Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are currently competing in the console video game market, which has become a large industry within the entertainment sector despite economic downturns. The video game industry was worth $56 billion in 2010 and PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated the industry will grow to at least $82 billion in 2015. While these figures are old, it does give a sense of scope to the industry.
Today, the last of the three console makers, Nintendo, presented their E3 keynote, which sets the stage for each console’s vision for the coming year. So which of the Big Three made the cut? And who is the winner in all of this? Let’s start with the first keynote, Microsoft’s.
I thought Microsoft had a pretty good showing at E3. There was nothing SUPER spectacular since there was no announcement of a new console. But we knew this going in. Microsoft did a lot of the same as prior years. It announced some early DLC for the multiplatform titles Tomb Raider and Resident Evil 6. It also expanded on its media streaming services, adding more to its ESPN service among other things. This is great for Xbox since it’s catering to its main demographic of young men, but also because it’s reinforcing its image of being a media-centric device. The Xbox 360 doesn’t just play video games. It’s also for movies, sports, TV, and more. Of course, it built on top of its flagship franchises with Halo 4 and a prequel to Gears of War.
Probably the most interesting thing to come out of Microsoft’s keynote as a gamer was Smart Glass. Smart Glass would be an app on your mobile phone or tablet (iOS, Android, WP7, Windows 8) that would communicate with your TV set to continue movies or bring up scores on the mobile device while watching a sports game on the TV. For example, if I am watching “Inception” on my tablet, but wanted to switch instead to my bigger HDTV, the HDTV would know exactly where in Inception I was at and after transferring that data, the tablet would display facts about the movie. This is similar to Apple’s AirPlay although this will have applications for TV, movies, and video games. In essence, Smart Glass is attempting to integrate our mobile screens with our biggest screen: the HDTV. Many are thinking this is an answer to Nintendo’s Wii U that uses a tablet-like controller. While I think it’s a really cool idea, I’ll have to wait and see how developers take advantage of it. Because developers cannot guarantee everyone will have a tablet, although come on, most people in the young male demographic have a smartphone or a tablet, developers won’t be able to completely develop their game around such a function.
Sony’s keynote revolved around PlayStation Move, its motion controller similar to the Wii’s, the future of PS3, and PlayStation Vita, its latest portable system that released in America back in February of 2012. Wait, am I dreaming. There’s no mention of 3D for a change!? I must be dreaming… Sony sure dropped THAT quick. Maybe in a year, PlayStation Move will be forgotten as well… Unfortunately, that is not the case and we were treated to using the Move to play a Harry Potter inspired game where you move the controller like a wand and cast your spells. Yes, this is a game. The keynote then moved on to PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, which is Sony own version of Nintendo’s hit Super Smash Brothers franchise. PlayStation All-Stars will also be released on PS Vita and have connectivity between the two devices.
The audience was then treated to some gameplay from latest installment of the God of War series, God of War: Ascension. It looks like more of the same from God of War III, which isn’t necessarily a BAD thing at all. This franchise hasn’t changed the formula much since its inception on PlayStation 2, but that’s because it didn’t need to change. At the end of the keynote, the audience got to see gameplay from Naughty Dog’s latest game, The Last of Us. Instead of me talking about it, I think a video would say so much more.
Part of me is disappointed with Sony’s keynote. There were no real bombshells here. Many people were expecting a PS Vita price drop similar to what Nintendo ended up doing with its Nintendo 3DS, but that didn’t happen. Frankly, I thought it would be too soon anyway, but I was expecting a bigger show of support from third party developers for the PS Vita. No Monster Hunter announcement or Final Fantasy? Sure, I could say the market for those games are much bigger in Japan and E3 is a Western affair, but TGS is a few months away and Sony really did not show enough support for its Vita when it already knows software is the problem. Adding streaming services and (finally) PSOne Classics support is a step in the right direction, but people will be buying a Vita for NEW games and NEW experiences, not for rehashes of old games and streaming I can already get on every other screen in my living room.
Last but not least comes Nintendo. Nintendo’s main focus at E3 was definitely on its “next generation” console, the Wii U. For my thoughts about the Wii U prior to E3, read my prior post on it here. Much of Nintendo’s keynote focused on games for its new system. From Nintendo itself, we finally have Pikmin 3, which has been in development for a while. It was originally supposed to appear on the Wii, but Miyamoto decided it’d be best to release it as a launch title for the Wii U. Nintendo also showed off New Super Mario Brothers Wii U and Wii Fit U. Having a “flagship” mascot such as Mario close to or at launch is key to Nintendo’s strategy of pairing hardware with software. It quickly learned after the 3DS fiasco that hardware needs games in order to sell.
Sure enough, once Super Mario Land 3D came out, paired with a price drop, the 3DS began selling like hotcakes. After its first party games, Nintendo showed a trailer of all the upcoming Wii U games, which included a number of third party games. However, many of them are rehashes of games most of us already have access to such as Batman: Arkham’s Asylum, Ninja Gaiden 3, Mass Effect 3, Assassin’s Creed 3, and more. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 also made an appearance in the trailer. While I’m happy that the Wii U is getting some support from third party developers, I’m still concerned that this support will fade quickly. The developer of Batman came on stage to tell the audience what made it so different from its PS3 and Xbox 360 counterparts and most of it was gimmicky controls such as using the tablet’s gyroscope to guide the batarangs (something PS3’s SixAxis could do). I guess most new consoles go through this period of rehashes and remakes. We’ll have to wait and see how strong third party support ends up being in the long run. An anonymous survey sent to game developers by IGN showed the most concern for Wii U out of the three next generation consoles (two of which are the unnamed and unannounced Sony and Microsoft consoles).
Nintendo also showed off its Wii U Pro Controller, which looks strangely familiar… almost like a Xbox 360 controller! We also learned that the Wii U can support two of its tablet controllers, although Nintendo has since gone on to reveal that using two tablet controllers will drop the FPS down to 30 from 60. Speaking of controllers and the tablet controller in particular, we learned the tablet controller will have a battery life of 3-5 hours depending on screen brightness. It will also take 2.5 hours to recharge. Not sure about anyone else, but that battery life seems a bit on the low end. One could argue tablets today (iPad and Android tablets) have similar battery life, but these tablets also have bigger screens. Also, no talk about how much a second tablet controller will set a person back. Or maybe Nintendo will make it such that your friend has to bring over his Wii U’s tablet controller… That would suck… but Nintendo must sell replacement tablet controllers in case it gets broken. Kids will inevitably play on this console after all!
Nintendo also showed off the system’s video chat features in this pre-E3 trailer for the Wii U. I’ll have to warn you that it is an awful commercial in my opinion. Not sure about any of you, but I would sooner head to GameFAQs than use the MiiVerse and randomly video chat with someone.
So Who Won?
Needless to say, this was a pretty boring E3 much like last year’s. In my opinion, Nintendo marginally won E3 2011 with its Zelda Symphony. This year, I can honestly say none of the three made me get out of my chair and cheer as a proud gamer. However, I have to give an award or it’d be a cop-out. The winner is… Microsoft with its Smart Glass. This is purely based on potential. At this point I feel like there are no winners and gamers definitely lost. We’re coming up at the end of the cycle for the current generation of consoles and it’s funny because I feel like we were calling Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 “next gen” consoles not too long ago. As this generation comes to a close, the amount of innovation begins to die down. This has been the worst generation for games in my opinion, but that’ll be a topic for another post once everyone has revealed their next generation console plans. Let me know your thoughts on E3 in the comments section!
Note: For those wondering about the last screenshot, it’s from Final Fantasy XIV v2.0 for PC and PS3. The game was released back in September 2010 for PC and has gone through some growing pains, which is why it’s getting a v2 makeover. Looking forward to what the next generation might look like? Check out Square Enix’s tech demo of Agni’s Philosophy – Final Fantasy Tech Demo. The frame rate seemed to stutter when I watched it, but the graphics look amazing. So glad Square Enix is continuing down this path of graphics (this is sarcasm by the way)… I have to wonder if this is real time or a FMV. (Edit: Apparently this is real time graphics!)
I also cannot let an E3 2012 post go without highlighting Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. This along with The Last of Us are by far the most exciting games to come out of E3 in terms of original IPs. The trailer, embedded below, is down right amazing and ambitious. While the three keynotes weren’t very exciting, there were definitely some great games to look forward to in the coming year for all of us gamers.