Don't give up on PlayStation 3 any time soon: The PS3 is taking its stand in Tokyo this week.
Sandwiched between a Nintendo Wii blowout of information in New York last week and a major Microsoft Xbox conference in Barcelona next week, Sony used the 2006 Tokyo Game Show as a showcase for its looming PS3. The company proved a point often made at events like these: It's best to let the games speak for themselves.
More than 20 PS3 titles were playable on the show floor at the TGS, an E3-style gaming bonanza that distinguishes itself from the L.A. event by letting the public attend. A new "Devil May Cry" from Capcom and a dragon-flying combat game called "Lair" from "Star Wars Rogue Leader" makers Factor 5 were among the most impressive PS3 games to be played on the show floor, according to several showgoers. Kiosks running PS3 exclusives "Heavenly Sword" and "Gran Turismo HD" and trailers blitzing glimpses of "Metal Gear Solid 4" made it clear that a console that has been kicked around in the press recently for its high price and reduced launch supply still has plenty to brag about.
It was expected that PS3 would make a strong showing in part because Nintendo doesn't attend the TGS show, but also because Sony was due for a hype-building event with the console's launch less than two months away in Japan and North America (see "Good Luck Snagging A PS3 — Sony Cuts Console's U.S. Shipment In Half").
But some of that hype was expected to flow from a place it did not: the TGS keynote given by Sony's top PlayStation executive, Ken Kutaragi, which had few announcements. Sony's own press service bullet-pointed the following as a chief takeaway: "The gaming and entertainment business is no longer limited to a static, disc-based world. It is a living, breathing community enabled by the power of the PS3 to connect seamlessly to the vast world of information, content and interpersonal interactivity only available online."
This is not the kind of material reporters flew in from around the world to get. "Everyone was bored out of their minds at the press conference," said Brian Ashcraft, who was covering TGS for the gaming blog Kotaku. "But," he added, "the games playable at TGS look good and it seems like the tide is turning — Sony is going to be all right."
Ashcraft said his biggest PS3 gripe had been the lack of games Sony has made playable even at events like this year's E3, but TGS has corrected the issue. "They've got boatloads for us to fiddle with at TGS," he said.
Among the crowd-pleasers was "Gran Turismo: HD," a showcase for the system's 1080p gaming that needs a fancy high-definition TV to show it off. For the car nuts who have made "Gran Turismo" one of the best-selling game franchises of all time, getting the right set for this game will be worth it. The game will present some of the series' classic courses on high-definition and offer some sort of playable preview of "Gran Turismo 5," a title not expected from Sony for at least another year. A press release from Sony's Japanese PlayStation office indicated that 750 cars and 50 racetracks will be "available through ongoing downloads." It did not specify whether the company will charge for the extra downloadable content, though Sony executives have previously demonstrated PS3 services that could charge gamers for items down to individual game-specific cars, guns and songs.
As announced in May at E3 (see "An Insider's Look At E3 Week: PS3 Games, Wii Preview, 'Sonic' Revamp"), the PS3 will be released in two versions, one that will sell for $499 in North America and one at $599 (see "PlayStation 3 Unveils Big Price Tag, Surprise Controller"). The cheaper will include a 20GB hard drive instead of a 60GB and will not support WiFi out of the box, requiring users to plug it into the wall for an Internet connection. In Japan that cheaper model was initially priced by Sony at the equivalent of $539. But at TGS, Sony announced that, in Japan, that cheaper version will now sell for about $429 — a sign that Sony is smarting from criticisms about the system's cost.
However, no such pre-launch price drop will be coming Stateside, according to Dave Karraker, Sony's chief PlayStation spokesman in America. "There are no plans to alter the pricing structure of the PS3 in North America," he said in an e-mail late Friday. "It remains $499 for the 20 [gigabyte model], which now includes HDMI output, and $599 for the 60 GB. Based on the advanced technology we are including in the box, including a Blu-ray player for games and movies, the PS3 represents an exceptional value for the consumer [and] will have a very long shelf life."
The PS3 will launch in Japan on November 11 and follow in North America on November 17.
[This story was originally published at 2:24 p.m. ET on 09.22.2006]