Without breaking out a single big gun in the process Sony found a way to deliver an unforgettable Gamescom conference. Despite the worst camera man in the history of moving pictures, what they showed was an extremely tight and focused vision of a console that is designed around games. Not just games – but a variety of games. Will the PS4 have FIFA and Madden and Call of Duty and Battlefield? Of course. Do we need to see any more of those games? If you don’t know what you’re getting with those games yet you probably aren’t ever.
What Sony did so perfectly was show a platform that is built from the ground up to support a variety of developers both big and small. AAA gaming has been called “unsustainable” more times than I can count over the last few years and Sony’s answer was clear: so what. Their vision for the future of games is as informed by current trends as it is forward thinking. What are the lessons that Steam, iOS or even Facebook games have taught over the last several years? To most companies it’s just the buzzwords of “social” and “connected” but there’s more to it. Steam is an amazing platform because no matter what type of game you want to play you can find it in their store. The openness of the PC has invited people to take creative chances that have paid off in huge ways. In the past a game like Minecraft, the Day-Z mod, or even DoTA couldn’t exist on a console. What Sony showed today is a console that will embrace this kind of experimentation will be welcome. Will every game change the world? Of course not. But the possibilities are there.
Sony’s presentation started with a cold opening of Shu Yoshida sitting in a chair and moving around the UI. The UI looked slick – like a mix of the new PS Store (ugh!) with the XMB (hooray!). He then watched a friend playing an online game and with a touch of a button joined it. And from there he tweeted a picture of it. Was this staged? Probably. It was good theater though, working accross multiple networks as people on twitter bugged out when the tweet was in their feed. It was this type of thing… this vision… that set this conference apart. What Sony showed was cool. Sony wasn’t cool for a very long time. This turnaround is about more than GDDR5 and party chat. Sony have reinvented themselves as the company that loves games, gamers and developers. All while Microsoft has revealed itself as a company with no clear vision and A LOT of money.
This clear vision of who Sony is emanated through the entire conference. There were no knock out punches in the conference but it was a parade of good games and good news. Game after game after game, most of them indie, all of them unique, showing off what the PS4 ecosystem will be like in year one. They also solved many problems all at once. The Vita costs too much. Ok, it’s $200. The memory cards cost too much. Ok, they are $20 cheaper. The PS3 costs too much. Ok, here’s a $200 unit. What’s PS+ gonna do other than DriveClub? Ok, you get the SSHD spiritual successor on day one as well. When is it coming out? November 15th. It was all games and all info and it was all good news. It wasn’t perfect… the Vita is still expensive and so are the memory cards. The date isn’t as exciting as the rumored (WHICH I TOLD YOU NOT BELIEVE ON MY PODCAST!) October date. They didn’t show any whopping shootbang exclusives. When they finally did show a big budget game… they also used the opportunity to show off Vita remote play.
That is part of the wonder of this conference. They didn’t have to reveal any of their big hitters, they didn’t need to spend money they don’t have on exclusive third party games. They had a great conference with smart business decisions and a game focused show. It won’t win over the entire world – there are many people who just want Madden and CoD and the Xbox One will be just fine for them. What Microsoft and EA showed earlier today was the continuation of a form of gaming they have described as unsustainable. It’s also exactly what we have right now. What Sony showed was what the future of gaming on an open platform will be like. If you like variety and creativity today may end up being the best gaming conference you ever see. Sony certainly isn’t getting out of the AAA business – because that business is still good. But they are clearly open to opening avenues around it and to people like me that’s the most exciting news this gen has given us yet.
All of that without a word from any of Sony’s best teams. Amazing.