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Sony's trainwreck of a keynote [update 1]

Vladimir Cole

In responding to our live coverage of Ken Kutaragi's keynote at TGS earlier this morning, one Joystiq commenter wrote, "Gee, if this keynote was as boring being there as it was to read about, then Sony's in for a world of hurt."

We're here to tell you that it was worse. Way worse. You, dear reader, can dismiss the browser window containing that text with a click of your mouse, confident that nothing important was said. We, however, had to sit through the entire painful hour next to a European fellow who, if he ever owned any deodorant, had surely not used it in the last 48 hours.

During the keynote, the DS pictochat room that had fallen silent sprang to life as bored attendees decided to entertain themselves, since it was clear that Ken Kutaragi had no intention of doing so. After the keynote, we head the words "meltdown," "total disaster," and "trainwreck" bandied about the press room. This keynote was worse -- way worse -- than Sony's E3 showing.

To be fair, part of the issue is that the translators Sony hired for this event were simply unable to keep up with the technical nature of the talk. They stumbled on common terms like VoIP. They used a limited vocabulary that made Kutaragi sound like a repetitive rambler who hit the sauce something fierce prior to the speech. (Of course, we don't know whether Kutaragi had a three-martini breakfast prior to the keynote, but we're wishing we had snuck in a flask of something to help us through the hour.)

Here's what went wrong:

  • Computer this, computer that. Unless the translators really messed up, Kutaragi never said the word console. He said the word "computer" many times, however. We're not sure why it's important to impress upon the audience the possibilities of computer technology, but we're pretty sure that the crowd assembled at TGS this morning wanted to learn something about the PS3's capabilities for games. Very little game content made its way into the speech.
  • What's the point? Ken told us that the internet is cool, and it that opens all sorts of possibilities, and that the next 10 years will be more exciting than the last 10, but that's all he said. Why he felt the need to pound the audience with statements of the obvious really wasn't clear. The whole keynote felt like an elaborate joke setup for a punchline that was never delivered. We thought he might have been building to an announcement about the PlayStation 3's online capabilities, or about the PlayStation 3's multiplayer opportunities, or about downloadable content, microtransactions, what have you. Though these things were mentioned, nothing specific was said.
  • Lack of visual aids. The gamer is a visual animal, requiring flashy, fast-moving stimuli to hold his interest. Sony failed to cater to the gamer. Besides a few short videos and a couple of ho-hum slides, the keynote was bereft of interesting imagery. For approximately 80% of the hour, the entire visual scene consisted of a Japanese man in a suit reading at a lectern. As one PictoChatter described it, "Zzzzzz."
  • Afrika. When the lights dimmed at the end of the keynote for one final video, the audience leaned forward, hoping that we might finally be treated to some video footage for a hot game we'd never seen before. Instead, Sony played a trailer for their puzzling Afrika game. The game's pretty, but like the keynote it fails to make a point. Afrika is like a plasticine rendition of a nature show, without a gravel-voiced narrator to build drama and suspense ("The cheetah, who hasn't eaten in days, creeps up on a herd of gazelle. If he doesn't kill this time, he may be too weak to hunt again and may himself become prey for a nearby pack of hyenas.") The Afrika video, like the keynote itself, was anticlimactic and disappointing.

Though we're worried about the hit to our Karma balance that will result from sharing audio of this event, we're going to try to obtain a file of the entire keynote so that you can listen (and judge) for yourself.

[Update 1: changed "press conference" to "keynote" to satisfy commenters who insist that there's nothing wrong with being boring in a keynote. We say it's not ok. We also say that Iwata's keynote at TGS 2005 was much, much better.]

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