Leftover E3 Thoughts: Sony’s Show

Sony, among the big three console makers, appears to have had the most interesting show at this year’s E3, at least in terms of making promises that will actually interest gaming enthusiasts.

And this happened even though I’m not sure I can say Sony had a stellar E3. Keep in mind the company did not reveal anything about a PlayStation 4 (wait until next year’s show, I guess) and its big hardware reveal was for something called Wonderbook, which is something that I still don’t understand except for the fact that it appears to be aimed at small children.

Sony succeeded because aside from Wonderbook – which I count as a potential success – they focused on big-time exclusive games. If Twitter feeds are any reflection on reality, anyone who owns a PlayStation 3 and is following E3 is excited about the post-apocalyptic “The Last of Us.”

Sony’s other big reveal, “Beyond: Two Souls,” is surely not the kind of game one expects to jump to the top of sales list but Sony’s willingness to give the E3 spotlight to what should be a highly-narrative game featuring voice work by actress Ellen Page shows the company wants to be taken seriously by gamers.

Microsoft, by contrast, spent so much of its energy explaining their plans to use the XBox 360 as just about anything other than a gaming console. Nintendo, who I have yet to praise or complain about, turned in a mediocre performance (everybody says so!)  and I doubt Nintendo really knows how to market their next console, the Wii U.

More on that later. This is Sony’s turn.

Besides the mature-themed “Beyond” and “The Last of Us,” Sony’s presentation also featured the more light-hearted “PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale.” As a fighting game that pits popular game characters against each other, I could say it’s kind of a rip off of Nintendo’s “Smash Bros.” series. So many other writers have already made this comparison, however, that I would be the one being unoriginal if I did so.

I won’t slag Sony for borrowing/stealing Nintendo’s idea, because it’s not like the video game marketplace doesn’t have room for extremely similar products. I will say, however, that it’s kind of weird to see gritty characters like Kratos from “God of War” in what strikes me as a generally kid-friendly game. Sony much to market gaming as an acceptable pastime for adults, and now they are the ones craving the family-friendly market.

And that brings me to Wonderbook, which Jim Sterling from Destructoid badmouthed on Twitter. Then again, Sterling badmouthed just about everything on Twitter during E3.

Wonderbook is some kind of “augmented reality” thing for kids that will use the PlayStation Move controller somehow so kids can make images appear on their television screen. Sony’s big E3 announcement was that “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling will write Wonderbook’s first tale, called “Book of Spells.” Gamers, at least the ones who complain on social media, don’t seem to like Wonderbook because it’s not a hardcore elite game.

Here’s the deal on Wonderbook. Unless Sony totally drops the ball on this one, they stand a good chance of making serious money. Harry Potter, readers may remember, is really popular and a lot of people who grew up reading Rowling’s books are now old enough to have children of their own. That means that if they have the money to do so, they might buy this Wonderbook thing and you don’t have to.

(An aside, the phrase “hardcore gamer” needs to die. No one ever became “hardcore” by sitting on a couch and playing a game. Anyone who wants to be hardcore is free to volunteer for a tour in Afghanistan, volunteer for a search-and-rescue team or do anything else incorporating an element of danger and a requirement to be outside.)

Anyway, Sony also announced the new “God of War: Ascension” game at E3. God of War is awesome because if you push the circle, square, triangle and “x” buttons enough, Kratos totally does violent things. Bias note: I haven’t played much God of War, but don’t really find it interesting. Other people like it. If you’re one of them, complain in the comments section.

Sony’s biggest reveals, however, were for Quantic Dreams’ “Beyond: Two Souls” and Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us.” Based on the reputation for each developer’s previous games, “Heavy Rain” and “Uncharted 3,” I’m sure the latter game will get more mainstream acceptance.

“The Last of Us,” like “Uncharted,” promises to be among the most visually arresting games of this console generation. The biggest difference from “Uncharted,” from what I’ve seen so far, is that whereas Uncharted had a devil-may-care sense of adventure, “The Last of Us” looks grim. Bone-crushingly so. I won’t be the first person to write that the combat shown in this game looks like a genuinely horrifying experience for the characters involved. (Game companies don’t like us posting M-rated content without an age gate, so since our blogging software can’t do age gates, you’ll have to take my word for it. Or just search the Internet on your own. Whatever.)

Back to “Beyond: Two Souls” to respect Sony for using E3 to promote what appears to be a heavily-narrative game with limited dudebro appeal. This is a game for which Quantic’s David Cage got on stage and and promised a mysterious story about life after death, as opposed to killing people on another continent. “Beyond’s” main character will also be voiced by and look like Ellen Page, so look elsewhere for bald space marines. “Beyond” won’t appeal to everyone, but let’s be grateful for that.

You’re next, Nintendo.