PlayStation 3 Gamers' Day: Full Report
With less than a month to go before the PS3 launch, Sony is promising the event of the decade. Kikizo reports from the U.S. launch event, with news and impressions.
Gamers' Day, an exclusive hands-on event for the gaming media to learn more about the PlayStation 3 and its upcoming games, was held on October 19th in San Francisco. The skies were sunny and the temperature comfortably warm, but nobody was concerned about the fine Bay Area weather that day - we were too busy anticipating what sort of surprises Kaz Hirai and company had in store for us.
After a tasty luncheon at the swanky W Hotel, the press was carted off to Dog Patch Studios in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. Our first order of business was the press conference, where we'd hear more about Sony's plans for launch and the holiday season. Unlike the ill-fated E3 press event, things started with only a minimal delay. As Sony frontman Kaz Hirai got on stage, he promised answers to our lingering questions about the PS3 launch - some we didn't even know we had.
The first part of the presentation was the usual extolling of PS3's hardware virtues, with phrases like "setting the standard for the next 10 years" and "futureproof" banded about. Kaz announced that PS3 production has hit full swing, showing off finalised packaging as 'evidence' - similar to what we saw at TGS last month. Then came the launch lineup: 22 games are slated to hit store shelves alongside the console. SCEA itself is publishing a good chunk of these (Genji, Resistance), but there's a healthy level of thirdparty effort too, ranging from a port of Oblivion to the platforming action of Sonic.
After detailing the two different PS3 packages, SCEA's Co-CEO Jack Tretton then turned to the subject of Blu-ray movie playback, announcing that the 400,000 US launch systems will be packaged with Will Ferrell's recent comedy hit, Talladega Nights. PS3 buyers will be the first to get this movie on Blu-ray, as the movie will not be available for purchase separately until December - a nice little bonus for early adopters.
He talked about the SIXAXIS controller and its various features, as well as price points for the games and peripherals. Games are coming in at the predicted $59.99 price tag, while the controller itself is almost as pricey at $49.99. Two other peripherals, a PSX/PS2 memory card adaptor and a Blu-ray remote, come in at $14.99 and $24.99 respectively.
SCEE's Phil Harrison took the stage next to go into more detail about the console's games. Resistance: Fall of Man's online mode - which supports up to 40 players simultaneously - will be available from day one, he said. After this demo, a rather nonsensical comparison of disc storage-to-memory ratio in consoles past and present was shown. The intent was probably to extol the storage capacity of Blu-ray, but it came off as being an awkward and meaningless comparison.
More graphical showcases followed, including Genji: Days of the Blade and NBA 07 - the first sports title running in full, glorious 1080p to be shown on the day. Lair demonstrated use of the SIXAXIS motion sensitivity, and while the control itself looked to be intuitive, it was hard to get past the choppy framerate.
Online or Bust
The topic many had come to get answers for, though, was PS3's online service - could it possibly complete with the established Live service for Xbox 360?
Phil Harrison had answers for us, and began by demoing the features he first showed off at the SCEI event last month, starting with PS3's Cross Media Bar interface. It's very similar to what has been seen on the PSP and several other Sony products, right down to using many of the same icons. Users will be able to set up several profiles on a single console, allowing for individual settings and preferences to be saved, and for parents to restrict content.
Some of the PS3's unique image display modes were shown, including the exceptionally pretty music visualization. A few downloaded movie trailers followed, but the truly interesting part was the display of the PS3's network functionality. Besides a fairly standard "buddy list" and instant messaging service, the PS3 also offers a built-in web browser with Firefox-style multitasking capabilities.
The ability to sync media with the PSP was also emphasised; the two systems are able to share content wirelessly, and in some cases, games downloaded to the PS3 (such as emulated PS1 titles) can be transferred to the PSP for play. The ability to access your PS3's content via a PSP from any wireless hotspot anywhere in the world was promised to eventually come to fruition.
Sony announced that the servers to provide downloadable content for the PS3 are already up and running, and will be available from the moment the first owners plug their consoles in. Contents available for download include movie trailers, music, additional game content, game demos, older PlayStation 1 and 2 games as well as new, store-exclusive PS3 titles.
Rather than the 'points' system of Xbox Live, Sony's online purchase program uses actual monetary values to give consumers an idea of what the content truly costs them. Payments can be done either via credit or debit card, or through the purchase and registration of PlayStation Cards, available in stores.
The first online-exclusive game Sony unveiled was an arcade-style shooter called Blast Factor. While comparisons can certainly be made to Geometry Wars on Xbox 360, Blast Factor's aesthetics - which are based on old-school shooting games like Gradius - will undoubtedly give it a unique appeal. Blast Factor also makes use of the SIXAXIS controller's motion sensing capabilities by allowing players to "shake" the field and flush all enemies over to one side of the play arena.
Following this was a special surprise: God of War creator, David Jaffe, was brought on stage to announce his special PS3 project, a downloadable game called Criminal Crackdown. A major departure from the serious, gritty tone of God of War, Criminal Crackdown is a cartoon-style 'cops-and-robbers' affair, in which up to four players go head-to-head to capture fugitives and bring them to jail.
The twist is that players can steal crooks that their competitors' vehicles are carrying through the use of special skills and weapons, adding a level of comedic carnage in a similar vein to Jaffe's earlier Twisted Metal efforts. While the game is still in very early stages and was not playable on the floor, Jaffe promised that it would eventually support both online and offline multiplayer. Could we have the next Bomberman or Mario Party on our hands? Sony certainly hopes so.
After Kaz stepped back onstage to wrap things up and the press conference closed, we were allowed upstairs for a few hours of hands-on time with games due for launch and beyond. Things shut down at around 6:00, when everyone headed back downstairs for a catered sushi dinner and special surprise performance by rapper/songwriter Ludacris. Everyone went home at around 8:00, tired but satisfied.
While the event was a show of confidence from Sony, there are still lingering questions about PS3's likely performance after launch; the steep price tag has the potential to scare away buyers, and there are some killer exclusives on both the Wii and Xbox 360 that could steal some of Sony's launch thunder.
And Kaz still didn't answer the question so many of us still have: what exactly IS Afrika, anyway...?
Staff Writer, Kikizo.com