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Desperately-needed Vita support, refreshing new PS3 games coming from Sony
Desperately-needed Vita support, refreshing new PS3 games coming from Sony
August 14, 2012 | By Christian Nutt

August 14, 2012 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Gamescom

Sony had a stronger press conference in Europe than it did in Los Angeles two months ago. There were more details, more games, and better presentations of things we'd seen before. It felt like an oldschool E3 press conference, where new games were expected, even common.

But it wasn't just that. The company showed how its initiatives are going -- some in leaps and bounds, some in increments.

The Vita desperately needs to be justified right now, and after its near-total absence from the Sony press conference at E3, it's a relief to see it get a little more attention here. The Cross Buy functionality -- in which purchasers get both versions of games that appear on both the Vita and the PlayStation 3, like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale -- is a nice and necessary touch for luring in new buyers, though the idea that it's really a breakthrough function for the system -- or at all likely to be supported by third parties -- seems unlikely.

Killzone: Mercenary, which continues the company's strategy of moving its console IP to its portables, is pretty much a gimme, and it's not clear if that strategy really excites gamers all that much. Marquee console IP like Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty: Black Ops might, however. But Tearaway is really what the console needs: new IP, functionality that takes advantage of the console's portable nature and varied inputs, and most importantly simply feels fresh.

PlayStation Mobile, an Android-enabled platform that allows "bite-sized" (mobile, in other words) games, purchased only on PlayStation Network, to play across the Vita and "PlayStation certified" Android phones and tablets still seems like a solution in search of a problem.

On the other hand, PlayStation Plus really seems to be coming into its own -- with Europe getting Red Dead Redemption for free in September, its vision as a way to fill the PlayStation 3 (and, as it expands, the Vita) into an endless supply of free software (and maybe keep console gamers from being enticed into moving toward Steam?) seems to be more intelligent and enticing as time goes on.

Something commendable about the conference was Sony's continued commitment to launching new IP, following in the footsteps of The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls, which stormed its E3 showing. Its Japan studios showed two PlayStation 3 games: the charming Rain, for PlayStation Network, and Puppeteer. There was also a UK-developed PlayStation Move horror title, Until Dawn, which seems (given its subject matter and motion control) pitched at a broad audience. Meanwhile, LittleBigPlanet dev Media Molecule debuted a new Vita IP, Tearaway.

Media Molecule's Tearaway

And while its Wonderbook initiative is really gaining momentum -- there was a Disney partnership announcement, and Worldwide Studios SVP Michael Denny called it Sony's "biggest game of the holiday season" -- one wonders if this will be the pivot point in the PlayStation 3's lifespan where the platform begins to be adopted by families, given the price is still significantly over $200.

The conference, overall, had a strong focus on cross-platform play and mobile devices, including the debut of the promised Cross Controller functionality, which allows developers to use the Vita as a PlayStation 3 controller, Wii U-style.

"Consumers want to access their interactive content anywhere, at any time, across multiple devices," said Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. The question, though, is whether they care about doing this on Sony devices.

You can't fault Sony for trying, though. This conference was, in a sense, "throw everything at the wall, see what sticks" -- or, phrased much more charitably, a showcase of a variety of initiatives targeting different audiences and market segments.

The company seems to be in a unique position at the moment; Microsoft's quiet E3 and Nintendo's generational transition means that Sony is the only platform holder going guns blazing on current-gen software.

But there is a lingering sense that the company hasn't made any breakthroughs just yet. There's just enough here to get a little more confidence in the Vita's prospects and also to breathe some more life into Sony's "ten year plan" for the PlayStation 3, though, and that's more than you might expect for its second press conference of the year.

In the end, the company continues to push forward with determination to make its platforms work and to try new things, and that's just as important as breaking new ground.

Gamasutra is in Cologne, Germany this week covering GDC Europe and Gamescom. For more coverage, visit our official event page. (UBM TechWeb is parent to both Gamasutra and GDC events.)

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Gern Blanston
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If today's conference doesn't push strong sales for Vita by the end of the year, then nothing will. Quite an impressive showing, I'm glad they finally put their priorities in the right place.

Eric H
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If Sony unlocks Remote Play for all games, I along with many others would finally be interested in the Vita. Until then, they'll continue to function as dust collectors in stores.

Omar Gonzalez
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That looks pretty cool

Joe Zachery
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Sony showed games I will give them that! Overall they didn't show games that are going to help the Vita move major hardware. First even though the Black Ops game coming to Vita is gimped. It will still sell way better than Sony's own Killzone. Also the cross buy in theory sound very promising. I just don't see people who buy the game on their PS3 deciding that they will buy a Vita. To be able to play that free version of the game, and vice versa. This sounds more like the Sony's version of Nintendo's Ambassador free game plan. If you already own both then your getting hooked up. If you only own one then their is no reason to buy another piece of hardware to play the same game.

Ali Afshari
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I bought a Vita specifically for AC III: Liberation. The Cross Play feature is a little interesting, but early news made it seem like you had to purchase both Vita and PS3 versions of a compatible game in order to use this feature. As a consumer, it will be cool to not have to buy the same game twice. I can see how Sony might be able to pull this off by cutting into their profits, but how will this be profitable for a third party developer that is making both PS3 and Vita versions of a game? I had heard that Brian Provinciano will do this for PS3/Vita versions of Retro City Rampage, but without some type of kickback from Sony, it doesn't seem to be a lucrative option. From where I see it, two sales only counts as one with this feature.

I'd appreciate if anyone can shed light on this for me.

E McNeill
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Minor procedural quibble:

I really like Gamasutra's analysis. I also really like Gamasutra's totally dispassionate news. I wish, though, that they'd be clearly separated, perhaps with something like an "Analysis: [headline]" label. When I start reading something as a news piece and start seeing judgements about it, my journalism alarm bells go off for a second before I can recontextualize it, and it's very distracting.

Jeremy Reaban
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The only major IP Sony truly has is Gran Turismo. Until they put a GT on the Vita, and a proper one, not a half-assed port like the 5 years late PSP version, it won't have a system seller.

wes bogdan
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Well i thought the series ms would kill to have is uncharted and that's already out so that should be a system seller.

I know it was put out by sony bend and not naughty dog but uncharted's sony's halo....if i could play it i would have it but i can't so i don't.

I have sound shapes on both ps3/vita and being the exact same on both is nice but without a way to cross cloud sync each game progress is seperated by system and the special vita memory has no mem stick pro duo adapter to overwright
my save which leaves me hooking up by wire a vita to a ps3 even though both do bt and could transfer over bt.

I hope sony does better with vita than they did with psp though on psp i had access to a n64 control method and even though vita has dual analog and a giant screen it's still a default only club with delta as the exception to that rule.

So until that's fixed i can't play dual analog on vita.

k s
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I don't see this news over coming the price issue, the system is still too damned expensive for what it is.