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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

Xbox One X
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4

Game Profile
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on May 08, 2006

Specials: Six hundred dollars? Got-damn that's a lot of money.

As with the recent times at E3, much of the big information makes itself known before the show even starts, at the press-only conferences that are hosted by many game publishers and most importantly, the three major hardware manufacturers, who lie their cards on the table with no fear. E3 2006 is shaping up to be no different, if Sony's mammoth conference is any indication. As always, Sony pulled out all the stops at the briefing, and very well could be the talk of the entire show again like last year...though this time it might not be quite as well-received. Making up for a nearly 1 hour delay from the original 4PM pacific start, Sony's show was huge and notable, and whether you're a PS2 or PSP owner, or a future PS3 user, there was something for everyone.

Naturally, Sony Computer Entertainment America head Kaz Hirai spent much of his time anchoring Sony's forthcoming monster, the PlayStation 3. Right at the outset he confirmed that the PS3 was set to ship worldwide in November of 2006, and would come with a detachable hard drive standard, the latter of which was up in the air following Ken Kutaragi's comments at the March briefing in Tokyo about the HDD. Hirai mentioned the system would indeed be playable on the show floor, putting an end to that issue. Kaz then spent some time explaining what they still tentatively called the PlayStation Network Platform, best described as a clone of what Microsoft has done with Xbox Live. He emphasized that all of this would be free and that the money would be generated from microtransactions which have proven popular on Xbox Live Marketplace. Seeing that this was said some 2 years ago when initial PS3 discussion began, hearing this wasn't much of a surprise. To demonstrate, Kaz brought out Sony Worldwide Studios head Phil Harrison (the tallest gaming personality in the world), who used Europe's mega-popular SingStar game to show how you'd log into PNP and purchase new songs to use.

What was a surprise took place at the end of the show. Everyone's favorite crazy genius, Ken Kutaragi, came out to mention the issue of control. Last year of course, Sony displayed PS3, with a strange and goofy controller that looked like a boomerang or a banana. And though anyone who was paying attention could see it already, he showed off the 'new' PS3 controller, which was the same as the old PS1/PS2 dual shock, with a fancy button in the middle that probably function like the Xbox 360 guide. Kutaragi-san then brought out Harrison again to demonstrate something new. Again showing Sony's penchant for 'innovation', the final new feature of the PS3 is the use of the controller for in-game motion, and they demonstrated Warhawk with the feature, using the 6 degrees of motion to move around the aircraft and land it on an airstrip, while also playing the game traditionally with the face buttons. All this is built into the console without any need to use added hardware. Somewhere Nintendo is laughing and perhaps cringing too.

While it's perhaps not really a surprise to see Sony 'borrow' things and make them their own (and rumors about Sony doing this have been around for a while now), they did surprise almost everyone by announcing the price of PS3 as the final bit of info before the show finished. In short, American gamers can hop down to their local game store and buy a PS3 in November...but pack lots of cash. Clearly not learning from the silliness of Microsoft's two system setup (after Harrison himself flatly said they wouldn't follow that path), Sony will release 2 different packages. One will feature a 20GB hard drive and retail for a tidy $499.99. Meanwhile, the original 60GB drive mentioned in March still exists ? but prepare to pay a whopping $599.99 for that configuration. A hundred bucks more for an extra 40GB seems a bit...much but it is better than the 20GB drive Microsoft sells for the same price. Either way, PlayStation 3 is going to cost a whole lot of cash come November 17th. I know I just felt my bank account collapse, and we don't even know if Sony will charge premium game prices to go with the premium cost of the console. At least Sony announced there will be 2 million consoles ready for the worldwide launch...better than the paltry 1 million.

[AM edit: It seems the price has less to do with the hard drive and more with features. The cheaper PS3 will lack built-in Wi-Fi (something that is $100 on 360 and could have been used to Sony's advantage), no memory card slots for Compact Flash, SD, or Memory Stick, and no HDMI input for true 1080p high-definition. Suddenly we're way beyond just removing the HDD like the Xbox 360 and into the realm of a true, real 'tard pack here. Sigh.]

Between all this madness were the important thing, games. And if Sony is going to charge so much cash, it needs to back it up with software, which they did show plenty of in both playable and video form. First off was Gran Turismo HD, which was a cleaned up version of Gran Turismo 4 but shown off in 1080p. It was quickly dubbed a work in progress, and hopefully so, as the game looked more PS2 than PS3. Sony's EyeToy was on display with the new card-based game Eye of Judgement, that used your hand movements to fiddle with the cards on the screen. In usual fashion, a rubber ducky ended up being a terrorizing force on the board, kicking ass and taking names. Moving along, there were demonstrations of Genji 2, Heavenly Sword, and Resistance: Fall of Man. While Genji 2 was somewhat underwhelming, both Heavenly Sword and Resistance were slick titles, showing off the intense action that both promise. On display were also non-playable videos, featuring Lair, The Getaway, a new Hot Shots Golf, an original title called Afrika (which made very little sense), and a new Naughty Dog title that could be Tomb Raider if Lara Croft was a guy but wasn't given a name during the video.

Things then turned over to 3rd parties, starting with a video montage of many of the PS3 games known. Assassin's Creed, Tekken 6, Ridge Racer 7, and Fatal Inertia were some of the more notable games. From there we got some real goodies. The hyped trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was displayed, full of weirdness and sadness, ending with a shot of Snake holding a his mouth. Sadly the trailer didn't have the same sort of impact that, say, Metal Gear Solid 2 did for the PS2 all those years ago. Finally we saw a double trailer for Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which is a direct sequel to FFXIII. That's right, a sequel to a game that hasn't even come out yet. Both take place in highly futuristic, science fiction worlds, a vast departure from what we've come to expect from the franchise. While FFXIII is a standard FF game in design, FF vs. XIII is a Kingdom Hearts-esque action game. It was all so confusing, but yet intriguing all the same.

Though PS3 dominated the show, some PS2 and PSP info trickled out. On the PS2 front, Kaz emphasized that PS2 was going to be around for quite a while, as demonstrated by forthcoming games like God of War 2, Final Fantasy XII, and Guitar Hero 2, and the E3 floor would have over 200 games for the console. Which might be a good idea due to the whole PS3 price issue; many people won't be owning one for quite some time. The PSP on the other hand is just growing, with well over 100 games for the system coming down the line. In addition, Sony is finally starting their Greatest Hits program for the portable, with 5 titles going for $20 ? Hot Shots Golf, Wipeout Pure, Twisted Metal, Ape Escape, and ATV Offroad fury. To be eligible a game must sell 250k copies and be out 9 months. Finally, Sony began to show off the PSP download system for emulating PS1 games; something that seems to work with PS3 without too much info as to whether it'll work without owning one. It's possible you'll have to 'beam' a game to the PSP unless you have a memory stick large enough to hold a file. Hirai took the time to show off one game for the service; naturally it was Ridge Racer, widely known as the very first big PlayStation must own way back in 1995. By default it was shown in 4:3, but you can stretch it to fill up the wide screen of the system.

Final Thought
In the coming years, this conference will be remembered for PlayStation 3, and whatever fallout will come with the announcements made during it. It's been proven people will pay super premium prices for a game console if you judge by the $1000 dollar prices people were paying during Xbox 360 mania, but with the premium Xbox 360 possibly sitting there for $300 bucks and the Nintendo Wii for possibly $200 when PS3 releases, $500-$600 might be very difficult to swallow for the average consumer. Sony has some ammo ? if you want to play MGS4 or Final Fantasy XIII, this is the only place to do it (for now), and in truth it will be the cheapest Blu-Ray DVD player on the market, but it'll be a hard sell compared to their competition who will either have a much more appealing game lineup (360) or exciting new technology that redefines how a game is played (Wii). Who knows what kind of prices we'll see for the games too; if Sony isn't careful with how they handle the PS3, they could be like Snake at the end of the MGS4 trailer, shooting themselves not in the foot...but the mouth.

But you know what...people knock Sony every generation and they come out smelling like a rose somehow. In short, this PlayStation press briefing shows one thing for certain ? the next generation of gaming will be very, very...very interesting.

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