Live blog: Sony's PlayStation E3 press conference

The stakes are high for the PlayStation maker as it finds itself trailing Microsoft and Nintendo in sales and in perception. Can it overcome the odds?

The Sony stage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where it is having its E3 press conference. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

LOS ANGELES--Well, from this reporter's perspective, Sony wins the production value award for its E3 press conference set-up.

That's not worth very much, of course, not when you're trying to win over the world's video game press. But at least it shows that Sony is taking this seriously.

We're all gathered here at the Shrine Auditorium for the last of the major E3 press conferences. Microsoft started things off Monday morning, followed by Electronic Arts. And then Nintendo had us all over to the Kodak Theater in Hollywood just about 90 minutes ago for its event. And, not to be forgotten, Activision has its own press event this evening.

But now it's time for Sony to show us all if it is up to the task of taking on Microsoft and Nintendo for primacy in this next-generation console battle.

Can it do it? No one really knows what to expect from Sony, but the stakes are definitely high. It needs to show big games and maybe even some hot new peripherals for the PlayStation 3.

Stay tuned to this blog over the next hour or so for my live report (my computer battery willing, that is).

Update 11:47 a.m.: Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton is onstage, giving his introduction.

He, of course, is touting the many virtues of the PlayStation 3, including its more than 75 exclusive titles and its incorporation of Blu-ray.

He then says, "I agree with what CNET and others have written, that 2008 is the year of PS3."

I assume he's referring to the story I wrote back in May in which I concluded that the PS3 could still emerge as the winner several years from now. And if so, the pressure is certainly on Sony and me to be right. I've taken the view for some time that Sony could end up winning the next-generation console wars, and the PS3 hasn't lived up to my expectations so far. But I've tried to take the long view, and now Tretton has publicly attached my work to this. Gulp.

Update 11:49 a.m.: Insomniac Games President and CEO Ted Price is onstage demonstrating Resistance 2, one of the more hotly anticipated games for PS3.

Update 12 p.m.: Tretton has announced that Sony is going to be bringing a series of the biggest PlayStation 2 hits to the PS3, all for $29.99. Among those games are Ninja Gaiden, Resistance: Fall of Man, Call of Duty 3, Fight Night, Elder Scrolls, and many others.

Also, Tretton and Alex Evans, co-founder of Media Molecule, announced that one of the most-anticipated PS3 games, Little Big Planet, will be available this October.

Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton talking about 'Little Big Planet' on-stage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles during the company's E3 press conference. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Little Big Planet is a game many people are eager to see because it mixes user-generated content, social media and gaming, all in a single title. More to the point, it just looks fun and charming. I've not played it, but it looks like something that could bring in a lot of users to PS3, though I'm not sure how many would actually buy the console for that one game.

Update 12:07 p.m.: Tretton has now moved on, temporarily, I'm sure, to the PlayStation 2.

He says that Sony will be releasing a new bundle that includes a PS2, as well as the video game Lego: Batman and the movie Justice League: New Frontier, all for $149.

Update 12:08 p.m.: Now, he's moved on to the PlayStation Network. He says that this fall, the network will migrate to a single sign-on system that will give users a single identification they can use for any PlayStation element, be it PS3, the PlayStation store, mobile, or any other place.

Update 12:20 p.m.: Now, Tretton has finally gotten to one of the subjects that many people had said was key for Sony at E3 this year: Sony Home.

This is Sony's virtual world that will allow players to build digital communities, to have their own digital space, to create 3D avatars and so forth.

If you recall, Sony first talked about Home at the 2007 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

And Tretton showed a new video of Home, in its current iteration.

The quick video showed a series of avatars cavorting in the virtual world, running around, dancing, and getting ready to play games like Warhawk and Resistance: Fall of Man, something that is a nice feature of the digital environment.

But to be honest, though Sony has had many months to further the development of Home, it doesn't look like it's progressed far beyond where it was when it was first announced, and Tretton didn't even give any indication of when its beta would open up.

And this is not going to satisfy, in my opinion, the many people who were looking to Home to be a standard-bearer of Sony's move into the 3D community space.

Update: 12:23 p.m.: After talking about Home, Tretton brought someone--I'm sorry, I missed his name--up onto the stage to talk about the PlayStation Store, where users will be able to rent and buy movies.

There, movies will cost between $2.99 and $5.99 to rent and $9.99 and $14.99 to buy.

The store will contain a series of titles, and it will be available as of Tuesday night.

Tretton said that the PlayStation Portable has sold more than 35 million units, and that it will be bolstered with hot new titles like 'Resistance: Retribution.' Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Update 12:32 p.m.: Tretton has now moved onto the PlayStation Portable, and has unveiled a new game, Resistance: Retribution for the PSP.

He says the PSP has an install base of 35 million units worldwide.

Update 12:47 p.m.: Aha! Here is some of the big news that people were waiting for.

Everyone wanted to know if Sony would respond to Microsoft's Xbox 360 price cut-- cutting the Xbox to $300 . No one really expected them to, given that they couldn't really afford to subsidize a lower price on the PS3.

Tretton announced an 80GB PS3 for $400, the same price as its current 40GB package. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

But Tretton announced that this fall, Sony would introduce a new 80GB PS3 for $400, the same price as its current 40GB PS3.

It's not a price cut, of course, but it is an iterative advancement for the console, something that could make it more palatable to users who will utilize as much storage capacity as they can.

Still, the PS3 is priced $100 more than the Xbox, and that will continue to make it a less attractive option for a high-end console, especially given that the PS3 simply doesn't have a markedly better lineup of games.

Update 12:55 p.m.: Now, as Tretton winds down the press conference, he excited the audience by announcing that God of War III, the next iteration of one of the biggest PlayStation franchises, would be coming to PS3. He didn't, however, give any indication as to when it would come out, but he did play a short trailer.

Although he did not announce a publication date, Tretton said that 'God of War III' would be coming to PS3. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Update 1:18 p.m.: The press conference has ended, and I have a few more thoughts and pieces of PS3 news.

The first is about a game that will be coming to the PS3 from Zipper Interactive called Massive Action Game.

While not having any way to know if this will be a good game, it is certainly interesting because it enables 256 different players to battle at one time, in eight-player squads.

'MAG,' a game that will allow up to 256 players to battle together at one time, will be coming out on the PS3. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Tretton said that this game would push even the limits of the PS3's architecture, and that it could only come out on PS3.

Whether that makes it an eventual hit, it's certainly hard to tell, of course. But at least it's breaking new ground, and that is something that the console needs.

The other game that seemed worth mentioning is DC: Universe Online. This is a massively multiplayer online game that is based on the DC Comics characters.

Again, it's too early to tell how it will be received, but it looked really good, and with the pedigree it comes with, it should attract a large audience. Almost certainly not as big as Blizzard's World of Warcraft and probably not even as big as NCSoft's City of Heroes, but this is a big step for a console, since those other MMOs are for PCs.

'DC Universe Online' will be a MMO entry for the PS3 that will bring the famous characters of DCs--Superman, Batman, the Flash and the like--to the PS3. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News

Finally, I would have to say that Sony did not deliver any big knock-out punch, and therefore didn't come away from its press conference in a position to wow its critics or assume the leadership role here in L.A. this year.

But it has a lot of different games coming out, and with a new 80GB console, it is in position to gain some market share. Whether its eventual success or failure comes as a result of where it is at E3 this year is hard to know, and we may not even know for years.

 

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