Attendees of this year’s E3 pressers could be forgiven for thinking that the manufacturers had got their scripts mixed up. There was Microsoft, high prince of the marines-and-mohawks brigade, blowing controller-free kisses at the fun-for-all-the-family demographic. There was Nintendo, lifestyle marketing queen, flashing an awful lot of leg in the direction of the long-estranged hardcore. And there, finally, was Sony, once a definite second fiddle in the multiplatform software duet, slobbering all over exclusive content deals like a nymphomaniac after two months in solitary confinement.
It was a conference with a very clear objective: to re-establish PlayStation as the go-to guy in multiplatform gaming. There were first party offerings enough to pip Microsoft to the post, with powerful showings from Killzone 3, LittleBigPlanet 2, Motorstorm: Apocalypse, Gran Turismo 5, InFamous 2 and the rumoured Twisted Metal sequel, but where Sony really put clear light between itself and its arch-rival was in the third party presence.
EA came forward with trouser-tenting special editions for Dead Space 2, featuring a newly HD and Move-compatible copy of Dead Space: Extraction, and Medal of Honor, bundled with PS2 hit Medal of Honor: Frontline. PS3 players of Mafia II, meanwhile, will receive exclusive maps and ‘arcade-style gameplay’.
Ubisoft stepped up with PS3-only content, unspecified as yet, for the much-anticipated semi-sequel Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. The game’s multiplayer beta will also air solely on PlayStation Network.
The coup de grace, without doubt, was the appearance of Valve’s Gabe Newell to announce both a PS3 version of Portal 2 and PSN access to Steamworks. Internet reaction to the industry legend’s about-face on Sony hardware has been predictably infantile, but there’s no denying it was a shock to hear the lobotomised tones of GlaDOS amid the deep blue glare of PlayStation iconography.
Move’s role in all this was interesting to behold. The motion-sensitive controller is a two-pronged assault on the competition: it allows Sony to go head-to-head with the Wii, obviously, but it serves also as a means of distinguishing PS3 versions of multiplatform releases from those of Xbox 360 (Microsoft, of course, can do likewise with Kinect). The manufacturer has had a bash at this strategy before with the hurriedly produced Sixaxis, but Move is a far more serious proposition.