Friday, May 25, 2012

[E3 2012] Predictions for Sony's Press Conference

Sorry, I lied! Since all press conference times are out and about, I'll take it in sequential order (Sony's Conference is June 5 at 9 PM EST, then Nintendo's the next day).

This year, much like Microsoft, Sony has gone on record and is not announcing any new hardware. Good, because they have a new system they released earlier this year that needs some dire attention and love'n. The one thing Sony should be doing with their PS3 is delivering some high-quality Move support, because, holy fuck, there has been little movement (no pun intended) on AAA games that make it stand out from what it was cloned from: the Wii.

Speaking of the Vita, Sony really needs to get some support out for the system. With a few heavy hitters falling a bit short of expectations (Uncharted, Katamari, and Ninja Gaiden to name a few), hot off the heels of Resistance: Burning Skies's late May release, Sony is going to flood the windows to our souls with some solid first-party and third-party support for the Vita. We've had Uncharted, now it's time for the other boys to step in. 

Now, they could go crazy and start slapping Cross Play software updates on some PS3 titles to get the true "portable PlayStation" experience we've been wanting. Between Cross Play and Remote Play, the Vita can't do a goddamned thing. With regards to Cross Play, you need to own the game on both systems, rather than "buy one, play on both" that was what gamers thought the Vita was promising; less than 5 games can do Cross Play as it stands. With Remote Play, only "Remote Play Certified PS3 games" can allow the Vita to play them. What are those games? Sony hasn't released a master list. Either way, your "portable PS3" dreams have effectively been crushed. That's why I want Sony to fully utilize Remote/Cross Play, and make the Vita a true portable PS3 experience.

With Cross Play, you can achieve this through software updates. I'm talking games like the various HD collections (God of War HD and the Origins Collection, Jak & Daxter, and, fuck it, the Ratchet & Clank collection due out later this year), or even some Vita-only games that can connect (somehow) to the latest installments on the PS3. Imagine a new Infamous game on the Vita that can connect to Infamous 2 on the PS3 and get exclusive content that way. Whatever Sony wants to do with first-party, a new Infamous title (be it a spin-off or an interquel; with news of Cole's mocap actor recently putting those balls back on, it may either be a new title, or just Cole's appearance in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale), something God of War related (maybe some connection to the recently-announced Ascension), and LittleBigPlanet could make an appearance just to remind us it's coming out at the end of June; all of these are possibilities. What could Sony bring in for first-party support? You name it, they'll throw it in there, as they need all the help they can get, with an incredibly lack-luster library for the Vita as it stands. It may only be 3.5 months since the Vita's launch when E3 arrives, but by this time, Nintendo had Ocarina of Time 3D poking it's head around the corner, and that was the turning point for the 3DS' piss-poor sales (and why I bought one, myself). 

With third-party on the Vita, Activision could pull the veil off of the Call of Duty game that was announced some time ago. Black Ops 2 on the Vita? Most likely. Cross Platform capabilities? Done. EA is bound to show up, and show off the capabilities they've discovered on Cross Platform between the heavy hitter sport game of theirs: Madden 13 on both PS3 and the Vita. More third party support would be likely, such as a surprise visit by Isaac Clark from Dead Space, some Assassin's Creed game on the system (be it a port or a brand new title), perhaps even some Tom Clancy love going for the Vita (but don't anticipate Sam Fisher). Sadly, I do see third-parties bringing their 3DS games to the Vita to help out cover the costs of some of their sales. One third-party game I can see making the jump? Resident Evil: Revelations. Will it happen at E3? Probably not, but I wouldn't doubt it if it happened within the year (at least an announcement). Whatever it is, I expect most of the third party support to drop the words "Cross Platform" several times. Finally, the big third-party support that Sony is going to pull on stage is Rockstar with Grand Theft Auto V. We had that trailer, now it's time for some good quality info.

To round out the Vita, Sony should also be showcasing new apps for the system. If the Vita has been/is being billed a bridge between a dedicated gaming system and a tablet (something that was stated in training materials I read when Vita demo units started showing up in my store), then they really need to drive this home with new apps to bring some fence-sitters (or even iPad owners that are looking for a gaming experience). We've got Netflix, so why not Hulu? Alternate web browsers would be fan-fucking-tastic, like Opera or Firefox (make it happen, Mozilla!). 

With that, I can see Sony announcing a serious firmware update to the Vita (2.0?) that will address many issues that people have been having, and possibly add in some native features: 
  • folders (derp)
  • Remote Play that actually works (something hinted above)
  • PlayStation Plus benefits that actually benefit the Vita
  • button support on the main menu rather than touch-screen only
  • more PSP support on the Vita
  • PSX support
  • A/V out either through a cable or wirelessly to the PS3, ala Apple TV  and AirPlay
Anything on this list would be suitable for a Vita software update. Fuck, it took Nintendo a year to bring folders to the 3DS, something the Wii doesn't even have. I wonder how long it'll take Sony to catch on (probably not very, considering their track record).

Moving on from the Vita, Sony also has their other system, that PS3 you might have. With that system, Sony has some room to show off some stuff, especially first party games. Just like with Microsoft, I can expect to see Black Ops 2 show up on stage with the same GD demo that they'll have for Microsoft (just like with the original Black Ops). Don't expect Quantic Dream (they're still working on their new engine). Anything in regards to third-party that happened on Microsoft's stage is more than likely to repeat (the slew of Ubisoft titles, EA, Capcom, Activision, etc.), so I need not repeat myself here.

Getting to their first party support, the one thing I care about is getting some more info from Naughty Dog on The Last of Us; fucking Thor, just give me that game already. What about Sucker Punch? Since they're not handling Sly 4, that only leaves Infamous. At least one of Infamous 2's endings pretty much hinted at a Cole McGrath revival, I would like to hear something about Infamous 3; I won't be expecting it, but I wouldn't be surprised if they showed it off. Perhaps they'll pull a Naughty Dog and unveil a new IP? Then there's Insomniac. Expect to see Overstike again, their multiplatform, 4-player co-op game, but I can predict that, asides from that and the Ratchet & Clank HD collection, there will be no new R&C game announced. They have also moved on from Resistance and finishing up on Overstrike, so they're (hopefully) in either pre-alpha or alpha stages of a new Ratchet & Clank game. There are only two first-party games that are guaranteed to be at E3, and that is God of War: Ascension and Super Sony Smash Bros. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, something that was recently unveiled; they'll be focusing primarily on the multiplayer in Ascension, something that is a first for the series, and showing off, what is to be, the most blatant rip-off Sony has done yet with Nintendo since the Move controllers. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to play PSALBR (that acronym is even crazier than the name itself) and get even more SSB-styled games in, but holy shit, Sony, the least you could do is make a little different than Smash Bros.. Finally, I'm definitely anticipating Team ICO being there to show off what they've been doing with The Last Guardian, considering the turmoil everyone thinks it has been through. 

What else could Sony pull in? Naughty Dog has been claimed with their new game, Sucker Punch is effectively a mystery, Insomniac is neck-deep in development on their new game - due out real soon - and Santa Monica is milking that Spartan teet for all it's worth. Sony's first-party support is looking slim this year, for both the Vita and the PS3. Sony has a brand new system to hype up, so most of their conference will be dedicated to the Vita, with still a strong portion for the PS3.

I would like to see some work going into the PlayStation Network to make it really stand out from Xbox LIVE. If you know me, I'm a big opposer to what Sony is charging their gamers for (essentially, system functionality being hidden behind a pay-gate, such as auto-download system update and cloud saves). Sure, Microsoft charges you for online multiplayer (something Sony doesn't, but my experience with MP on PSN is horrid) and application access (anyone can scoff at this, even I). However, Microsoft's service is far more stable than the PSN, with no need for auto-system updates (because the 360 downloads/installs them in less than a minute, not an hour and a half), cloud offers to any user, regardless of Xbox LIVE tiers (Microsoft's 512 MB trumps Sony's 150 MB offering), and their online multiplayer, while ridden with 12-year olds who just discovered cussing, is much more stable, faster, and resilient. While Microsoft charges you for online multiplayer and gives you console functionality, Sony gives you online multiplayer and charges you for console functionality. It's a trade off, but a poor one at that. With that mini-rant done, I want Sony to really start offering some awesome incentives for PlayStation Plus asides from discounts on the PlayStation Store. With a recent survey that leaked out, apparently, Sony is already thinking about doing this. The survey hints at possible things such as free Call of Duty Elite and free new release games (not PSN games or Minis, but full, rock-hard games). Now, there does seem to be talks of price hikes for this, but if there are free, new release games in it, people will be down.

Bring in a shit load more apps for both the PS3 and Vita. Microsoft has a ton on the Xbox, and Sony has Cinema Now, Netflix and Hulu. That's it. Let's reduce the frequency of system updates vastly. Pool your bullshit updates into one major, quarterly update. Oh, and at least tell us what these updates do. Don't release firmware when version was released 9 days prior (I bet this exaggeration will go over many peoples' heads if I don't put this sentence here). Make it substantial. Make it worth the time to download. I want to look forward to system updates that bring in more functionality, not dread seeing a mandatory update when I want to play that hot new exclusive game on the PS3, the only reason I own one.

Do something, because the Network isn't all that hot.

Let's get that recap going!
  • Hardware
    • No PS4
    • Move makes a comeback
    • Vita software update
    • Major support from first/third-party developers
    • Apps, apps, apps for the Vita
    • Moar Cross Platform for Vita!
  • First-Party
    • More info on The Last of Us
    • Sucker Punch surprise
    • Insomniac with Overstrike, possible new IP
    • Santa Monica and God of War: Ascension
    • PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
    • Team ICO with The Last Guardian
  • Third-Party
    • More Black Ops 2 (PS3 and Vita)
    • No Quantic Dream
    • Expect most of the third-party stuff from Microsoft's stage to repeat itself
      • Black Ops 2
      • Not a whole lot from Ubisoft/EA
      • Possible 3DS ports to Vita
  • PlayStation Network
    • Better PlayStation Plus incentives; survey says:
      • Free Call of Duty Elite
      • Free new release PS3 games
      • Price hikes
    • More PS3/Vita apps, like, a ton
    • Less frequent/more substantial firmware updates

Not a whole lot from Sony this year, because, let's be honest, their track record for bringing the guns never really has happened. Whatever they bring to surprise us will really be a surprise; I feel that Sony is starting to crack down on their internal confidentiality control, what with various hardware and many major software titles being leaked far before their official unveil, leaving the "wow factor" in the past. 

They're in the same boat as Microsoft, as both of these guys are focusing on an already established systems, deliver more games to satisfy their current gamers, and bringing in more customers. The one company that has the most to prove this year is Nintendo, and that will be coming in the next post. Au revoir!