with Plastic on a new game.  
  • PlayStation 2 emulation was possible on PS4, and we were shown the first eight games that’ll be rolled out.

“What else could they possibly have in store for us?” I asked between fits of childish grins and clapping fits.

As it turns out, not a whole lot.

The conference started strong with a new Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End trailer detailing more plot and a beautiful new look at the Final Fantasy VII remake, including looks at combat that seem to mimic Final Fantasy XV’s. Everything was looking up, and then we dipped.

For a conference ran by Sony, celebrating Sony, they showed off very little of anything first party. The only game actually being developed by Sony that was shown was MLB 16 The Show, an annualized series that surprised no one.  Where was Sony Bend? Where was Santa Monica with their own game? Where was The Last Guardian? We can’t expect all these questions answered at once, but we saw hide nor hare of any big question marks for PlayStation fans.

The keynote was far from all doom and gloom, though. Closer to a roller coaster when you were expecting a ramp. Ratchet and Clank, the game based on the movie based on the game, had a fantastic new trailer coupled with a release date of April 12, 2016. Tim Schafer dropped the proverbial mic for old school LucasArts fans, announcing a remaster of Full Throttle (a Grim Fandango remaster was released earlier this year, and Day of the Tentacle is on its way). Street FIghter V was able to announce its new character, F.A.N.G., without any leaks.

Not surprisingly, a significant portion of the keynote was spent hyping up PlayStation VR, something the company sees as the next big thing, and something I became more skeptical of. While games like 100 Foot Robot Golf, The Modern Zombie Taxi Co., and Job Simulator all look like good fun, they played into my concern about VR in general: they all looked gimmicky and once the novelty wears off what are we left with? It is worth noting that Ace Combat 7 was announced as a PSVR exclusive and could prove me dead wrong. It’s more noteworthy there’s still no mention of a hard release date  or a price point. The latter is the difference between a $150 must try and a $300 wait-and-see.

Ni no Kuni II was announced with cheers from the crowd at the mere mention of Level-5 Studios, and deservedly so. Its predecessor was a surprise success on the PlayStation 3, being described as a “Miyazaki Pokémon game,” which are magical words strung together. For all the ups and downs the presentation had, at least they closed strongly.

Except they trotted out Epic Games for one more announcement: Paragon, a MOBA for PC and PlayStation, would be available for beta access in Spring 2016. There was scattered applause, and then that was it. Roll the compilation recap video. I texted my roommate, confused, “Is there another presentation tomorrow?”

The successes were there, from clear support for the PlayStation Vita, to the big surprise of Ni no Kuni II, but they paled in comparison to what was swept under the rug in terms of first party support. Had they kept some information released over the last few weeks in their pockets, this would’ve felt very different. An easy angle would’ve been, “By the way, we’ve sold 30 million PS4 units, and as a celebration we’ve decided to bring two PS4 bundles to $299.” Instead, they opted to not even mention PS2 emulation during the presentation, something that is huge fan service.

It’s important to take this in context. Sony has been on a roll this year, reportedly outselling Microsoft two-to-one, and killing it at E3, The Video Game Awards and Paris Games Expo. If you’re going to trip anywhere, though, you certainly don’t want it on your home field. Looking forward, the next E3 is a half year away. Do we see PlayStation news go dark? Or do we see them lean heavily on the PlayStation Blog, as they have in recent weeks? Ryan Clements, former IGN editor and current PS Blog employee, could be seen in panels throughout Saturday promoting the blog.

While the keynote ended Saturday, Playstation Experience is all weekend. You can watch all of Saturday’s filmed segments here.


Christian Glass is a MONG Associate Writer.  He didn’t get Star Ocean: Second Story with trophies, and he’s taking it well.  You can follow him on Twitter, Twitch, and Youtube

 

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