|One final look at the E3 press conferences|
While a lack of surprise game announcements left me feeling a bit underwhelmed, it's hard to complain about a year highlighted by two new platforms and a boatload of ways to waste my time through the next 365 days.
Looking back over the three main press events, it's easy to see that some shined more brightly than others. No matter how you look at it, though, there's no denying that all three companies have a lot to offer gamers in the months ahead, even if what's on offer doesn't align with your own tastes.
Here's what I took away from each of the three main events.
The message: "If you don't have a Kinect, you should probably get one. Otherwise, heeeeeere's Halo."
If forced to rank the three main conferences based on "excitement," Microsoft's show would have to go at the bottom of the list for a few main reasons: Lack of exclusives, lack of truly compelling Kinect support and lack of big announcements in general.
If you're a huge Halo or Gears fan--or if you really, really love your Kinect--I completely understand why your assessment of Microsoft's show may vary from my own. They showed off Gears 3, two Halo games and plugged the ever-loving hell out of that magic camera.
For me, that's just not cutting it. Throw Dance Central 2 onto the above list of games and you've basically got the next year's worth of announced Xbox 360 exclusives covered. And while seeing deeper core game support for the Kinect is great, nothing shown really made that piece of hardware seem like a solid investment.
Hugging Disney characters or adding sparkles to images? I think I'll pass. As for voice commands, we've been able to do that in some form or another for quite some time now. And the reason most games limit Kinect support to that feature is because, otherwise, you'd have to play the thing standing up.
While seeing Modern Warfare 3 and Tomb Raider in action was certainly nice, something about the prime time both games were given says something about Microsoft's lineup for the coming year. Both games will be available elsewhere and there was no mention of exclusive content, so their appearances felt more like filler than anything else. Don't take that to mean I'm not excited about both of these titles, just curious as to why they were such a big part of Microsoft's show.
As far as new console features go, Youtube on Xbox will fill a nice hole on the console, though I can't say the same for the Bing search engine. Getting live television beamed straight to the box could be great, but a lack of a solid release date, content lineup or pricing structure has me cautiously optimistic.
Finally, and perhaps the best thing I heard out of the entire Microsoft show: Minecraft is coming to Xbox 360. It's not the "new" IP I was hoping for, but at least it was unexpected and should make a nice addition to the console's library.
The message: "You want games? We've got games! Come play them."
On the opposite side of the spectrum was the Sony press conference. Following the recent PSN debacle, the higher ups likely knew they had to come out and wow the audience with an overabundance of interesting things to play, and I think they did a pretty good job of doing exactly that.
After a few words of apology, the show got rolling with one game announcement after the other. What really set Sony's show apart from the competition, though, was the focus on offering games, content and experiences that can't be had anywhere else.
A lot was said about 3D and further Move integration in core titles, which is fine, but what really impressed me were the upcoming titles themselves. The event began with exclusives like Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, inFamous 3, StarHawk and the new Sly Cooper, then moved into even more "Only on PlayStation" announcements with the reveal of Dust 514 and content for multiplatform titles like Saints Row: The Third, SSX, Need for Speed: The Run and Battlefield 3.
Once the PlayStation 3 was covered, the announcements kept on coming for the portable scene thanks to the PlayStation Vita. Not only has Sony proven they've learned from previous mistakes by giving the thing a decent price tag ($250-$300), but then they rolled out a solid lineup of launch titles including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, WipEout, LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers, Hot Shots Golf and more.
Sony has been knocked in the past for spending too much time talking or slinging numbers around. This year saw a different approach, and I think it paid off. A more humble presentation with less boasting resulted in more time to throw game after game in our face, and that's what an E3 press conference should be.
So as not to give Sony too much credit for a successful show, I will say that the announcement AT&T will be providing the 3G coverage for Vita was the first time I've ever heard a chorus of boos during an E3 presser.
The message: "Wii want U to buy our new consoles, even if we're still a bit behind in the games department."
Staying true to form, Nintendo blazed its own trail at this year's E3 with a show that took a completely different approach than Microsoft or Sony. Banking heavily on nostalgia (and succeeding) the festivities began with a solid 15 minutes of Zelda music as played by a full freaking orchestra. Classy move, Big N.
While Nintendo's show was pretty solid from start to finish, I can't help but look back and feel like most of it was smoke and mirrors. They showed all the right clips and played all the right songs to get the audience cheering, but other than the Wii U reveal, which I'll get to in just a moment, what did Nintendo actually "announce" at this year's show?
Other than Luigi's Mansion 2, just about every 3DS title highlighted has either been shown before or at least revealed in some form or another. And of those upcoming titles, how many of them came from an IP we haven't been playing for the past 20 years? As ever, this was my main problem with Nintendo's E3 show: They rely far too heavily on existing properties. I love Star Fox, Mario Kart and Zelda as much as the next guy, but what I really want to see from Nintendo is a game that proves they still have the ability to use their imagination and create new, interesting properties.
As for folks gaming on the Wii or DS/DSi, your console of choice was basically forgotten this year. I could be wrong, but other than a little info on Skyward Sword, I can't remember one more big announcement for either of those systems. Nintendo, it seems, is now focusing on the future. The problem is that I'm having trouble giving a crap about said future... which brings us to the Wii U.
First of all, other than a distant dream of another Smash Bros. game, the only title revealed for the thing was a bunch of games I can get on consoles I already own. Bravo to Nintendo for finally going after that third party support, but I need to see something new and mind blowing if you're going to expect me to invest in a totally new console.
And that two-screen functionality seems neat and all, but after getting my hands on the new controller, I can safely say I have no desire to play my games with the Wii U Pad (My name, not theirs.) The thumb circles are less than ideal and whoever's idea it was to put the face buttons below the right circle needs to be drug outside and beaten with a stick. I'm sure you'll get used to reaching down to press buttons, but it seems like a poor design choice driven by a lack of options, and that's just sloppy.
I'm not writing Wii U off just yet, but with announcements for new PlayStation and Xbox consoles likely to be circulating before Nintendo's latest system even ships, I need to be wowed. The 2011 E3 press conference, at least, failed to do so.