Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo—the Big Three of the gaming industry—all tried to put their best foot forward at E3. Now the critics have had time to weigh in, so what's the word on the E3 press conference circuit? Here's what I've been hearing around the net.
Microsoft Sinks or Swims with Kinect
Microsoft's press conference failed to set a fire under just about anybody this year. Featuring a few shooters and a whole lot of samey Kinect stuff, it simply wasn't inspirational to either core gamers or business analysts. It's true, with no new hardware to announce, Microsoft was at a disadvantage in garnering press attention from the start. Still, the apparent corporate line that Kinect must be talked up above anything else proved frustrating to anybody who attempted to interview Microsoft representatives about their offerings. In one particularly amusing moment, when asked about the lack of core controller-driven experiences being shown off, a Microsoft representative simply replied, "What do you mean? We have Halo," before going back to prattling on about Kinect.
It's not that there's anything terribly wrong with Kinect. It's selling well, and there are some genuinely fun games and some neat concepts that could turn into cool games in the future. Should Microsoft really be putting all its eggs in the Kinect basket, though? It appears to be doing so, as Microsoft Game Studios head Phil Spencer said that he expects all future first-party games to have Kinect functionality. We'll see how that works out for Microsoft, especially heading into the next console generation.
Nintendo: Wii U or PU?
Nintendo's E3 conference has received very mixed reviews, even from critics and gamers who are fans of Nintendo's products. The upcoming lineup for the 3DS received good reviews, but the neglect shown to future Wii products besides The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was judged disappointing. The fun-looking co-op Kirby game for Wii could have received at least a couple minutes of screen time.
Most divisive was the response to Nintendo's much-rumored next generation console, which has been unfortunately dubbed the Wii U. Nintendo's presentation of the new console concentrated primarily on its controller, which admittedly has a lot of cool features. Unfortunately, this confused a number of viewers, who wondered if the controller was the full console (it's not; there's a Wii-like main console box with a DVD slot.) The presentation also showed off some lovely graphics and interesting concepts, but skimped on the information about actual games, other than announcing that several third parties were going to port games to the Wii U. This resulted in the showing of Xbox 360 footage of said games.
Reports from journalists who were able to try out the new Wii U controller have been mixed. Some thought it was comfortable, while others thought it was awkward. The placement of the analog sticks and buttons so high up on the console certainly looks awkward to those of us who have small hands, but unfortunately most journalists didn't disclose their hand size along with their impressions. Right now, it's difficult to gauge how well the Wii U will do, and whether the console's graphical capabilities will allow Nintendo to create and maintain better third-party publisher relationships than they did with the Wii. It's a wait-and-see game with Nintendo for now, both in terms of how the Wii U will be received and how well the expanding software library will help the 3DS sell over the holidays.
Sony Fails to Fall Flat
After the string of hacking incidents and the lengthy downtime for the PSN this spring, all eyes were on Sony's conference as we wondered how the company would handle this situation during E3. It turns out that the company did exactly what most analysts said it should do. At the Sony press conference, top exec Jack Tretton stepped onto center stage and immediately addressed the issue, apologized sincerely, said a few words about how Sony would be moving forward, then moved on to the main event.
The Sony press conference was lengthy but solid. A good variety of new games for the PS3 were shown. The new portable system—formerly known as the NGP and now known as the PS Vita—showed well despite sounding like something one might order at a Jamba Juice. It was very helpful to see how the touch controls operated with actual games, like the PSP Uncharted title. The Vita's announced price of $250 played well, especially after Sony's major pricing misstep with its last portable device, the PSP Go.
Of course, everyone loves to speculate on which company "won" E3. From the looks of it, business-oriented critics favored Nintendo, while the gaming press tended to favor Sony. A number of publications declared a tie between the two Japanese companies. There was a general consensus that Microsoft simply wasn't a contender for best in show this year. Core gamers and business analysts have yet to be convinced that Kinect can deliver solid core gaming experiences and sustained financial success for the company. If Microsoft aims to stay on the Kinect-centric course it has set for itself, it's going to have a lot of work to do over the next few years to turn its vision for the device into reality.
The Lost Boys
Some games made a fair bit of news by their exclusion from the E3 show floor. Game fans and journalists were particularly eager to see if Beyond Good and Evil 2 made the show this year. But instead of Jade and Pey'j, the Ubisoft conference gave us an overly-long demonstration of Rayman: Origins and a Rabbids Kinect presentation run by a manic Frenchman with bug eyes and a scary beard. BG&E 2 project lead Michel Ancel was cornered by journalists asking about the sequel to his cult favorite title, and reassured them that the project has not been canned. Depending on the report, Beyond Good and Evil 2 is either far along in development or is still in a highly conceptual stage, but is a project Ancel would like to return to as soon as he can. One gets the impression that Ancel was pulling responses out of a bag while hoping that somebody would ask him about Rayman instead.
Pikmin 3, despite being confirmed for the Wii by Shigeru Miyamoto in 2008, failed to rate a mention at Nintendo's conference or booth this year. During the Nintendo Developer Roundtable, Miyamoto admitted that after seeing the design for the Wii-U, he moved Pikmin 3 to that console instead.
Some RPG fans were hoping for a glimpse of the long-in-development Final Fantasy Versus XIII, but that shouldn't have been expected at E3. Back in early 2011, Director Tetsuya Nomura mentioned that Square Enix is concentrating on releasing Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy Type-0, (the PSP game formerly known as Agito, which still hasn't been announced for North America) and that we should look forward to those games before we look for Versus XIII.
Finally, no, there was no sign of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or Half-Life 3 or whatever they decide to call the next game in the series. Nobody knows what's up with that. It's not showing up anywhere, and nobody from Valve is talking Half-Life at all.
That's the buzz around the industry for this week. There was once a time when we were able to relax into a quiet summer after E3, but the gaming world is a busier place these days. Every year, more games show up at Comic-Con, which is in July, and of course, there are always surprises that come out of August's PAX conference in Seattle. Stay tuned for a summer of tasty gaming news.
By Becky Cunningham
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*