This year, I did something I’d been meaning to do for years concerning the Electronic Entertainment Expo: take the entire week off and react to all the news and announcements as they dropped each day. G4 was offering twenty-three hours of live coverage on TV, and since they have an extensive Twitter presence, I loaded up on my favorite snacks, hunkered down in my own personal Batcave and said, “Why the hell not? LET’S GO FOR BROKE!”
I thought about the best way for me to discuss the onslaught of news- should I type up feverish responses at the end of each day, or let it all sink in and offer up my thoughts after the expo was over? Sensory overload was a factor- I ran the risk of devolving into a sputtering mess each night that could only say “cool” or “sweet” and typing “the” wrong.
I respond to things better after I have a chance to think about them, so I decided to go with the rapid fire snap judgments over Twitter all week, and then gather all my thoughts here for a blog post.
GRIFF’S NOT AT E3 AGAIN, OR: HOW I LOST MY MIND FOR FOUR DAYS STRAIGHT 140 CHARACTERS AT A TIME AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE
Coverage for E3 started on Monday, or “Day Zero”. The show floor actually opened on Tuesday, but Microsoft and Sony had their press conferences on Monday, so that’s where my coverage was going to start. On Monday, June 6th at 12:30 PM EST, I fired up G4’s livestream, and… well, here it is if you want to fiddle with the video and skip around to look at things and all that jazz:
How did Microsoft open their presser? With an extended look at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and I thought it set the tone as far as what their goal was: to speak to their established user base by spotlighting the titles that would be guaranteed hits- stuff ending with a ‘3’, as it were- as well as continue to support the idea of “casual” gaming through their Kinect titles.
At this stage of the game, I liken Kinect, and a good portion of the current motion controlled gaming movement, to eating a bunch of cotton candy- it’s tasty, great, and delicious in small doses, but if it’s all you shovel down your throat, you’re not going to enjoy it in the long run- you’re going to get sick of it, eventually hate it, and you’ll want nothing to do with it again.
There’s a bit about the “Gunsmith” feature in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier that screamed “Minority Report”- the demonstrator would make arm motions and pick guns out to create his perfect gun, or just say something to the effect of “best setup for sniping” in order to make the gun; I find extraneous uses of Kinect to be tacked on just to use the hardware kinda like a winky blinky “See, we DIDN’T sell you on this for nothing! You can use it during your game rather than fiddling with that analog stick on your controller! This is how we move forward into the future!” aesthetic.
Conversely, and surprisingly to me, I found Kinect’s application in Mass Effect 3 to be what I’d want it to do- to enhance the gameplay if you had the ability to do so or not- namely, via spoken squad commands. While being able to say what’s in the dialogue tree as a response is a neat little perk, I don’t sound like the two voices for Commander Shepard, so that’s not something I’d gravitate to- however, being able to say, “Garrus, move up” or “Tali, Overload” while I’m busy controlling Shepard manually stands out immensely. I think it’s thank kind of Kinect integration that will make the technology a lot more easier for gamers to adopt in the future- I think that forced integration because the tech merely exists benefits no one in the long term, and it’s better to have the option of using it rather than shoehorning it in.
But… no one would make any money that way, would they?
I wasn’t too impressed by Microsoft’s presser, overall- it was almost as if they just shrugged and said, “Meh. This is what we got. Same old stuff. Spend some money. Here’s Halo 4. Pre-order it.”
And with that, it was Sony’s turn.
Sony started off with something I was hoping they’d do: an apology for the PSN hacking fiasco that took place about a month and a half ago. They then trotted out a look at Uncharted 3, and from then on it, it was all about games and Playstation Move support. Again, there was even more stuff ending in three’s- Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, and I found myself almost bored with it all, as I was waiting for that one title- that one, brand new title- to come out of left field and wow my eyeballs. While titles like Dust 514 looked great, I felt like they were just going through the motions… until they trotted out the Playstation Vita.
Two analog sticks, OLED touch screen, face buttons, and a partridge in a pear tree… while I’ve found myself slipping further and further away from handheld gaming, the Vita does come off as being an impressive piece of hardware, and with it’s $250 price point, Sony’s definitely looking to eek in on Nintendo’s share of the portable market. The AT&T partnership announcement could be seen as a bit of a misstep… ‘cuz if I have a cell phone, why the hell would I want to put a handheld system under a contract?
Uncharted does look great for it. Now, besides a Bioshock announcement, where’s the other software? There’s a system seller lurking in some third party’s development house, because that’s usually how it works…
But, enough about Sony, let’s talk about Nintendo.
Nintendo knows how to yank on gamers’ heartstrings- hate them or not, but that 25th anniversary Zelda presentation was gorgeous.
From there, there are two things we can glean from their press conference.
One, besides the release of “The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword”, Nintendo’s Wii support is DEAD. It’s been almost five years- it’ll be pushing six by the time the next console generation war starts. That’s a decent run… and better than what some systems got.
Two, they understand that there’s a divisiveness between gamers- unfortunately, I can’t find the quote that was said during the press conference, but it was something to the effect of the fact that Nintendo feels that there doesn’t need to be this blatant divide between gamers- or, in easier terms, there shouldn’t be a feeling of “casual vs hardcore” among gamers.
We’re all gamers, so let’s game together.
QUICKLY, EVERYONE HOLD HANDS! OKAY, STOP HOLDING HANDS- SHOUTING IS THE ONLY REASONABLE DISCOURSE WE HAVE IN THIS DAY AND AGE!
From their press conference, it’s clear that Nintendo has a vision and an idea, however- if you can’t articulate said idea well enough so that people aren’t confused as to what you plan to do, then there’s going to be a problem. This problem is something that we ALL face, but when a company with as many, how do you say, ‘duckets’ and ‘resources’ as Nintendo has can’t even unveil their new console without confusing the motherlovin’ shit out of most people in attendance… then there’s a problem.
Is it a console or is it a controller? That was the main question being lobbied back and forth after the presser was over, not to mention questions about system specifications, backwards compatibility outside of any current Wii-related peripherals, and everything else in between. It’s almost as if Nintendo brass said “AIN’T OUR CONTROLLER NEAT?!” and whipped up a visual presentation based around that particular sentiment.
Applied properly, what they’re hinting at is potentially amazing stuff- I see this whole venture as having a Nintendo DS in your living room with the TV being the top screen, and the Wii U remote serving as the bottom screen. Lots of interesting ways to apply that set up, I think- but it’ll be interesting to see if this new technology gets stuck in a rut like the Wii did- will we see some honest-to-God games for it by people other than Nintendo, or will this system’s gaming library also be full of more shovelware than you can shake a stick at?
I can’t say anything about that right now, except: good thing we have a year before this launches. If this Wii U shindig was launching at the end of the year, I’d be very, very worried. It’s Nintendo, and while the Virtual Boy still haunts everyone now and again, they’ve proven that when they go against the grain of the gaming industry they can do some serious business.
And that was it for the major press conferences; both EA and Ubisoft had big presentations, but I think they’re more at war with each other this point, so I won’t comment on those except to say: more new IPs, please. Every gamer can’t start by picking up a sequel, after all…
SKIP TO THE END
Since I do play a fair amount of video games, E3 is always a bittersweet time of the year. Part of me screams that I should be there in some capacity, and the other part of me is just giddy for all the surprises that are in store. The old man in me is always torn- each year, I wonder where the industry will go, and each year I wonder how long it can sustain itself. I wonder where the groundbreaking ideas will come from this time, and I wonder what that one piece of software is that will inspire a generation for decades to come. Each year I wonder if the video game industry is one step closer to collapsing under its own weight, or if this is the year that countless lightbulbs will go off and there will be a united push towards innovation and redefinition of what gaming is and what it can become.
As this current console cycle limps to the finish line, I’m curious to see who will strike first as far as new hardware is concerned- Sony or Microsoft? Nintendo, once again, isn’t interested in what everyone else is doing and is trotting down their own path, so the other two companies are going to be battling it out constantly in order to stake their claim yet again.
Speculation is fun, but watching it all play out?
That’s where the magic truly is.
In closing, here’s to E3. Due to the magic of modern day technology, I had a blast all week. There’s a lot of fun stuff on the horizon for us as gamers, and this week was only the beginning.
Enjoy the ride.
…too bad we don’t have hoverboards yet.