For the prayers

Sony brings fan ser­vice by the cart­load to PlayS­ta­tion Ex­pe­ri­ence


Those of you who would like to take some­thing pos­i­tive from 2016 can look on it as the year in which the con­ven­tion cir­cuit com­pleted its trans­for­ma­tion from in­dus­try knees-up to fan-fo­cused hype on­slaught. Things had been head­ing this way for a while, ad­mit­tedly, but 2016 was the year in which sales graphs were con­signed to the bin, where trade shows were pretty much aban­doned in favour of fan events, and where stage events were made pri­mar­ily for the peo­ple watch­ing at home, rather than those whoop­ing their lungs out in the room it­self.

In that sense PlayS­ta­tion Ex­pe­ri­ence was a fine way to round out the year, even though it showed the good and bad of this new way of do­ing business. For one, it seems that fo­cus­ing on fans means you can take lib­er­ties you wouldn’t dream of tak­ing in front of eas­ily dis­tracted busi­ness­peo­ple or the overzeal­ously crit­i­cal press.

Un­charted 4’ s stand­alone DLC, The Lost Legacy, opened the show with a stul­ti­fy­ingly over­long demo whose fi­nal twist – that the women be­hind the niqab was con­spic­u­ous Un­charted 4 ab­sen­tee Chloe Frazer – was ob­vi­ous from the first minute. Her modest mid­dle-east­ern garb tried to con­ceal what was go­ing on, but there’s no mis­tak­ing those eyes. Still, the prospect of Frazer bud­dy­ing up with re­deemed Un­charted 4 an­tag­o­nist Na­dine Ross in a part of the world where women are con­sid­ered to be sec­ond­class cit­i­zens is an in­trigu­ing one.

As is the prospect of El­lie tak­ing the lead role in The Last Of Us Part II, which took the one-more-thing spot at the close of the stage show. El­lie has spent her down­time since the first game learn­ing a mean gui­tar, de­vel­op­ing a singing voice wor­thy of a John Lewis ad and, it seems, ac­quir­ing a quite bru­tal blood­lust. While the trailer’s brevity was passed off as a con­se­quence of the game be­ing early in de­vel­op­ment, it was also in­tended to be light on de­tail and heavy on in­nu­endo, the sort of recipe that sends fan com­mu­ni­ties into a ra­bidly spec­u­la­tive lather. The In­ter­net duly obliged. The truth will come in time; what Naughty Dog’s book­end­ing of PSX told us im­me­di­ately is that the stu­dio re­mains, by a stretch, the jewel in Sony’s crown.

In be­tween it was largely business as usual, a beat-for-beat reprise of last year’s PSX show with the same names fill­ing the same roles, al­beit with dif­fer­ent games. Once again, our con­do­lences go to Shelby Cox, whose role in de­vel­oper and pub­lisher re­la­tions left her stuck with the gig of reel­ing off all of Sony’s con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions. Her bit on

Call Of Duty’s es­ports push went over about as well as you’d ex­pect, which is to say it re­ceived ap­prox­i­mately one tenth of the vol­ume of ap­plause that greeted footage of the Crash Bandi­coot re­make. Cox fol­lowed up by turn­ing her at­ten­tion to Ja­pan with nods to Res­i­dent

Evil 7, Ace Com­bat 7 – both PSVRen­abled – and Street Fighter V.

Next came Gio Corsi, the third­party re­la­tions bod who per­haps most closely em­bod­ies PS4’s cen­tral phi­los­o­phy, For The Play­ers. In PlayS­ta­tion-branded hockey shirt and beanie, and with Vita in hand, it looked as if Corsi was cos­play­ing as him­self, the dra­matic

It was largely a reprise of last year’s PSX show with the same names fill­ing the same roles

pause be­fore each Vita an­nounce­ment tee­ter­ing on the brink of par­ody. De­signed to re­as­sure the fans that Sony hasn’t for­got­ten about Vita, it acted more as a re­minder of the ex­tent to which it

has. Still, Corsi’s an­nounce­ments came thick and fast, and any sar­to­rial or stylis­tic quib­bles melted away as Corsi con­firmed

Ys, Dan­gan­ronpa, two new Yakuza games, and, from out of nowhere, a new, on­line-en­abled ver­sion of cult 1994 Neo Geo sports game Wind­jam­mers, plus plenty more be­sides.

The idea – as ev­i­denced by the above and con­firmed by Shuhei Yoshida’s bit on the im­mi­nent likes of

The Last Guardian and Grav­ity Rush 2, and Asad Qizil­bash’s me­an­der­ing slot en­com­pass­ing VR, base­ball and Nioh – was to of­fer some­thing for ev­ery­one, even if that meant just talk­ing about

ev­ery­thing. Sony can, how­ever, be for­given for a slight lack of fo­cus – in­deed, it should be com­mended for man­ag­ing to put to­gether a show at all. In the fi­nal months of 2016 it man­u­fac­tured, dis­trib­uted and mar­keted three new pieces of hard­ware, each aimed at a dif­fer­ent part of the mar­ket­place. Is there an­other com­pany in all of videogames that would even dare to try that, let alone pull it off?

There were prob­lems here: Yoshida al­most for­get­ting to men­tion that PS4 Pro was about more than 4K dis­plays, and a lack of PSVR ti­tles spark­ing fears that it’s go­ing the way of Vita, when the re­al­ity is that VR doesn’t demo well on a big stage. How­ever, th­ese are new prob­lems, born of in­no­va­tion and risk-tak­ing. PSX might have been for the fans, but in­dus­try ob­servers left happy in the knowl­edge that the mar­ket leader has no in­ten­tion of rest­ing on its lau­rels.

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