Surviving Sony Gamer's Day

Zack Stern
Z. Stern|10.20.06

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Surviving Sony Gamer's Day
I set my alarm yesterday morning. I had a date with Sony Gamer's Day, 2006. And yes, Grammar Rodeo champions, that apostrophe means that it was just for me. Also, about 100 to 200 other journalists and analysts showed up, but I let them stay.

Sony's annual all-day press event held few surprises. Instead, it was the last big event before the PS3 retail launch, and we reporters got to play more games, eat fancy hors d'oeuvres, and talk to Sony executives.

In the late morning, I attended a lunch that was supposed to be with developers but occurred without them; a roundtable discussion had been canceled. Instead, I got to listen to analysts at my table spout lots of semi-confidential numbers off-the-record. Numbers like "40%," and "5,000,000." (Yes, commenters, those are completely out of context; don't start any rumors.) After eating fancy food that may have been prepared entirely by a team of Cell processors -- it was that good -- I headed to San Francisco's Dogpatch neighborhood for the presentations.
The main event was housed in a warehouse-turned-loft, with a curved ceiling over the main stage. The room evoked an airplane hangar full of Sixaxis dreams, or maybe my thoughts were just wandering through subliminal control. I regained my skepticism next to the rest of the cold journalists.

An authoritative voice warned us not to shoot photos or video, and then the presentation began with an introductory PS3 video. Kaz Hirai, President of Sony Computer Entertainment America, strode on stage. He was self-deprecating at times, showing the infamous YouTube Ridge Racer video to demo the PS3 web browser.

Other times, he and the other execs were, well, let's just call them confident. Kaz said that the PS3 will sport the "most robust lineup of any console launch," and the system will have "no [power] brick ... [unlike] some of our competition." Executive VP Jack Tretton took another dig at an unnamed console (cough: Xbox 360), saying Sony would ship "two fully-featured devices," adding, "We do not have a stripped-down core [system]."

(Aside: Sony, we gamers want you to succeed; we want all consoles to succeed. Just know that you look better staying above the insult fray, letting your products speak for themselves. We like a company that laughs at itself; you handled the Ridge Racer joke with style.)

After a few more demos and with other execs and developers, Sony sent us upstairs to the second and third floors, full of PS3s and games.

About 25 HDTVs and PS3s showcased most launch titles; I played a handful of the games after pushing through the crowd. Few titles stood out from the rest. Mostly, the games seemed like safe bets, which I can understand for a system launch. Most also looked good, just not innovative. I saw the futuristic shooter, the Tony Hawk game, racing games, and EA Sports games. The rain in one of the racing games looked real, sheeting off the windshield and sprayed by other cars, but it was just rain.

Some of the smaller titles were the most interesting, like Criminal CrackDown -- shown only in the main presentation -- and other downloadable games. I'm sure the PS3 will find its own Katamari, Okami, and Shadow of the Colossus. They just don't seem like they'll launch with the system.

Late in the day, someone literally turned the power off a game I was about to play; they were trying to herd us downstairs for more festivities, although there must have been a better way to move us along.

The chairs from earlier in the day had been carted out, and the main room had been converted into a dimly-lit club full of grimy gamers. While eating a few snacks and talking about the day, I began noticing some women dressed to the 9-8-9s. One had a Michael Jackson Moonwalker-style hat and business suit that incorporated mesh panels. PR reps are known for fashion sense and looking good, but I've never seen one with mesh panels. The fashionistas' presence made sense after Ludacris, the surprise musical guest, bounded on stage; they danced right in front, probably planted there by the hip-hop star.

I maintained my skepticism through Gamer's Day, but a few of the PS3 features and games made me more interested in the system. The PS3 is a competent platform, but I'll have to decide how it holds up when playing at home, away from marketers. As I try to shake Luda's infectious grooves out of my pounding head, I'll collect more thoughts about specific games and news tidbits that haven't gotten much press.

See also:
First 500K PS3s get Blu-ray Talladega Nights
PlayStation 3 launch window titles announced
PS3 peripherals priced: $50 for a Sixaxis

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