Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘E3’

While I didn’t get out to last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E³), I was really glad to see the show return to the more recognizable “under the big top” format.  At a time when just about everyone is forced to cut costs wherever possible, it was nice to see some of the industry’s big hitters pull out all the stops once again.  At the very least, it gave us all a lot more to watch than the very weird “editorial speed dating in office parks” feel of the last two years.

This year’s show was poised for success from the start – we’re far enough into this console generation that most developers understand how to get the most out of the hardware, but we’re not quite to the point where everyone expects to see new all-new consoles unveiled.  E³ 2005 was the most boring show I’ve been to, with the big reveal of the PS3 and all the tech demos and non-games that came with it.  This year was mostly focused on the games.  Be sure to check out the big honkin’ E³ coverage summaries over at Kotaku and Joystiq, just in case you missed anything.  Read on for my highlights (and a few not-so-highlights) from the big keynotes of the show.

MICROSOFT

beatles RB sullivanThe Good: M-soft came out strong right out of the gate with The Beatles: Rock Band.  They managed to have Paul McCartney and Ringo Star onstage, turning an otherwise ho-hum demo into a newsworthy event for even non-game press.  Perhaps most importantly, they created the most newsworthy event of the show for non-enthusiast press, and managed to have the surviving Beatles on stage with all sorts of Xbox branding behind them.  It’s a multiplatform title – in fact, the first Rock Band to ship day and date on the Wii as well as the PS3 and 360.  But Microsoft has managed to “own” this game in the minds of exactly the type of casual gamers that will eat up The Beatles: Rock Band — and a system to play it on.

The Bad: Microsoft managed to grab headlines with their project Natal camera system.  Essentially, at-home, real-time motion capture for gesture controls in games.  It looks like it works pretty well, and is much easier to set up than Microsoft’s earlier efforts with the Live Vision camera.  But I still can’t get excited about applying that technology to games.  I guess time will tell, as no release date or even a price point are in sight yet.

The Rest: All in all, Microsoft had a strong showing with those two reveals, and then a lot of smaller, fan service announcements.  The first ever Final Fantasy game on Xbox, a Metal Gear Solid multiplatform title, and a ton of sequels to familiar Xbox franchises rounded out their hour.

NINTENDO

The Good: Last year, the enthusiast press felt abondoned by Nintendo, with their keynote centered around Wii Motion Plus and the pack-in game, Wii Sports Resort.  This year, they made sure to take care of the hardcore set, with ample stage time given to a new Metroid game by Tecmo’s Team Ninja, The return of Mario Galaxy, and the very classic feeling New Super Mario Bros. finally brought to the big screen as a fun coop game for up to 4 players.  Charming, timeless IP goes a long way toward keeping the Big N in good graces with their loyal fans, and they delivered quite a bit of love for them this year.

wii_vitality_1The Bad: The Wii Vitality Sensor is… puzzling at best.  I’m an unabashed Nintendo fan, and I stand by the notion that failures along the way like the Virtual Boy are essential for a company to foster the free thinking brand of R&D that could deliver the Wii unto us.  But the idea of a peripheral that pinches you on the finger so it can get a read on your pulse… I just can’t see the application here into anything that would make a fun game.  I’ve been wrong before and I really hope I am in this case, but Nintendo certainly didn’t help its cause by not even really demoing this at the show.

The Rest: I was honestly hoping for a little more of a preview of what’s coming down the pipe for DSiWare and WiiWare.  They’re both underutilized networks on the best-selling pieces of hardware out there.  Beyond that, 6 new exercises and 15 minigames added to Wii Fit Plus doesn’t sound like very much new content to me.  I’d prefer to see them deliver more exercises throughout the year as DLC.

SONY

The Good: Team Ico revealed The Last Guardian, the sequel to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. True to form, this one will be a PS3 exclusive, and looks to be hauntingly beautiful.  I will probably buy it on launch day, and cry at least once by the time I beat it.  So will you, if you happen to have a soul and a PS3.

The Bad: Sony’s gesture control (was this a requirement to present his year!?) just seems way too early to show to the public, and I’m willing to bet they wouldn’t have if Microsoft hadn’t made such a big splash with Natal.

The Rest: I’m intrigued by the PSP Go.  That tiny form factor looks to solve a lot of the issues the original design (and subsequent iterations) had to deal with, but not all.  The screen’s still not protected in your pocket, which is a much bigger deal to me than the fact that there’s only one analog nub.  Sorry, FPS fans.

It’s puzzling to me that the PSP, which has had such a hard time reaching any audience other than teenage boys is the first to market with a download-only portable system.  Not to mention, one with a $250 price tag at launch.  If they don’t market the Go hardware the right way, they could be left with a diminishing audience that feels burned about all the useless UMD’s they bought to go with their original hardware.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

As another stellar PAX show wound down this weekend, Sony completed a more-or-less clean sweep of industry show prerelease buzz for LittleBigPlanet. The construction/platformer/multiplayer collaboration defies all current genre (yours truly is calling it a “toybox” game) and is quick to make fans wherever it pops up. It dominated E3 “Game of Show” lists, was named Leipzig’s Game of the Show, and popped in quite a few places at PAX, including the offbeat “How to Get Your Girlfriend into Video Games” panel.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for LBP is just how much stock Sony is putting in the game’s all-things-to-all-people mascot, Sackboy.  He’s truly a modern icon for the consumer generated content era: a blank (albeit cute and cuddly) slate to take on whichever identity makes the most sense for your game.  Whereas Mario (nee Jumpman) injected a little character into stacks of pixels nearly 30 years ago, Sackboy and his crew can be infused with all the personality you need.  Sony’s even releasing an 80G hardware bundle featuring LBP in Europe.

Perhaps most importantly, LBP is the latest in a line of unbelievably good titles that aim to occupy the space somewhere between a game and full-blown platform.  Rock Band and later editions of Guitar Hero continue to deliver weekly content to suit a wide variet of tastes, from The Who to Nirvana song packs.  Nintendo packed a robust level editor into the already-superb Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and the community still pumps out engaging level designs almost 6 months after its release.  Soul Calibur IV is currently flying off the shelves, due in large part to one of the deepest create-a-character modes ever seen in a console brawler.

While it’s true that these games rely heavily on the efforts of an engaged community, they also require a substantial commitment from developers.  LBP developer Media Molecule has made it clear that they have no followup project in mind yet.  For the months, maybe even years after it ships, they will be in the business of supporting and expanding LBP. And I applaud the effort.

Can LittleBigPlanet deliver on expectations?  Will it truly make us all one step closer to self publishers?  Will it finally deliver a sustainable experience supported by smart, effective in-game advertising?  Only time will tell, and I can hardly wait until October to find out.

Read Full Post »

The annual Games Convention is going on this week in Leipzig, Germany.  When it was first introduced in 2002, the GC was an oddity at best.  It falls on the calendar barely a month after E3 and before the Tokyo Game Show, is open to the public, and is a mostly console show seated in the heart of a decidedly PC-centric gaming scene.  So it was a surprise to see any big news come out of the show.

Six years and a confusing E3 metamorphasis later, Leipzig still isn’t a white-hot show by any stretch of the imagination.  Nintendo’s not attending this year, and Microsoft won’t be holding a press conference.  However, a few nuggets were saved from min-E3 and are making a big splash at the show this week.

Capcom will finally be showing the console version of Street Fighter IV.  The arcade game was still pretty fresh at E3, and they gave the public a pretty good look at the San Diego Comicon earlier this summer.  Smart move to sit on the console version.  But the big Leipzig news that caught my attention came out of Activision: Guitar Hero World Tour on the 360, PS2 and PS3 will be combatible with all the instruments from previous Guitar Hero games on those systems, and even Rock Band 1 & 2.  It’s about time.

World Tour’s set list, composition mode and exclusive bands are attractive, but Rock Band’s commitment to DLC and serious, curatorial take on the rhythem game are a tough act to follow.  It was shaping up to be a tough choice for gamers (including yours truly) this Christmas between the two… especially for those gamers who couldn’t possibly bring more toy instruments into their living room.

Read Full Post »

The combined E3 game critics panel released their final winners list yesterday.  Not a ton of surprises here, but it’s interesting that EA won 4 of the 15 total awards, including Best PC Game, Best Action/Adventure, and most importantly, Most Original Game.

It’s expected for EA to win Best Sports Game, and from what I’ve seen of the new Madden, they certainly deserve it this year.  But over the last few years, it would’ve been hard to imagine them winning any awards for originality.  Yearly updates to time-tested sports franchises and crappy licensed games have been EA’s bread and butter, and I don’t think anyone would have bet on them changing strategies.  Clearly, new leadership and their radical reorganization are paying dividends quickly.  Just take a look at the breath of fresh air that is Mirror’s Edge.

Unfortunately, the best games still don’t get played without inspired marketing.  I must admit, I’m thoroughly impressed with how The House that Trip Built is promoting this year’s crop of surprisingly original IP.  Mirror’s Edge is getting a six issue comic book miniseries from DC’s Wildstorm imprint, exploring their near-future world under a police state that requires the use of runners (like the game’s protagonist) to deliver messages.  Even better, EA’s supplementing their forthcoming sci-fi survival horror title, Dead Space, with a six-book prequel series from Image Comics AND an animated, direct-to-video feature film that sets up exactly the games central set piece, a deep space mining colony, became overun with pure evil.  Check out the spooky trailer below.

While the look of the game doesn’t exactly translate to hand-drawn cell animation, direct-to-video supplements worked for The Matrix and The Dark Knight, so EA must be doing something right. With all this supplemental material beyond the game, EA has built their own Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe.  Having such fully realized worlds created as part of the development process frees EA from having to shoehorn a video game into other, licensed universes.

Read Full Post »

When the most beloved game designer of all time thinks your product is crap, you may have an issue on your hands.

I think it’s time for the ESA to hang it up on E3.  The fact is, our audience is too far ahead of the curve, in terms of media consumption, to be well-served by a show like this.  The big 3’s press conferences all fell flat this year, mostly because the hardcore fanbase has already heard everything they had to say.  According to ubiquitous super-analyst Michael Pachter, “E3 is headed for extinction, unless the publishers and console manufacturers wake up to the fact that nobody cares about the show anymore.”

I would argue that the extinction of E3 as we know it is not only a good thing, but the natural evolution of the industry.  We’ve enjoyed the attention of a fervent, die-hard fanbase for decades, and it’s only through their passionate attention following (and the rise of citizen journalism) that the old E3 format became so ridiculously expensive in the first place.  After all, it was hard to keep the numbers down on an “open to all press & industry” show once every fan got the power to become press (with nifty blogs just like this one).

In the short term, there will be much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the death of such a tentpole event.  But the industry is proving to be bulletproof in the face of a dwindling evonomy, and we should all rejoice in that.  We’re seeing a truly stable marketplace sustaining three home consoles for the second year of this generation.

Perhaps most importantly, the Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 all feature direct media channels to reach out to gamers, and potential gamers by extension.  There’s still room for a small, no-frills show for retail buyers and analysts, but now that all three first-party companies (and presumably third-parties) can get an undiluted message to the audience via their consoles, they’re taken care of.

Bottom line, the kid’s alright.  The fact that we don’t need an annual show to circle the wagons is the symptom of a very healthy, growing industry.

And if you need more proof than that, plunk down some Xbox Live points for Castle Crashers in a few weeks. At one point I was playing it in front of two designers from a completely different company, a fellow marketer, and a respected games journalist.  We all loved it.  When was the last time the year’s top box office picture recieved glowing reviews AND the Best Picture Oscar?

Read Full Post »

E3 is once again upon us (albeit in its retooled, min-E3 format).  I won’t cover every single announcement here – there are plenty of up-to-the-minute industry news sites on the blogroll at right, so set your RSS reader and fire away.  But a week like this always has a few thought-provoking surprises, and presents a good opportunity to take the industry’s pulse.  It’s like halftime, leading up to the holiday season endgame.

There’s a lot to be excited about in Capcom’s lineup this year, with Street Fighter IV promising a return to form in offense-geared, fast paced brawling along with a hot new 3D presentation.  It’s a big, big development for Street Fighter fans, but I’m actually more excited about the return of the true blue bomber in Mega Man 9 on the Virtual Console and PSN.

For this installment, Capcom went back to the series’ roots and opted for the graphics and sounds of a classic NES game.  In an industry that’s constantly pushing the hardware for higher frame rates and jaw-dropping visuals, it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone opt for the look and feel that just plain fits the character best.  Mega Man 7 (on the SNES) and 8 (on the original PlayStation) were both good games in their own right, but just didn’t have that classic Mega Man charm, as anyone that played through Mega Man 2 would attest.

The decision from a big studio to go lo-fi for the latest entry in their flagship franshise is a subtle, but important development.  It’s an artistic choice, to create a similar experience and evoke the same feelings as we had playing through the glory days of the series.

This is the second awesome videogame quilt picture I've run.  Please send more.

This is the second awesome videogame quilt picture I've run. Please send more.

I’d love to see future installments of classic franchises explore what made them great in the first place.  And while we’re at, why not breathe new life into the classics we’ve already played through a million times by adding more content?  Wouldn’t it be cool to pick up a Double Dragon game where part 3 left off?  Or play through the NES port of Maniac Mansion, with running commentary from the (reunited) original development team?

Read Full Post »