GamesCom has always been good to PlayStation. While the likes of Microsoft and Nintendo tend to show up when they feel like it, Sony has always enjoyed an extremely strong presence at the German convention, dating all the way back to the PlayStation 3’s all-important hardware revision reveal way back in 2009. Erase that awkward Diversity appearance from your memory, and the platform holder’s historically done a good job at the show, too, eschewing the razzle and dazzle of E3 for something a little more conservative but no less content rich.
With the console wars already in full force, though, this year’s showing threatens to be the most important since the Japanese giant dropped the price of its flagship format four years ago. Not only does the company need to put the spotlight back on the PlayStation 4 after several weeks worth of Microsoft policy changes, but it also needs to fix the PlayStation Vita’s increasingly desperate commercial woes, and ensure that its current generation console remains the cheaper option of choice. It’s a lot to achieve in little over an hour, but here’s how we expect to SCEE boss Jim Ryan to do it.
The system that suffers from insomnia
While it may feel like this year is all about the PS4 and Vita, the PS3 is still massively important to Sony. The current generation console is in its most profitable phase, and is actually enjoying one of the most impressive years in its seven year lifespan. As such, we expect the platform holder to dedicate the opening moments of its GamesCom press conference to the aging console, promoting upcoming first-party titles such as Puppeteer, Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Gran Turismo 6. Given the setting, the latter is likely to get a lot of attention, with new track announcements and manufacturer collaborations likely. We also suspect that The Last of Us’ first DLC pack will be announced during the show, while there’s a good chance that LittleBigPlanet 3 – which is thought to be in production at Sheffield studio Sumo Digital – will finally rear its knitted noggin.
Elsewhere, we suspect that the Japanese giant will dedicate a moment to its big third-party partners. The company appears to have teamed up with Warner Bros to promote Batman: Arkham Origins, so there’s a good chance that the firm will debut a new trailer for the superhero excursion during its presentation. We wouldn’t rule out the possibility of some kind of exclusive Grand Theft Auto V content either. The firm hinted that it was collaborating with Rockstar Games at E3, and the developer has been pushing the PS3 version of its upcoming open world game hard. We’re not expecting anything on the scale of Microsoft’s multi-million dollar Episodes from Liberty City deal, but don’t be surprised if Grand Theft Auto Online gets some exclusive costumes, vehicles, or weapons on Sony’s system.
If there’s ever been an ideal time to drop the price of the PS3, we reckon that it’s now. The console is still riding high on the success of The Last of Us, and has several big titles in its immediate lineup, including the aforementioned Gran Theft Auto V. Not everyone is going to be able to afford a next generation console this year, so it makes sense to offer a cheaper alternative. We know that Sony is planning to introduce the 12GB model of the existing system in North America any day now, so that could be the biggest sign that the company’s planning to slash the console’s costs. The system still hasn’t reached $199.99 in the United States yet, so it’s imperative that it achieves it this holiday in order to maintain momentum.
Meanwhile, a Vita price drop will depend on what content the PlayStation maker has in the pipeline. History has proven that systems need software as well as sticker snips to regain impetus, and Killzone: Mercenary, Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate, and Tearaway are not going to do much on their own. If the manufacturer can show a solid string of titles set to release on the system over the next six to twelve months, though, a small pricing readjustment may make sense. Child-friendly releases such as PlayStation Vita Pets and Invizimals: The Alliance certainly indicate that it has a younger demographic in mind, so a reduction may be imperative for those titles to succeed.
The whole world in your hands
It’s been a bit of a mixed year for the Vita. While the console has continued to struggle at retail, it’s actually enjoyed a healthy offering of smaller downloadable hits. Titles such as Hotline Miami, Guacamelee, and Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark may not have been what you had in mind when you splashed out on the expensive hardware, but they have augmented the system with a lot of content during the long breaks between retail releases. The problem is that, while thoroughly enjoyable, these games are not moving hardware, and the platform holder needs to show a commitment to big blockbuster releases.
With both Tearaway and Killzone: Mercenary now just weeks away from release, it’s the right time for Sony to outline more long-term software plans for the portable platform. We suspect that Freedom Wars – Studio Japan’s upcoming Monster Hunter-esque adventure – will be confirmed for the West, while the manufacturer will no doubt show off footage of Dead Nation and the God of War Collection running on the handheld. As for new original content, though, we wouldn’t be surprised if Sony Bend announced its latest Vita title. We know that it’s working on a game for the handheld, but it’s not clear whether it’s an Uncharted: Golden Abyss sequel, a Syphon Filter reboot, or something else entirely. Personally, we’d like to see the studio do something fresh.
While we’ve got our fingers crossed for some big new blockbuster games, we also fully expect the platform holder to bolster its offerings across all of its systems with some new indie deals. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number leaked this week, and Laughing Jackal has also been teasing a GamesCom announcement on its Twitter account. With Microsoft expected to clarify its stance on self-publishing during the show, Sony will want to stress its commitment to smaller studios, and prove that it’s still the best platform holder to work with.
The so-called indie eight that took to the Japanese giant's stage at E3 mostly comprised of North American developers, so we wouldn’t be surprised if SCEE had something similar in mind for its European partners. We know that the likes of Beatshapers, Bloober Team, and more are all working on PS4 projects, and with Ronimo Games revealing Awesomenauts for the next generation console recently, we’re sure that there’s lots, lots more to come. It would be especially interesting if the manufacturer had a response to Microsoft’s claims that all Xbox Ones will double as development kits, as this is the only potential weakness in Sony’s indie strategy at the moment.
Click through the page for our PS4 software and release date predictions, in addition to more of our thoughts regarding next week's big show in Cologne.