It's a topic that's been adopted by industry analysts and high-profile journalists, with fictional grades awarded to the manufacturers with the most surprises and best content. But GamesCom — now the world's largest video game event — has a very different tone to it. There's no competition, no message board bickering and certainly no industry analysis, because each year only one platform holder decides to turn up in a noteworthy way, and that is Sony.
While there was a sense of disappointment surrounding the announcements Sony made at its GamesCom press conference this week, it was nice to see a platform holder take the event seriously at all. While Nintendo and Microsoft hid outside of the bright-lights of the event once again, Sony transformed the German event into the 'Sony Show' for the third-year running, bringing a live streamed press conference and at least a handful of popular announcements.
It's easy to understand why there was a backlash. Move Fitness and DanceStar Party are not exactly God Of War IV and Final Fantasy XV, but with reasonable expectations I think Sony had a really good showing at this year's GamesCom.
First and foremost, the PlayStation Vita once again sizzled. On-stage, games such as Resistance: Burning Skies and Escape Plan looked great, but it was the after-show reaction from journalists and the public that was most satisfying. My Twitter feed populated with astounded patrons, heralding the PlayStation Vita's OLED screen, natural controls and fresh gameplay experiences. Sony will be more than happy with the public's perception of Vita coming out of GamesCom, and will hope to carry that goodwill into TGS in anticipation for the system's Japanese launch later in the year.
It's true that new software was in short supply at GamesCom, but while the other platform holders opted to showcase their existing games, it was staggering Sony had anything at all. Move Fitness looks like the epitome of a me-too project, but there's some hope hidden in the game's debut trailer. Unlike other fitness games on PlayStation 3, Move Fitness looks to be heading in a more enjoyable, mini-game direction, with numerous boxing games leveraging the technology from Sony's under-rated The Fight. As suckers for both fitness games and mini-game compilations, we'll probably spend a lot more time with Move Fitness than the unoriginal concept probably deserves.
Easily the most surprising software announcement coming out of Sony's GamesCom press conference was the unveiling of a brand-new downloadable spin-off in the inFamous franchise. Leveraging the popularity of the brand (and the appeal of anything horror related in October), inFamous 2: Festival Of Blood looks to be inspired by Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare. But using one of the best pieces of DLC ever produced as inspiration isn't necessarily a bad idea, and so I have high hopes for Festival Of Blood.
But while inFamous: Festival Of Blood was a fairly big shock, it was nothing compared to the announcement of a new PSP. Revealed alongside the expansion of Sony's PSP Essentials range, the new stripped-back PlayStation Portable certainly isn't what I had in mind when predicting the events of Sony's GamesCom press conference a couple of weeks ago. But I think the device makes sense. Just about.
With the PlayStation Vita targeting the hardcore gaming community, PSP still has potential as a cheap device for younger children. Stripped of its more complicated features (such as Wi-Fi), the new PSP is a cheap proposition for children looking for a gaming platform this Christmas. When you consider the number of quality titles available for less than £10 (in Sony's PSP Essentials range) and the upcoming software line-up — new entries in the EyePet and Invizimals franchise — the platform makes total sense. Whether the device will be able to tempt children already dead-set on purchasing an iPod Touch, Nintendo DS or Nintendo 3DS remains to be seen, but I think there's a market for the new PSP. It's a shame that Sony couldn't get the device's price down even lower.
Of course, out of all the announcements Sony made during its GamesCom press conference, the announcement of the PlayStation 3's price-drop will probably have the biggest long-term impact. I said in my column last week that I didn't expect Sony to drop the system's price to $199, and I was correct. Sony announced a new $249 price-point which, according to a series of North American retailers, has instantly seen demand increase for the PS3.
I don't expect the system to suddenly start outselling its rivals in North America. The cut is not big enough to give it that kind of boost. But with the PlayStation 3 (just about) outselling its rivals worldwide, I see the price-cut as part of a double-pronged attack from Sony. No doubt the new price-point will boost sales worldwide, but when coupled with the upcoming software releases — particularly Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3 — it becomes much more effective.
Those going into GamesCom with expectations of a new God Of War and Grand Theft Auto will have understandably been disappointed by the show, but it's staggering to me how Sony continues to dominate the European show's headlines each year running. Both Microsoft and Nintendo seem to shrink into a corner, happy to show off brand new demonstrations of their E3 titles but uneager to do anything more. It's hard to be disappointed by Sony's output when the other platform holders are doing so little.
Sony seems to really enjoy GamesCom, turning the event into a bit of a haven for PlayStation fans. As one NeoGAF poster cheekily suggested, "So... Sony won?"
Its rumoured that Twiggy has spent the past several months touring with avant-garde dance troupe Cirque Du Soleil. The anonymous PushSquare columnist is still on the run from the British monarchy on account of treason. Twiggy was last sighted eating an Asda branded ham and cheese sandwich in Grimsby.