Sony Europe's Gamescom press conference -- at which SCEE president and CEO Andrew House announced a $50 price drop for the PS3 -- saw the company showcase its breadth as a platform holder once again.
"Today, PlayStation is stronger than ever as an innovator and as an entertainment provider," said House, who will soon be moving up
to head of all things PlayStation. "Connected devices will define our heritage and be the key to our future."
Sony's platforms "connect consumers to the content they love," said House. It's interesting to note that this discussion, front and center at the press conference, characterized the "content they love" as traditional media, such as music and movies, rather than games.
The company aims to offer "flexibility in how, when, and where you play," he promised, and its platforms will offer "interoperability, mobility, and individualization."
Said Jim Ryan, who's taking over House's role effective September 1, "The pace of change is increasing, and as you're about to see, PlayStation is front and center at this change."
While he began with the promise that "at its core, PlayStation is about games," this section of the presentation pushed the social connectivity of the upcoming PlayStation Vita handheld very, very hard, outlining the social applications like its location-aware Near and its chat and gaming app Party. LiveArea will push news and marketing to gamers (along with social networking features) and the Social Essentials app brings Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Foursquare
"All of these items add a social dimension to portable gaming," promised Ryan.
In the sizzle reel played at the end of the Vita presentation, the tagline was "Join the Social Gaming Revolution." It's notable, however, that the company hasn't announced any games for the platform which take advantage of what we would consider "true" social network gaming gameplay or business models.
Michael Denny, SVP of Sony's Worldwide Studios organization for Europe, said that developers have been "truly inspired since we started working on PlayStation Vita," and that they have "have unprecedented creative options" on the platform.
He promised the "strongest launch lineup of games ever on a PlayStation platform," and then announced Resistance: Burning Skies
, developed by Nihilistic for Sony, continuing the strategy of loading a system with original titles based on the company's existing IP.
There was a new game announced, however -- Escape Plan
-- which does not follow in the footsteps of any other Sony titles and is completely original.
Sony Europe also revealed that it is introducing
a cut-price, wi-fi-free PSP at 99 euros, hoping to keep the system alive for budget audiences alongside a slate of 10 Euro re-releases of its games -- a strategy not happening for the U.S., interestingly.
"PS3 continues to provide consumers what they want," said Denny, before showcasing an array of casual and hardcore titles, though with the only new announcement being the downloadable vampire-tinged Infamous 2: Festival of Blood
Naughty Dog's Uncharted 3
was the shining star, looking as good at it did at E3, unsurprisingly. And House announced a price drop
for the system shortly after whetting people's appetites with Drake's latest adventure -- no doubt to the benefit of gamers watching the press conference on streams at home.
The interesting question is: what's Sony's overall strategy? As the games side further pursues strategies influenced by Sony's heritage as a media and electronics company -- there was more talk of 3D displays and games, more talk of Sony's music service Qriocity -- it's still unclear how much having these options actually help the company sell systems.
When compared to its competition, there's nothing new to contrast against what Microsoft is doing; Sony is staying the PS3 course it has already charted, price drop aside. There were no shocking or original announcements about PlayStation Network games, nothing original for Move -- with shown games for the motion peripheral, if not identical, fairly well duplicative of content already released for the Xbox 360 and Kinect: dancing and exercise games.
As for Nintendo, the fact that the Vita and the PlayStation 3 are the same price, and the 3DS just dropped its price significantly, well, things look a lot more dangerous for the handheld than they seemed at E3 when that price point was first announced -- favorably compared to a same-price Nintendo competitor and a more expensive home console.
It's also unclear if Sony wants to differentiate itself from Nintendo when it comes to social networking, or if the company is fully committed to moving towards total integration with these online platforms, with an informed awareness of how the world is changing.
While the Sony's Vita launch lineup differentiates itself from Nintendo -- which is still struggling to get games onto the system -- Sony's pursuing a very similar strategy of spamming it with existing IP that can be found elsewhere. None of the first party Vita original games are either triple-A quality nor seemingly so innovative they are only possible on the system.
As with Sony's E3 press conference, it seems like business as usual for the company, but with glimmers of exciting news that might have ripple effects down the road.