For the fourth year in a row, we're comparing E3 hype to gaming reality. Sony was our first victim. We'll check Nintendo and Microsoft's E3 2011 promises on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, at 1pm ET each day.
The E3 press conference is a chance for the biggest names in gaming to show off their hottest, most anticipated software for the next year to come. For Sony in 2011, it was also a chance to deliver an abject apology to the world for the PlayStation Network outage that lasted for nearly four weeks and resulted in 77 million PSN customers potentially having their personal data compromised.
And so Sony's E3 press event last year began with a somber recognition from Jack Tretton that the outage was the "elephant in the room," and thanking consumers and third-party publishers for their patience and loyalty. The importance of staying connected safely and constantly would then become the theme of the whole event.
So from games, to consoles, to everything else, what did Sony promise to customers in 2011? And have they made good on those promises? Let's take a look.
The Hardware: PlayStation 3D Display
The Promise: A 24" 3D-ready, HD screen designed to be affordable, bundled with one pair of 3D glasses, a 6' HDMI cable, and a copy of Resistance 3. Designed to allow two players to see two full, different screens, rather than to require split-screen multiplayer. Full bundle price $499, slated for fall 2011 release.
The Verdict: Promises kept. The bundle launched in November, 2011 for its promised price. Reviews generally indicated that yes, it works as promised, though not without drawbacks.
The Hardware: The PlayStation Vita
The Promise: This was the first official unveiling of Sony's long-awaited next-generation portable device. A full feature list bookended a presentation of launch games. Promised specs included:
- Dual analog sticks
- Multitouch 5" OLED screen
- Front and rear touch
- Sixaxis motion sensing tech
- WiFi-only model, $249.99
- WiFi and 3G model, $299.99
- "Party" voice chat and connectivity
- "Near" social networking tools
- Partnering with AT&T as exclusive carrier for 3G version in US
- To be available "starting from holiday season this year"
The Verdict: Promises kept. The system specs match the list of features Kaz Hirai outlined, and by all accounts is a good device for gaming.
The system launched in Japan in December, 2011 (so technically, it was available for holiday 2011) and in the US in February, 2012. Early sales were strong, although sales have since slowed, perhaps due to a still-slow trickle of killer game releases.
The Game: Battlefield 3 (PS3)
The Promise: The PS3 version, "bigger than any other," to ship with Battlefield 1943 included on the disc.
The Verdict: Promise not kept. The game launched in November, but it shipped solo. A minor fiasco followed. Eventually, EA provided free downloads instead.
The Game: BioShock Infinite (PS3)
The Promise: The PS3 version of BioShock Infinite will include, on-disc, a copy of the original BioShock. "This is an experience only available on PlayStation." Also, Ken Levine promises to add Move control support to the game.
The Verdict: Pending. BioShock Infinite just saw its release date delayed from October, 2012 until February, 2013 so it'll be a while before the world gets to find out one way or the other.
The Game: BioShock mystery project (PS Vita)
The Promise: Ken Levine describes a "pet project at Irrational" set in the BioShock universe. "We found the right home for it, it's on this guy," he said, and held up a Vita.
The Verdict: Pending, but unlikely. With Infinite now delayed until Q1 2013, Irrational Games has put their portable project on the back burner for the time being.
The Game: Dust 514 (PS3)
The Promise: A PS3 exclusive tied into the world of PC MMO EVE Online. The two promise to share "one vibrant universe sharing the same super computer." The game will have Move support, with a closed beta starting in 2011 and a "spring 2012" release.
The Verdict: Mixed. The game is still in beta so the "spring 2012" release date has already been blown, but so far the game looks to be doing what it was advertised to do. We'll find out later this year.
The Game: InFamous 2 (PS3)
The Promise: "Launching tomorrow" with Move support added, and a promise of "a unique user-generated content experience" to be added in fall 2011.
The Verdict: Promises kept. The game launched on June 7 and has a user-generated content creator built in.
The Game: LittleBigPlanet (PS Vita)
The Promise: Promised to use all of the innovations of the Vita, including both touch screens, the tilt, the two cameras, and the multi-touch function. Also promised to include "new multiplayer modes," with all the tools from LittleBigPlanet 2 in play, and shared costumes with the PS3 edition.
The Verdict:Pending. The game is still not released, with the official website promising "coming soon." There was a recent beta registration, though, so evidently they're getting closer.
The Game: Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest (PS3)
The Promise: A new "fantasy action adventure game" using a "very unique set" of motion controlls promising an "intuitive and immersive" experience, to launch in fall, 2011.
The Verdict: Promises kept; the game came out in November and was indeed all about waggling the Move. Not all that many people seemed to care.
The Game: ModNation Racers (PS Vita)
The Promise: "Not a port" of any previous ModNation game, this title was developed excluively and intentionally for the Vita. Demonstrations hype the touch screen and rear touch panel as ways easily and intuitively to make racetracks and race cars down them. Also promised "access to the over two million creations that have been created by the ModNation PlayStation community" all available on the Vita version on day one.
The Verdict: Promises kept. The game was renamed ModNation Racers: Road Trip but launched with the Vita in February.
The Game: NBA 2K12 (PS3)
The Promise: NBA "on the move" features, using the Move controller. "More realism, more polish, and some other big surprises," as compared to earlier entries in the franchise. Kobe Bryant, who knows a thing or two about basketball, came on stage to play the demo and announce, "All jokes aside? It's so realistic it's frightening."
The Verdict: Promises kept. Well, mostly. "Frightening" is a bit of a subjective review but Kotaku sports man Owen Good was full of praise for the title when it released in October, 2011.
The Game: Need for Speed: The Run (PS3)
The Promise: The PS3 version promised to launch with 7 additional, exclusive supercars including the Hennessey Venom GT and Bugatti Veyron.
The Verdict: Promises kept. The game launched in November, and had a number of platform- and retailer-exclusive vehicles.
The Game: Resistance 3 (PS3)
The Promise: The Resistance 3 sharpshooter bundle, including the game, with " a sharpshooter, a PlayStation Move controller, a navigation controller, and a PS Eye camera," to launch September 6 for $150.
The Verdict: Promises kept. The game launched September 6, and the bundle contained everything promised — although it was, in the end, called the "Doomsday bundle."
The Game: Ruin (PS Vita)
The Promise: An action RPG with the stated goal to provide Vita players with "everything they would expect" from an action RPG, including "multiple character classes, deep advancement, tons of loot" and a host of other experiences. A multiplayer experience to make "other players your rical. A stranger that you've never even met can become your rival," and you can "help, hinder or harm" them. Promised that both PS3 and PS Vita versions will launch together and, thanks to the magic of the cloud, players can transition seamlessly between their saved games on one version to the other.
The Verdict:Pending. Ruin, now called Warrior's Lair, has yet to launch on either platform but is expected to be released in September, 2012.
The Game: Saints Row The Third (PS3)
The Promise: Exclusive game content and a game mode exclusive to the PS3 version of the game, to launch on November 15.
The Verdict: Mixed. The game met its launch date, but instead of any exclusive in-game content the PS3 version came with a free download of Saints Row 2.
The Game: Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3)
The Promise: Coming in 2012
The Verdict: Pending. There's a lot of 2012 left to go. And now it's slated to be released for Vita also.
The Game: SSX (PS3)
The Promise: Exclusive content for the PlayStation version of the game, featuring courses on Mount Fuji.
The Verdict: Promise kept. The game launched in February with Mount Fuji included as a system exclusive in North America.
The Game: Star Trek
The Promise: "Coming in 2012," A tie-in to the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot sequel film, timed to release with the movie. Promised to be a "co-op action adventure with an original storyline that will capture the authenticity of the Star Trek brand" and be "completely compatible with the PlayStation Move." A phaser peripheral for the Move was announced to go with, as well as a "playable prequel to the full game" available exclusively on PSN.
The Verdict: Mixed. Abrams' film release date shifted in 2011, to become a May, 2013 blockbuster. The game, therefore, is now slated for a Q1 2013 release. (And we are expected to hear more about it at this year's E3.)
The Game: Starhawk (PS3)
The Promise: To be released in early 2012.
The Verdict: Promise kept. The game came out in May (which isn't quite "early" but isn't late either) and was actually pretty fun.
The Game: Street Fighter x Tekken (PS3 and PS Vita)
The Promise: A Vita version was announced, in addition to the already-in-progress PS3 edition. Cole of the InFamous games was announced as an addition to the cast of fighters.
The Verdict: Mixed. Street Fighter X Tekken launched in March for PS3 but the Vita edition isn't due until this fall. Meanwhile Capcom's decision to include the Vita-exclusive characters as locked, on-disc DLC in the PS3 edition has proven more than a bit controversial.
The Game: Uncharted 3 (PS3)
The Promise: To be released on November 1, 2011, with multiplayer beta beginning June 20 and a Subway tie-in ad campaign throughout the month of October to deliver early access to the full multiplayer experience.
The Verdict: Promises kept. The game was generally well-received and did launch on November 1. The Subway campaign carried on as advertised, and the beta began on June 28 for pre-ordering customers and on July 4 for everyone else, and ran for three weeks.
The Game: Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PS Vita)
The Promise: Slated to launch with the PS Vita, the demo repeatedly highlighted the way players could alternate between touch and tilt controls and the more traditional sticks and buttons approach. Otherwise, it promised more Uncharted goodness, in the mode of the PS3 series.
The Verdict: Promises kept, more or less. Although that's not necessarily a good thing. The game felt small in scope and the touch and camera controls awkward in execution to many players.
The Game: WipEout 2048 (PS Vita)
The Promise: "A unique feature called crossplay, allowing up to eight players to compete online" using either the PS3 or PS Vita versions, available at Vita launch.
The Verdict: Promises kept. The game launched with the Vita in February and was apparently quite fun.
The Tech: 3D Adoption
The Promise: Sony was big on 3D everything, promising, "These are incredible products and values that will lower the price barrier and drive 3D adoption. We're focused on broadening the 3D market to a new audience and offering an immersive experience to everyone, and these 3D products do just that."
The Verdict: Mixed. It's a wash, really. Sony's 3D products do work, and they've consistently added 3D support to their games, but in general the market still seems not to care all that much about 3D. Sony keeps waving that banner but so far, the vast majority aren't rallying to it.
The Tech: PlayStation Suite
The Promise: "PlayStation Suite will make PlayStation content available on something other than PlayStation hardware, starting with PlayStation certified Android smartphones and tablets. This isn't just the PlayStation install base that will experience our products in a new way; this is the whole world that will experience our products through PlayStation Suite."
The Verdict: Pending. The program is now in open beta for developers. But there aren't all that many PlayStation certified phones and tablets out there, so the Suite may have quite the uphill struggle catching on.
So how did Sony do? On the whole, they managed quite well on their hardware promises... but those products have generally not met the receptions for which they hoped. The games are a more mixed bag. Many of the demos and trailers shown on stage were implied to be Vita launch titles, but have yet to see release. While promises were only very rarely made about release dates, the Vita could only benefit from having more games available for it, and soon.
As for looking to big announcements from Sony this year, it seems highly unlikely that we'll hear about any new major hardware. Here's hoping the games are good!