Sony plays up PlayStation exclusives, rides nostalgia wave at video game conference

Sony reminds gamers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo that while it may not have the most original lineup, it will offer the most bang for your buck.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
3 min read

At its press conference Monday, Sony embraced the gaming industry's reliance on established franchises and played up PlayStation's exclusive deals with game makers. Josh Miller/CNET

LOS ANGELES -- "In 2015, everything is a remix."

That was the message from Alex Evans, co-founder of game studio Media Molecule, when he spoke here Monday at Sony's PlayStation 4 press conference about his company's newest drawing game, Dreams.

In the age of never-ending sequels, remakes and reboots, Sony hit hard on its "best on PlayStation" theme on the first day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the game industry's biggest confab and marketing extravaganza.

The Japanese company promised players that its video game console will deliver the most for their money, even if it doesn't have the most original gaming experiences. The event contrasted with Microsoft's Xbox One press conference earlier Monday, which focused on using Internet services to tie the PC and the Xbox and letting players access old games on new hardware.

Sony's advantage against the competition is its PlayStation console. The company has assembled teams of game developers creating specialized titles, including a first-person shooter called Rigs that's exclusive for Sony's Morpheus virtual reality headset, in development since 2011.

"Morpheus is real, evolving and continues to capture the imagination of the game community, from small teams to the big developers," said Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment.

The PlayStation 4 has become the most popular choice among console gamers. Sony, which says it's sold more than 20 million units of the console, is parlaying that popularity to hammer out exclusive deals with game makers as a way to attract consumers to its platform for the year's biggest games. It's also finding ways to appeal to nostalgia buffs.

Here are all the exclusive Playstation 4 games Sony just showed (pictures)

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Halo creator Bungie, for example, released game PlayStation-only add-ons, including weapons and game maps for the space shooter Destiny. That exclusivity will continue when Destiny's newest expansion arrives in September, Sony said Monday. Sony struck new exclusive deals to give PlayStation owners early access to Square Enix's next installment in the Hitman assassination series, the next Street Fighter fighting game and the next version of military shooter Call of Duty.

Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Syndicate stealth game will offer PlayStation players missions that aren't available on Xbox, and the next Disney Infinity game will come with an exclusive Star Wars figure in a PlayStation-only bundle.

Meanwhile, Square Enix received thunderous applause after announcing it is remaking one of the most influential and loved games in history, role-playing classic Final Fantasy VII. The title will be released for the PlayStation 4 before it arrives on other platforms. Sony also gave screen time to Yu Suzuki, the creator of classic games for publisher Sega, to announce a third game in his historic Shenmue series, which is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter to launch on the PlayStation 4 and PC. Within the hour, the game had raised more than $600,000 toward its $2 million goal.

But perhaps the most dramatic differentiator for Sony is its efforts to leap ahead of Microsoft and other rivals with its VR headset.

The gaming and tech industries have embraced virtual reality. Companies like Facebook's Oculus VR and Valve as well as smartphone makers Samsung and HTC are all working on headsets planned for release throughout the next year. Those devices are being created to work with PC machines -- not game consoles.

Fans in the crowd went wild upon learning that a long-rumored remake of PlayStation classic Final Fantasy VII is in the works for the PlayStation 4 and other platforms. Screenshot by Nick Statt/CNET

Microsoft, meanwhile, has said it will team with Oculus to wirelessly stream video games from the Xbox One to its Rift headset, instantly giving the virtual reality device access to a library of hundreds of games. It will bundle its Xbox One controller with the device as well. On Monday, Microsoft announced a separate partnership with Valve, further establishing the Xbox One platform as a bridge between the VR-ready PC and the living room game console.

Microsoft is also working on its own headset, called HoloLens, which overlays computer images over what the wearer actually sees in the physical world. Imagine a virtual television that can be placed on any wall in your home or software that turns your coffee table into a the setting for a video game.

The virtual reality race aside, Sony made it clear Monday that it isn't necessarily interested in peddling visions of the future or trying to facilitate a distinctive type of game playing. Instead, the company is reaching back into its past, to classic storylines and near-forgotten projects r and embracing an "old is new again" mentality.

In 2015, everything is a remix -- or a remake.

Watch this: Project Morpheus, PlayStation Vue get status updates

Follow all the latest news from E3 2015 on CNET and GameSpot.