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E3: Sony's all about the games at Electronic Entertainment Expo

June 2, 2009 |  3:13 pm
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"2009 is going to be all about content on the PlayStation 3," Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton said at today's E3 press conference at the Shrine Auditorium. 
Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Sony's getting in the motion-sensing controller game and releasing the PSP Go, a download-only version of its hand-held console. But the big focus of its E3 news conference today was the huge lineup of exclusive games that it hopes will draw hard-core gamers and boost the last-place status of its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable.

"2009 is going to be all about content on the PlayStation 3," Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton said.

Sony's PlayStation 3 has sold 22 million units worldwide so far, compared with 30 million Microsoft Xbox 360s and 50 million Nintendo Wiis. The hand-held PSP is at close to 50 million units, while Nintendo's competing DS has sold over 100 million.

Gamers went into E3 this year knowing that Sony had a stronger menu of internally produced games in the works, including highly anticipated titles such as God of War III, Uncharted 2 and the 256-player online game MAG, all of which were shown at the event.

But there were also several surprising new partnerships with third-party publishers announced for games exclusive to the PlayStation 3. Exclusives for either the PS3 or Xbox 360, which have very similar capabilities, are increasingly rare in the industry and usually require a console maker to provide significant financial incentives, either directly or in the form of marketing support.

After abandoning a long history of PlayStation exclusivity by releasing Grand Theft Auto IV last year for XBox 360 as well as the PS3, Rockstar Games will release -- only on Sony's device -- a new espionage game set in the 1970s called Agent. The event's biggest surprise came from Japanese role-play game publisher Square Enix, which will launch Final Fantasy XIV next year only on PS3. The news drew audible gasps since Final Fantasy XII comes out next spring for Xbox 360 and PS3. Most gamers had concluded that the popular franchise's days of exclusivity to one console were over and ...

... that "XIV" wouldn't be released for another few years. There also were several new big new games announced for the PSP by outside publishers, including new installments of the popular franchises Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil.

Sony also unveiled several new games it is developing itself for the PlayStation 3 and PSP, including Mod Nation Racers, a driving game in which users can create cars and racetracks and share them online. The game is similar in spirit to last year's heavily hyped LittleBigPlanet, which also gave users tools to create their own video game levels but sold poorly.

Also shown for the first time were The Last Guardian, a sequel to the critically acclaimed Shadow of the Colossus, and a new installment in the high-production-value racing series Gran Turismo for both PS3 and PSP.

"We intend to ensure that when you think about great gaming, you think about PlayStation," Tretton said.

Both the motion-sensing controller and the PSP Go, which is more than 50% smaller than previous versions of the device and plays only downloaded games, were expected based on previous reports. Nonetheless, the audience seemed particularly excited by the motion-sensing controller, which uses a camera to track movements and is much more precise than Nintendo's Wii-mote. Given Microsoft's new camera interface that doesn't require a controller and Nintendo's unique new pulse sensor, it remains to be seen if Sony's entry will be able to stand out when it launches next spring.

-- Ben Fritz

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