Top 10 Things Sony Can Do To Blow Us Away At E3 2013

With Sony and Microsoft unveiling their next generation consoles and Nintendo seeking to have a full coming out party for its new Wii U console, this year's E3 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in a long time. There will likely be an overwhelming amount of gaming news, technology, and titles announced at the show that will ultimately shape the next few years of the gaming industry. After it's PlayStation meeting on Feb 20th where Sony officially announced the PS4, Sony has now gotten the industry's attention and anticipation is sky high for what the next Playstation console will really bring to the industry. Will it be a revolution similar to what the original PlayStation did for the industry back in 1995? Or will it just be an incremental step forward? We will find out over the next 8 months or so but E3 2013 is a chance for Sony to really reclaim the hearts and minds of gamers at large. Momentum seems to be with Sony already and with E3 they can really solidify their place as a company who is committed to regaining the number one spot in gaming once again. How can they do that? Below are my top 10 things Sony can do at E3 2013 to blow gamers away along with my prediction on how likely they are to happen.

Probability Scale:
Guarantee
Likely
Possible
Not Likely
No Chance

10. Announce PS3 Price Drop To $199 (Guarantee)


With a new flagship platform on the horizon, it is not a stretch to expect that Sony will drop the price of the PS3 to build up the PlayStation fan base as much as possible prior to the PS4 launch. The last PS3 price drop in the US was Aug 2011 to $250. This summer will be a full two years since that drop and that would be the best time to finally hit the $199 price point. It's crazy to think that it has taken Sony seven full years to reach $199 for PS3 when it took PS2 only 1.5 years and the PSone less than 1 year (http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Price_cuts). There are still plenty of sales to be made on PS3 and $199 will make it a mass market price. Sony is well aware that every new PS3 owner is a potential PS4 buyer later down the road so I would bet that we can expect at least an announcement for the PS3 price drop at E3 even if the actual price drop occurs later.

9. Vita US Price Drop to $199 or Lower (Likely)

One of the takeaways from the PS4 unveil is that the PS Vita is a vital part of the future of Playstation. Bringing high quality PlayStation content to the mobile space is only part of the story. There are also plans for Vita to play a major role in the living room, starting with remote play interoperability with PS4. It is no secret that the Vita has not been selling well since its release just over 1 year ago with the largest barrier generally considered to be price. With tremendous competition from the Nintendo 3DS and smartphones/tablets, the mobile gaming space is more crowded and competitive than it has ever been. The recent price drop in Japan where Vita sold more in 3 weeks than it did the previous 3 months is evidence that there is still some demand out there. If Sony hopes to get the US Vita market going at all, it absolutely must drop the price. Rumor has it that they are prepping a new 4G Vita for release later this year around the PS4 launch. So how about dropping the current Wifi and 3G models to $199 (like Japan) and release a 4G model at $250 (still a $50 price drop from current 3G model). I don't see them being more aggressive than that due to the balancing of making money back on Vita sales in a struggling economy. However, a $199 Vita along with cheaper memory cards and some solid games this holiday should make the Vita a much more attractive part of the Playstation family.

8. Announce Naughty Dog PS4 Project (Likely)

So we know that Naughty has two full teams developing games. Team A did Uncharted 2 and Team B did Uncharted 3. Now Team A is finishing up the PS3 exclusive The Last of Us to be released this June but what is Team B working on? It's been well over a year since Uncharted 3 was released and I think its safe to say that they are working on a PS4 title. With so many games already stacking up the PS4 launch window, my prediction is that Naughty Dog's first PS4 game will be a fall 2014 release at the earliest. But will we see it this year at E3? I think Sony is aware that Naughty Dog is one of their top tier developers and many Playstation fans are eager to see what they can do with  the PS4 technology. I expect a game announcement and a trailer and not much more. Will it be a new Uncharted or a new IP? Naughty Dog historically has always introduced a new IP for each new generation (Crash Bandicoot -> Jak & Daxter -> Uncharted) so I expect that trend to continue. Given how big Uncharted is for Sony right now, Sony may outsource the next Uncharted to another developer in order to keep the franchise going. Whatever it is, you can bet that in typical Naughty Dog fashion it will be a quality title using the state of the art game technology that will blow us away.

7. Announce Further Improved PS4 Hardware Specs (Possible)

We got a pretty good look at the PS4 specs at the Playstation Meeting last week and the verdict is....it is a solid if not revolutionary system. Easy to develop for, familiar, efficient, and not too expensive. The Internet has been going crazy in the past month arguing on whether or not the PS4 is a low-end PC, mid-range PC, or PC killer based on specs and console efficiencies. I'm not going to even entertain that debate right now but I will say that the technology jump from PS3 to PS4 does not appear to be as large as PSone to PS2 or PS2 to PS3. With that said, there definitely are hardware spec details that Sony hasn't revealed that may point to PS4 being more powerful than we realize right now.

The most likely details that may come to light by E3 that are currently unknown are component clock speeds. Unofficially leaks pointed to the 8-core Jaguar CPU being clocked at 1.6Ghz but later rumors suggest that Sony is targeting 2.0Ghz which would be a noticeable increase. GPU clock speeds are also unknown but the 1.84TFLOPS figure can be used to calculate the GPU clock @800Mhz based on it being an AMD 7970M part with 10% clock speed and shader core reduction. Can they increase they clock speed or add the missing 2 CUs to give it more shading performance? I certainty would hope so but I doubt it due to cost, yield, and power constraints. What about adding capability for the high capacity BD-XL discs which can hold 2x the standard 50GB of current blu-ray discs? Can they update the bluetooth spec from 2.1 to 4.0 EDR?

There is a lot that Sony can still reveal with regards to system specs and it's anybody guess as to what those specs will be. It is a guarantee that they will reveal more details about the specs but whether it will be an improvement to what is currently known is just wishful thinking. While the proof is always in the pudding, in this case the quality of the software, beefing up some of the PS4 specs would do much to help ease the minds of prospective owners who are afraid that their system will be outdated in a year or two.

6. Show Innovative Uses of New Dual Shock 4 (Likely)

The only real piece of hardware we got to see at the Playstation Meeting was the new DualShock 4 controller which I must say is looking like a great improvement from the current DualShock 3. Personally, I always felt that the controller for the PS3 was one of the worst parts of the hardware coming across of a rushed less polished controller than even the DualShock 2. Sitting next to the sexy and futuristic looking piano black PS3 that were available at launch, the DualShock 3 looked like a cheap and lazy piece of hardware that clashed with the polish and sophistication of the main system. In terms of look and feel, the DualShock 4 looks like a huge step forward. In addition, they have added several key features that may turn out to be game changers: the touchpad, the light bar, and the share button.

It is unknown exactly what the uses of the touchpad will be. There was a brief glimpse at the Playstation Meeting where it was used to control the camera in the Unreal Engine 4 demo. Several Sony execs have suggested that it is designed to provide a modern and familiar touch/swipe experience similar to modern smartphones and tablets. So that could mean swiping for menus and gameplay (Quick Time Events in God of War for example). That would also allow many games featured on app stores today to be easier to port to the PS4. In addition, it could provide mouse-like functionality allowing for easy conversions from some PC RTS games. Expanding the compatibility of PS4 titles in this way would be cool, but not necessarily a game changer. I believe there is still something to reveal regarding how the touchpad will be used in an integral way.

The light bar sitting on the top of the DualShock 4 is an even greater unknown. Sony officially said that it could be used as a color identifier for multiple players and that a separate camera can track the controller in 3d space via the light bar (i.e Playstation Move). Again, not game changing features and there must be more to it for it to be an essential component of the controller. Will motion controls now become an integral part of the "hardcore" game experience? The problem with the Playstation Move was that as a separate accessory, it was not standard for every console so developers did not support it. The problem with the sixaxis functionality in the DualShock 3 was that it was rushed and inaccurate. With the help of the light bar, the DualShock 4 addressed both of these faults. Sony must show games that use this feature in an innovative and game changing way that will validate its existence in every controller.

Finally, the share button is the one feature for which there has already been much information released. A one-touch way to upload game data, broadcast gameplay to friends, and share game info does sound cool. However, I believe there is still more to it that will become clearer at E3. Will it be a standard feature for every game? Will it connect us in a closer more accessible way that will change how we play forever? What else can this offer beyond just video and photo streaming? I think Sony's vision for the share button is something that will change how we game in a similar way to how achievements/tropies did last gen. It will become one of those things that we really will not be able to do without once we have it and all other competitors will follow suit. Sony just has to make sure that is extremely clear at E3.

While all of these features are nice to have and can provide some benefits, Sony can blow us away by showing us how the DualShock 4 will allow for a play experience we simply could not have before. Clearly, Sony believes the potential is there for something integral to the gaming experience in order to include these features in every standard controller. I am anxious to see what out of the box thinking they come up with that will make us wonder how we used to game before these features.

5. Announce The Last Guardian as PS4 Launch Title (Possible)

First revealed in 2009 as a PS3 exclusive, The Last Guardian is one of gaming's biggest enigmas. Four years have passed and we haven't seen any gameplay footage and still do not have a release date. Rumors are circulating that the development has been troubled by technical issues with the PS3 hardware and conflicting ideas within Sony on what direction the game should take. That dissension reached a head when the game's director Fumito Ueda left the company and the game was thought to have been cancelled. Yet, Sony has denied rumors that the game has been cancelled and reiterates that they will have more to show on the game "soon". What better way for The Last Guardian to have its true coming our party than to free itself from the PS3 technical hurdles and step up to the easier to develop for PS4. A new gorgeous trailer that shows off the game's great artwork with gameplay that stays true to the team's traditions established by ICO and Shadow of the Colossus would be huge for Sony. The knockout blow would be to finally give this game a release date that is within the launch window of the PS4. Given the history of this title eluding release dates, announcing a concrete date to begin with would be amazing. Adding the PS4 upgrade and a launch window title would in fact blow people away.

4. Announce GTA V Coming To PS4 Launch (Not Likely)


So GTA V is coming this fall for current gen systems (Xbox360 and PS3). Originally announced for a Spring 2013 release, it was suddenly delayed to the fall shorty before its original release. Many people speculated that the delay was to develop a next gen build for PS4 and the next Xbox to release around the same time as the current gen versions. Rockstar has denied this saying that the delay was purely for extra polish but who are we kidding. GTA V is already going to be one of the biggest software releases this year without a doubt. The last GTA IV was released way back in 2008 and even then it put a technical strain on all of the hardware it was released on (including PC). With GTA V being even more expansive and detailed, the engine would surely benefit from more powerful hardware to reach it's full vision. Of course, it makes sense to release it on the current systems given the 150+ million install base on those systems combined. No way Rockstar can afford to miss out on that audience to help recoup the development costs, but if there was a current gen title that would benefit greatly from the new hardware (esp the 8GB of RAM), GTA V is it. I think it is likely that GTA V will get ported to both the PS4 and next Xbox at some point between this fall and next year. However, Sony could seriously drop a megaton by announcing GTA V coming to PS4...this year at launch. A nuclear megaton would be that the franchise is coming back home  and will be exclusive (timed or full) to PS4 like the original GTA III trilogy was on PS2. This is the kind of announcement that E3s have lacked for many years now but this will surely set the industry ablaze if Sony could find a way.

3. Announce Final Fantasy Exclusive to PS4 Launch (Possible)

Here is another franchise that has lost its way but is expected to come home. Square infamously befuddled everyone at the Playstation Meeting by going on stage to announce that they will be making another announcement for a PS4 Final Fantasy game at E3 (doh!). The Agni Philosophy next generation demo that Square has been showing since last E3 looks very impressive and a Final Fantasy game based on that Luminous Engine will bring back much of the awe and spectacle that has always been associated with Final Fantasy. Anticipation is high for a game that can bring about the glorious return of the Final Fantasy franchise. Many rumors currently making rounds suggest that the chronically delayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been rebranded as Final Fantasy XV and will be a PS4 exclusive. I think that it is a pretty safe bet that we will see a next gen Final Fantasy game on PS4 that will at least be timed or region exclusive to Sony. That would be great for Sony and PlayStation fans. However, what if the deal goes deeper than that? 

Is it possible that all the development time in Final Fantasy Versus XIII yields a full fledged Final Fantasy title that is ready in the PS4 launch window? How powerful would that be for the PS4 to launch with a new next gen Final Fantasy game (especially in Japan)? That could blow people away but Sony could go even further to really blow some minds: what if Final Fantasy XV will not be ready for release until 2014-2015 time frame but in the meantime we get a updated PS4 version of the much requested Final Fantasy VII HD?! My thoughts on why that hasn't happened yet is that again Square (like many Japan studios) struggled to get their titles out on PS3 due to hardware difficulties and resource constraints. There were too many titles that needed to be worked on but the time and cost required for each title continued to escalate causing numerous delays, over budgeting, and cancellations. The PS4 will give them an opportunity to hit the reset button and take lessons learned to finally give fans what we want: Kingdom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy VII HD, and a Final Fantasy XV game that goes back to the series roots (I can dream can't I). If any of that is exclusive to Sony than consider it a major win for the company. Either way, we'll hopefully learn more at E3.

2. Completely Unexpected Surprise (Likely)

 
  
In the world of the Internet, it seems like it is nearly impossible to keep a secret. Something appears to leak nearly daily with specification and game reveals losing much of their impact as a result. Sony is well aware of this and it is thought that they still have a ton to reveal about their plans for PlayStation as a business and the PS4 launch. Everything I have discussed so far are things that have been touched on officially by Sony or by rumors spreading around due to said leaks. For Sony to really have an E3 that blows people away, they have to have at least one major surprise that nobody saw coming. Could it be a hardware feature of the PS4 (similar to the reveal of the 8GB of GDDR5 RAM at the PS Meeting)? Could it be a huge game reveal that nobody expected? Who knows and that's the point. We shouldn't know or have any idea about it before hand. Hopefully Sony can keep things tight to their chest and prevent some key things from leaking out. After all, the best E3s are the ones where people are surprised by the most.



1. $299 Price Point For PS4 (Not Likely)


The largest megaton that Sony can drop at this E3 will be a low accessible price for the PS4. Why $299? For one, let's not forget that both the PSone and the PS2 launched at a $299 price point. Even with all the hyperbole about the Emotion Engine, powerful Graphics Synthesizer, and DVD capability of the PS2 scaring most into thinking the PS2 was going to be much more expensive, Sony still managed a $299 price point. With Sony talking so much about going back to the root of what made Playstation special, going back to the $299 would be the ultimate way of doing that. They clearly got that they had to keep the price low and accessible back in the PSone and PS2 days and I believe they understand that now better than ever. Also, it's doubtful that MS will be able to surpass a $299 price point with their next system and even the Wii U with its older technology starts at $299. A $299 price point will definitely have some some folks and both Nintendo and Microsoft sweating and it will shake up the industry. It will even go a long away to cementing the value of a game console versus the rumored $1000 Steambox.

Sony has clearly learned its high cost and high risk lessons from PS3. Many of the technologies that made the PS3 so expensive at its launch are either gone or much cheaper. The Cell processor has been replaced by a much cheaper and more efficient x86 processor. Blu-Ray is no longer a brand new super expensive technology. Going with an PC APU should help ease manufacturing and development costs. Backwards compatibility has been scrapped as a HW solution and superfluous technologies such as card readers, extra AV output ports, and extra USB ports have been kept to a minimum. All of these changes are strictly to help reduce cost.

With all of that said, I do not believe that Sony will be able to launch the PS4 with a $299 price point. Sony is not the electronics giant that is was when it launched the PSone and PS2. The economy has been foundering and Sony has been losing money and income for most of the past decade. It simply cannot afford to lose as much on a console as it could in the past. In addition, technologies such as PlayStation network, motion controls, and other accessories such as cameras are becoming almost standard features and require money to produce and maintain. The 2013 console simply has to do much more than the 2000 console and the 1995 console and all of the extra functions cost something. My guess is that with all of the cost saving measures, we will see a PS4 at launch starting at $399, which is still $100 less than the starting price of the PS3. Of course, I would love to be wrong and be blown away at E3 if Sony announces at $299 PS4.

So those are my top 10 bombs that Sony can drop at this year's E3. Just my opinion. Let me hear some of yours. Use my probability scale to tell me the likelihood of your predictions. Either way, as a gamer I can't wait for E3 2013. Keep gaming!

 


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