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Sony's E3 2013 Press Briefing: A Stone Cold Stunner

If there was a thing you wanted Sony to do at today's press event, they probably did it.

That was a hell of a thing to watch.

We've seen the box, seen more games, and gotten the price. Hard to argue with any of what we saw, really.
We've seen the box, seen more games, and gotten the price. Hard to argue with any of what we saw, really.

After a day of mostly expected, occasionally exciting, as often disappointing announcements from Microsoft and various third-party publishers, I was all settled in, expecting Sony to maybe have a few fun new things to show. I didn't expect anything too garish. I didn't expect to be bowled over. I didn't expect much surprise. I sure as hell didn't expect what I got.

Instead of just another half-enthusiastic press event, Sony came to E3 looking for a fight. Early on the tone was set for something pretty great, but by the time we hit the halfway point, it almost looked like Sony was actively mocking Microsoft's tepid announcements and various system-related controversies. And that was before Sony actually started mocking Microsoft quite directly for all those things and then some.

Sony showed confidence at tonight's press event. It showed swagger, awareness of its own audience, and, most importantly, games. Man, did it ever show a whole bunch of games. Even if you didn't love every single one of them, I'd be amazed if you couldn't find at least one or two in there to get a little bit excited about.

Sure, things started out a bit slow. Jack Tretton was quick to promote the Vita and and the PS3, showing off a couple of new things (Walking Dead on Vita), as well as some games we already knew about, like Tearaway for the Vita, and The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls for PS3. That last one was a particularly odd demo, showing the lead character played by Ellen Page in some heavy CIA training that looked more evocative of something like Zero Dark Thirty. Presumably, that game is still about ghosts and stuff.

Transistor was one of several noteworthy indie games to come out heavily in favor of the PlayStation platform.
Transistor was one of several noteworthy indie games to come out heavily in favor of the PlayStation platform.

But once the PS4 stuff kicked in, it didn't let up. After a bit of brief house-cleaning regarding video apps (you may be shocked to learn that there will be video apps), the games just started flowing. Solid trailers for known quantities like inFamous: Second Son, DriveClub, and Killzone: Shadow Fall, were joined by Ready at Dawn's steampunky looking shooter The Order: 1886, a new game that unfortunately only had a CG trailer (albeit kind of a cool looking one). Third-party games like Destiny, Watch_Dogs, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, and Elder Scrolls Online got lengthy, mostly impressive demos (unfortunately, the AC IV build crapped out part of the way through), while Square Enix managed to bowl over the entire audience with trailers for Final Fantasy XV (formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII) and, believe it or not, Kingdom Hearts III. Hell, we even found out WBIE and Avalanche Studios are making a goddamn Mad Max game. Who saw that one coming?

There was an incredibly strong indie presence as well, kicked off by Supergiant Games coming out to introduce Transistor, which will debut on the PS4, as well as PC. Other indie titles now exclusively headed to Sony platforms (on consoles, anyway) include Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Don't Starve, Outlast, and Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee New N' Tasty. These announcements were made in tandem with Sony unveiling its indie self-publishing initiative, which will allow indie studios to bring their games to the PlayStation Store free of any publisher deal nonsense.

That announcement joined several others that gave the impression Sony had been listening to criticism directed toward the Xbox One. People were already high on all the game demos when Tretton returned to confirm that the PS4 would feature none of the restrictive DRM features Microsoft planned to employ with its new console. Online checks would not be required to play single-player games offline, nor would there be any restrictions on used, disc-based games. All this culminated in the price announcement: $399.99 in North America, $100 less than Microsoft's $499 Xbox One price point. Sony's only negative news--the revelation that multiplayer gaming would be folded into the PlayStation Plus subscription service--was mostly offset by the volume of additional game content coming to Plus subscribers, as well as the news that other net-based media services wouldn't be locked behind the paywall.

I didn't care an iota about Destiny prior to today's conference, but the demo shown during the event finally got me on board.
I didn't care an iota about Destiny prior to today's conference, but the demo shown during the event finally got me on board.

Given all of this, it's hard to look at Sony's press conference as anything other than an exceptionally brutal blow to any momentum Microsoft had at this point. Where Microsoft appeared monolithic and generally unconcerned with currying any additional favor with consumers or developers, Sony looked fluid, adaptable, and self-aware. It showed a variety of games that spanned genres, tones, and scopes, offering a little something for everyone.

By all means, the PlayStation 4 could still find ways to disappoint consumers--not all of those games are going to turn out to be great, obviously. But in terms of what you would want from a console maker's E3 press presentation, Sony absolutely knocked it out of the park, and it did so by simply demonstrating a strong understanding of what its consumers would conceivably want, rather than just assuming that consumers will take whatever it feels like giving them.

Alex Navarro on Google+