Sony took the stage on Monday evening for their annual E3 press conference just hours after Microsoft revealed pricing and their lineup of games for the Xbox One. For Sony, the biggest question on everyone’s mind heading into the event was whether or not we would finally get to see what the PlayStation 4 hardware looks like.
I’ll go ahead and answer that question up front: we did.
Described as sleek and visually impactful wherever it’s placed, the PS4 features a contrasting flat black surface alongside a bit of gloss and appears to stand vertically or horizontally. It’s tough to accurately compare the two without them side-by-side but it looks much slimmer than the Xbox One.
With that said, here’s what else we learned about the PS4 today.
There are over 140 games in development, we’re told, with more than 100 being available within the first year. The PlayStation 4 won’t impose any restrictions on the use of used games – a huge jab at Microsoft that drew incredible applause from the crowd on hand. Just to be clear, gamers have the right to trade in games at retail, sell them to another person, lend them to a friend or keep them forever. This drew chants of “Sony! Sony!” from the crowd.
And to further put the nail in the coffin, Sony said there was no need for the console to be connected, you aren’t required to check in online and it won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours. Perhaps best of all, the PlayStation 4 starts at just $399 – a full $100 cheaper than Microsoft’s Xbox One although Sony stopped short of announcing a solid release date.
Sony Pictures is working on an original programming plan with unique access to content via PlayStation Network and PS4. Content will be tailored and selected specifically for things that gamers want and love but again, the company stopped short of sharing any further details.
Sony’s Video Unlimited service will be available on day one with 150,000 of the latest television shows and movies and we also learned that Redbox Instant, pay-per-view events and Flixster will be headed to PS3, PS Vita and PS4 very soon.
These announcements, however, only paled in comparison to the real reason Sony was at E3: to showcase games for the PS4. The company said they have 30 brand new IPs for the PlayStation and wasted little time showcasing one of the new titles, The Order: 1886, from Sony Santa Monica Studios.
Other games high on Sony’s list that were shown briefly in video clips include Killzone: Shadow Fall, DriveClub, inFamous: Second Son and Knack – most of which we are already familiar with from Sony’s PS4 announcement back in February. Killzone, DriveClub and Knack will be PS4 launch titles while inFamous will show up during Q1 2014.
Developer Quantic Dream was next in line with a brief technical demonstration of a title called The Dark Sorcerer – or at least that’s what it appeared to be. Turns out, the “game” was all part of the tech demo and the sorcerer was just an actor in the game – clever. The full 12-minute demo will be available later this week during E3.
Sony spent some time highlighting indie game developers that they are welcoming to the PlayStation family including Tribute Games, Switchblade Monkeys, Young Horses, Klei Entertainment and 17-bit Games, just to name a few. Supergiant Games, creator of Bastion, was on hand to show a new game called Transistor that will debut on the PS4 early next year.
Square Enix showed off a new trailer for Final Fantasy XV in addition to one for Kingdom Hearts III in collaboration with Disney. Both games are coming to the PS4, we’re told, while Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is also coming to the PS3 and the PS4.
Conference-goers were treated to a world exclusive demo of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag played live on stage although the demo was cut short as the game eventually locked up, forcing Sony to end the demo early and usher in the next demo instead, Watch Dogs. Attendees were treated with several minutes of live game footage which looked extremely impressive and fast-paced. Fortunately this demo went off without a hitch.
PlayStation owners will receive an additional hour of gameplay for Watch Dogs and a special outfit for the protagonist when it launches.
Sports titles are huge on consoles and that’ll be no different with the PS4. Sony showcased footage from NBA 2K14 featuring some acting from Miami Heat star Lebron James talking to his in-game avatar. This demo was a bit shorter than anticipated, however, and was the only sporting game shown during the entire event.
A new partnership with Bethesda will see The Elder Scrolls: Online hit the PlayStation 4 during spring 2014. The game will feature a beta that will be available exclusively first on PS4, Sony said.
A world exclusive trailer for Mad Max was shown from Warner Bros Entertainment and Avalanche Studios. PlayStation gamers will have access to a special pack when the game launches. And if you haven’t already noticed, almost all of these titles were shown in very short clips so there really isn't much to go on.
PlayStation Plus membership will carry over to PlayStation 4, we learned. For less than $5 per month, Sony promises discounted games, cloud saves, automatic game updates, early access to beta programs, instant game collection and immersive multiplayer online for PS4. Does that mean you have to pay for multiplayer now? (Update: Yes, PlayStation Plus is required for multiplayer)
Bungie and Activision had one last thing to showcase – the world gameplay premiere of Destiny. It started with a single player on stage that was soon joined by another. But the live demo jitters weren’t over as Destiny also showed signs of freezing during the demo. It wasn’t as bad as Assassin’s Creed but it was embarrassing nevertheless.