LOS ANGELES — Sony packed the Shrine Auditorium on Tuesday (July 15) at E3 to promote the idea that this is the year of PlayStation games, and the company presented a diverse lineup to stress that point.
On a stage with 58 flat-screen TVs, developers came out to show off material like "Resistance 2," a fall 2008 first-person shooter that features its hero fighting a monster as tall as a skyscraper in an alien-overtaken Chicago. The company also revealed a downloadable sequel to the "Ratchet & Clank" series. Subtitled "Quest for Booty" and due out this summer, it's a shorter-than-normal adventure that the developers say is paced like a summer action movie.
PS3 has more exclusive games than any other system, Sony Computer Entertainment of America President Jack Tretton said early in the briefing, citing at least 75 exclusives and ensuring that the focus is on games. "Exclusive content is nice," he said, taking a clear shot at the Xbox 360's effort to offer gamers exclusive bonus material for "Grand Theft Auto IV" and "Fallout 3." That's not what makes the difference, according to Tretton: Exclusive games do.
To that end, Sony announced the PlayStation Portable-only "Resistance: Retribution," a third-person shooting game developed by Sony's Bend studio; showed a teaser trailer for next year's "God of War III"; and revealed a new game from the makers of "SOCOM" called "Massive Action Game." That game will allow up to 256 gamers to join together on massive battlefields, with more experienced players taking the roles of leaders of eight-person squads. "MAG" is expected to be released in 2009.
Part of Sony's confidence that 2008 is going to be a PlayStation year stems from price cuts and revisions to the PS3 and PSP hardware that spurred sales late in 2007. Continuing in that vein, Sony announced that starting this fall, there will only be one PS3 on sale: an 80GB version.
For all the confidence-building, though, there are some concerns Sony needed to address. Tretton tried to calm anxieties about Sony's online services. He said Sony's goal is to make PlayStation Network the best online service in the industry. He also said the ballyhooed but delayed PS3 Home virtual world will impress.
"I absolutely assure you that when PlayStation Home is made publicly available ... your patience will be rewarded," he said.
Home was announced at the 2007 Game Developers Conference as an upcoming service for all PlayStation users. It had been positively received last year, but enthusiasm appears to have waned — at least as measured by conversation on message boards and blogs. Tretton said that developers are creating exclusive add-on content for Home but didn't reveal any major details.
The crowd at the Shrine seemed more entertained than the crowd at Nintendo's event earlier in the day. Even the expected dull parts of Sony's event proved to be fun. The company played a neat trick, turning its annual display of business stats — usually done via a PowerPoint presentation — into an interactive level of "LittleBigPlanet," the October-slated, highly customizable, side-scrolling action game. Instead of just telling the audience that Sony has sold 5 million units of PS2, PS3 and PSP hardware, Tretton was able to point to "LBP" hero Sackboy as he leaped and ran over charts and graphs. And rather than saying that Sony would increase its hardware presence in Latin America, Sackboy watched a boat sail through a Latin American canal.
Sony announced a downloadable PS3 video service to compete with the video marketplace on Xbox 360. Movies, TV and other video downloaded onto the PS3 will be transferable to multiple PSPs, making the content portable. That service launched Tuesday.
Later, comic book artist Jim Lee took the stage to show the first footage of "DC Universe Online," a PC and PS3 massively multiplayer game that lets players create their own superheroes and battle alongside heavyweights such as Batman, the Joker, Wonder Woman and Sinestro. Lee is serving as executive creative director and gave a breathless speech about the game, having first pumped through some onstage one-arm push-ups.
The company also announced sequels to artsy PSP favorites "LocoRoco" and "Patapon" as well as more mainstream projects like a video channel about cars and racing provided to the PS3 by the makers of "Gran Turismo."
One question did linger after the press conference, though: What in the world is the game "Fat Princess" about? It was shown briefly during a reel of new games. It appeared to be a top-down action game downloadable for the PS3 ... and it features a, uh, fat princess.
Clearly, 2008 is the year for Sony to try all kinds of games.
For much more E3 coverage, check out our gaming blog at Multiplayer.MTV.com.