E3 was looked upon with great anticipation this year. Gamers across the world were all waiting to see what Sony and Microsoft had in line to compete with Nintendo’s Wii U in the next generation of gaming consoles. What we ended up with were three telling things: the current generation, even with the release of the Wii U, is far from finished, that non-tradition forms of gaming are becoming an even bigger part of the video game landscape (much to the chagrin of hardcore gamers), and that Ubisoft rules (at least for the next year or two).
But let’s get to the heart of the matter. Each year, owners of each of the Big 3’s consoles go into E3 wanting to know more about what new games are coming their way, but more importantly, who came out looking to be on top of their game. Now, personally, I could care less. As a PS3 owner my main concern generally lies with what Sony is doing to continually provide me with entertainment, so I’m not too concerned with whether or not they outshine Microsoft or Nintendo on a presentation level. Of course, as a fan of video games, I do pay close attention to how each company goes about their business and what they do to help (or in some cases, hurt) the gaming industry. So with that, I want to share with you my assessment on what each company did right and wrong at this year’s E3.
E3 stands for Electronic Entertainment Expo. At first glance, one would take that to mean all forms of electronic entertainment, but for the most part the entire event revolves around the video gaming industry. This year Microsoft continued to build upon the theme of the last two years and take to heart exhibiting electronic entertainment beyond that of video games.
While there was plenty of gaming content displayed, the focus of the day seemed to rest on the capabilities of Kinect and the other forms of entertainment that you could receive with the 360. Microsoft added a ton of options including new sports content, the use of Internet Explorer, and their own music service to the system. Smart Glass was heavily featured and intriguing; while it doesn’t seem to be something new (the whole idea of controlling the TV with it reminded me of what some cable companies already allow you to do), it is a very interesting way of integrating multiple devices. That agenda is nothing new to Microsoft; for years Bill Gates’ goal has been to integrate the world through Microsoft technology and products, and Smart Glass is yet another step in that direction.
A lot of people were expecting Microsoft to make some type of mention of the Xbox 720 (or whatever they are planning to call their next console) and I’m sure were deeply disappointed to hear no news at all during their press conference. Because of this, the entire press conference could be looked at as a concession to Nintendo and the Wii U. I personally like to look at it as Microsoft biding its time. After all, when you are the king of the hill in this generation’s console wars, you don’t have to show your hand until you’re good and ready.
Highlight: Matt Stone and Trey Parker making light of Microsoft’s presentations. Come on Xbox fans, you have to admit it was rather amusing of Trey to poke a little fun at the way the Microsoft execs constantly reinforce Microsoft’s ideals of integration.
Lowlight: There were a couple of areas I could have gone here. My first instinct was to go with the Kinect presentation of Madden 13 with Joe Montana (seriously, fix that lag). Then the Xbox Live presentation surpassed that for me. Still, nothing tops the Usher performance when it comes to the WTH meter for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like Usher, but why would Microsoft pay him to what amounted into being a promo performance of his new single? While it was meant to be a demonstration of Dance Central 3, it wasn’t. Yeah, for about 30 seconds he performed a few simple steps included in the game itself, but for the most part it was all about him and nothing about the game. Bad, call Microsoft.
If you asked me before this year’s E3 what the odds were that Sony’s presentation would be lackluster at best, I’d have probably said pretty high. I’ve never been a big fan of what they’ve done there recently. There have been some great moments (KEVIN BUTLER, OH YEAH!) and some great stuff presented, but overall their ability to sell their brand has always left a bad taste in my mouth. To me, it seemed that with each following year, they seemed to be doing things to catch up with the others over the last few years. With this year they seemed to have finally realized that it’s not always about what your competition does, but what you do best.
What Sony does best is exclusives, there is no denying that. This year, they focused their attention heavily on exclusive content. Starting the show off with Beyond: Two Souls set the table for a surprisingly strong show this year for Sony. While we saw the familiar face of Kratos in God of War: Ascension, we were introduced to some impressive new IPs, proving that Sony is still committed to the PS3 and not in any hurry to usher themselves into the next generation (for the next year or two at least). Sony also gave a boost to the Vita, announcing the arrival of Call of Duty to the handle as well as introducing us to a new (female) protagonist in the Assassin’s Creed universe with Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. They gave a surprising boost to their Playstation Plus as well, announcing that titles such as Infamous 2 and Saints Row 2, as well as other full games will now be available for free to Plus members in the coming months. The Move was for the most part ignored this year, and in truth it probably could have been completely ignored what with the presentation they made for one of its latest titles (more on that later). There was mention of development of the Playstation Mobile smartphone platform, but not much was detailed about it.
Sony mostly stuck to the basics this year, which isn’t a bad thing at all. They went about business this year by following a very simple adage: less is more, and it paid off for them overall. While a grand splash wasn’t expected, having a well-structured, tasteful presentation ended up making their E3 a lot better than anyone probably would have imagined this year.
Highlight: God of War Ascension gave us the usual satisfaction that we get from the serious: Kratos kicking a lot of butt in glorious, bloody fashion. Beyond: Two Souls looks like an even stronger entry from Quantum Dream than Heavy Rain, and looks to no doubt further David Cage’s goal of redefining how we play and look at video games. I was especially impressed by (and extremely jealous of) Sony’s generosity towards the crowd, giving them all a free year of Playstation Plus. None of those moments could outdo the Last of Us however. Since its announcement, we had all been wondering if Naughty Dog could deliver the type of gameplay they promised when they first detailed this game, and their presentation didn’t disappoint at all. For me, it only heightened my desire to get my hands on this game. The only negative I have to say about it is that we still don’t have a release date for it, and that annoys me to no end.
Lowlight: As stated before, the Playstation Move was pretty much downplayed from PS3’s presentation. After the whole fiasco involving Book of Spells, I kind of wished they had left it out completely. At the time they decided to debut this, their show to me had been running on a high. Book of Spells completely crashed it and arguably almost lost all of their momentum up to that point. It wasn’t that the game itself looked to be awful (I mean, I didn’t find it interesting at all, but I do realize that it is a game that is not towards me) more so than the way it was presented was. It’s one thing if the crowd seemed disinterested in the material, but the fact that the two people who were demonstrating the gameplay looked like they would rather be anywhere but there didn’t help to sell what was already a boring and uninspiring display. After the way Sony debuted Book of Spells, I wouldn’t be surprised if J.K. Rowling was disappointed that she attached herself to something like this. I know I felt as if someone hit me with the Crucio spell watching it.
For me, Nintendo has always held a huge spot in my video gamer’s heart. While I owned an Atari 2600, it wasn’t until I got a Nintendo Entertainment System (complete with R.O.B. and the light gun) that my true love for video games came alive. So when I first heard of the Wii U last year, I was excited to see them finally step up into the world of HD gaming and was looking forward to them yet again setting the standard for innovation leading into the next generation, despite its lackluster introduction. After their 2012 press conference, I have to tell you…I was left with nothing but doubt and worry for the house that built Mario.
Being last (but not least) to present to the E3 crowd, Nintendo seemed to have the stage set for them to steal the show from their competition. As I said before, Microsoft passed on introducing their next console, conceding the first punch to Nintendo in the next generation’s console game of hype. Sony, while putting together a solid show, chose not to do anything demonstrative to put the pressure on Nintendo’s presentation, clearing the way for them to come out on top. So what does Nintendo do? Well, to be honest, not much in my eyes. I thought that this year, they had a perfect opportunity to sell the rest of the gaming world on the Wii U. The diehard Nintendo fans were going to buy this system regardless; Nintendo fans are well known for their loyalty. In order to wrest control of the gaming landscape from the likes of Microsoft and impress Sony fans into making the switch as well, however, what Nintendo needed to do was present the Wii U as a strong alternative to the Xbox 360 and PS3. Sure, staying loyal to the fan base that brought you to where you are was paramount; most will argue that they came through with flying colors in that department by showing off some tried and true IPs. In order to stay in stride with the competition for the future, however, they needed to show the world that the Wii U could not only do what the “big boys” can do, but provide something more. In the short time that they presented themselves (what was up with that anyway?), all we received were games that quite honestly could have just as well been developed for the Wii, with the exception of Arkham City and Zombii U. Graphically there didn’t seem to be any improvement over the current versions of Arkham City as well, leaving one with the impression that if anything Wii U is a concession to the demands for Nintendo to step into the present finally.
Between its short length, lack of information on the Wii U hardware itself (during the actually presentation that is. There were live streams and recorded presentations before and after the press conference), as well an alarmingly short list of third party games show, the Nintendo press conference didn’t seem to be well thought out. One might say that it seemed Nintendo wasn’t ready to show their hand just yet, and that would be understandable. We still have plenty of time for them to show us why we should all buy into the Wii U; after all, there has yet to be a release date announced (the word is before the holiday season, but no definitive date). Still, with stronger content being announced by competition well established already in the HD era, it will be interesting to see what Nintendo has up its sleeves to rebound from such a disappointing presentation.
Highlight: Shigeru Miyamoto. I don’t care how bad his presentations or how bad the games he’s presenting may or may not be, you can never go wrong with him in your show. Where Reggie Fils-Aime comes off lifeless and all business like, Miyamoto truly is the embodiment of what a lot of us long time gamers are: a kid at heart who after all these years still loves gaming and goes about it with true passion.
Lowlight: Reggie Fils-Aime. I know it may seem like I’m taking shots at this guy, but seriously people: is it just me, or did the developers who came on stage with him seem a little bit uncomfortable being around him. Maybe it was just them being nervous, but nobody seemed relaxed and into the moment while opposite of him on stage. Furthermore, I thought he was pretty dry, even when playing with the Wii U controller and making the zombie faces.
Now as I stated earlier, I’m a big Sony fan, so I will understand if you feel that I look at them as the winner of E3 because of it, and I won’t try to convince you otherwise. Still, speaking objectively, Sony put on a show that for the most part stayed on task with what we expect to see from each of the console manufacturers at E3: what games the future hold for us gamers. They gave use some fresh new titles to get excited about and didn’t oversell us on anything otherwise, and that is pretty much all I and many others want as a gamer. As always, however, the true winners of E3 are the gamers themselves. Throughout we were introduced to plenty of exciting new IPs and wonderful continuations of top tier franchises that will have us happily gaming for the next couple of years. Nothing can beat that, ever.