Are we set to see another textbook Sony bombshell?
Here we are, once again, staring down the barrel of another generation of consoles about to be released. Both Sony and Microsoft are performing the same old dance they’ve been dancing since the release of the first XBOX way back in 2001 (yeah it really has been the bones of 20 years, we are quickly turning to dust) where one takes minor jabs at the other to vie for the attention of the impressionable consumer ahead of that years holiday season. Bizarrely though, we are facing into September which is presumably two months away from both these consoles release dates yet we have not been given any official indication as to what these box’s are going to cost. Traditionally this is something shared at press conferences such as E3, however, in this new world we live in where conventions are no longer possible, these big dogs in the industry no longer have a reveal by date on their calendar and have now settled in to a game of price reveal chicken. Assumedly to undercut whoever snaps first.
"Which console is little Timmy going to be asking for this Christmas?" This has always been the most important question on everyone’s mind around the board room table coming up to a console release. Well you would imagine that the games would be the only factor which would sway him one way or the other, but often it is something far more inscrutable and often devious. Video Game press conferences. This tactic is something that was first seen in practice during the days of the SEGA / Nintendo console wars of the late 80’s and early 90’s where in order to garner a larger slice of the video game market share was to drop all semblance of business professionalism and start slinging as much mud as your venomous little arms can throw. A tactic that undeniably carried the SEGA Megadrive (Genesis to our American friends) into a position of true competitor status in a landscape dominated by the Nintendo Entertainment System.
So the trend was set, one of the most valuable tools in an up and coming video game companies arsenal is now undercutting and undermining the competition, often to hilarious results. However, no company has mastered this tactic better than Sony. Consistently Sony have managed to present memorable mic-drop moments ahead of their console releases (the PS3 being the red headed stepchild). With the current stalemate we are witnessing between the big two where one seems to be goading the other to ‘go first’ and reveal their price, are we about to witness another textbook Sony split second decision? I sure hope so!
This got me nostalgic for the moments in Sony’s past that were too delicious to believe, especially in an emerging market like video games. So, what better time to remind ourselves of each time PlayStation dominated the headlines and left the competition with their tales between their legs.
E3 1995: “299”
The price heard around the world. Let me set the scene. The year is 1995 and the two behemoths of the video game scene were gearing up for the very first E3 to dominate the competition with information on the release of their new consoles. SEGA’s Saturn and Nintendo’s code named Ultra 64 (N64). However, there was a new player in the market, one who had an established name in the consumer electronics market but not in the gaming space. This of course was Sony and they were hungry to make a name for themselves.
That very day, SEGA were ready to address the price and release of their upcoming Saturn, and famously missed the mark completely by announcing it would cost $399.99 which was a price considered far too high at the time, along with their surprise release date of that day. A release date not communicated to retailers and resulted in a record low amount of stock availability for a console launch.
It was on this day that Sony developed their trademark ‘shoot second’ tactic. After having the opportunity to watch SEGA crash and burn with their conference, what they needed to do was clear. An impressive presentation was carried out by the then Sony executive of Hardware and Software Olaf Olafsson (totally not a Marvel villain) where the specs and benefits of their upcoming device and disc medium were demonstrated, but nothing to write home about to this point. Then, Olaf relinquishes the stage to the then Sony Computer Entertainment of America chief Steve Race for what was described as a short presentation on the upcoming consoles price. Race shuffles from the crowd up to the podium, clears his throat, stares unwaveringly into the crowd and says three little words. Two Ninety-Nine. Then immediately makes his way back to his seat. Eruptions of applause ensue.
Sony had undercut their only real competitor in the disc media space by a quarter of the retail price and did so in a very confident fashion. This moment undoubtably helped propel the PlayStation forward in the global mind share and set them on their way to destroy both SEGA and Nintendo’s offerings that generation. A big accomplishment for a first out of the gate product from the Walkman guys!
E3 2015: Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Not necessarily a competition defeating moment but one to be remembered. In the lead up to the release of the PlayStation 3, one of the most tumultuous console releases of all time, Sony had a surpriDRAFTJS_BLOCK_KEY:dbhhkse in store to get their fan base excited at E3 2005. A video played and we were greeted with the unmistakable opening piano keys of one of the greatest successes to ever grace the PlayStation 1. Final Fantasy 7. Now in tremendous HD, the opening moments of FF7 were displayed to us completely remade in a modern engine, dripping with graphical prowess. This, I’m unashamed to admit, got me very excited. I mean it was a sure thing, right? FF7 helped make the initial PlayStation a success, and we had clearly seen the proof that Square Enix had begun development on a remaster of one of my favourite games of all time, back before remasters were so common to be unpopular. However, it wasn’t to be. I mean in hindsight the signs were there, it stated Technical Demo under the title splash in the video, Square Enix were in development of a new entry into the series which was now being done on a new generation of hardware, meaning of course some technical demo work was necessary. However, the decision Sony took to show this footage without any context still baffle me and resulted in much speculation for years to come.
A decade later and this technical demo had long left our minds/dreams and Sony is gearing up to show us the reasons we should be excited for the PS4 next year. A very solid showing of upcoming software was the focus and they did not disappoint. I mean it was at E3 2015 that Sony showed us the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn, Dreams, and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, the return of The Last Guardian along with the reveal of Shenmue 3. To say the crowd was tantalised by what was being shown was an understatement. Then, to close the show out, one final trailer was in store. Final Fantasy 7: Remake. Never before has the confirmation of the release of a remake caused such a stir of emotion across the video game industry. After a decade of waiting and having just given up hope, Sony dropped the mic once more when leaving the stage and gamers rejoiced! Make sure and watch the above video to really get a feel for how important it was to any of us FF7 fans.
E3 2013: Game Sharing on PS4
E3 2013 was a big event for Sony, especially in hindsight. Several upcoming Vita and PS3 games were of course shown, but attention was quickly shifted to the upcoming console we were all here to hear about. The PlayStation 4. Now the event itself was noteworthy. Sony really nailed what we as gamers wanted to see. The hardware and the games. That is, it, no dwelling on statistics and processing power figures. Perfection. However, the most memorable part of the press conference came in a simple exchange of pantomime. Let me explain.
Earlier this day, Microsoft had their own reveal of their upcoming release of the XBOX One. A console which was heavily criticised right out of the gate based on the awkward decisions and communication of features that were a little ahead of their time. Features such as always online, game sharing restrictions and a console to meet all your living room needs are concepts that feel quite normal in an online streaming landscape, but not so much in 2013. Enter Jack Trenton, not hours later, to inform the Sony fanbase of what to expect in this light from the PS4. You can tell he’s got something cheeky to say when you look back on it now, but after XBOX’s reveal we were all watching with anxiety to see what Sony might do to shoehorn us into this new way of consuming media.
He happily announced that "PS4 will not impose any new restrictions on the use of PS4 game discs" before he can even get the next word out the crowd erupts in applause both at the event and at home ((I clapped, I don’t care). "When a gamer buys a PS4 disc, they have the rights to use that copy of the game; they can trade in the game at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend, or keep it foaddit” “In additi
on, PlayStation 4 disc-based games don't need to be connected online to play or for any type of authentication. If you enjoy playing single player games offline, PS4 won't require you to check in periodically." A definitive statement that can be distilled down to mean that we are not going to be abusing our customer base in the way our competition plan to. Job done. Rapturous applause was had, and Sony had clearly wont the day, and honestly the entire generation, from this singular point.
Now what about that act of pantomime I mentioned earlier? Well, soon after the conference, a viral video was created with Adam Boyes, the former Vice President of Third-Party Relations has shared with Push Square, and then SIE head and general legend Shuhei Yoshida put together a 21 second video demonstrating how games may be shared on the Sony platform given the confusion caused on how this is done by Microsoft. It truly is a masterpiece in viral marketing and you simply have to watch it as descriptions do no justice.
And there you have it folks. What were some of your favourite mic drop moments in gaming? Did we miss any standout moments in Sony press conferences that you’d like to talk about? Fire off in the chat below and lets just hope that this price point Cold War comes to an end sooner than later with another delicious Sony moment.
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