Sony’s PlayStation Gets a Little Bookish

Sony kicked off its Monday evening press conference in advance of this week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles with a peek at upcoming titles for the PlayStation 3 video game console and PlayStation Vita handheld system. Sony also officially introduced several new features for the PS3, reaffirming its commitment to the system.

“We want to pay tribute to the gamers,” said Jack Tretton, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.

The PlayStation 3 is in the sixth year of its life cycle, and with new emphasis on interconnectivity with the recently released PS Vita handheld system, it’s apparent Sony is looking to get a little more life from the console.

“They have a rabid fan base and they are playing into it,” said Billy Pidgeon, principal analyst at M2 Research. “The big problem for Sony is acquisition of its install base.”

Sony still needs to make the most of its current generation of hardware and so far is just playing to the faithful, Pidgeon told TechNewsWorld.

New Chapter With Wonderbook

One area were Sony could be expanding beyond the action-focused games that appeal to its hardcore audience is with the newly announced Wonderbook, which promises to take books to the digital world. This new expansion hardware makes use of the Sony PlayStation Eye camera along with the Move motion controller, and places gamers in an on-screen experience.

“The PlayStation platform is about innovation,” said Andrew House, president and group CEO for Sony Computer Entertainment. “This will bring stories to life in the living room and allow users to interact with books like never before.”

Fittingly, House also announced a partnership between Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and Sony to create a “Book of Spells” that would build on the established Potter universe and essentially transform gamers into onscreen wizards using the Move controller as a magic wand.

“I’m impressed with the Wonderbook,” said kid tech expert James Oppenheim of “Sony is taking the lead for children by transforming books into a digital medium. While the proof is in the pudding, from what they showed, it has potential.”

The Wonderbook could also create a new type of interactive educational program, Oppenheim told TechNewsWorld, noting that it could be much more than simple games.

Sony Networking

While the Wonderbook was the only actual new hardware presented, Sony also reaffirmed its commitment to connectivity from the PlayStation Network, promising new titles for PlayStation Plus members who pay the US$5 monthly subscription.

PlayStation Plus members, who have already received 60 free titles over the past two years, can expect to take in a dozen more in the next year. These include previously available-at-retail titles that will be free to members to download. Additionally, Sony will be introducing many PS One classics on the PlayStation Network.

Sony is also continuing to develop for mobile handsets.

“There are more ways to play games than ever before,” said House. “Soon we’ll be bringing the PlayStation experience to Android smartphones and tablets.”

“We’re pleased to announce HTC will be our first non-Sony group partner,” said House. “HTC is developing some of the most innovative handsets.”

Announced last year as the PlayStation Suite, the software has been in open beta since April for the development community, he noted, and on Monday was officially renamed “PlayStation Mobile.”

Sony’s Mobile Disconnect

However, since being announced last year Sony has said little about the suite, and Pidgeon told TechNewsWorld that he expects little to come of it.

“All we’ve seen is rebranding,” he said. “There has been a lot of talk but no delivery. So far PlayStation Mobile has been a disappointment.”

Still, with several new titles announced from both in-house first-party as well as third-party software partners, Sony does seem to be firmly in the game.

Among those upcoming titles are several sequels, including “Assassin’s Creed III,” “God of War Ascension” and “Far Cry 3,” as well as “The Last of Us,” a post-apocalyptic action game that closed the Sony press conference.

“PlayStation is the epicenter of gaming,” said Tretton. “The best is yet to come.”

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