[Gamasutra's Christian Nutt returns from attending Sony's E3 2008 press conference to look past the announcements and analyze the trends, asking primarily - was Sony's message to consumers targeted to the now, or to the soon?]

The most important theme of Sony's press conference this year seemed to be "just wait."

That's not a good sign for a company whose next-generation platform has not yet hit its stride and which - it was revealed at the conference - will still cost $399.99 in the U.S. at year's end, albeit for an 80GB model.

While SCEA president and CEO Jack Tretton promised "a lineup that features the biggest exclusives in the industry" and reminded the audience that "as many of you have already written, 2008 is the year of the PS3," his promise that "we've just begun to scratch the surface on what we intend to deliver to consumers in the years ahead" was probably the most important message at the conference.

Recapping the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 lifespan, Tretton reminded us that big hits didn't appear on those systems until middle and later in their lives - for example, God of War II didn't hit the PS2 until nearly seven years after the system's launch. The same, it was implied, would hold true for the PlayStation 3 - but in the meantime, here's Resistance 2.

Sony does have one game it can rely on for generating goodwill in the mainstream and hardcore press like no other - and that game was used to deliver a typically staid presentation of the hard numbers to the attendees, which very much took the edge off (and served as a clever way to show the game without debuting any new features.) Yes, LittleBigPlanet was used to deliver a PowerPoint presentation in gorgeous, amusing, and clever 3D.

Tretton reminded us (with help from LBP's Sackboy) that the company has three very active platforms, with calendar 2008 sales in North America of 1.8 million for the PS3, 1.6 million for the PSP, and 1.5 million for the PS2. Tretton announced Latin American distribution for its consoles is commencing. Worldwide goals for the systems this year are 9 million PS2s, 10 million PS3s, and 15 million PSPs - showing continued confidence in the uptick the portable has seen in recent months.

Painting the PS2 as an "incubator for next-generation adoption", Tretton promised 130 titles for the system in the year and showed a video with no surprises whatsoever - relying on Madden and Tiger Woods from the perennial EA Sports lineup.

The PSP video was similar, though a Resistance game, developed by Sony's Bend Studio, was revealed later. Tretton also talked up Sony's social gaming efforts, showing Buzz titles for every Sony platform and plenty of Singstar titles for the PS2.

Earlier, Alex Evans, co-founder of LittleBigPlanet developer Media Molecule, expressed his happiness that his game is appreciated by a "wide range of people" and "what I find amazing is that this concept of creative gaming, people have just really got it."

Fortunately, LBP is not the only effort Sony is making to reach out to creative, networked gamers. Tretton revealed that there have been 180 million downloads on the PlayStation network since November 2006, across 10 million accounts.

Snarkily, after announcing a new download-only Ratchet & Clank game for PSN, Tretton remarked "We're not interested in filling up our store with titles nobody wants to play s owe can say we have the most games." Gran Turismo TV, a video-on-demand service for motorsports video which operates from within Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was unveiled. With licensed content from around the world, including Japanese and British programming (BBC's Top Gear), it appears to offer an almost unrealistically hardcore channel for race fans.

Basic promises for the eventual release of PlayStation Home came next - with nothing new or significant about the platform shown. Tretton said, "I absolutely guarantee that when PlayStation Home is available through our extended beta program, your patience will be more than rewarded." I'm still optimistic about Home, but waiting to find out what it will really offer is wearing somewhat thin.

Tretton next announced and demoed the PSN video download service with the help of Eric Lempel, PSN director of operations. It does look easy to use and impressive, and should help stave off the "Netflix advantage" Microsoft is enjoying, per its announcement yesterday.

Next, Sony presented a video reel of developers talking up developing on its PlayStation 3 system - to try and instill some sort of confidence in the press (and perhaps, other developers) that the platform has unique features, has matured its tech, has gained the necessary audience, and offers a future that is worth participating in.

Points touched on included that it has much untapped power, that programmers can really use the complicated SPU architecture properly now, and the system was packed with "forward-looking" features "including disk space", according to Dominic Guay, tech director at Ubisoft Montreal, who joined others from EA Tiburon and Bethesda in praise of the machine.

A CG God of War III teaser was shown, but the final unveil was Zipper Interactive's MAG: Massive Action Game (pictured), which is the owner of both one of the worst titles in the history of games and impressive technology that will allow 256 players to join together to fight massive battles - presumably, anyway, as the trailer seemed to be target footage and not show gameplay-specific action.

Andy Beaudoin, lead designer at Zipper, promised that "It's a real workout for even the PS3 architecture - it's not remotely possible anywhere else... there's nothing like it on the market today."

Tretton summed it up like this. Having earlier recalled that we are now reaching the 15 year anniversary of the fateful meeting where the original PlayStation was greenlit at Sony, "If this is what year two of the PS3 lifecycle looks like, imagine years three and beyond."

The problem, of course, is that imagination can only go so far in such a competitive market, and with important exclusives like Final Fantasy XIII falling by the wayside, the price of the unit not coming down fast, and sequelitis becoming a real potential problem, it's not clear if the PS3 will be able to pull out of its current trend of doing pretty well, but not well enough.