The Electronic Entertainment Expo blew through the city of Angels last week and left the general gaming public with the sights and sounds of the present and future of gaming. This E3 saw the formal announcement of two new systems (Wii U & PS Vita) and a host of games that will be titillating the senses (and emptying wallets) for sometime to come. However, in many ways there wasn’t a lot of innovation when it came to games. One of the common discussion points in regards to E3 is that it was the “Year of the Trilogy” with many of the most high profile games being the third installment of popular series (ex. Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, Uncharted 3, etc).With that in mind, lets look at some overall impressions of E3.
Microsoft’s press conference was dominated by Kinect and the capabilities of the peripherals. Kinect support was shown to be incorporated into many triple A titles including Mass Effect 3 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. The also announced Kinect spin-offs of popular titles like Fable: The Journey. Outside of the Kinect fanfare, Microsoft showed off the new user interface for Xbox Live that will debut with this upcoming fall’s update. The user interface (UI) will resemble the “Metro” interface that was introduced to the world with windows phone, and will be the featured interface for the upcoming Windows 8. The update will also include new features like Bing voice search and live TV viewing. Most likely the biggest gaming announcements from Microsoft centered around Halo with Halo: CE Anniversary announced for a fall 2011 release and Halo 4 announced for 2012. Halo: CE Anniversary is a high definition (HD) remake of the original game together with multiplayer using the Halo:Reach engine and it will retail for $39.99 (winning!).
The additions to the Xbox Live UI was cool, especially the live TV capabilities. Kinect is cool, but Microsoft really focused too much on it and its capabilities. With no announcements of new exclusive ips, the hardcore audience only really had Halo: CE Anniversary and Halo 4 as reasons to look forward to the next two years of gaming. Don’t get me wrong, Modern Warfare 3, Mass Effect 3, and Gears of War 3 look awesome, but we already knew they were coming out, and in many ways know what to expect with them. Overall, Microsoft’s press conference tried to cater to every possible type of game. With their focus being so spread out, they gave a good, but underwhelming presentation.
Sony’ press conference focused on two main items, continuing to apologize for the security breach and resulting PSN shutdown, and the unavailing to the PS Vita. Sandwiched between the two, Sony presented many new installments of popular franchises including Uncharted 3 and Sly Cooper 4, as well as a Playstation branded 3D television. They also displayed Move support for existing titles like Little Big Planet 2 and Infamous 2. Also on display were dedicated Move games like Medieval Moves. However the real star of the show was the PS Vita, its successor to the PSP. Boasting near current console like quality, the PS Vita was expected to be quite expensive at launch, Sony dropped a bombshell when they announced that the PS Vita would cost $249 and $299 at launch. While many titles were shown for the dual touch pad/dual analog stick device, Uncharted for the PS Vita stood out above the rest.
Sony’s press conference was saved by the Vita. Just as Microsoft catered to every gamer with their press conference, so did Sony with the same result. Correction, it was saved by the Vita’s price. At a price point of $249 for the non 3G version of the PS Vita, its places it side by side the Nintendo 3DS when it comes to price. With what may be the last generation of dedicated handheld systems, Sony has not just come to play, they’ve come to win.
The House that Mario built spent most of its press conference showing upcoming games for the Nintendo 3DS. 3D versions included Super Mario Bros., Luigi’s Mansion 2, Mario Kart, and Kid Icarus. Only one Wii game was mentioned, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Skyward Sword is the crowning jewel of Nintendo’s 25th anniversary celebration of Zelda which includes the release of Ocarina of Time on the 3DS, a give away of The Four Swords for both the 3DS and DSi, and an orchestral concert series featuring the music of the Legend of Zelda series. Even with this massive announcement of games, “Project Cafe” was what people really came to see. Project Cafe was revealed to be the Wii U. The Wii U is the HD successor to the Wii, and features a controller with a built-in 6″ touchscreen.
Nintendo officially gave all Wii owners the bird! With no new titles announced (minus Skyward Sward), they have officially given up on the Wii and have moved on to its current girlfriend in the 3DS while lusting after the lady in waiting in the Wii U. The Wii U is an interesting concept. The controller could open up new ways to play, but we will have to wait quite sometime to see if it will be worth with. With the competition firmly breathing down Nintendo’s neck (hello PS Vita), and Microsoft beating them at their own game (Kinect), they will have to do some innovative things with the Wii U and the 3DS over the next few years in order to maintain. This is especially true considering the next Microsoft and Sony consoles will blow Wii U out of the water before its even released.
This year’s E3 was exciting, but it was still underwhelming. It is a sure bet what next year’s E3 will be a doozy of a show as we anticipate the announcement of the next consoles from Microsoft and Sony. In the mean time, we will be content with Star Wars: The Old Republic, Halo CE: Anniversary, and the PS Vita to keep us occupied until then.