Conclusions From The E3 Conferences

So another year, another E3 has come and gone as soon as it’s started, or so it seems. While many people’s opinions of E3 vary, a lot of what makes and breaks E3 for those who can’t go and play the games on offer themselves (someday…) is and has always been the conferences. This is always the opportunity for the “Big Three” of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft to show off their upcoming games and the gaming equivalent of a dick-measuring competition. Fanboys from all factions will open their mouths and openly receive the load their company of choice is willing to give them, then argue with the other fanboys about whose load tastes better. So which tasted like strawberry cheesecake, and which tasted like a worried forty-something year executive trying to force it down you before you noticed he’d stolen your wallet and your mouth virginity?
Well, let’s find out with Ed’s conclusions from the E3 conferences!


The Geek Mecca. The Gamer World Cup. E3. Pants optional.

Microsoft:

What happened? Seriously? It all looked as if it was going to go so well at first! You enticed us into the van with your amazing sweets of the hardcore games to come soon, then after twenty minutes, we started to notice that you’d locked all the doors, there were no windows in the van, you’d taken your pants off and no one was driving while you chased us around, assuring us that you were a nice guy after all and had plenty to offer everyone. Then the van crashed and we were left with you trying to assure us everything was going to be okay while the ambulance arrived by using my dead friends as puppets. I better stop with this analogy before we’re too traumatised to continue, but needless to say, it was the worst birthday party ever. And the Microsoft conference was pretty terrible, to boot.


Ah, see, here’s your problem…

Alarm bells might as well have been run at the beginning when we were shown off coverage of Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops, a game which made it all too evident that Treyarch were desperately trying way too hard to be Infinity Ward. The game, which smelled of desperation seemed too much like Modern Warfare in Vietnam probably served as an all too apt metaphor: Treyarch were trying way too hard to be something they’re not: Infinity Ward. Microsoft spent most of their conference trying way too hard to be Nintendo. But we’ll get to that again later.

The second worrying sign was when Microsoft then announced a timed exclusivity contract with Activision for its Call of Duty games. After the only thing that made the series any good was reduced to a shell of its former self with the departure of the majority of its most important staff. The contract just seemed like Microsoft was all too ready to support the sinking ship of the Call of Duty franchise, something that can only become a shell of its former self.

Most of the hardcore showing just seemed way too understated. People would come onstage, play a tiny portion of the game, then reveal a release window, then walk off. There should have been an explanation of what had changed, what was new, and why we’d want to buy it come release, not just footage of a game, release, and walk off. Even with Gears showing off the four player co-op, they only ever focused on CliffyB’s screen, when they could have focused on other people’s screens too from time to time. For two of the more hardcore games, there was nothing more than a short trailer, a tentative release, and not being mentioned for the rest of the conference. Respecting the hardcore base is one of the most important things you can do when you’re a company like Microsoft, and it just seemed like they were throwing the tiniest of chicken wings just to keep us satisfied.

The problem with the Microsoft conference was that it seemed way too eager to bundle all the hardcore stuff at the beginning. Granted, if they spread it out over the conference like they arguably should have done, it would have distracted and not made as much sense within all the Kinect stuff, but even if they put it at the end to soften the blow from the Kinect stuff, it would have made much more sense than sticking it all at the beginning where it’s soon forgotten. Speaking of soon forgotten, that’s not what the Kinect section will be for Microsoft, sadly for them.


Let’s put it this way. I found this with the description of “Microsoft’s E3 2010 Conference summarised in one image”. Owch.

When I said earlier that Microsoft spent most of their conference trying too hard to be Nintendo, I should have specified I meant the Nintendo from a few years ago. You know, that Nintendo who embarrassed themselves with annoying, terrible games being performed by people trying way too hard to impress everyone with their games and failing. The one that wore way too much cologne and tried way too hard to hide how geeky he was and impress everyone while everyone laughed about him behind his back. The Kinect presentation was poor and embarrassing for everyone concerned, and while it would have been fine a few years ago, maybe when Nintendo was embarrassing themselves, it might have been fine. As it stood, Microsoft came across as that annoying hypocrite you know who criticises someone for ages, then tries to become them and fails horribly. After spending years criticising Nintendo for abandoning the hardcore and using motion control that’d never catch on, here was Microsoft imitating and copying them shamelessly.

Kinect could, and probably will be pretty good in the future, but this was a terrible impression that Microsoft had given it. Filled with the same horrendous shovelware that Microsoft had criticised Nintendo for having, Microsoft seemed like they were trying to ruin Kinect on purpose. Maybe Microsoft realised that only the casual would be able to find any fun out of it? Maybe the developers of the more ‘core’ games want nothing to do with it? Who knows, but it seems like if it’s going to have any long term appeal, Microsoft aren’t showing it, because they’re fine with having people embarrass themselves and making Kinect seem worryingly short term.

When it comes to Microsoft’s conference, I’ve seen episodes of Peep Show and the Inbetweeners that were less embarrassing, and those are both brilliant, award winning shows with purposefully created scenes designed to cause the maximum amount of embarrassment for everyone involved. But don’t worry, they’re still miles funnier than Microsoft’s conference, which after I didn’t know whether to punch everyone involved or give them a hug because of how badly I felt for them. I could go on even more about how terrible Microsoft’s conference was, but we’d be here for a long, long time. And I have Nintendo and Sony’s conferences to do yet.


I got boob-touching and the Inbetweeners into an E3 post! Go me! And yet, this image and that exclamation aren’t even a fraction as awkward as Microsoft’s E3 Conference was.

It wasn’t all bad. Microsoft almost managed to save face at the end by finally releasing a long rumoured Xbox 360 slim with built in WiFi and a 250 gig hard drive to be released in America at the end of that week, and worldwide later on. Keeping something like that under wraps for so long was incredibly impressive, and was the kind of surprise we needed more of at a conference full of safe bets, little risk, and a whole lot of embarrassment.

Nintendo:

Nintendo’s E3 conference was a mixture of surprise and awesomeness that can barely be described in words. After an embarrassing few years spent trying to entice the casual and prove to the hardcore they hadn’t abandoned them, Nintendo pulled few punches, starting off the conference with a good ten or so minutes of the fantastic looking Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Looking like a mixture between Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, there were a few mishaps by the Nintendo crew as they struggled to show off the game as effectively could, due to the wireless inference which would also negatively affect the Epic Mickey display later on. You could tell they were openly worried and very apologetic, not expecting those difficulties to arise after their practices. It soured what was a very important occasion of showing off the new Zelda game for the first time in what looked like a very playable state. More bad news in the form of a prolonged release date, but it will all be worth it in the long run, and help it avoid a crowded christmas season.


They may have had wireless inference onstage. But I know I didn’t. In my pants. I’ll mean, uhhh…

However, it’s a Christmas season that Nintendo are going to help crowd themselves, with a series of announced games that came out of nowhere. A couple of the games that were expected were either leaked before (the lacklustre looking Goldeneye Remake and the barely applauded Wii Party), expected sequels to millions sellers (Just Dance 2), or confirmed long ago (Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Metroid: Other M, Epic Mickey). However, no one could have expected announcements on the scale of a brand new Kirby Game or a Retro Studios created Donkey Kong Country out in time for Christmas. They were a welcome shock, seeing as many had wanted returns of other Nintendo franchises, and the return of Kirby and Donkey Kong were incredibly welcome.

They weren’t the only returns of a hardcore favourite. When announcing the 3DS, the first game they used to show it off was Kid Icarus, long wanted, and long rumoured in returning since Super Smash Bros Brawl. And what a handheld the 3DS seems to be. After trying over and over again with the DS, the 3DS looks incredible already. While nothing of it was shown other than the Kid Icarus display, the display in Kid Icarus already looked between Gamecube and Wii level graphics. Then announcements of upcoming games included Nintendogs, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts, Saints Row, DJ Hero, Assassin’s Creed and Professor Layton. It was like Nintendo knew what everyone wanted of it, and it delivered in shockingly large quantities.


Pictured: My hopes and dreams. I want three.

And that’s not even going into detail of what the 3DS is. Back compatible with the DS, 3D without the need for glasses, the ability to watch 3D movies, take 3D photos, better internet use, widescreen top screen, analogue slider, the ability to turn the 3D off, motion sensor, gyroscopes, Gamecube to Wii level graphics, and the tag mode without the consoles having to be on.

Then there’s what has been confirmed or rumoured after the conference. Rumours of installing the game to the console’s internal memory so you can play more games on the go act as another welcome suprise. Then there’s the confirmed games that include Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater, Street Fighter IV, Paper Mario, Mario Kart, Starfox 64, Pilotwings, Animal Crossing, and even a 3D remake of Ocarina of Time. It’s proving to be one of the most hardcore outlooks from Nintendo in a long time, and all I can do is savour the load Nintendo have given me while furiously fighting others for a delicious extra morsel.


Ocarina of Time remake? In 3D? Handheld? You had me at “Buy seven”.

It wasn’t just suprising in what was there as in what wasn’t there, either. Pikmin 3 was still curiously nowhere to be found. There was no Wii HD as rumoured. The vitality sensor showed off last year was nowhere to be seen, or even mentioned. It also seemed almost nonsensical that they didn’t add an extra ten minutes or so to their conference just to give brief updates on them, and confirm what games they were working on for it. Were they afraid that the amount of pleasure overload given would cause our heads to explode? Couldn’t they have told us all about those things instead of having that pointless section in the middle of the conference where they talked statistics and basically went “That’s right, everyone, we have the biggest penis around here, so get sucking!”?

Regardless, after this conference, I fell in love with Nintendo even harder. It was like Nintendo had finally stopped beating me, and promised never to hurt me again. I’ve been in love with Nintendo for a long time, and I know they’ll try to hurt me again in future like they tried and failed to do in the past, even after I’ve stood by them through thick and thin. After this, I want to find a prom to go to just so I can invite Nintendo to it. I want to marry Nintendo. In fact, I’m glad I have to talk about the Sony conference after this, otherwise this’d have turned into a very disturbing, improbable and poorly written slashfic.


Back in the day, ‘boner’ meant ‘mistake’. Nowadays, this is just inspiring hundreds of terrible slash fics.

Sony:

After Nintendo’s display, Sony had a lot to live up to, but they put on a conference which largely ignored Nintendo’s efforts and if anything, only seemed in competition with Microsoft, with a strong focus on the optionals. However their ignoring of Nintendo is a doubled edged sword at best. Sure, you can ignore the competition, but that doesn’t always work out so well. Sure, they may have been your friends at first, but if you don’t consider them your enemies and do something to stop them, then before you know it, they’ll be stealing the one you love, never apologising or trying to talk to you about it, and forcing you to live your days in self loathing and regret, leaving you all alone, attempting to be funny on the internet and forgetting where exactly you’re going with this.

So, Sony’s conference. A much better looking and performing conference than Microsoft’s, but never truly reaching the dizzing heights of Nintendo. One quite worrying thing while watching it was the massive over-focus on 3D from Sony. Granted, this is coming from someone who was just praising Nintendo for making a 3D handheld, but while Nintendo’s will be cheap and without the need for glasses, Sony has gone back to it’s “You’re going to want to bankrupt your family in order to truly enjoy the future of the Playstation” shenanigans. Sony want you to buy a new 3DTV and glasses for everyone, just to enjoy up to 20 games by sometime next year which’ll have 3D as an option. They mean, you don’t have to buy them, but they really hope you do, even though there’s no stated benefit to doing so other than the third dimension for the game to suck/stay exactly the same in.


I remember when this kind of 3D was all the rage…

Then there’s Move. Straight out of Sony’s “We can’t name things worth a damn” department and onto the stage, boasting an impressive 1:1 movement, changing bulb thing, and still looking like a ripoff of the Wiimote and nunchuk, Sony actually impressed and dazzled the crowd with what Move could do, especially because they did something Microsoft didn’t: They showcased it with games potentially worth giving a damn about. In fact, in a positive sense, it looked like Sony had looked at the flaws of both Kinect and the Wiimote and improved on them to give an experience which should prove to be a vastly improved one. The fact that the games that showcased it, and indeed all upcoming games for the Playstation 3 that can use Move have the ability to play it without Move, making it an optional experience.

While that’s good news for those who don’t want to invest in it, meaning they don’t miss out, it also means there’s less incentive to make the purchase. It’s very tricky ground for Sony, as they don’t want to alienate people like Microsoft have with motion control early games, but Move only seems to look like an alternative experience that isn’t wholly necessary. Not that you’d exactly have got that impression from the way that Sony seemed intent on shoving Move and 3D down your throat. Yes, they’re optional, and Sony did mention that, but they way they were focusing on the optional 3D and Move came across as if they were trying to persuade everyone by going “Well, you could play the games without a 3DTV and Move, but if you don’t, you’re not only not getting the best experience, but your family will hate you, your friends will think you’re lame, one of them will sleep with your significant other, and while they do it, they’ll both laugh at you for not buying getting our 3DTVs and Move. And your tiny genitals. But mostly the first thing. Buy our stuff.


But we’re not responsible if Sharks come out of the screen and eat you. That’s just the risk you have to take with 3D.

It was also a weird step for Sony to spend most of their conference singing the endless praises of 3D and touting it as the definitive future experience, but never providing a reason why people should opt for the incredibly expensive route of buying a 3DTV and loads of glasses, instead of Nintendo’s offering of the 3DS, a handheld that provides 3D without the need for Glasses. Sure, at the end of the day, Sony are touting the 3D as the definitive home console experience, but it seemed odd to praise it in a way that could just as easily persuade people to buy their rival’s future handheld.

Then Sony also seemed to be a lot wiser by making a lot of decisions that proved they’d been listening to the fans, at least in some cases. One such decision was by getting Kevin Butler, a big fan favourite after his appearances in Sony’s “PS3 Only Does Everything” commericals to appear onstage. Once there, he proceeded to give a lot of parting shots towards Microsoft and their efforts with the Kinect, as well as finishing on a passionate speech about gamers, garnering a massive cheer from the crowd. Then Sony mixed the fan desires with genuine surprises. For one, Gran Turismo 5 was finally seeing a release! Then there was the long rumoured announcement of Playstation Plus (with a logo that looks eerily similar to that of www.gaminglives.com), giving members of the Playstation network the opportunity to get more demos and games with a paid subscription each year. Then there was the shock return of Twisted Metal, punctuated with Sweet Tooth from the games driving onstage with an Ice Cream Van. Then, one of the potentially bigger announcements, introduced by GLaDOS from the Portal games announcing the “Surprise!” teased weeks before. Gabe Newell came onstage, joking about his previous comments towards the PS3 and expecting to be punched in the face by the people backstage because of his previous tirades. He then made the shock announcement that Portal 2 and steamworks would be coming to the PS3, and would be the definitive experience on that console. This surprise was met with the expected response of Valve fanboys the world over with endless rage over Valve’s decision to release the game on another console, ensuring that more people can potentially enjoy the games those fanboys claim to want and love.


Many jokes were at at www.gaminglives.com about this.

While there was also the element of looking forward with the long term investments and listening to the fans, there was still the element present that suggest Sony haven’t entirely learnt their lessons from before. Despite showing a lot of progress with the previously mentioned suprises and elements where they had listened to fans, there was still a lot of elements of the same old Sony. One was the previously mentioned on 3DTV and Move. While optional, the fact that Sony were making such a big deal about what basically amount to be alternative ways to enjoy the experience, the trouble is that they are potentially expensive alternatives which Sony don’t have as much as they could to back up and justify such expensive purchases. It’s very reminiscent of the Sony years ago who told people they’d want to work extra hours to pay for the originally very expensive Playstation 3, without enough to justify said purchase. Then the thing that really irked me and proved if anything, Sony still have a lot to learn was in their continued support for the PSP. Not the fact they were continuing support for the PSP, and not the way they sent out the PSPGo to die and then never mentioned it once at this year’s E3. I was talking more about the dreadful “PSP, Step Up!” campaign they’re launching. The adverts will feature Marcus, talking and acting like a dreadful black ‘gangsta’ stereotype in a portrayal that’s potentially borderline racist. It’s like Sony have learnt nothing from their previous PSP campaigns which have landed them in hot water for their potentially racist setups. It’s such a shame to see Sony attempt to improve themselves and then let them down by greenlighting and showing adverts which not only potentially racist in the portrayal of Marcus as a black stereotype, but look really annoying and unfunny to watch.


Pictured: Marcus Rivers, new spokesperson for the PSP. Not Pictured: Annoying, unfunny borderline racism.

So, those were the impressions from this year’s E3 conferences. I didn’t look at or write about Ubisoft, EA or Konami’s conferences because I wasn’t able to watch them for various reasons. Still, E3 was pretty good, though not without its flaws, and looks like the year ahead is going to be a very interesting one for gaming.
<3 Ed.

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