4 min read

Forget hardware or services -- this E3, Sony's all about games

Sony is trying to swagger its way through E3 2015, confident in its partnerships with AAA and indies alike, confident in its own titles, and confident in fan demand for games debuted on its stage.

Sony's E3 press conference at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena this evening had a more low-key vibe than Microsoft's -- less blood and guts, even if it was just as dominated by triple-A games. 

The presentation began with the reintroduction of Fumito Ueda's long-delayed The Last Guardian -- funny how a game that's faced significant development issues re-emerging feels like a triumph.

One of the bywords -- continuing a trend -- was preorders equals beta access. Street Fighter V, a locked-down console exclusive for the PlayStation 4, goes into beta on July 23; the new Hitman reboot will also see a beta on PlayStation 4 for those who put down cash ahead of release; Call of Duty Black Ops III, too. 

"PlayStation is the new home of Call of Duty," by the way, said company CEO Andrew House -- which either suggests that the tide has permanently shifted Sony's way this generation, or it's willing to spend the money to make it look like it has. Either is interesting. 

The verbiage during Microsoft's press conference was centered around game culture: "elite," "epic," "gamer," -- Sony's developers and execs offered up a different vocabulary.

"I'm hoping today that I can make you all scratch your heads," said Media Molecule co-founder Alex Evans, who also said the studio "learned a lot about digital creativity" over the years.

That's typical, of course, for that studio; but Guerilla Games' managing director Hermen Hulst later spoke of exploring "exotic new horizons" through games, not about shooting robot dinosaurs (which is what his game appeared to be about.)

Sony Computer Entertainment America president and CEO Shawn Layden promised "a reality where games and developers matter," meanwhile -- "a reality where games are the cultural zeitgeist. ... This new reality is expansive, inclusive, and boundless," while marketing exec Asad Qizilbash touted how "the genius minds of a studio are challenging the very nature of how we create."

And if Microsoft emphasized catering to its fans -- basically, if it got back on track and resumed the trajectory of the Xbox 360, after major missteps at the beginning of this console generation -- Sony managed to find a way to cater to long-term fans, the ones who built the brand, by presenting (and inking a timed-exclusive deal for) Final Fantasy VII: Remake, promising a 2016 release for The Last Guardian on PlayStation 4 and launching the Shenmue III Kickstarter with Yu Suzuki on-stage (okay, okay, so there was never a Shenmue on a Sony platform before, but it's a friendly nod to the die-hards, and there aren't Sega platforms anymore.)

By giving time to games like Disney Infinity 3.0 -- on top of Media Molecule's Dreams and Square Enix's adorable World of Final Fantasy, which are givens -- the company also maintained its signature feeling of breadth, even if the reality is that (Dreams aside) these and other "non-bro" games will also be on Xbox One. It's simply a vibe thing.

It all capped off, of course, with a "Man, this looks unrealistically good, but we know it isn't because we had to reboot it in front of a live audience" demo of Uncharted 4. Yeah, it's shootyman as shootyman gets, but damned if Naughty Dog doesn't know how to make a video game. 

What is most striking about the press conference is how little Morpheus was mentioned -- seriously, it was blink-and-you'll-miss-it -- and how much games mattered. Just as Microsoft's conference was classic MS, this was classic Sony -- though tighter (no long digressions into random marketing or TV tie-in deals) and looser (Adam Boys just winging the hell out of his section.) 

Based on this press conference, Sony is swaggering its way through this E3 -- confident in its partnerships with majors and indies alike, confident in its own games. 

Even if you look closely and realize that many of the games that made a splash tonight will also be on Microsoft's console -- not to mention PC -- there's no doubt that Sony's dominating today's conversation. Does that translate into long-term wins? 

No, but the lineup we saw today suggests that it should be enough to hold the fort against Microsoft's revival effort -- and stay number one for the current generation. That's what counts right now. Sony needs this much more badly than Microsoft does, if you follow the business. It seems to have it in hand.

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