Sony E3 2016 Conference, What Do They Have?

 

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Sony’s E3 2016 conference represents a chance for them to continue to appeal to their 40m user base of core and casual gamers alike as well as to VR enthusiasts who want in on the new technology with the PSVR headset.

Probably the biggest question for Sony is, will we see the Neo? Or will they want until later? I’m thinking that if it launches this year they might just show it at E3, but given they have a trifecta of events between September and December (TGS, Paris Games Week, PSX) there is ample opportunity for them to wait until later, which they might do even if it is 2016.

Sony have a variety of internal studios some of which are due an unveiling of their next project, whilst some others have just shipped:

  • Sucker Punch Productions released Infamous Second Son in March 2014, with the standalone First Light expansion releasing in August 2014
  • Sony Bend haven’t launched a new game since 2011’s Uncharted Golden Abyss and 2012’s downloadable strategy card game Fight for Fortune, both on PSVita. Their game is rumoured to be called Dead Don’t Ride for PS4.
  • Sony Santa Monica had an ambitious new IP cancelled in 2014, they are now expected to be making God of War 4
  • Japan Studio recently made Knack for PS4 launch, assisted with some partner studio games including Bloodborne and The Last Guardian, Knack 2 has been rumoured
  • Pixel Opus who released Entwined at E3 2014 could be due to unveil their game soon
  • New studio in the UK called “North West Studio” who are working on PSVR, its unclear how far along they are with anything.

Outside of that some of their studios have just shipped (Naughty Dog – Uncharted 4, San Diego – MLB 2016) or have games in development for 2016 or 2017 like Horizon Zero Dawn and RIGS (PSVR) by Guerrilla Games/Cambridge, Gran Turismo Sport by Polyphony, Dreams by Media Molecule, Gravity Rush by Japan Studio, PSVR games at London Studio.

The Sony conference has a bit less of a predictable rigid structure to it than Microsoft’s I think, they have a lot of content to show and I wonder what will give way to be seen at another event because of it.

Games

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games)

Horizon

Guerilla’s ambitious new IP is a post-post apocalyptic RPG with robot dinosaurs and a female protagonist, there have been rumours of a delay recently but in the Uncharted 4 case an advertisement still said 2016, a gigantic poster around the E3 convention centre didn’t mention a date so it could go either way.

The game looks very interesting and I expect it to be one of the biggest games at the conference, the E3 2015 unveiling was extremely well received and hopefully Guerrilla will be able to realise the potential of the game.

Gran Turismo Sport (Polyphony Digital)
The Last Guardian (Gen Design/Japan Studio)
Gravity Rush 2 (Japan Studio)

TLG

There have been some previews of these three Japanese developed games recently with GT Sport due in November, TLG and Gravity Rush just “2016”, I expect them all to be at E3 in some capacity although I don’t know how much stage time they will get, I’m guessing there will be trailers for all 3 with playable demos on the show floor.

The racing game genre isn’t that big anymore although it is Gran Turismo which might buck the trend and The Last Guardian was part of the “E3 of Dreams” last year so it definitely won’t be ignored. I don’t think Gravity Rush 2 – as nice as it looks, is a big release for the North American market.

GT Sport also has the added benefit of being a PSVR title which as a big established brand will be good to show off with the device.

God of War 4 (Sonic Santa Monica)

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It must be E3, surely? Over 3 years since Ascension, a new IP cancellation and some long-serving staff members leaving since then such as Stig who has gone to make a Star Wars game with EA at Respawn, Cory Barlog who directed God of War 2 on PS2 has returned to the studio to work on the game. I think we’ll get an announcement although it might just be a teaser.

Now the question is: new protagonist? New mythology? There are big possibilities for its direction for sure.

Dreams (Media Molecule)

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Announced at Paris Games Week I don’t expect Dreams having much of an E3 conference presence this year, it’ll probably be on the show floor but as a game that seems hard to show in the demo on stage like that perhaps they will let the press play it then put it on-stage at one of their later events.

Detroit Become Human (Quantic Dreams)

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Quantic Dream’s next title was announced at Paris Games Week presumably for 2017, with the plethora of events after E3 I suspect the development team will spend more time working on the game ready for a full gameplay unveil another time.

I really liked Heavy Rain but Beyond Two Souls wasn’t nearly as good so I’m hoping they return to form with Detroit.

Kojima Production’s Game #1

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Given the Sony/KP deal was only announced in December when there wasn’t much of a studio going its unlikely we will see anything on the game this E3, I guess it depends on the scale of the project and if they just want to give a little teaser of it, Kojima has not long finished his tech tour with Mark Cerny either.

I’m very excited to see Kojima do something new and given his talk of licensing an engine, wanting to make a larger scale game it’ll probably be a long way off but I can’t wait to see what he got planned.

Sony also have a number of other games in development which are announced too, some smaller some just not positioned much for the North American audience:

  • Bound (Plastic)
  • Hot Shot’s Golf (Clap Hanz)
  • Matterfall (Housemarque)
  • The Tomorrow Children (Q-Games)
  • Vector (Hello There)
  • Wattam (Funomena)
  • What Remains of Edith Fitch (Giant Sparrow)
  • Wild (Wild Sheep Studios)

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The appearance of these games is likely to be limited to a montage and booth demos although Wild has had a couple of conference appearances and looks really good, Hot Shot’s Golf is more of a Japanese focused title and I wouldn’t expect personally to see a huge presence but if any of these are coming soon they will certainly be around to show more of them off.

New Games?

Sony have had some good selling games this generation and it might be time for the likes of Knack (rumoured), Bloodborne, Killzone and Infamous to get sequels announced if they are indeed coming, it depends what else From are up to since Dark Souls 3 shipped last month and whether Miyazaki wants to continue making that style of game, its possible Sony and From might continue their relationship with another new IP and do something else new.

Knack

I mentioned some games above like God of War 4 which is a great E3 candidate, Sucker Punch and Sony Bend being American based also makes E3 a good shout, there’s a lot announced for PS4 so I could see Sony spreading new announcements and unveils out a bit to keep each show exciting for fans, also new partnerships are entirely likely too.

3rd Party Exclusives

With the PS4s global dominance and with Xbox being completely dead in Japan Sony have some good partnerships for a lot of Japanese games with Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenmue 3 being the most prominent from E3 last year.

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They shipped Street Fighter V with Capcom in February, Deep Down (somewhere…) hasn’t been cancelled yet and the Resident Evil multiplayer shooter is console exclusive to Playstation, its possible they have worked with a western publisher(s) too, perhaps there is a game that could benefit from the exposure of Sony’s conferences and marketing muscle even if they are preferring to go multiplatform with most games at the moment.

There has been lots of speculation about Crash Bandicoot which was fuelled by the t-shirt Shawn Layden wore at the PSX conference, an exclusive game? Did they acquire the IP? FFVII did the PSX 2014 PC port -> E3 2015 Remake, maybe Crash is doing a similar thing?

3rd Party Marketing

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Sony have gone big on these deals which have worked out exceptionally well for them including Destiny, Call of Duty, Metal Gear Solid V and Batman Arkham Knight. Have they managed to get marketing for Titanfall 2? It would make sense if Respawn want it to be known to the Playstation audience. Mass Effect? Chasing previously Xbox-associated franchises has done well for them so far and I would expect them to keep doing that.

Any upcoming Rockstar titles? They are close with Activision at the moment too and after the success of the original’s launch with Ubisoft in May 2014 will presumably have marketing for Watch Dogs 2 when it comes out?

There will undoubtedly be slots for Call of Duty Infinite Warfare and Destiny: Something, this is a part of the business they have played very well and I don’t expect them to take their foot off the gas anytime soon with that.

Indies

No Man's Sky

Sony made this a pillar of their conferences for the PS4 from the beginning and have secured lots of big name titles first or console exclusive on Playstation, looking at the sort of big hitting indie titles recently such as Stardew Valley and Undertale might be candidates along with the new title from Supergiant Games: Pyre, No Man’s Sky got delayed until August, Ninja Theory’s Hellblade, I’m sure there will be plenty of new games of all shapes and sizes.

PSVR

The Sony conference is looking pretty packed at this point already, right?

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Well, I can’t forget PSVR which launches in October and will be a big part of the show and an even bigger part of the booth, some of the above will have to give unless Sony want to have a 2+ hour conference which now they are focusing mainly on PS4 (no handhelds, RIP Vita) I’m not sure they will want a show to last that long.

With the big release in only a few months they will want to make sure they show off some of the big games coming to the device, we’ve seen things like Robinson from Crytek, RIGs from Guerrilla Cambridge, Until Dawn Rush of Blood from Supermassive Games and London Studios has the pack-in compilation, I suspect outside of a montage of these games some of which we’ve seen multiple times they will focus on showing new partnerships particularly with known franchises which are getting new entires.

Gran Turismo Sport, perhaps God of War 4, Tekken 7, the Battlefront Experience are perhaps good bets, it depends what else they have managed to sign and from who but as the lowest barrier to entry plug-in and play device and with their existing partnerships to many developers and publishers around the globe I think that showing established franchises using PSVR is the best way to get the public’s attention.

Operating System

Sony typically launch the larger OS updates every 6 months around March and September, they have started to do beta testing of new features to make sure they work as intended and I wouldn’t expect this to change too much.

It is possible they might detail the next one if they have some new highly requested features but with so much going round I could see them passing it over to announce at a later date when there isn’t such a ridiculous amount of other stuff to talk about as well.

If Sony have a more substantial update planned perhaps including some huge UI changes then we might see it at E3 if it’s a big deal.

Hardware

neo

We already have one device due out in October at a base price of $399 – PSVR, the question is what about “PS4k” “Neo” “PS4.5” or whatever you want to call it (I’ll go with Neo).

My opinion is that Sony kind of have a potential issue here: do they really try to sell two new $400~ devices at the same time in the same holiday if both are ready or do they focus on one this holiday and the other sometime next year, probably in March?

PSVR already has month, Oculus and Vive already launched and have had various degrees of shortages and Sony’s delay made sense, they are also able to get the software ready for the holiday and have a big marketing blitz when the time is right. I think the Neo launching this holiday might cause too much competition between devices and consumers might buy that instead of the new VR device which would hamper uptake at the beginning and Sony will want to avoid that.

The PS4 has had some concerns over what games will look like on PSVR and the Neo solves this problem by sporting (per rumours) a beefed up GPU and a slightly improved CPU among other details but trying to sell the Neo to the public at the same price as PSVR and knowing it will play the games for it better (looking better etc) will surely be a hard sell in the same month?

On the other hand perhaps Sony will feel that if you are interested in PSVR at the beginning that the Neo won’t deter you from that, it is also still the cheapest option for getting into VR from scratch and the PS4 currently retails for $349 anyway but some people might have expected to use that box they already bought and feel a bit put out by the thought of spending another $400+ on a new box that plays the games better. The OG PS4 doesn’t stop working the day the Neo launches, though.

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There may also be the consideration that PS4 owners who want to upgrade and aren’t yet interested in PSVR will be larger than those who might decide between one of the two devices this holiday.

It’s a balancing act that suits far smarter than myself will have to weigh up the pros and cons, it also depends on if the Neo can actually be ready to ship this holiday, which might not be the case.

I think Sony might launch Neo next Spring to spread out their devices, in which case I wouldn’t expect Sony to announce it at E3 given the TGS -> PGW -> PSX trifecta I mentioned a few times earlier, I might wait until Paris Games Week when PSVR is presumably already out by and that still gives people enough time to start saving for the Spring.

Whether there is any consideration for what Microsoft might do is another point, the rumours suggest they are going for two different plans on their boxes with Sony focusing on iterating more on the current box whereas Microsoft want to go for something beefier and newer although its unclear whether either will come at a cost of price and release date.

Sony’s show will be pretty interesting, there’s a ton of things that could be there that we can consider without having any knowledge of surprises and other things they want to show us, we’ll have to wait and see, only a week until the E3 conferences start…