Sony pushes gaming credentials with new exclusives

Firm hits back at rival Microsoft as it reveals The Last Guardian, Shenmue III plans

Attendees react to  announcements during a Sony event ahead of  E3 in Los Angeles. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

Attendees react to announcements during a Sony event ahead of E3 in Los Angeles. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg

 

At E3 this year, Sony had a lot to live up to. Earlier in the day, Microsoft had pulled off a people pleasing press conference, announcing a mix of new games and well-loved franchises, before pulling out its ace – backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games on the next generation console. That surprise was delivered with a barbed comment that most took to be aimed at its rival Sony. Throw in some HoloLens and Minecraft action, and Microsoft could congratulate itself on a good performance all round.

But Sony wasn’t to be outdone. In true Sony form, it pushed back hard with a roster of games and exclusives that had at least some of the audience on their feet.

From long-awaited and much-delayed title The Last Guardian and Street Fighter V to new titles such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, Sony made it clear it was all about games and putting gamers first.

When Sony Computer Entertainment America’s chief executive and president Shawn Leyden took to the stage, he emphasised the platform was the best place to play, driven by its developers and engineers.

There was also a jab in its rival’s direction. The PlayStation 4 became the start of a new reality, Leyden said, a reality “where games and gamers come first, a reality where games and developers matter, a reality where games drive innovation, where games are filled with intelligence, insight and emotional narrative, a reality where games are the hubs of global connection and collaboration; indeed a reality where games are the cultural zeitgeist”.

The news that Shenmue would be returning to PlayStation, with a console exclusive for Sony if the Kickstarter campaign unveiled by Yu Suzuki on stage hit its $2 million goal, was greeted with thunderous applause.

Sony has also negotiated a deal with Activision on Call of Duty: Black Ops III that will see exclusive content come to the PlayStation 4 and get its players early access to betas of the game.

But it wasn’t all about tried and tested paths. The team behind Tearaway and Little Big Planet is working on a new concept, a sandbox game that allows players to create almost anything, based on a lucid dream-like world.

Media Molecule’s Alex Evans said the game, Dreams, was “sort of crazy”. “I’m hoping today I can make you all scratch your heads. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on,” he said.

You play and explore the dreams of others, then create and share your own. All the “dreams” are linked, meaning you can lose yourself for hours wandering a dream-like world.

“I hope it fills your head with questions, and that’s natural,” Evans said.

The remake of Final Fantasy VII was given a rapturous welcome, while Sony also shared a bit more on its Project Morpheus virtual reality headset.

“We haven’t even scratched the surface. What we’re beginning to see is that even the simplest gameplay concepts are taking on new sense of depth and exhilaration within the VR landscape,” Andrew House, president and group chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment.

Morpheus is pitching itself as the VR platform that can bring friends and family into the game, playing with friends in the virtual world.

But House was keen to stress that Morpheus was a choice that adds value and lifecycle to the hardware, emphasising everything was down to “gamer needs”.

Sony finished the day with a look at Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, ending its press conference with a bang.