E3 2011 is behind us. How did each company perform? The grades are in.
Microsoft’s conference was possibly worse than Nintendo in 2008 with its Wii Music presentation.
There was so much focus on Kinect and nothing shown was impressive. Microsoft is moving away from strictly gaming and focusing on the broad scope of entertainment. Kinect is being incorporated into other entertainment like music, movies, and live television. The UFC partnership is a big deal considering how popular UFC is now. While none of these announcements have to do with gaming, apparently people want them because 40 percent of all Xbox 360 activity is used for non-gaming entertainment purposes.
Microsoft attempted to appeal to the hardcore gamer with titles like Mass Effect 3 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier featuring Kinect support. Kinect voice commands in Mass Effect 3 take longer to say the dialogue than to select it with the controller. Kinect support feels like the forced and totally unnecessary Sixaxis implementation in early PlayStation 3 games. Unfortunately it’s something we better get used to since all first-party games will eventually have Kinect features.
The Kinect Star Wars game looked atrocious. There was sometimes a 2-3 second response delay to the demonstrator’s movements. The two guys playing football in Kinect Sports Season 2 was utterly embarrassing. Why wouldn’t someone just go outside and play real football/catch rather than pretending to in their living room? Most of the Kinect games revealed only looked remotely interesting if you’re above the age of five.
Various Microsoft presenters kept saying that Kinect has revolutionized the way we play games. Really? Revolutionized? With what? Dance Central? When I think I revolutionary games, I think of titles like Super Mario 64 or Grand Theft Auto 3. I don’t think of Dance Central 2 and a virtual Disneyland tour. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.
It doesn’t matter though because the Kinect is selling. More than 10 million units have been sold since its release last November. It’s frustrating because there’s unlimited potential with Kinect, but it will never be realized. The phrase constantly used with Kinect is, “imagine the possibilities.” That’s all we seem to be doing; imagining. When is it going to become a reality? Microsoft is alienating a base of more than 55 million Xbox 360 owners by forcing them to eventually buy a $150 device to take advantage of all features on the system.
After the Modern Warfare 3 demo Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, said, “As you just experienced with the new Call of Duty, the world’s greatest story tellers are redefining our industry.” Have these people not played Modern Warfare 2? If these are the world’s greatest story tellers, we’re in trouble. Phil Spencer, vice president of Microsoft Game Studios, even said Gears of War has defined this generation of gaming. Gaming is in a pathetic state of affairs if Gears is this generation’s defining title.
Not putting online multiplayer in Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a total bonehead move. The main reason people wanted am updated version of Halo was to play multiplayer over Xbox Live, something that wasn’t possible with the original. The presentation was incredibly misleading and deceptive because the multiplayer maps aren’t for Anniversary but for Halo: Reach, therefore nullifying any reason to buy the game. Why wouldn’t people just download the cheaper version of Halo for $15 on Xbox Live Originals?
One of the 360’s new slogans with its Bing voice search feature is, “You say it, Xbox finds it.” Here’s one. “Xbox: Exclusives.” I’m not sure if Bing would be able to bring back much results besides Gears of War, Forza, Halo, and Fable. Call of Duty isn’t an Xbox 360 exclusive so Microsoft needs to stop promoting it as such. Again and again we see the same titles put forth by Microsoft at every E3. These games are getting old. There’s nothing on the horizon that even hints at originality. It feels like Microsoft is afraid to take chances on new exclusive franchises or promote other titles besides the big four.
Gears of War 3 will probably be very good. That said, it’s still Gears of War. Same with Halo 4. Fable is full of empty promises and hype that never actualizes. I ask this every year, but why isn’t Rare being utilized more? Microsoft has a studio that is known for some of the best games of all time, yet its being wasted on Kinect development.
It really was an abysmal presentation. It’s hard to get excited about the Xbox 360 after this E3.
Sony showed a lot of exclusive games like Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, Sly 4, and Starhawk. The PS3 has a much more impressive exclusive lineup than the Xbox 360. Resistance 3 fell flat though. Insomniac has been showing the wrong footage, which doesn’t highlight the game’s action or multiplayer. There’s a strong possibility it’ll get lost in the shuffle of the Sept-Dec. mass of releases. Showing Infamous 2 was wasteful considering it launched the day of the presentation. Demonstrating Twisted Metal made more sense.
Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, made light of the PSN hack when he said the press is welcome for all the bad news and controversy. Millions of people were put at risk for credit card fraud and identity theft because of Sony’s complete incompetence, and the only thing Sony is concerned about is the bad press it rightfully received. Sony CEO Howard Stringer has made ignorant comments regarding the incident the past couple of weeks so Sony’s continual downplay of the situation isn’t surprising.
The PlayStation 3D TV with dual split-screen support is incredible. Split-screen gameplay has fallen by the wayside in favor of online co-op in recent years, but this should bring it back. For each player to have their entirely own screen while the other person still plays is remarkable. The 3D gaming trend is still up in the air, but once prices go down games and players could really benefit from it.
Sony continued to push the PlayStation Move. However NBA 2K12 looked difficult to play with Move controls. Kobe Bryant, one of the demonstrators, struggled to even score a basket. He called the Move controller a “remote” and “things.” That’s not good brand recognition for a struggling piece of hardware.
Even though the Move has shipped more than 8 million units, there’s still a perception that the Move is irrelevant. Ken Levine, creative director and co-founder of Irrational Games, said Sony convinced him to include Move support in BioShock Infinite after his initial skepticism of motion controls. Does it even matter at this point? It feels like Sony has shown lukewarm support for Move and hasn’t pushed it as hard as the Kinect.
The PS Vita was revealed as Sony’s next handheld. The price of PS Vita is surprising. It’s competitively priced at $250, the same as Nintendo’s 3DS. The Vita games looked incredible. Uncharted:Golden Abyss was a stand-out game. Even Little Big Planet looked fun on the Vita.
Online gaming is going to be crucial for the Vita. While the PSP had some online gaming, it was so basic and lacked focus that titles like Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Syphon Filter were hurt by hacks and other issues. A structured PSN on the Vita will make the system that much more desirable.
The problem with the PSP was that it was too expensive (launched at $250) and lacked consistent game support. The Vita’s price is perfect but it needs new exclusive games, not just titles that will be ported over to the PS3. That was another one of the failings of the PSP. Ruin is a step in the right direction with things like cloud support adding to the game’s value. It’s really up to third-party support for Vita’s success. The PSP is the king of RPGs, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Vita retains that crown. Regardless, the Vita should bring “life” into Sony’s re-branded handheld division.