FGTV: Sony’s E3 Harry Potter Bombshell

Geek Culture

In many ways Sony’s press conference couldn’t have been more different from Microsoft’s E3 event, but at the same time it was very similar. Although kicked off in festival atmosphere with free food and drink, like the Xbox conference it focused on games and services.

A trump card that Sony has, and a currently underused one, is the PS Vita. I have long been a fan of Cross-Play games like Wipeout 2048 that enable PS Vita owners to compete against PlayStation 3 owners running the same game. Sony extended this concept to include Cross-Controller play — not a million miles away from the Wii U Controller — that enables players to use the PS Vita to control a PlayStation game.

This certainly struck a chord with me as I found Uncharted: Golden Abyss‘s motion targeting much better than using just dual analogue sticks on their own. Implemented as it was in that third person action shooter, it was as if I had three analogue control methods in one. I hope that this Cross-Controller option means that I will be able to control games like The Last of Use with my Vita — that really would make me happy.

The Vita was also shown some love from Blizzard-Activision in the form of Call of Duty: Black Ops for the system as well as a bespoke version of Assassin’s Creed III. The latter is the first in Ubisoft’s series to star a female protagonist, and will complement the console versions of the game when launched.

Although the core gaming crowd seemed a little perplexed as to why so much time was spent on it, the announcement of the Wonderbook accessory had exciting prospects. It’s a blank book template that is positioned in front of the PlayStation Eye camera and comes to life in a similar fashion to Eye Pet on the PS3 AR Games on the 3DS. Once position correctly on the floor players can then interact with the book by touching the pages with their hands and using the Move controllers.

The Wonderbook (a name I’m still getting used to) will work with a range of book-style content, all with a playful and interactive edge. Impressively, the first of these is Book of Spells from J. K. Rowling that complements her Pottermore online offering and teaches players about spells and other Harry Potter lore. Provided technical difficulties evident in the demonstration can be overcome before it ships in the autumn, this is a very exciting prospect indeed.

Not only does it offer a novel new way for young players and families to engage with PlayStation games, but it also extends the experience of reading a book. In a similar way to how films offer a distinct experience from the books they are based on, Wonderbook offers not a replacement for the novel or storybook, but an entirely new experience.

Having catered to younger players, Sony turned its attention to more mature gamers. The announcement of a new game from David Cage, the creator of Heavy Rain, was well received by the audience in Los Angeles and for good reason. Beyond not only draws on more sophisticated animation and visuals but also offers a more grownup story that follows the life of a young girl as she grows up to be a woman — albeit with a haunting past.

Sony’s E3 press conference was rounded off by a gameplay demo of The Last of Us from Naughty Dog, creators of the Uncharted games. In a similar vein to Beyond, The Last of Us follows the plight of a young girl protagonist, although here protected by a older fatherly character controlled by the player. Both games strike a similar emotional chords and attempt to create an experience suitable for a more mature player, something that is both unusual and impressively pulled off if the demonstrations are anything to go by.

It was a strong E3 from Sony, who looks to be capitalizing on the strong raft of technology that it has in people’s homes. Integration between the Vita and PS3, new accessories like Wonderbook and mature games that tackle challenging topics head-on all suggest this is going to be a strong year for Sony.

Wonderbook will be available from Amazon for $39.99 on December 31.

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