PSX 2015: Sony celebrates its fans and its (large) lineup

Very often, companies -- not just video game companies, mind you, but all companies -- try to make it seem like their glory days have come again. It's a hard trick to pull off. Sony did.

I feel like I could re-run last year's editorial on the PlayStation Experience keynote, minus the bits about how it was a bold decision for the company to throw its own event (it's a still a smart one, but now it's not new.)

This year's PlayStation Experience keynote presentation saw the company blasting through game announcements left and right; it was like last year, but more so. Sony's presentation was peppy, full of games, and fully fan-oriented.

As in Las Vegas in 2014, so in San Francisco in 2015 -- the company has the stage to itself (quite literally, as compared to an event like E3 or Gamescom) so there was no posturing. It was figuratively true, too -- at least in the console space -- on the internet. Nobody else has a big event in December. That is a big secret of this event's power.

After an impressive Uncharted 4 trailer (at least people cheered for dialogue choices instead of a headshot this time around) the keynote kicked off in earnest with the first live demo of Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII Remake -- presaged by footage of reaction videos from YouTube of fans freaking out during its initial reveal.

That video, in a way, set the tone of what followed. The well-oiled, winning-the-current-console-generation Sony PlayStation machine and its mix of games: first and third party, indie and triple-A, free-to-play and premium, lost classics (Rez in VR? The 3D rebirth of King of Fighters? Yes, to both) and new hits-to-be.

This diversity of content was once the core of the PlayStation brand, and seeing so many different games on stage marks a return to the platform holder's real identity, to my eyes. It also fulfills a promise from Mark Cerny at the outset of the generation: "We'll be returning to the creative freedom and broad content that made the early years of PlayStation so memorable," he said, in 2013.

On the PlayStation 1 and 2 there was a huge variety of games; sure, each system had its own massive hits -- in the 1990s, who didn't give Resident Evil or Metal Gear Solid a shot? -- but you didn't buy these systems to play one game. You bought them for the variety of titles, and your collection probably wouldn't look anything like your neighbor's.

The last generation was difficult for developers and publishers, and the success of mega-franchises with cleanly defined audiences, like Call of Duty, sometimes made the console space feel like it was consolidating behind one audience, one mood.

The open question -- the most pressing question -- was whether or not Sony could bring enough heat to make PlayStation VR, which launches in the first part of next year, look compelling. As much as game developers, fans, and the press often treat the success of VR like a fait accompli, it's anything but.

The good news is: Sony seems off to a good start. The usual problems with presenting VR on 2D screens persisted -- it's a difficult problem to solve, and somtimes the games look simple or boring, too -- but Sony made up for that simply with volume -- including the new game Eagle Flight from Ubisoft and funny, sparkling indie games like Job Simulator and 100ft Robot Golf. There was even a new VR-powered Ace Combat game from Bandai Namco, to mark the series' 20th anniversary.

I don't think that the company made VR seem like a must-have, but it made it seem -- like PlayStation in general -- jam-packed with entertaining-looking games, and even if it's not a flawless victory, it's still a victory.

Ultimately, the job of PSX this year was to position Sony's console as a smorgasbord of games -- and even more than last year's event, as the PS4 moves into the prime of its life. (You can watch all the game trailers - and other PSX-specific videos on Sony's YouTube channel.)

Of course, there can't be something for everybody on a platform like this -- it's still closed to the fringes of theme and true experiments of game design, still highly commercial, still locked behind proprietary development kits. That's all to be expected. But, contrary to what I ever would have expected at the outset of the generation (no matter what the company's brightest lights had to say) I never would have expected a showing quite like this.

When's the last time a platform holder put Tetsuya Mizuguchi on stage?

Very often, companies -- not just video game companies, mind you, but all companies -- try to make it seem like their glory days have come again. It's a hard trick to pull off. I think Sony did.  

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