Much like a sporting event, after the three big console manufactures are done with their conferences at E3, the question of “Who won?” always arises. There are a number of ways to look at it; who had the most surprises, which companies lowered their prices, or simply who had the least corniest speakers. However, I believe the best way to evaluate the conferences is to look at expectations in difference to reality. In that case, the winner is clearly Nintendo. That is quite surprising to say, since they’ve had the worst conference every E3 this generation. However, this time Nintendo brought something that casual, and more importantly, hardcore gamers could appreciate. Certain games were expected, such as Metroid since it's a few months from release. However, Donkey Kong, Kirby, Goldeneye, and Zelda were all nice surprises. With those games and Super Mario Galaxy 2 just being released, it’s starting to feel more like Nintendo “they make great games” and less like Nintendo “they print money from little kids buying Wii Play and soccer moms trying to lose weight with Wii Fit”. Obviously, that is a change for the better.
Sony also had a strong showing this year, but they spent way too much time on 3D gaming. Even if people wanted to do it, which many do not, almost no one could afford it anyway. Once you take that chunk out of their showing, it comes down to PS Move and a few games that were announced. The biggest surprise announcement was a new Twisted Metal for PS3, which seems fun and ready to make its long awaited next-gen debut. Little Big Planet 2 expanding from the platformer genre to supposedly nearly all of them is a great move. There’s still a huge question mark on how deep the actual gameplay will be. The original game only tackled one genre and didn’t do it extremely well gameplay wise. Killzone still doesn’t seem to have its own personality or trademark, other than good graphics. Disregarding that fact about it, the game is somewhat replaceable with any other decent shooter. PS Move was Sony’s other big push. Out of the three motion controllers, Move seems the best. It’s a bit of a hybrid between the Wiimote and Kinect, it has the Wiimote’s physical presence and general idea, but with Kinect’s precision. The main reason PS Move has sold me, but Kinect still seems iffy, is because Sony had real/hardcore games for it.
Sure, Kinect will work great with casual and party games, but umm… what about the AAA titles in which the Xbox 360 is loved for? Fable 3 supposedly has Kinect support, so not showing the two off together seems like a huge misstep. Microsoft played it a bit too safe this year. Codename Kingdom was the only surprise… and that was a live action trailer, so it barely counts. However, Crytek making it exclusively for the Xbox 360 is interesting. The price for Kinect was somewhat leaked to be at $150, but that’s $50 too high. Everything else was standard Microsoft, Halo is Halo, Fable is Fable, and Gears of War is Gears of War. That isn’t bad if you’re already a fan, but they aren’t going to get any new hardcore fans with those veteran franchises and Kinect seems too causal right now. Sony and Nintendo seem firm in their goals, but Microsoft doesn’t seem quite as balanced in going after casual and hardcore gamers at the same time.
This is the first year in awhile where none of the big three did badly. They’re all fighting over motion control and focusing on their own strengths. It is impressive at how fast video game developers are getting. Just a few years ago, we would have to wait 2 to 4 years for a game after announcement. Nintendo is announcing its fall lineup now. Microsoft and Sony are doing so for their winter/spring 2011 games. Microsoft pulling an Apple-like move, by announcing and releasing their new console so close together was refreshing to see. Other years may have had higher ups, but this year didn’t have many downs at all. Nintendo did do the best, but all three of them brought something to the table, even though many of us may not have asked for some of it… looking at you 3D gaming.
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