PS3 in June: all eyes were on E3
Electronic Entertainment Expo – better known as E3 – is the biggest date on the gaming calendar. The event was as big as ever this year and, unsurprisingly, it stole our attention for the best part of June. All the leading publishers were there promoting upcoming titles, hoping that they could impress us journalists enough so that we would enthuse about their projects to you. There is a lot of enthusing to be done.
We sent Majiesto and Delriach along to cover the event, and they’ve been doing a sterling job filling the site with news, views and previews. There will be more to come, but this is what Majiesto had to say about his experience at E3 2010:
The atmosphere was one of constant motion. Everyone was going from one booth to another or from one hall to the next. There’s always something going on and it was often overwhelming. There were no dull moment during the convention.
I think Sony did very well. Even with all their announcements in the weeks leading up to E3, they still managed to impress with their gameplay trailers and exclusive titles. Kevin Butler made a surprise appearance at their press conference as everyone had hoped and we got hands-on experience with Move.
Killzone 3, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Twisted Metal; these were all big hitters at the convention. Personally I was surprised by Tron: Evolution. The light cycles look spectacular and it’s sure to please fans and newcomers to the series alike.
3D was one of the big things being pushed by Sony and I was underwhelmed by what I saw. Killzone 3, Gran Turismo 5, and Motorstorm: Apocalypse were all available to play in 3D and the technology simply isn’t there yet in terms of quality. I think I’ll stick with my standard 2D for the time being.
3D is the future, but we may have to wait a little longer for that future to be truly realised. There will be much trial and error before developers manage to figure out effective ways of utilising the technology.
As Majiesto points out, many of the big games were announced prior to E3, which is disappointing because we prefer to hear the big announcements at the big events.
If Killzone 3 had been rolled out for the first time during the Sony conference it would have been sensational. Instead Killzone 3 got a low-key unveiling before E3 when some scans from an issue of GamesPro had made their way to the internet – it wasn’t the most exciting way to find out about a AAA title. Nevertheless, it was still great to see it in action. Check out Majiesto’s preview, it’s on the right track to outperform Killzone 2 in every way.
While some surprises were spoiled before the party, there was one really big surprise. It came when Gabe Newell, the co-found and managing director of Valve, took the stage during the press conference. We asked, “is he lost?” After all, Newell has a history of being notoriously anti-PS3. Then we feared that he was there to sabotage the conference.
Yes, Newell was there to cause a stir but not in the way we expected. He was to there to talk about the sequel to the ingenious first-person puzzle game Portal, and to tell the world that it will be coming to the PS3. Even better news, the PS3 will getting the best console version – that came from Newell himself.
Portal 2 is one of the hottest games on the radar. The first game received critical acclaim for being one for the smartest games around. You had a portal gun that allowed you to create vortexes, making it possible for you travel between spaces. With this gameplay mechanic the developers were able to be extremely creative when designing puzzles. With the second they will go further. It will feature two-player co-op, new characters and improved physics – surfaces will now bleed through portals.
The first Portal is available on the PS3 through Valve’s The Orange Box compilation. The Orange Box contains several amazing games: Portal, Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, but the less said about that port the better. You see, the PS3 version of The Orange Box was considerably worse than any other version; the games in the compilation deserved better. Sadly, that one dodgy port had been Valve’s contributions to the PS3 to date.
We don’t the reason why there has been a sudden change of heart, but we suspect Valve has finally noticed that they could be making money from the 35 million plus PS3 owners around the world. But to his credit, Newell was very humble at the conference.
“I’ve been pretty outspoken in my comments about next-gen consoles, so I’d like to thank Sony for their gracious hospitality and not repeatedly punching me in the face.”
The war appears to be over, Newell even praised Sony for having an open platform. Maybe the news that PS3 will have the best version is Newell’s way of atoning for the poor way that he and his company have treated the PS3 fanbase in the past.
The reason why Newell says the PS3 will have the best version of Portal 2 is because it’s going to have Steamworks support. Steam is Valve’s software that offers community support, downloadable content, automatic updates and cloud-based saving. It also manages servers. The specifics details have yet to be unveiled, but this is in an interesting development as Steam works brilliantly on PCs. Hopefully Valve going to the trouble of getting Steamworks onto the PS3 is a sign that more Valve games will be coming our way in the future; we’d be delighted to get the next Half-Life game.
In other news, the long wait for Gran Turismo’s release date finally came to an end at E3. We have November 2, 2010 marked in our diaries, and we suggest you do so to. The long wait is almost over. We were beginning to doubt whether we would ever see this in shops.
Sony also used E3 to show off it’s new premium subscription model for the PlayStation Network, called PlayStation Plus. It’s long been expected that a premium subscription was on the way but no one really knew what the benefits would be for subscribers.
At £39.99 for 12 months, or with a 90 trial at £11.99, subscribers can get games, discounts, full game trials of selected games, early access to betas, premium avatars and themes, and automatic downloads when you’re away from your console. The full details are here, as is a comprehensive list with all the contents from the first batch.
Most of the PS3 Attitude team have signed up already and we believe that it’s good value for money. Sony say that subscribers will receive over £200 worth of content for the year for just £3.33 a month, and if you sign up now for the year package you’ll even get a full copy of LittleBigPlanet. The only downside is the lack of real features. The content so far has been good, such as the Killzone 2: Steel & Titanium DLC, Wipeout HD, the LittleBigPlanet dynamic theme and Fieldrunners, but should owners already have this content it doesn’t leave a lot for them.
The automatic downloads is a nice feature. With this you can set your console to start up and download updates, demos and games overnight when the internet is faster. This means that when you turn your console on to play games you can do just that rather than waiting on updates. It’s a good feature but we were hoping for some more, such as access to faster servers, but beggars can’t be choosers. We have been mostly impressed with PlayStation Plus so far but be warned, it might not be for everyone.
One feature that wasn’t included in PlayStation Plus was the much requested cross-game chat but, rest assured, the feature is still on the way. It’s likely to be available to all users, not just premium subscribers. Something we’re happy about. We prefer to see cross-game chat available to all, not just those who can afford it.
Overall, Sony can walk away from E3 feeling happy about themselves. They had a great line-up, an entertaining Kevin Butler appearance and the odd surprise. Their little black box is certainly in good shape.
Away from E3, Sony had another reason to be happy. This month Sony revealed that they are finally making a profit from the consoles they sell. The company was losing money on every console they sold for nearly four years, so they’ll understandably be delighted. Don’t expect another price cut just yet though as they’ll be looking to recoup some of their losses.
Sadly, the outlook for the UK games industry isn’t looking as rosy. The UK Chancellor George Osborne, in his emergency budget on June 22, cancelled plans to introduce tax breaks for the industry. The Labour government had introduced the plans in their final budget before relinquishing power and, at the time, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had been very supportive of the industry Regretfully, now that the Con-Lib coalition party is in power, these proposed plans for tax breaks are now considered to be “poorly targeted”.
The decision by George Osborne has caused a mixture of anger, surprise and a concern for the future. Richard Wilson, the CEO of TIGA, the trade body of the industry, described the decision as a “betrayal”. The Conservative government is determined to bring down the nation’s deficit, and they are trying to show everyone that they aren’t soft touches. Even if some its members are ardent gamers, those with the say within the Tory party clearly believe that they games industry shouldn’t be getting special treatment.
TIGA, however, don’t believe it would be special treatment, that they are only looking to receive similar incentives as the UK film industry. They also argue that the games industry will generate more revenue for the treasury with these tax breaks than they would without.
It’s an export-driven, low-carbon industry that creates many high-skilled jobs in the UK. It’s exactly the sort of industry the Conservatives say they want. TIGA will continue lobbying, they have convinced parliament once, and they believe they can do so again.
Since the decision was made, leading publishers have spoke of cutting back their investment in UK development studios. Activision boss, Bobby Kotick was his usual straight-to-the-point self:
“For us to continue to invest in the UK there needs to be an incentive provided for us to do so”
Even Ray Maguire, Sony’s UK managing director, stated that some things that were planned for the UK may now have to go abroad. It’s a sad state of affairs because the UK had long been the third most successful game developing nation behind the US and Japan, but it was recently overtaken by Canada, who’s government offer competitive tax incentives to its developers. It’s a debate that will run on and on.
We’ll finish off with a quick message from the PS3 Attitude team. Many of you have seen PS3 Attitude flourish over the years, and have seen it grow from a small one man project to the colossal beast that it is today. We want to thank you for your support and help, you’ve all helped this site generate a nice sum of money for GamesAid. July saw us receive an extremely generous donation from our regular visitor, Vicheous. You’ll see his name big and proud in the tag cloud at the bottom of the page. Check it out and buy him a drink if you’re in his company.
We’ve come a long way, but in our minds it’s only just the start. We’ve got some exciting things coming up and we plan to show everyone these changes when we hit 3000 Twitter followers. So, if you aren’t following us already, then why don’t you pop over to our page and click the “follow” button today? We can’t wait to share our plans with you.