Sony's Gamescom press conference review
14th Aug 2012 | 23:49
It was Phil Harrison who, during the launch of the PS3, famously said that it is not killer games that sell new consoles, but killer catalogues.
It's been six long years since he coined the phrase, and since then the games industry has changed immeasurably, yet Harrison's maxim still holds true.
At a special Gamescom press event in Cologne on Tuesday, Sony showed with little sign of reservation just how prepared it is to build an entire new catalogue of games for its slow-selling
The real question is whether they will collectively fall under the definition of 'killer'.
The breadth of new games on display was certainly a knock-out. Media Molecule revealed its new IP,
The two games have one crucial, encouraging link: both are directly developed by elite Sony talent. The PlayStation studio empire has enough dev workforce to cover all the bases, but Sony has this irritable habit of delegating important PSP and Move projects to - with all due respect - less illustrious development teams.
So shouldn't Sony state the obvious here? You'll need a PS Vita to play last hurrahs from Media Molecule and Guerrilla Games before the next generation arrives.
And while the Vita's third-party line-up lacks breadth, it certainly has clout.
Assassin's Creed III: Liberation will probably be in the same league as the
Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified, meanwhile, looked awful. The world-first reveal trailer cut to different camera angles every single second in a sort of hysterical denial that what was displayed on screen looked as rough and rumpled as a Ghillie Suit.
You get the sense that Sony was keen to show the game as soon as possible to flaunt the potential selling power of its new handheld. It's now clear why nothing went beyond the logo at E3.
The power and prestige of the Call of Duty brand shouldn't be ignored, of course. It may be the least encouraging of the big four new Vita games, but it certainly has the potential of selling the most boxes.
More is more
Having swept through E3 with a solid portrayal of quality, Sony's Gamescom press conference lurched towards quantity. Several PS3 games will soon be available to play on PS Vita in a new initiative called Cross-Buy. The idea is simple; purchase a PS3 game and retain the licence to play it on Vita, and vice versa.
Big names are already on board: PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale, Ratchet & Clack: QForce and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. A similar concept was announced for PlayStation Mobile, with various smartphone apps working seamlessly on Vita.
More: PS One Classics are due for staggered release on the handheld, starting with Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid.
More: PlayStation Plus is also coming to PS Vita, with the premium service available for free to those who already have it on their PS3.
More: A brilliant new DLC package for LittleBigPlanet 2 allows players to control the PS3 game through Vita, with an on-stage demonstration of how the second-screen tech gives PlayStation a platform to compete with the Wii U. At times, especially between the synchronised oohs and ahhs of the Gamescom audience, it felt like Sony has a better grip of the Wii U concept than Nintendo has of late.
Filler or killer?
But between the rapid fire of new game announcements and services, it didn't feel like there was still a definitive answer to the key question: Can Sony lift PS Vita's sales off the ground?
Each of the answers came with a 'but'. Media Molecule has more a capacity to astound critics than sell oodles of consoles. Killzone and Assassin's Creed look great on Vita but even more impressive on the home console, so why? Black Ops Declassified, meanwhile, hardly sells the Vita's capabilities when measured against the quality bar Treyarch is focused on hitting.
And the convenience of Cross-Buy and Cross-Controller only benefits that small sliver in the Venn diagram of people who have both a PS Vita and PS3. And how easy will it be for developers to build these technologies for both systems?
Amid Sony's startling number of new announcements for Vita, there was nonetheless a growing sense that the handheld still lacks a killer app. Whether it's still short of what Mr Harrison calls a 'killer catalogue' is the million dollar question.
This review focuses specifically on the PS Vita element of the press conference. Broader analysis of the show itself can be found below.