CrunchArcade: Sony is Ready to Play

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Traditionally known for the longest press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo Sony Computer Entertainment hasn’t been one to “leave them wanting more.” And despite the scaled back E3 this year the company still managed to have an event that clocked in a tad bit on the long side, but with plenty of great news it was worth every minute… almost! Here is a look at what Sony had to say.

What a difference a year makes, and what a difference an overpriced system can make. Normally we’d report that Sony came out bragging and shall we say even a bit arrogant. Well, the company was humble but firmly dedicated to delivering a solid gaming experience and much more. Sony Computer Entertainment further emphasized that they aren’t out yet.

Of course the most expected news was already broken before the show when it was announced that a new 80GB version of the PlayStation 3, which would be packaged with the popular Motor Storm racing simulation, would be released for $599, while the 60GB version of the system has dropped in price by $100 to $499.

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The epical press conference began in cyberspace as Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America took the stage from within “home” the new 3D virtual world that is now in beta. Throughout the event Tretton and various others who took the stage were in avatar form on the massive screens over the stage. It was clearly meant to deliver the hype, but in fairness this virtual community does look very good. The 3D community for PS3 will allow images to be sent from the real world via camera phones, and it will further serve as an immersing interface, allowing the launching of games from within the service.

On the actual physical stage in the real world, Tretton further stressed that this fiscal year Sony has clear objectives. “We have two basic goals,” said Tretton. “The first is to broaden the install the base, and the second is to deliver content that offers something for everyone.” Perhaps the strategy is already working. Tretton stressed that sales have doubled at the top five retailers carrying the PlayStation 3 since the reduction of the price earlier in the week.

And as with Microsoft’s press conference for the Xbox 360 last night, Sony is squarely focusing all their attention on software titles this year. The company announced that 200 Blu-ray disc games would be released worldwide by the end of the fiscal year, and more than 120 of these would be for North America. Among the titles include Haze, Unreal Tournament III, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Assassin’s Creed, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, Resident Evil 5, Burnout Paradise, Madden NFL 08, Ratchet & Clank: Future Tools of Destruction, Folklore, Heavenly Sword, NBA 08, BigLittlePlanet, Grand Turismo 5 Prologue, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Infamous.

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The future of how games are actually accessed by gamers was part of the messaging from Sony, even if it wasn’t exactly said in so many words. Rather the attention was placed on the PLAYSTATION Network, which currently has two million users world-wide, with 950,000 in North America. Currently 80 games and game packs in development for download including echochrone, a game with simple graphics yet complex puzzles, WipeOut HD, Pain, Warhawk and SOCOM Navy Seals Confrontation.

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In addition to support for the PS3 Sony also confirmed their continued commitment to their still popular PlayStation 2 system, which is currently seven years into its life cycle. Sony announced that it plans to ship another 10 million units this year, and that more than 160 new games will be released the system in North America by the end of the fiscal year.

Sony’s big hardware news takes a cue from Nintendo, as Sony will release a slimmed down version of their handheld gaming system PlayStation Portable, or PSP. Kaz Hirai, CEO of SCE, took the stage to show off the new PSP, which was called the evolution of the system. It will be available in September and will be 19 percent slimmer and 33 percent light, while offering a more efficient battery and more importantly the ability to output high quality video.

New colors of the PSP will include Piano Black as well as ice Silver. Sony will also release two special game-related special edition models, one for the popular platform game Daxter and another that will be packaged with Star Wars BattleFront: Renegade Squadron. This model, which was even unveiled by “Chewbacca” of Star Wars fame, will feature a Darth Vader image on a white device will arrive in October for $199.

The plan, according to Sony is to ship nine million PSP units by the end of 2007, and more than 140 games will come to North America in the fiscal year including SOCOM US Navy Seals Tactical Strike, Wipeout Pulse, Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow, NBA 08. God of War: Chains of Olympus, Silent Hill Origins, Patapon, Tiger Woods: PGA Tour 08, Sonic Rivals 2, Sims 2 Castaway, SWAT Target Liberty, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions and Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles.

A few mew deals were announced including an exclusive partnership with NCsoft for future MMORPG games, as well as a deal with EPIC, which will provide full optimization for the Unreal Engine for the PS3 to speed the game creation process.

Finally, the press conference ended with the announcement of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriot, which will see Solid Snake battling arch-rival Liquid Snake in early 2008 exclusively on the PS3.