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E3 2007: Sony's big ol' press conference

If there's one thing that seems very familiar about this year's E3 video game show, it's the lavishly produced but oddly stilted press conferences from the big three game console makers.

If there's one thing that seems very familiar about this year's E3 video game show, it's the lavishly produced, but oddly stilted press conferences from the big three game console makers: Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft.

Sony's Jack Tretton and Kaz Hirai in the PS3 Home platform.

Sony has a unique home court advantage in Los Angeles, and the company has hosted its E3 press conference at Sony's own Culver City studios in recent years. Despite saving a few bucks on renting a presentation space, last year's 2006 Sony press conference was an infamous dud, thanks in large part to the unveiling of the PlayStation 3's $599 price.

This year, the mood was somewhat brighter, thanks in part to this week's preemptive price cut, bringing the 60GB version of the PS3 down to $499. No one needed to point out to Sony that the "3" in the PS3 has pretty much stood for third place in the current generation of game consoles.

The slightly thinner new PSP

With that in mind, Sony used its press conference to concentrate on the one missing ingredient in its product line--exclusive games for the PS3 console. Thus far, the PS3 has had very few must-have games that aren't available on other systems, and this holiday season, the exclusives are finally starting to flow. They include:

  • Heavenly Sword: Without a God of War game for the PS3, this female-fronted knock-off will have to do. One of the first PS3 games ever demoed, and highly anticipated ever since.
  • Killzone 2: A sequel no one was really asking for, but this sci-fi first-person shooter has managed to build up big buzz, thanks to sneak peeks at eye-popping graphics.
  • Gran Turismo 5: An HD version of the popular driving game. A demo, called Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, will be available for download sometime in the next several months.
  • Little Big Planet Nonsensical but completely addictive, based on the little we've been able to play. You create a tiny avatar and run them through obstacle courses of giant everyday objects. You can also create your own objects and trade them online with friends. It's the kind of game that doesn't make any sense until you sit down and play it.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: The final installment in this popular stealth action franchise, and the first for next-gen. The chip we saw made no sense at all--in classic MGS fashion--but certainly looked impressive.

    We'll take an extended look at two other PS3 exclusives, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Warhawk, later this week.

    On the handheld side, the PlayStation Portable has a guaranteed hit with God of War: Chains of Prometheus, a handheld version of the PS2 hit, combining Greek mythology with button-mashing action.

    Chewbacca introduces a special Star Wars PSP.

    SCEA President Kaz Hirai has a surprise for the audience, a new version of the PSP hardware. Unfortunately, the unveiling was clearly the single biggest dud of the show so far. It was virtually identical to the current version. You couldn't tell by looking at it, but Kaz claimed it was 19 percent thinner, and perhaps a third lighter. It also had an output for sending a video signal to a TV, which was not exactly high on the list of new features people were looking for.

    We overheard one attendee say, "I thought it was a joke and he had the real new PSP in his other pocket." Only slightly more satisfying were two new PSP designs. A silver model, and a special Star Wars-themed PSP, introduced by a guy in a Chewbacca suit. Seriously.

    Perhaps the most intriguing new project from Sony is simply called Home. After an admittedly weak initial foray into the online community space, with the PlayStation Store, Sony is pulling out the stops and creating a fully 3D world, where PS3 players can create avatars, set up houses (hence "Home"), share media files, and of course, purchase things online and get into multiplayer games. A Home beta is currently going on, and the free service will launch later this year.