E3 2012: The ‘Big Three’ – Not Much to See

Well, E3 2012 is over and done with, and it’s time for us to crown a winner… but let’s face it, the real winners of E3 are usually the viewers and the gamers. Except this year. This year I just really felt let down. I can only really think of a small handful of actual highlights for this year, while the number of disappointments and moments of mediocrity were abundant. But, let’s stop here and get into a bit more detail.

Let’s start off where E3 started – with Microsoft.

Microsoft’s conference featured only a small segment of gameplay, and most of it was either old footage or not terribly impressive. The majority of their show felt like it belonged somewhere between CES and the Much Music awards – a lot of new technology and services, not necessarily uninteresting but overall felt really out of place for an E3, combined with ridiculous musical performances and over the top showmanship that also felt… oddly out of place. They showed only a few games, most of them being pretty-much exactly what we expected: Halo, Gears, a few Kinect titles, and some multiplatforms. They also showcased a new Splinter Cell which felt like it was inspired by Uncharted, a new IP that felt like it wanted to be Twisted Metal, and another new IP that really felt a lot like God of War. Normally I’m not one to rat on people ‘copying ideas’ from other games because let’s face it – most of our favourite games are improved copies of other games… but I think Microsoft has taken it a bit far with 3 games that feel almost like direct copies in one conference. I would’ve welcomed Microsoft giving us something unexpected and interesting other than a South Park game. If it’s as well written as some of the shows are, it’ll be a riot… assuming it’s not Kinect like everything else Microsoft seems to do lately.

As a complete sidenote… why does Microsoft seem to think that people want to shout at their televisions? They had at least 2 different Kinect additions to existing games that consisted of shouting at your TV while you play. Why would I ever want that?

All in all I get the feeling that Microsoft is trying desperately to give us something to keep us distracted from asking the question people were hoping for an answer to this year: What will Microsoft’s next console be?

Continuing on with the Big 3 comes Sony.

Sony’s conference was quite literally the opposite of Microsoft’s. Sony spent the majority of their time on games, showcasing many titles we fully expected but also showed us what are, in my eyes, the two highlights of the show: The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls. After that, they continued the trend started by Microsoft by announcing that the Vita can be used with the PS3 to create… the Wii-U. Seems a little petty to announce it here – but that’s a large part of what E3 is about – hyping your own stuff while belittling your competition as much as possible. Sony did spend a few minutes covering audio, video, and other services. Among this brief coverage was an announcement that Playstation Plus is getting a full dozen free games this month, including some pretty hefty titles like inFamous 2. The only other really big thing that Sony talked about was that they are continuing to pursue their the cross-play between the vita and ps3 by showcasing the Playstation All-Stars title being played by two people in PS3 alongside 2 others on Vita. Crossplay is probably the biggest innovation the Vita has going for it, so it is good to see Sony pursuing it full on. The part that seemed to be missing from Sony’s presentation were the new Vita titles – there were a few minor vita announcements but the Vita has a lot more coming to it that was showcased at E3 but oddly left out of their presentation.

The last thing that Sony showcased was the new move addon called ‘Wonderbook’ which is a way to bring books to life for young gamers through the PS Move and a new peripheral. If they’d left this to 2-3 minutes, showcased it a bit, and moved on… this would’ve been a highlight of the show. It’s a really unique addition and something nobody else is really trying to do… but in stead they focused on it for what felt like a good 15 minutes, completely overblowing it and showing what felt like a distinct lack of understanding of the audience at E3 by focusing for so long on a children’s toy and by bringing in Harry Potter – again alienating the adult audience. Overall, a bad decision. But I am glad to see the innovation.

And the last of the Big 3: Nintendo.

Or rather, Nintendo’s Wii-U conference. You see, Nintendo decided to cheat. In stead of doing what everyone else did and have their conference cover everything they wanted to showcase… Nintendo decided that they just couldn’t do that and held a Wii-U conference and a second 3DS conference on another day. So Nintendo’s E3 press conference was really just a showcase of the Wii-U. And… well… not an impressive one. There was one really really cool thing that Nintendo showcased – Asynchronous play. A fantastic idea allowing for a completely new breed of in-home multiplayer and party games. But it really only makes sense when doing a local multiplayer. Why? Because Asynchronous play is already completely possible in online multiplayer, and nobody uses it. The reason why nobody uses it is the communication aspect. Asynchronous gameplay can break a gameplay experience if the players can’t communicate, and developers have realized this. From the perspective of a gamer who mostly doesn’t play local multiplayer, the Wii-U really feels like it has nothing to offer me. One encouraging thing is that they seem to be designing their titles to use multiple control schemes which is long overdue.

They also very briefly spoke of the media center usage of the Wii-U which feels largely the same as the functionality of the other consoles – which is a good thing. There’s really not much you can do to improve that aspect of the current consoles so as long as you match it you’re on equal footing which is where you want to be. Now let’s see if Asynchronous gameplay and nintendo exclusives can make their console compete with the established giants. Nintendo hasn’t been in direct competition with another console in nearly a decade really… so it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

 

Overall:

I would have to say I was very disappointed with this year’s E3 from the perspective of the conferences. Luckily the convention had a lot more to show than just the conferences, because these conferences were all a distinct letdown. If I had to choose a winner, it’d be the one who had the two highlights of the convention: Sony. But really, even their conference was a bit of a letdown.

 

Thank you, and Happy Gaming,

-Sean

  • Q: Why does Microsoft seem to think that people want to shout at their televisions?
    A: Single people play more games! :)

    The big 3 conferences thankfully changed to the big 5, and it Ubisoft that truly won the show. I couldn’t believe how terrible the three conferences were, especially Nintendo’s. Nintendo had 3, not 2 – one to showcase the Wii U hardware, one showcase the Wii U Software, and one to showcase the 3DS software – and all 3 failed – although the 3DS one was the best.

    I hope that the bigger announcements will come out of E3, or gamers will have time to catch up on the older titles they missed.

  • I suppose that is technically true. They did sneak in a third one when nobody was looking. And I do mean that literally… everyone had already stopped looking and turned their eyes to things like Watchdogs, The Last of Us, and the Luminous Engine. Man the Luminous Engine was pretty… wasn’t it? lol