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Breaking: Sony Pre-E3 Event Coverage

Sony's delayed pre-event press conference revealed the launch price for the PlayStation 3 ($499 for the 20gb model, $599 for the 60gb model) and the PlayStation 3's motion and acceleration-sensing Dual Shock-like controller - full details inside.

Simon Carless, Blogger

May 8, 2006

11 Min Read

As part of our extensive E3 coverage, Gamasutra will be covering the Sony press conference at the Sony Pictures Studio in Culver City, California, with updates as announcements occur. 2.03pm PST - Initial live event page set up. The schedule for the afternoon is for a reception from 2pm to 3.30pm PST, followed by the start of the press event at 4pm PST. The invitation also notes: "Be sure to bring your PSP for access to downloadable game demos, art and information." 3.12pm PST - Safely into the event itself at the Culver City headquarters of Sony Pictures, various confused press are milling around inside a large reception tent, and awaiting the chance to be ushered into the press conference location itself, while The Beastie Boys' 'Fight For Your Right To Party' plays over the PA system. 4.55pm PST - The conference started, rather late, with Kaz Hirai, President and CEO of SCEA, discussing the PlayStation 3. He commented: "PlayStation 3 is not an incremental update for a previous platform", noting that it is a powerful machine, but just an enabler. He suggested that PS3 is "a best of breed entertainment platform", noting that it needs massive financial investment from the Sony group. Hirai quipped: "The next generation doesn't start until we say it does", and noted that he wanted to share the progress that the team had made. 5.01pm - Hirai took us back to the PlayStation 2, noting that it has now shipped 103.69 million units, including 41.82 million in North America, 38.60 million in Europe, and 23.27 million in Japan and Asia. It also revealed that it has shipped over 1 billion units worldwide, including almost 500 million units in North America. He stressed that the PS2 is still extremely important to the company, noting that there are 216 new PS2 titles coming by year end. 5.03pm - He commented that the PSP "delivers unsurpassed entertainment", reinforcing its importance to Sony, and listed the hardware shipments, including 4.7 million in Japan/Asia, 6.39 million in North America, and 5.94 million in Europe. The company forecasts shipments of an addition 12 million units to March 2007. It was also explained that 47.3 million PSP software units have shipped as of March 2006. Then, a number of titles were shown in movie form, including a new Planet PSP interactive city guide, the PSP version of Killzone, Killzone Liberation, and the already anticipated Loco Roco, as well as Syphon Filter Dark Mirror, World Tour Soccer 2, and Talkman, alongside The Getaway spinoff Gangs Of London. 5.06pm - Hirai revealed that the company will be introducing a PSP Greatest Hits value priced program in North America, starting with ATV Offroad Fury, Hot Shots Golf, Wipeout Pure, Ape Escape, and Twisted Metal - titles must have been on the market for 9 months and have sold at least 250,000 copies to qualify. He also re-iterated new forthcoming PSP features, including a camera and GPS add-on. 5.09pm - A video plays with people on the street describing their favorite PlayStation experiences from New York, London, Sydney, Capetown, Tokyo, and Santiago, and discussing how they are "looking forward to PlayStation 3" - one excited Japanese gamer suggested: "When I play games, I become a monkey!" 5.12pm - Moving on to the PlayStation 3, Hirai discusses the key features, including compatibility with CD, DVD, and Blu-ray disc, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Bluetooth, WiFi, and Ethernet, Legacy SD to Full HD support (1080p), a wireless controller, a pre-installed hard disc, and USB, Memory Stick, SD, and Compact Flash compatibility. Hirai mentioned that it is "aggressively" seeking ways to connect the PS3 and the PSP. He then showed a chart, including the Xbox 360, revealing that the Xbox 360 has only 9 gigabytes maximum optial disc storage, where as the PlayStation 3 will have 50 gigabytes with Blu-ray, contrasting the two. 5.16pm - Next discussed was the importance of HD to the experience, and Hirai confirmed that every PS3 will ship with a hard drive attached, emphasizing the caching advantages. Hirai also mentioned that the company had shipped more than 10,000 systems in 208 companies in 11 countries, and final kits are shipping now, 6 months before launch. 5.19pm - Hirai confirmed that playable PS3 games will be available at Sony's E3 booth, and discussed SCE Worldwide Studios' development for PS3, introducing Phil Harrison, who discussed the development of PS3 titles, before handing the stage over to Polyphony Digital's Kazunori Yamauchi, the creator of Gran Turismo, and who is showing Gran Turismo HD, in 1920*1080p, designed specifically for HD. It consists of assets for Gran Turismo 4 boosted and converted for PlayStation 3. He then selected from one of four tracks, and picked from a number of cars and motorcycles in a good-looking HD menu. The demo then moved through the Tokyo track, with extremely hi-def resolution, but showed a lack of overwhelming detail, since it used GT4 assets, including some relatively basic tree models. 5.22pm - Yamauchi then loaded another track, pointing out the fast load times due to caching from the PS3 hard disc, commenting that loading may only take two or three seconds on PS3. He then showed Gran Turismo 1 as a tiny image on the screen, before showing the kind of detail in Gran Turismo 4 (similarly small and non-HD), before switching to the extremely hi-res PS3 title. Finally, the Grand Canyon track, complete with a large amount of often somewhat static spectators, who sometimes stray onto the edge of the track, was shown. However, an extremely impressive hi-res Grand Canyon backdrop enlivened things somewhat. Yamauchi did indicate that GT3 came out about 18 months after the PS2 launch, and he hopes that the next Gran Turismo would appear sooner after 5.32pm - Richard Marks, the creator of EyeToy, is showing a game called Eye Of Judgement created by Sony Japan, which uses the PS3 camera to place collectible cards on a table, where, on the PS3's screen, a character materialized above the card. When Marks moved the card, the character tracked it around, using the camera. Phil Harrison then placed a signature Sony rubber duck 'boss character' on the table, which alternately breathed fire and leaked water - a hilarious jape! 5.35pm - Kaz Hirai reappeared to discuss the PS3's network options, noting that online "is as essential as the air that we breathe", and revealed that video chat, rankings, account management, player profile, a friends list, voice message, and text messaging will all be available for PlayStation 3 for free as part of its network options. He then discussed the e-distribution of content which originally appeared on the PS1 via the PSP, loading up Ridge Racer from a memory stick onto his PSP, something that will launch later this year. Hirai also announced that Sony will be selling 'The PlayStation Card' so people can buy items online. 5.41pm - Harrison then showed the shop interface for the PlayStation 3, allowing the purchase of new levels or weapons for the game, including 'Expanded Salvo Upgrade' for $1.00 or 'Chernovan Ground Vehicle' for $2.96 - a little expensive for individual weapon upgrades, if only an example, perhaps? He then showed Singstar for PlayStation 3, showing that you can buy games to play karaoke with online, from Dido to Destiny's Child and beyond - though he did not reveal the pricing yet. He then showed 'My Singstar' - online connectivity, and developing your own profile, having new backgrounds, chart positions, and adding your performances to the network - you can upload your performances online. 5.45pm - Game Republic's Genji 2 was then showcased, explaining that it is based on ancient Japanese battles, and showcasing some of the unique features - actually, it's a relatively straightforward battler with reasonable, but not spectacular graphics. In addition, Formula 1 for PlayStation 3 was showcased, showing a real-time synchronization with PSP - a wing mirror that's rendered in real-time using wireless technology connecting to the PS3. Next, Tameem from Ninja Theory appeared to demonstrate Heavenly Sword, a great-looking PS3 title with a female lead which reminded somewhat of God Of War, and had one particularly painful crotch shot that had the whole audience howling - it even added quick-time events, and was played entirely in real-time. 5.55pm - Harrison cued a video that included footage from Factor 5's Lair, including amazing-looking dragon combat scenes, and Team Soho's gritty Getaway for PS3, showcased in a short urban trailer. In addition, Rhino Studios showed an extremely realistic African safari title named Afrika (working title), though the gameplay was unclear. In addition, Clap Hanz showed the latest Hot Shots Golf for PS3, looking typically cartoon-like, and Game Republic's fantasy-heavy Monster Kingdom (working title) showed some dark visuals. 6.00pm - Two exclusive new titles were then revealed - from Sony Studios London, a gritty crime shooter in an American setting, complete with widespread carnage at a desert diner shootout, and named Eight Days. Secondly, Naughty Dog showcased its new PS3 title, with extremely impressive, real-time looking graphics, set in a jungle with a young male action hero. Ted Price of Insomniac was then ushered to the stage, discussing Resistance: Fall Of Man, the company's new PS3 title, set in alternate history Britain in 1951. He then demonstrated the title in real-time, showing impressive Call Of Duty-style action featuring troops against aliens, complete with spectacular smoke effects and extremely crisp graphics, along with the obligatory headcrab-like beings. The title also includes 32-player multiplayer, to be implemented before launch. 6.10pm - Kaz Hirai returned to stage once more, to discuss the third-party line-up, cuing a video of in-development games, including Assassin's Creed from Ubisoft, giant mech title Gundam Mobile Assault, Konami's Coded Arms Assault FPS, a new announcement, the obligatory Ridge Racer 7 from Namco, Brothers In Arms; Hell's Highway from Ubisoft, Tekken 6 from Namco, the next-gen Sonic The Hedgehog title, looking very handy indeed, Virtua Tennis 3 from Sega, Virtua Fighter 5, Midway's Stranglehold. Koei's incredibly Wipeout-like Fatal Inertia, Koei's Bladestorm, mech title Armored Core 4, and more. 6.20pm - EA's CEO Larry Probst arrives onstage to suggest that EA and Sony's relationship "has never been stronger", showing 2 brief demos regarding EA Sports on the PlayStation 3 - NBA Live - discussing the anchoring of the feet in the PlayStation 3 version, improved responsiveness of movement, and impressive animation. Advanced PlayStation 3 animation via EA's motion capture system was also showcased, with a marginally un-Uncanny Valley Tiger Woods showing extremely impressive facial capture and rendering. Probst confirmed that Madden for PS3 will be playable at the EA booth, and then showed a highlights reel of games including Need For Speed: Carbon, Darm Of Two, and Medal Of Honor Airborne. 6.27pm: Hirai introduces Final Fantasy XIII cinematics, as showcased at the Square Enix conference earlier in the day, which met with customary glee. Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4 was then shown - a heavily anti-war voicover in a vaguely Middle Eastern setting, with quotations such as: "He who controls the battlefield, controls history." Aged characters from the original series were shown, before Solid Snake put his own gun in his mouth, and intoned: "Some bloodlines must come to an end." 6.32pm: Ken Kutaragi appears on stage in a darling white suit to comment on the PlayStation 3's evolution thus far. He then revealed a significant secret - that the PS3's controllability will "be enhanced for the next tier", showing the final PlayStation 3 controller, a wireless silver Dual Shock lookalike. but bringing Phil Harrison onstage to show that the controller has 6 degree of freedom with no external sensor. The controller will be packed in with each PlayStation 3, but "based on our defacto industry standard controller interface". He then showed control of the PlayStation duck, including X, Y, Z, pitch, yaw, and roll controls, suggesting it's a "fascinating innovation." He then showed Warhawk, from Incognito, running on the controller, including extremely impressive real-time ship control using the pitch and roll effects on the PS3 controller. 6.44pm: Kaz returns one final time, to sum everything up - and to announce the global PlayStation 3 launch details. It will be available via a two configuration plan - a 20 gigabyte version and a 60 gigabyte version. The Japanese debut will be November 17, and the 20gb version will debut at 59,900 yen, with the 60gb version getting an 'open price'. In North America, the machine will debut on November 17, at $499 for 20gb, $599 for 60gb. Europe/Australasia will get the console on November 17, at 499 euros for 20gb, 599 euros for 60gb. It also announced that it will ship 2 million PS3s worldwide during the launch period, and 4 million by December 31 2006, and a cumulative 6 million units by March 31, 2007, doubling the output of PS2 during that time. [Apologies for the late posting of these updates - the soundstage that the keynote was held in prevented us from getting a phone signal.]

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About the Author(s)

Simon Carless


Simon Carless is the founder of the GameDiscoverCo agency and creator of the popular GameDiscoverCo game discoverability newsletter. He consults with a number of PC/console publishers and developers, and was previously most known for his role helping to shape the Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference for many years.

He is also an investor and advisor to UK indie game publisher No More Robots (Descenders, Hypnospace Outlaw), a previous publisher and editor-in-chief at both Gamasutra and Game Developer magazine, and sits on the board of the Video Game History Foundation.

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