E3: Sony fails to inspire, but why?

By Mathew Kumar, Special to CBCnews.ca

LOS ANGELES - With the last scheduled press conference of any of the console manufacturers, Sony had to pull some major announcements out of the bag to try and outstage the prior work of both Nintendo and Microsoft on Tuesday. Sadly, however, Sony offered a show that was as flat as a pancake, with president and CEO of SCEA Jack Tretton awkwardly talking through an uninspiring list of upcoming titles.

When the most exciting segment of your E3 press conference is the sales numbers, you know you’ve got a problem.

Of course, there’s a reason the sales numbers were so exciting, and that’s because they were shown within a user-generated level for the eagerly anticipated Little Big Planet. To be honest, I don’t have a clue what was special about the numbers, but I do remember how special the game looks.

And that’s one of the odd things about Sony’s E3 appearance. Despite stumbling repeatedly this generation, there are still many great upcoming games for the PS3 (and PSP) that should be generating a lot of buzz – but they just aren’t. In some cases it’s a simple matter of being overshadowed by previous announcements – Insomiac’s Resistance 2 looks beautiful, but not as good as Gears of War 2 – but in others it seems that Sony is bizarrely reticent to crow about its new crop of games.

For example, the PS3 has the exclusive on one of the hottest Sega franchises created in years, Valkyria Chronicles, a superb tactical role-playing game that the very fans who are decrying the “loss” of Final Fantasy XIII to Microsoft should be championing. Yet the game was barely mentioned.

And Sony's downloadable games are perhaps the only ones on offer with a true indie aesthetic. From the latest in the PixelJunk series, PixelJunk Eden to thatgamecompany’s Flower, the games are uniquely innovative and deserve to be highlighted – but they really weren’t given much time at all.

If E3 was a boxing match, Sony came out with the confused air of a past-his-prime prizefighter, already staggering from the blistering salvos of his opponents. Despite an arsenal of possible (and stunning) punches Sony could have returned, it failed to pick the right ones, and ended up lying on the canvas being counted out.

It would be unfair to count Sony out of the video game slugfest completely, but the company is going to struggle to get back up on its feet once again.

(The author is a Canadian freelance writer blogging for CBCnews.ca from the Electronics and Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.)