The PlayStation 4 (Controller) Launch Press Con: Questions, Questions, Everywhere…

Let me start off by saying that I live tweeted the event from its start until about an hour and 45 minutes in, which was quite a feat considering I had to be at work early in the morning. Time differences are not kind. Now that a colleague has talked me off the ledge of breaking my almost year-long coffee ban, let me see if I can recall what I did see and piece together the bits I missed (like the Watch Dogs preview; so pissed I fell asleep before that). There were two buzz words dominating last night’s sometimes shaky experience (for example, nobody applauding after the Killzone Shadowfall demo) and each trendy term applies to different parties: mobile is for PS4 and familiarity is for me.

Mark Cerny, the most enthusiastic speaker there.

Mark Cerny, the most enthusiastic speaker there.

Anyone who stayed up to watch the press conference knows that they didn’t actually show you the console itself, but that’s to be expected. E3 is still a few months away and it wouldn’t be a console war if Sony didn’t do this dog and pony show now to one-up Microsoft. This does not mean that I like it or approve of it, but we’ll get to that eventually. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t surprised at the lack of actual hardware display. Nor was I actually surprised at the early discussion of the PlayStation Vita; as I tweeted, Sony really had no other choice but to offer you Wii-U functionality of porting your game to your Vita in order to make that platform even a tad more appealing. A PS3 fan friend of mine furiously WhatsApped me the same text but with more profanity, which gave me a laugh. But yes…Sony revealed that you can port your in-progress game to your PS Vita in the event your kids or grandmother take over the TV, enabling you to resume play while they watch Yo Gabba Gabba or Price Is Right. What’s more, Sony spent a major chunk of the start of the press conference stressing that yes, gaming has moved beyond the living room and that to enhance the gamer’s experience, they will be supporting connectivity with iOS and Android devices with a second-screen app. Strange…I felt like I was looking at a combination of the Wii-U and the XBox SmartGlass presentation. I honestly believe that the focus on mobile connectivity and the constant emphasis of connecting with your friends via Facebook and UStream, and even giving a friend the possibility to access your game if you’re ‘having a hard time with a particular level’ muddled the presentation a bit and was just meant to pacify the rabid gaming journalists who spent all of 2012 screaming MOBILE at the console developers. I don’t care about being able to use Facebook on my console; I have a phone and a PC for that. Sony doesn’t think that’s enough though, so they put a dedicated Share button on the controller to allow you to record and share game-play videos instantly. That’s about the only cool bit I thought about the whole social connectivity stress point; game-play videos from my friends are always enjoyable.

After showing us the snazzy new dashboard interface (*cough*XBOX*cough*), they then moved on to show off some launch titles, including Killzone: Shadow Fall and Drive Club. The latter looked pretty engaging; the former looked, unfortunately, like more of the same. The one title that caught my eye was Infamous: Second Son, and this is an IP I’ve always meant to play but never got the opportunity. I had an inkling that Bungie would display Destiny at this press conference but yes, I was fast asleep before that came around, so I had to catch up on that via GamesIndustry et al this morning. After Killzone, Drive Club and Infamous, Sony gave the stage to David Cage of Quantic Dream and Media Molecule, respectively. This led to a pretty funny contrast wherein Cage made some e-love to the polygon and MM went on to declare war on said polygon in their presentation. Media Molecule then trotted out the PlayStation Move and displayed some creative activities that the Move now suddenly possesses, thanks to PlayStation 4. I’m just gonna let Regina George respond to that.

Stop trying to make the Move happen. It's not going to happen!

Stop trying to make the Move happen. It’s not going to happen!

I signed off around this time, not thoroughly impressed enough to stay up beyond 2 AM. Let’s just get through a round-up of what we were told:

1. Bungie promised that the PlayStation 4 would receive exclusive Destiny content, which kind of ticked me off but then, it’s not as if XBox doesn’t have these moments as well.

2. The PlayStation 4 will come with 8 GB of unified on-board memory, so, hurrah for that.

3. The controller features, as mentioned before, the Share button (for the gamer who Facebooks while gaming) and a touchpad.

4. Launch titles will follow the usual pattern of FPS/Racing/Puzzle…I’m waiting for the RPG/fantasy adventure game to pop out.

5. Blizzard has come down to mingle with the commoners, with Diablo 3 confirmed for both the PS3 and the PS4.

6. Because they’re probably having issues selling them now, Sony has woven the Vita and the Move into the fabric of the PlayStation 4 (making you have to buy a whole new platform to get Wii-U functionality), kind of like that annoying pocket on polo shirts. Seriously…pockets on polo shirts? But I digress…

7. The controller will interact with what is called the PlayStation Eye (aka the XBox Kinect).

8. It’s going to revolutionize the way we do gaming…haha no just kidding, I just really wanted to use that line. Fans of the late series Better Off Ted will know what I’m talking about. Instead of using that awesome line, Sony stressed that the PS4 was going to be epic. EPIC.

And now…the ugly truth of it…

Have you ever had a moment at work when your boss asks you for a presentation or a report, but they don’t exactly state what they want in it? There’s no information provided as to the parameters of the research, the timeline for delivery, the desired content or even the platform they’d prefer for presentation. Isn’t that frustrating? That must have been how the poor marketers behind this press conference must have felt. I can see it now:

Sony Exec, sinisterly twirling his mustache: We’ve got to announce the PS4 months ahead of E3 so we can beat Microsoft to the punch! I need you to draw up enough presentations to stuff between the developers’ speeches.

Sony Marketer: Hey, that’s  great! We’ll get on it right away. All we need are some stock photos of the platform-

Sony Exec, now sipping on some brandy: You can’t have those.

Sony Marketer: Um…okay. Well, we can at least start out with the new logo and maybe the release date flashed underneath at the end of the video. The initial price point can come later, maybe the Group CEO can close off the conference with it!

Sony Exec, back to the mustache: No. You can’t have that either.

Sony Marketer: I…well…okay. What do we have to work with here?

Sony Exec, leaving the room: Not much, actually. Just this controller here. *thunk* And the new logo. It’ll be great, I can feel it! Great work!

Sony Marketer: …..

Yeah, that conversation that totally took place in my head quite succinctly sums up what we didn’t learn at the press conference. And as I said before, I understand why: the ongoing console war between Microsoft and Sony. I leave Nintendo out of that statement because I think they don’t spend half as much time trying to one-up their competitors. There’s also an argument for marketing tactics; if you tease a little bit between now and E3, you remain relevant and that’s the key to success, right? Only it’s gotten boring and frankly, insulting to our intelligence as gamers. As Eric states in his well-written and much more technically insightful post about the press conference, which you can read here, we’re a much more informed and critical market and can clearly recognize when we’re having the marketing wool pulled over our eyes. It’s almost as if Sony has been doing business under a rock and doesn’t realize that teasers don’t have the same effect as they once did. The information is out there and waiting to be consumed…by consumers! The disappointing thing is that it’s usually Sony pulling this stunt. Does it really make sense to continue this ridiculous trend of announcing before Microsoft and wasting a ton of cash on a lukewarm press event to just state the name of the product and show us…a controller? And the Move? The Vita? What now?

This would be more of a war (and less insulting to us) if you just waited for E3 and announced right alongside Microsoft, because that would mean you’d actually have to show us something of substance and give us some actual information. “Leaks” are all well and fine for generating the buzz, so I’m not sure why any company would insist on hosting underwhelming press events scattered between here and E3 to truly make an impression on their target market. This press con played out like an extended leak. It’s not endearing and I’d prefer to see a no-holds-barred slug fest on the E3 stage than be fed tiny morsels that are not filling and beg the question of “Please Sony, may we have some more?”

Sony Marketer: Maybe just the release date…please?

Sony Exec: Yeahhhhh…no.

Sony Marketer: *sigh*

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