After a series of turnarounds and with FIFA and Call Of Duty in its corner, following Microsoft was a more difficult task for Sony at Gamescom than at E3. All PlayStation had to do was turn up and collect the spoils back in June, but here, with significantly revised competition and the temperature rising ever higher as we lead into launch, it felt like Sony needed to remind us exactly why it has gathered so much goodwill with its new console.
It succeeded, with what seemed like an unending list of new indie games, some promising new partnerships, a neat demo of Vita’s Remote Play capabilities, price cuts for Vita and PS3, and a PS4 release date. It even found time for a dig at Microsoft’s string of reversals and compromises. By the conclusion of Sony’s comprehensive press showcase, the crowd almost seemed weary from the need to applaud each and every new announcement.
It began slowly. New Killzone Shadow Fall footage was, well, shooty, and the video that led into the news of Gran Turismo 6’s release date (December 6 globally) was soundtracked by the very worst heavy metal dirge imaginable.
News of free to play PS3 title LittleBigPlanet Hub livened up the proceedings, and Sony’s GTA V / PS3 bundle – guaranteed to be a strong seller – followed. Then it was onto Sony’s Vita rescue plan: a price cut to €199 / $199 plus new versions Football Manager and Borderlands 2 will help, as will Media Molecule’s Tearaway, which got an extended, appreciative round of applause.
The meat of this conference, however, was a love letter to indie developers. Ovosonico’s Murasaki Baby set the tone here – where Xbox One has big-name, guns-and-football blockbusters, PS4 had a ludicrous number of smaller, much more interesting games. Big Fest followed, a free to play game which allows players to build a fantasy music festival featuring real-world unsigned bands.
Mark Cerny turned up to repeat some now-familiar patter – that PS4 is the most powerful games console, that it has the strongest lineup in its history, that it is supporting indies to bring about a Renaissance in gaming – then, a second flood of indie games, introduced by a clearly ecstatic Shahid Ahmad: Vlambeer’s Wasteland Kings, Dennaton’s Hotline Miami 2, Tequila Works’ Rime, Arrowhead Studios’ Helldivers, Housemarque’s Resogun – there was even a completely unexpected Shadow Of The Beast reboot.
Onetime PS4 AR tech demo The Playroom could surprise many – it ensured that the important party and family game box was ticked, and it will come pre-installed on every PS4, a potentially very smart move in terms of seducing the market Nintendo’s home consoles once dominated. Improvements to Sony’s music services and partnerships with video and broadband companies were naturally less sexy, but further incentives to sign up to PS Plus demonstrated that Sony was doing its best to ease the transition from PS3 to PS4.
Ubisoft’s demo of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag on Vita via PS4 Remote Play was impressive, and news that almost all PS4 titles can be played on Vita in the same way was another shot in the arm for the struggling handheld.
By this point Sony was tossing out major announcements for fun – Minecraft will be a PS4 launch game; PS3’s 12GB model will now cost €199 / $199; players that have bought a cross-gen PS3 game will be able to download the PS4 version for a reduced price when they upgrade.
Then the real crowd-pleasers. Faced by a deluge of announcements, crowd applause had grown a little weary so an obvious dig at Microsoft added some spice to the finale: “Where others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent,” said Andrew House, confirming that PS4 would be launched in 32 countries in total. In America, PS4 will be launched on November 15, with Europe to follow on November 29.
Microsoft might have touted the industry’s two biggest series alongside its console at Gamescom earlier today, but that offering was, once again, trumped by the sheer volume and integrity of Sony’s announcements. PS4 remains the frontrunner in the next-gen race, a console that boasts the more creative and interesting approach to next gen play, a truly coherent featureset and – throughout it all – vitally, a lower price.