With what is possibly the most anticipated E3 since it began in 1995 on the horizon, here at PSU we thought it would be nice to take a trip down memory lane and look at the best, and worst, of what Sony has brought to the E3 party over the years. There have been cheers, gasps, meltdowns and countless .gifs along the way and now let’s look back at this glorious time of the year for gaming, along with the passionate love (and sometimes hate) for PlayStation.
It’s probably best to start with the greatest E3 moments for Sony, starting with the one which catapulted PlayStation into the conscience of Japanese Role Playing Game players everywhere: the announcement of Final Fantasy VII for the PS1.
The year is 1996, and Sony’s second E3, it was actually only the second ever E3 in total, and shockwaves were sent through the industry when Sony had announced that the latest entry into what was the Nintendo exclusive JRPG series, would be released exclusively on the PlayStation in 1997, resulting in what is sometimes called ‘a betrayalaton’. Squaresoft later said the reason for the change in platform was because the PlayStation used CDs, which compared to the cartridges of the N64 hold much more data. The repercussions of this announcement were huge and the message was clear, PlayStation is here to stay. Final Fantasy VII went on to sell over 10 million copies and was one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed games for the PS1.
Fast forward a few years now to 2000 and the world was anticipating the unveiling of the PlayStation 2. To go with this unveiling, Sony got Konami to announce Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty for the console. The announcement of MGS2 was interesting to say the least. When first announced, it was as expected, a new adventure starring Solid Snake but looking and playing better than on the PS1.
The game did start at the tanker and playing as Snake but the world didn’t expect what Hideo Kojima had in mind. Until its release in 2001, everyone assumed that this was the premise for the entire game, Snake on a tanker, but what no one knew was that this was a huge part of the theme of the game, information control. The theme of information control centres around manipulating information to suit a certain agenda and only giving out facts to back up an opinion and not give the whole story.
Today, that theme is more relevant than it was back then with the rise of the internet and social media. Of course, we all know about the revelation of Raiden and the Big Shell but back then that was only revealed to players when they played the game, a prime example of information control, since every piece of media for the game only featured Snake in the tanker. It isn’t as such the E3 announcement of the PS2 and MGS2 that will be remembered, but the whole reveal of MGS2 and what Kojima hid from everyone, that will forever be remembered. It was truly mind-blowing and magnificent.
People expect great games to be announced at E3 as well as shown in order to impress the crowd. That’s exactly what Naughty Dog did in 2009 when they announced Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.
The demo was impressive because it was a game that looked and played well. It was obvious that as soon as it was unveiled, Uncharted 2 was something special. The first Uncharted game was well received but didn’t set the world on fire, which made the Uncharted 2 reveal even better. For the first time since the Crash Bandicoot days on the PS1, Naughty Dog was at the forefront of developers for PlayStation. This goes to show that if you want to make a positive impression at E3 that it is best to show good games and show that the people who buy your products will get to play them sooner rather than later.
Having real-time gameplay demos at your conference is a good thing because it shows that the game is real and not a pipedream. Sony has done pre-rendered trailers and claimed it was in game, which was a costly mistake and became a big joke for years. Killzone 2.
At E3 2005, Sony announced the PlayStation 3 and showed the world some trailers, claiming to be of in-game footage. This was a downright lie and Sony was ridiculed for it, with Killzone 2 being the punch-line. It doesn’t matter that when the game was revealed with real footage that it wowed people and that it turned out to be a great game. Sony used pre-rendered footage and said it was gameplay, which should never happen. MotorStorm was another game that received this treatment but wasn’t in the spotlight as much as Guerilla’s ‘Halo killer’. Of course, having live demos on stage doesn’t always save you from embarrassment.
Following the trailer trouble, Sony decided to go one better at E3 2006 by completely imploding and giving us one of the worst (or best-looking) conferences in history.
From Kaz Hirai announcing the PS3 at ‘Five hundred and ninety-nine US dollars’, to showing Afrika, which was basically nothing, to saying that Genji: Days of the Blade was based on real historical battles – only to have a ‘giant enemy crab’ show up. Then we had Kaz also confessing his love for Ridge Racer and that the PS3 won’t have any gimmicks, only to then debut Eye of Judgment, and show it off using the PSP as a rear view mirror for F1: Championship Edition, a feature which never made the final version of the game. It’s safe to say that this conference was an absolute disaster on all fronts for Sony back then and it signalled a long road for Sony to redeem themselves and the PS3 to many people involved with gaming. You can watch the whole train-wreck here.
Sony did manage to recover the PS3 and has since launched another platform, PlayStation Vita. You would have thought that it would have been the focus of that year’s E3 conference. Well, it wasn’t. The PS Vita came out in North America and Europe in February 2012 and at E3 you would have thought that the Vita would get a lot of time spent on it announcing new games, especially since it hasn’t had the easiest start in life. Instead, the Vita was pretty much shunned, only having PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale announced for it and shown on stage, a game previously announced for PS3.
There was no other live demos, only a trailer for Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, despite the fact that the PS3 game was demoed; even though it had already been demoed at Ubisoft’s own conference which was before Sony’s. We also had a logo for Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified but no gameplay, which in hindsight, was probably a good thing. There were no other announcements for the Vita and these two games were already confirmed previously. There wasn’t even a sizzle reel for Vita games shown, only for one to be uploaded onto YouTube after the conference finished. Instead, what we got was a fifteen minute demo for Wonderbook.
This clearly showed that Sony had misplaced priorities and poor planning skills. No one who watched E3 would have cared about Wonderbook in the slightest but would have cared about the Vita. It was such a disappointment and hopes are that it won’t be a mistake that is repeated. Sony shunning the Vita like it did only showed a lack of faith in the platform.
Sony has had its up and downs at E3 but the future is looking bright. Hopefully, Sony deliver this year and the PS4 hits the ground running with a deluge of top quality games, with no anti-consumer nonsense in sight hopefully. The love for games is shown at this time of year and the passion that players and developers alike share is a great thing and long may it continue. We will give an honourable mention to Kevin Butler’s amazing speech at E3 2010, which reflects our own feelings.
When not attacking Giant Enemy Crab’s weak points for massive damage, Paul Kelly is on Twitter @Paul_Kelly1.