E3: Sony Conference - Console reveal, The Order, Indie Showcase, Price point, Used games

By Matt Bailey

Sony had the advantage of going last in the day in Monday's round of E3 press conferences - and very late in the day too for us in the UK with it finishing at 0400. But those of us who managed to stay awake got to see an event with a rather exciting finish.

Before pushing on with the PS4 chatter, the PS Vita got a bit of a showcase which turned out to really be its only presence in the whole 2 hour event - but worry not handheld fans as there were a lot of Vita games on the show floor. PS3 also got a bit of attention, and considering there are still major first-party games such as The Last of Us (out last Friday, incidentally), The Puppeteer, and Gran Turismo 6, as well as Grand Theft Auto 5 from Rockstar, of course. And then there's Sony and Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls, which actually had a new trailer showing off a rather more action-packed section of the game than we've seen previously. Quantic Dream's only PS4 connection so far is a short film made on the PS4 development kit acting as a sort of tech demo for the console.

Then came the reveal. And it was a black box, as expected, but a lot smaller and more slanted than the Xbox One. Strangely slanted, actually, as you can see below. In fact, it doesn't seem to be much different in size to the slim PS3 that launched a few years ago - and definitely smaller than the launch model PS3. Once that was done, Sony decided to talk television and film, talking up their own studios and the services on PS3 like Netflix (which we presume they are trying to get on the PS4) - although thankfully this was quite short and we didn't get a repeat of the Xbox One reveal's TV focus.

The PS4. Black, slantly, and smaller than an Xbox One.

Finally we got a new game, one in a London setting. A Victorian London setting. A Steampunk Victorian London setting. And then it turned out to be a four-person squad-based zombie action game, called The Order: 1886. It could still be good, not least because developer Ready At Dawn have good pedigree with the God of War games for the PSP, and they are being helped by Sony's Santa Monica studio who have helped on the likes of Journey, Sound Shapes and, er, Starhawk in recent years. There's nothing wrong with the genre, but the setting certainly offered the potential for something a bit different that we don't seem to be seeing here.

Demonstrating how the industry is shifting, Sony brought a whole load of indie developers on to their stage - not simply to put them there and make them talk up Sony, but each playing their own games in front of large screens, while a showreel showed off their creations to the world. This including the likes of XBLA/Windows 8-exclusive Skulls of the Shogun's 17-bit Studios showing their new game and Oddworld Inhabitants delighting with an update to Abe's Oddysee, alongside a bunch of developers you may not have heard of, but probably will do soon. This was in contrast to Microsoft, who it has to be said didn't ignore indie developers in their conference, but neither did they give them anything like the exposure and focus that Sony did.

We finally got some news about Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the companion game that was announced alongside FFXIII and originally a PS3-exclusive. Well, it's now Final Fantasy XV, and coming to PS4. And not announced at Sony's event, it's also coming to the Xbox One too, so we're not sure why Sony gave it the focus that it did. The same is true of Kingdom Hearts III, a game eagerly awaited by fans of the series, seeing as the last full entry was on the PS2. Other multi-platform games getting attention were Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs and Assassin's Creed IV, which both had live gameplay on stage, although in the latter case this descended to a slideshow after some horrendous lag essentially ended the demonstration. There was also a reveal for a "Mad Max" game, based on the cult 1979 film, shown off in purely CGI teaser trailer form, and again it's coming to a variety of platforms, including the PS4. Rounding out the third-party games was Bungie's Destiny, with some gameplay shown off, but again it's something that will be the same on both the PS4 and Xbone.

Gaikai, the streaming service that Sony purchased last year, got a mention. The cloud-based system will be rolling out in the US early next year, but there's no details yet as to when it will follow suit in Europe. When it does, it will offer games to the PS3, PS4 and PS Vita, but there's no details about what these are, and whether PS Plus will figure into the selection. Plus will, however, be making its way to the PS4, offering off free games early on, although it will also now be required for online multiplayer - in return, Sony are promising to build a better network, but now it really will have to live up to Xbox Live.

However, it was the last section of the conference that really got all the attention, including our article from earlier this week. Sony pleased fans - and got a rapturous reception in the conference hall - with its announcement that there would be no restrictions on selling or buying disc-based games and that there would be no requirement to go online to register games or to use them. Essentially things would remain as they do on the PS3 today, so that all Sony did was stand still and they won themselves a lot of applause. Already running on a high, Sony then pulled one last trick out of the bag as they closed the event; the price. The PS4 is set to launch at £349 or US$399 - that's a full £80 or US$100 cheaper than the high-priced Xbox One, and despite all the focus around used games and the internet requirement, it could be the cost that will be the winner for Sony this Christmas.

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