OPINION: How Sony won E3… at Gamescom

The current-gen might be approaching the final straight, but Sony is ready for a sprint finish.

Consensus dictates that Sony has lost” the current generation of machines. Wii sold in sufficiently high numbers that despite the fact it has been dead in the water for over a year, it will not be caught. And while the sales battle between Xbox 360 and PS3 is closer than we might have expected, Microsoft’s American dominance has given it a steady (albeit slight) sales edge of Sony’s machine.

But if there’s one thing we have to remember about Sony is that it’s always slow out of the blocks. The PS3 that was released 2006/2007 bares little resemblance to the console of today.

We’re not just talking about the physical appearance either. Functionality has been significantly ramped up (thanks to the hundreds of software updates, of course). Sony traditionally gets better at getting consumers to buy its consoles the longer the console spends on the market.

And so it will be with PS3, if last night’s show is anything to go by.

There’s been a common theme amongst the immediate reaction to Sony’s Gamescom event – it was everything that E3 wasn’t.

Cast your minds back. Microsoft’s SmartGlass caught our attention, yes, but somehow its the Usher performance – and all its mainstream, non-gaming connotations – that sticks in the mind. Nintendo will do anything it can to forget about arguably its worst E3 ever, which is all the more remarkable considering it’s the only platform holder with new hardware out this Q4. And Sony? Sony did alright.

But last night it did a lot better.

Sony’s Gamescom 2012 ticked nearly all the boxes. There was new IP, there were old favourites, there were new ideas and there was smart thinking.

The only thing we didn’t get was new hardware. But cheer up – we ARE getting the PS3 Super Slim. It WILL be here by Christmas. It WON’T cost 99.99. But it WILL be cheap – somewhere between 119.99 and 149.99 (at a guess).

Sony has always excelled at championing daring new console IP. And where the likes of Ico, Heavy Rain and Journey left off we now have titles like Rain and Puppeteer to carry on.

Even Move, bless it, is still getting treated with a level of respect that arguably it doesn’t deserve. While the FIFA 13 Move demo was cringe worthy, Until Dawn looked fantastic – a clever use of the technology wrapped up in am original and immediately appealing idea.

And ignore all those in your Twitter feed bemoaning Wonderbook. There’s a huge market for that device and it could very well end up doing big things. Indeed, Sony itself referred to it as its biggest new release of the holiday season”.

You see, there’s the Sony difference right there. Microsoft tries to tap up this market with Sesame Street and Disney Kinect games that always feel like an awkward combination of tech and IP.

Wonderbook, however, feels completely right. The Disney tie-in is smart, although obvious, but the BBC Walking With Dinosaurs crossover is a stroke of genius. I guarantee you parents all over the country and eyeing that up and proclaiming that’s Christmas sorted, then” with a big sigh of mixed relief and excitement.

Then there’s Vita.

Here’s the thing – Sony’s doing everything right with Vita… short of discovering a way to sell it for 99 and still make a profit on each unit.

Cross Buy and Cross Play both look fantastic, in technological terms at least. Yes, it may be a variant on Wii U at likely twice the price, but unlike Wii U you’re not limited to strictly predefined functionality within the confines of your living room. It’s smart, it’s of the time.

And it will be used by a small number of people.

Killzone on Vita is good. Tearaway on Vita will inevitably be good. PSOne Classics on Vita? Yep, that’s good. And scrapping the barriers between PlayStation Mobile and Vita is most definitely good.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified? Hmmm. That perhaps doesn’t look quite so good. There’s something amiss, here. Activision is seemingly not involved with the project at all – something that was perfectly evidenced by the distinctly odd answers offered by mouthpiece Dan Amrich in the comments section of the PlayStation Blog piece.

So it’s a Sony project made by, effectively, a Sony developer. Nihilistic Software’s previous PlayStation output (Resistance Burning Skies, PlayStation Move Heroes) doesn’t particularly inspire confidence.

And that COD trailer was odd.

What does it say of Vita when Activision itself would rather hand over its cherished IP than dirty its own hands with development? Well, it says what even Sony itself has admitted.

The truth is Vita is a machine rammed with 2012 technology that would have done really, really well in 2007.

But the possible future market failure of Vita doesn’t detract from the fact that Sony, on PS3 at least, is getting it all right. A cut-price PS3 at a time of economic turmoil with a fantastic back-catalogue of titles, excellent selection of digital games, Blu-ray support (yes, that actually matters!) and unparalleled multimedia support sounds like a High Street winner.

Don’t forget, too, that both of or one of Xbox 720 and PS4 could still be over a year away. That’s a lot of time for an entry-level 16GB 119.99 PS3 Super Slim to make a big impact.

Sony has done a remarkable job. PS3 was once the laughing stock of the industry. Gabe Newell even called it a disaster”. But five years later it has become THE must have machine of this generation.

Maybe it’s not so hard to understand why Sony is in no rush to pass the baton to PS4.

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