From June 7th to the 9th the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Big 3 made some interesting announcements. This year was definitely a year where Microsoft and Sony announce more software support for their alternative control scheme as both the Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect both launched this past year. Last Year’s E3 emphasize these new devices and now the devices are out, gamers are wondering what continue support these devices will have.
Microsoft was the first company to go on Monday. It started with a bang with a live demo of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It showed off some impressive game play and environments that the player will go through. However this energy did not permutate the entire conference. After the live stage demo, it was all about Kinect. Voice commands were shown in the Mass Effect 3 demo. I’m not sure I will be comfortable in speaking the dialogue choices verse just selecting them with the A button. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier had the player use hands and arms to customize their weapons used in game. It seems a lot of work on the player end just to customize a weapon. This sort of implementation is not part of the main gameplay but a side thing. To continue their Kinect support, they showed off Forza 4, Kinect Star Wars, Fable: The Journey, Sesame Streeet: Once Upon a Monster, Kinect Fun Labs, Kinect Dineyland Adventure, Kinect Sports Seacon 2, Dance Central 2 and the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft. A lot of the games showed what people feared or display the limitations of the Kinect, player movement. Most of the game had the player on rails and the player used various gesture to have an effect on the game world. I believe there are more innovative ways to incorporate the Kinect however their implementation seems really basic. For the most part, it seemed to be just a gut reaction to the success of the Nintendo Wii. Even though the Kinect have sold over 10 million units, I believe that was more of a marketing push. None of these games, except for Dance Central, make me go “that’s the reason why I need a Kinect.”
They also shown the future of the XBOX 360 interface. It has a lot of similarities to Windows Phone 7 and the upcoming Windows 8. I really enjoy using the Metro UI on the Zune. Its style works really well with the Kinect.The inclusion of Youtube and its own IP TV cements Microsoft’s vision of the 360 as the entertainment hub for your living room. Then they ended their conference with a Halo 4 trailer. There was no gameplay or shown any interesting features this will bring to the Halo franchise. In a way, it seemed out of placed after watching Microsoft huge push of the Kinect. Another problem that I felt from this conference I really did not see many new software. Most of them have been shown before E3. Gears of War 3 was at last year’s E3. There were no surprises but I guess I do not have to wait long for these games to come out.
The next day of E3 was going to be pack with in formation with Sony presenting before Nintendo. SCEA CEO Jack Tretton kicked off their presser on a solemn note addressing the PlayStation Network event apologizing for letting player’s information get stolen and thanking them for their loyalty. Then similarly to Microsoft, Sony started off with an impressive demo of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Naughty Dog continues to impress with their visuals that are pushing the PS3 to its limits showing off more dynamic water effects and lighting. Of course with Sony as a whole, this game will be playable in 3D. Since Sony also sells 3D television, it is important that there is enough 3D content on the market to warrant a purchase of a 3D television. The remake collections God of War Origin Collection and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus Collection will be both playable in 3D. Of course 3D television are still relatively expensive so Sony announced a PlayStation branded 3D 24 inch television with a PlayStation-branded 3D glasses, an HDMI cable and a copy of Resistance 3 that cost a total of $499.99. A feature they are pushing is that multiple players (2) can play multilayer matches on the same screen. These images will not be in 3D however each player will be given the entire screen real estate. I can see this be perfect for college dorm rooms but not for someone with a full size living room as 24-inches is not that large.
Next in their line up was the Move software. They showed of the possibility of the controller use through NBA 2K12 and Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest. These titles appeal to a wider audience that the “hardcore” games. Then there were a series of trailers showing of Starhawk, a new Sly Cooper game and a CPP game Dust 514. Dust 514 was a huge surprise to me as I expected to only be on the PC since EVE Online will be interacting with Dust 514. I am curious on how CPP will be implementing the interactions between these two games as both are on separate platforms. It is a smart move on Sony’s part in trying to real in the PC gamers to their console. After the real, Ken Levine gave a quick presentation on BioShock: Infinite that will also support the PlayStation Move. He also announced a BioShock game for the PlayStation Vita.
Sony Corporation president Kaz Hirai announce the expansion of the PlayStation Suite and we might see it on more Android Devices. I hope this does not cannibalize sales of the Vita as both are gaming on the go. Following the announcement of the PlayStation Suite, Mr Hirai announced the official name of the PlayStation NGP as the Vita. It is an interesting name as they say it means “life”. I thought they will keep it simple by just naming it the PSP2 however they are seeming to take a page out of Nintendo’s book of giving their consoles simple and quirky names. It was great when he announced it that it will cost only $249 for the Wi-fi version and $299 for the Wi-fi/3G version. However many people were not pleased that the 3G version only works on AT&T as their service does not have the best track record. I was surprise that it did not include 4G as it is faster and probability more important for gaming but I guess it will make the Vita more expensive than it currently is. It place it in direct competition with the Nintendo 3DS. I thought it will cost at least $299 with its given feature set however at this price, the Vita will be off to a better start than its predecessor. Of course with the advent of more powerful smartphones, the gaming handheld market has definitely changed as it is more competitive than ever before. Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Ruin, ModNation Racer, Little Big Planet and Street Fighter x Tekken will all be on the Vita. Ruin showed off a neat use of Sony’s cloud save storage where the player can play it on their Vita than switch to their PS3. The problem is, cloud storage is only for people who are subscribed to PlayStation Plus. This feature will be useless if one does not have Plus.
Sony Press conference was good but just like all their conference before it, was was really long and at some points it dragged on a little too long. Besides Dust 514 and Sly Cooper there were not too many new game announcements. I was a little disappointed that they did not show off The Last Guardian or Journey as many people have been looking forward to those titles. Maybe The Last Guardian will be shown off at this years Tokyo Games Show. Sony has a clear long-term vision, and with the pricing of the Vita in a good range, they are off to a good start.
To end the big 3, Nintendo gave us its best. They started off with a majestic orchestra performace of the theme song from The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword. It was beautiful to listen to and as a fan of fantasy style music, it was wonderful. It is neat for the 25th anniversary of Zelda, Nintendo will be hosting concerts around the world. I hope one is near me when that happens as I would love to go to a live concert. It is also neat that they are bundling the soundtrack CD with Ocarina of Time 3DS and Skyward Sword. It will be perfect within my music collection. Shigeru Miyamoto was having lots of fun by having a live orchestra at his fingertips. After their announcements for Zelda Satoru Iwata came on stage giving a hint at their next generation home console. They want to present a “deep and wide” experience. Then Reggie Fils-Aime came on stage showcasing the various 3DS games coming to market. I thought it was really neat that they used the whole background to show the game trailers. It reminds me of all these various projections on buildings animation that can be seen here. They showed off Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D, Star Fox and Kid Icarus Uprising. Then a surprise announcement of Luigi’s Mansion 2. The first game did not do so well on the Gamecube however it has a cult following. It is nice they are continuing a game dedicated to Luigi. There was also some demonstration with the use of AR in Kid Icarus and multilayer battles. I’m sure it will be good as it is by the creators of Super Smash Brothers.
Finally the reveal came, the Wii U… The name was both a surprise and not a surprise. Given Nintendo’s track record by naming the Wii, I was expecting a quirky name that will get people talking but Wii U? Phonetically it sounds like an emergency truck passing by your home. However their logic makes sense. Nintendo wanted to created a console not just for a group of people but for “you”, the hardcore gamer. The market they have kinda ignore this pass generation on the Wii. The rumors of the controller were true. It is basically a giant 6 inch touch screen in the middle of a dual shock like controller configuration (with the analog sticks on top instead of the bottom). A concept reel was shown to give people an idea of the possibilities that this controller can bring to console gaming. It is interesting that the player can switch between the large television and the controller to play their games. It allows more people to share their television. I am curious on what technology they were using as most wireless display technologies that I have seen so far has some latency issues. From the impressions on the show floor, there appears to none! That is quite impressive as the controller is sending lots of information (button input, touch screen input, accelerometers and gyroscopes). And of course what would be a new console announcements with out games. Batman: Arkham City, Tekken, Ninja Gaiden III, Assassin’s Creed, Darksiders II, Ghost Recon and Metro Last Light. These games are a testament to the technology power behind the Wii U. It will be a fully High Definition console. Seeing Metro Last Night being part of the games reel was a surprise as that is a really hardcore game and a very graphically intense one too. In the developer reel, they had Ken Levine. I am wondering if there will be a Bioshock game on Wii U. That will be great! Nintendo is pulling all stops to make sure to win back the hardcore.
They ended their conference by bringing up John Riccitiello, the CEO of EA, to talk about Wii U. Having Battlefield 3 and all the intense EA games on Wii U will help boaster its library. Wii U is not coming out till next year and most developers just got their hands on the system in just the last 3 months! It will be interesting to see the full capabilities of this system once the specs are finalized and as we get closer to the launch of the system. Of course there were tons of questions left, like cost and the use of Wii U controller but at least we know the controller is backwards compatible with the Wii. They did not announce a ton of new games but their conference was short and fun to watch.
The gaming landscape have changed so much since this generation of consoles launched. With the advent of more powerful smart phones and tablets, consoles and gaming handhelds have to work even harder to give people a reason to purchase a dedicated device to gaming instead an all in one device like the iPad, iPhone or Android device. This years E3 was satisfying but I believe next years will be better and more exciting. Till E3 2012!