Last week, we took a look at where Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony stood going into E3. As of this writing, the three big E3 conferences have come and gone. The big three have all stepped up to the plate in hopes of hitting a homerun with consumers and critics alike. Last week we looked at where each company stood heading into E3. Now we are going to reflect on what made us excited and what left us wanting more. Did everybody bring their A-game to E3? Let’s take a look…
What We Thought Going In: Microsoft was in an enviable position going into E3. Sales-wise, it’s the top dog and had the support of all of the biggest third party developers. All that was missing was a slate of strong exclusives. Was Microsoft going to show us games that we can’t get elsewhere? Were they going to continue focusing so strongly on Kinect and the Xbox as an entertainment hub?
What We Thought Coming Out: Microsoft was in the best position to play it safe this year and that’s exactly what they did. They had a strong showing out of the gate with Halo 4 and proceeded to show off Forza Horizon, Gears of War Judgement, and more. However, the conference held just about no surprises, which led to a general lack of excitement in the proceedings.
The biggest innovation came from a new service called Xbox Smart Glass, which allows your 360 to communicate simultaneously with devices such as smart phones and tablets, essentially emulating a Wii-U experience. All of the examples given were theoretical ideas, no concrete support has been shown yet. It’s also unclear how much development time and costs this would add, as developers would no doubt themselves be the ones planning and building these added features. The idea is there, but considering it’s so late in the 360’s life cycle it will be interesting to see if developers really jump on board right now or if they wait to see if a more integrated service arrives inside the next Xbox.
It’s unfair to say Microsoft had a bad conference, most of the products looked quite solid. They debuted the new Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which looks great, and the show capped off with a demo of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. There was just a general feeling of predictability as not one announcement was made that wasn’t known about in some fashion leading up to the show. Microsoft had the luxury of playing it safe and they capitalized on it.
See what Vic and Scott thought of the Microsoft conference!
What We Thought Going In: Sony has been all about the games this generation. We pointed out some of the franchises that are exclusive to the Playstation brand, enough to make any publisher jealous. On the console side, Sony would do just fine to keep on the trajectory it’s going and keep the great games coming. The Vita, however, needed to be their focus. The struggling handheld has been collecting dust on store shelves since launch; the main reason being that there are precious few games to entice people to buy one. Sony’s E3 conference needed to be about the Vita first and foremost. They needed to make it essential in consumers’ eyes.
What We Thought Coming Out: If nothing else, we have a lot of PS3 games to get excited about, right? Sony’s conference was actually pretty tight and exciting (they are known for having the more stiff, business-like presentations). They showed off not one, but two brand new, exclusive IPs for PS3 in The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls. New IPs are rarities these days, doubly so this late into a console’s life, so it’s great to see Sony really putting games first. A new demo for Assassin’s Creed III got a strong reaction as well, showcasing a surprising new naval ship combat mechanic. Beyond that there was the reveal of the God of War: Ascension campaign, and unveiling Nathan Drake (Uncharted) and Big Daddy (Bioshock) as playable characters in Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. Sony also announced incredible support for its Playstation Plus premium online service, announcing twelve(!) free games available to members starting the day after the conference. Needless to say, for PS3 owners there was a lot to sink your teeth into.
Anything that wasn’t the PS3, on the other hand, got the short end of the stick. That includes the Playstation Vita. We expressed that E3 was a make or break time for the Vita and their press conference showed exactly where Sony is putting its support. Only three games were announced for the Vita, one of which was a port of the upcoming Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. The other two are the exclusive Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified (of which we received no information other than a title) and the new Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. Solid games no doubt, but…three? The price cut some speculated to be announced was also nowhere to be seen. The Playstation Vita’s future isn’t doomed yet. It’s still very early, but it’s hard to imagine early adopters of the Vita not being miffed at such an anemic showing for the console.
At the end of the day Sony’s conference was solid. They filled it to the brim with exciting announcements and games we can’t wait to play. The confusion comes from why more of those games weren’t for their handheld that is currently on life support. No matter, though. We’ll take a game like The Last of Us any way we can get it!
See what Vic and Scott thought of the Sony conference!
What We Thought Going In: Nintendo had a lot to prove this E3. They are mere months away from launching a brand new console that not everyone is sold on yet. Questions have been lingering as to what the console was capable of, what the online functionality was, what it would cost, etc. It’s safe to say that, as is what happens any time new hardware is shown at E3, the most critical eyes were on Nintendo. This was their chance to blow people away, to make people line up for the Wii-U.
What What We Thought Coming Out: It started off so well! A charming short video of Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto getting ready for the conference and interacting with characters from the much-too-long-dormant franchise Pikmin. He came out onto the stage and, after a short intro, we were already seeing footage of Pikmin 3, a game which for many Nintendo fans is enough to buy a Wii-U.
However, it didn’t take long for excitement to stall. The initial good fortune garnered by Pikmin 3 petered off as Nintendo very quickly ventured back into its old habits of casual games like the karaoke-centric Sing! (working title), Wii Fit U, and Just Dance 4. Even the requisite Mario title, New Super Mario Bros. U, didn’t have the expected impact as it looks suspiciously similar to its Wii predecessor. If Mario can’t get people on their feet cheering, something’s amiss. Then there was a ten minute demo of Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition. While sure to be a fine game, it’s confusing as to why they assume people would be excited to want to replay a year old game again. This feeling was echoed after one of their third-party launch titles was revealed to be the February release Mass Effect 3.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Ubisoft showed off an M-rated Zombie FPS ZombiU that looked to appease the hardcore gamers as well as put the Wii-U tech to genuinely creative use. NintendoLand as well, initially looked at as a generic minigame collection, is actually getting very good buzz as a solid collection of Nintendo-themed activities. The 3DS got some good reactions with Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Paper Mario: Sticker Star both looking great.
Nintendo is full of surprises and it would be foolish to underestimate them. People raised their eyebrows at devices like Wii Fit, Wii Play, and the Wii itself, yet those turned out to print money for Nintendo. So it’s easy to see why they would continue to focus on their casual audience. However, one must look at the event they are at (E3) and the audience paying attention at the moment (gaming press and hardcore gamers) and wonder if they may have chosen the wrong time and place to premiere games like Just Dance 4. First impressions are very important. Early adopters for consoles are generally the hardcore Nintendo fans that don’t care to wait for price drops, sales, etc. Those early adopters were the ones in the crowd, or logged in online watching the conference live, and they probably aren’t buying the Wii-U to sing karaoke. Only time will tell if there was enough hardcore gaming in there to win them over.
See What Vic and Scott thought of the Nintendo conference!