Opinion: Sony reinvents itself to sell a dream - slightly muddled by familiar realities

Sony answered its critics in New York, writes Dan Dawkins...

Sony's task was simple - to sell a dream. To sell a dream of what consoles could be. To reassert consoles relevance in troubled times for AAA games, high street retail and originality; responding to a world of tablets, smart phones, social media and connectivity.

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Sony had to prove it could adapt, and plot a course for the future by not being Sony. To prove it could break away from a culture of conservatism, of aping past successes, of controlling the microscopic detail of its markets, its storage mediums and pricing.

Did it succeed? Yes. But.

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Yes, it succeeded in reinventing itself; in many respects, perhaps even more so than cynics dared imagine - but New Sony's bold vision, and smart approach to connectivity and cross platform play, was very almost derailed by Old Sony's adherence to politics, and muddled delivery.

Who thought it was a good idea to demo the eight-month-old Luminous tech demo - that's everyone's seen on YouTube - 90 minutes into a flagging presentation?

Who thought it was a good idea to conclude with 20 seconds of new footage of Destiny - a third-party sci-fi shooter, irrespective of its ambition, that we'd already seen four days earlier?

Who thought, youknowwhatweregoingtositonthatUncharted4 demo... and - the mainstream media will hate this - refuse to show hardware?

Yet for all the gripes - and the internet's many, many contrarians and new-age gaming hipsters had many - Sony delivered a fantastic breadth of games, plus more details than we could have sensibly expected.

8Gb of internal RAM? DDDR5? What was once a topic that inflamed entire message boards, was dealt with, nonchalantly, in a slide. The specs are largely what we expected - a posh-ish PC - but easily north of what we anticipated.

The pad, again, had been leaked, but in reality was far more sleek than we'd thought. That rumoured Share button? Hidden in the corner. Stereoscopic motion recognition? Of course. Touch screen? Yup.

It's in that Share button, plus Sony's bold plans for connectivity, cross platform play and social media that PS4 shone brightest. Potentially huge announcements and features were shoehorned into conversation so casually - or rather, lost in the mad-eyed stare of Mark Cerny - it was easy to miss their significance. Yes, they really did just say that you can share and edit minutes of gameplay. Yes, you can broadcast your gameplay live on UStream. Yes, your friends can spectate your game, and take over when you get fed up - 'pass the pad' for the online generation.

All this will make more sense when the dust settles - the beautiful, molecular, next-gen dust, that most struck us in the new Killzone - and we start thinking about the applications and - as Sony repeatedly stated - 'new ways to play'.

The most intoxicating, beautiful, example of which being Media Molecule's rock band puppetry. A 'bigger than words' moment, when you felt you were seeing something special. Equal polite gasps were reserved when they started crafting sausage men out of liquid polygons, and hinted you'd be able to output them on a 3D printer. It sounds insane, but they've bought the capital of patience. LittleBigPlanet once looked like an impossible promise, yet delivered on its flexibility and imagination.

Jonathan Blow's recorder music and eccentric shirt lifted the spirits of more artful gamers and - joking aside - demonstrated Sony's ongoing commitment to interesting indie publishers and innovation, as cemented by FlOw, Flower and Journey, among others. The most tantalising suggestion was that developers could 'self publish', potentially creating a vibrant, experimental online games market akin to Apple's App store.

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