Now that the three major press conferences are over, it's a good time to look back on them and see how each company performed. What follows is my opinion on what went down at the E3 2011 press conferences.
Microsoft First out of the gate was Microsoft. In my blog leading up to E3, I mentioned what I thought MS needed to do to ward off their competitors. The main three points were:
-Core Kinect games
-New services for XBL
-More exclusive titles
So how did they do? In short, MS delivered. They showed off several hardcore titles that smartly implemented Kinect functionality in unobtrusive ways. Gamers said they wanted to see Kinect work with hardcore games and MS gave us Mass Effect 3, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Fable: Journey in response; not a bad lineup if you ask me. Of course Microsoft also showed off some new family friendly titles with Kinect functionality, but that wasn't unexpected.
One of the more interesting parts of the MS conference was the preview of the upcoming Xbox dashboard which is due to arrive this Fall. The dashboard takes a page from the Windows Phone 7 book with its overall look and feel and is integrating some fantastic new features. MS announced that YouTube will be arriving as an XBL service and that they have integrated Bing! search into the dashboard (which can be activated with voice commands). Furthermore, Kinect has finally been implemented throughout. This was something I have been waiting to see since launch. As if that weren't enough, MS also announced that they are expanding their live television programming with some major networks already on board.
A remake of my favorite game of all time? Yes, please!
If there is one area that I felt MS fell a bit short in, it was the exclusive games arena. Aside from Crytek's Ryse, there were no new franchises. True, we did get two Halo games, but that's not a brand new IP. I was hoping we would get a surprise game announcement in the form of an original property. Still, it isn't all that bleak. The Xbox 360 does still have Forza Motorsport 4, Halo CE Anniversary, Halo 4 and Gears of War 3 to fall back. Also, they're still getting great 3rd party support as shown with the Tomb Raider and Call of Duty demonstrations.
Final Grade: B+
Sony The next big contender to take the stage was Sony. I admired how they got straight to the point and issued an apology for the PSN outage. Sony did a great a job with this. They thanked everyone including developers, retail partners and their consumers. They also showed off some great software. Uncharted 3 just looks amazing. There are no words to describe how badly I want to play this game. The demo shown at the conference was phenomenal looking.
Other big PS3 games included the Ico/Shadow of the Collosus package, Resistance 3, a new Sly Cooper offering and Starhawk. They also introduced Dust 514 from CCP and renewed their commitment to both the PlayStation Move and 3D.
The last big item on Sony's agenda was the NGP; which they are officially calling the PS Vita. I'm still not sure how that name made it past the board meeting it was brought up in; what's so wrong with PSP 2? Atrocious name aside, the Vita did come in cheaper than I had anticipated. You are getting a lot tech for your money, but I still have some doubts about this thing. I've never been a big fan of portable gaming to begin with, but the biggest problem I see for the Vita is this:
This is where mobile gaming's at
Smart phones have made devices like the Vita obsolete. In my previous blog, I stated that Sony would lose me if they focused too much on the NGP and that's exactly what they did. I would call this a missed opportunity for Sony. The MS conference; while solid, was not out of this world. If Sony wants to compete with the 360, then they need to focus on the PS3. I felt like their conference was more focused on 3D and the Vita; neither of which I have any interest in. Not only did they fail to pull out any big surprises, but they left out big games that we were expecting to see.
Final Grade: C+
Nintendo Nintendo probably had the most excitement leading up to their conference. They were, afterall, unveiling a brand new home console. They kicked things off with Miyamoto and discussed the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. They also had a full orchestra play a few memorable melodies from the franchise and announced some musical collections and an orchestra tour to celebrate the occasion.
After teasing us briefly about the new home console, Nintendo dove into their 3DS lineup for the year and it looks strong. A new Mario Kart game (complete with gliding), StarFox, Kid Icarus, Super Mario 3DS and Luigi's Mansion 2 were all on display and will be hitting store shelves before the year's end. However, as previously mentioned, the portable systems are not my thing so I was more interested in seeing the new home console.
If Zelda on the Wii U actually looks like this, I'll be picking one up.
The new console, named the Wii U, is supposedly Nintendo's bid to provide a console for the casual market and for the hardcore market as well. Judging from what I saw, I don't think they've quite done it. The Wii U still looks like something aimed at a more casual audience. Don't get me wrong, Nintendo's done a great a job with this. For the first time in a long time, it looks like Nintendo has some strong 3rd party support. Games like Battlefield 3 and Batman: Arkham City will be making their way to the Wii U.
What about that unique controller then? Having no hands on experience, I can only offer my opinions based on what I saw and what I saw did not look especially appealing. The controller must be massive to house a 6 inch display and it doesn't look particularly comfortable or easy to hold up.
The other issue I have with the Wii U is that Nintendo didn't give a real release date or mention anything about the price. In addition, they stated that all the stuff shown from Nintendo were only tech demos and not actual game prototypes. We saw several multiplatform 3rd party games, but nothing from Nintendo.
I realize it may sound like I'm dogging on Nintendo here, but really I don't mean to. I think Nintendo had a good conference and did what they needed to for their audience. They showed a stellar lineup for the 3DS and showed off their new console. However, as with Sony, most of the stuff shown wasn't for me.
Final Grade: B
I didn't feel that any of the three companies had a particularly strong showing. I wasn't surprised by anyone this year. Microsoft had the most stuff that I'm actually looking forward to and that is why I gave them the nod here. Sony and Nintendo both had solid showings, but most of it wasn't stuff that I'm particularly interested in or excited to try out. That said, I still stand by Uncharted 3 being the best game of the show.