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Deconstructing E3 - Winners and Losers

by July 21, 2008
Deconstructing E3 - WInners and Losers

Deconstructing E3 - WInners and Losers

E3 is over and the fallout is still... um... falling. While there were a ton of great looking games and technology on the horizon, I wanted to take a look at how the big three faired - at least from the standpoint of their press conferences. To me, the press conferences indicate what they are trying to communicate to the consumer. Whether or not they can identify what will excite the masses (or at least the core) is beside the point. In the interest of full disclosure, I own an Xbox 360, I've owned a Sony Playstation (the first one) but none of the others (but I would have bought the PS2 if I had had the money), and I haven't owned a Nintendo product since the Super NES.


Microsoft's press conference was easily the best produced and most interesting. They had the most demos which also equated to the most technical problems. Overall, it all came off pretty well. They had the most and most interesting games on display. Of course, they all had a number after them (Gears of War 2, Fable 2, Resident Evil 5, etc.) which some might think is a sign of bad things to come. Is the well of new ideas for the Xbox 360 already dry.

Come on, don't be ridiculous.

The fact is that the media and the fans are most interested in hearing about sequels to popular games. Even those that don't know anything about a game will be more likely to be attracted to a sequel because it means, usually, that the first one was very popular. If it was good enough for a sequel, then it must be a good game, right?

Well, aside from sports games which are usually the same thing every year with a few more bells and whistles.

Many were excited about the Netflix announcement which I think is pretty huge. Think about it, what must be the crossover be between Xbox Live users and people that use either Netflix or Blockbuster's DVD via mail service? It has got to be pretty high. While there is no guarantee that Blockbuster customers would switch (many probably won't) I imagine that there are some that will. With 5 million Xbox Live users in the US, it seems pretty safe to say that a quarter to a half of them overlap with Netflix users. That's a pretty big installed base to be offering what is essentially a FREE service to. Sure, you have to watch movies with your 360 screaming in the background but for FREE it is hard not to be excited about it.

The big downside of the presentation was the new Xbox Live interface. Sure, there were some cool features like 8-way voice chat but come on, try to be less like Nintendo why don't you. Avatars are a blatant ripoff of the Miis from Nintendo. Sure, they look a little more grown up but who really cares? I'm too busy killing my friends on Halo right now to personalize my Avatar. If you are going to steal something from Nintendo, I can't believe you picked the lamest thing. Steal a motion controller or a something. Geesh.

I guess my biggest worry is that Microsoft is changing the interface to "make it better." If I've learned anything from my experiences with Microsoft, it is that "make it better" usually equates to "bloat it out of control with functionality that looks cool on paper but rarely works and even when it does it is way less intuitive than it should be." So here's hoping that the new interface isn't based off of Vista.


Sony's presentation, overall, was well done if a little long (90 minutes). Still, the speaker didn't drone too much and I could mostly pay attention. There were a few exciting games on the horizon though it seemed they talked mostly about their technology and how much more powerful it is than everyone else (and by everyone else they mean Xbox since the Wii runs on hamsters and old Atari 2600 ET cartridges). Ok, we got it, you spent that extra year doing something not just waiting for Blu-ray parts, now let's see some games already.

It was nice to hear Sony admit that the PS3 was the big reason that Blu-ray won over HD DVD - of course all that money paid to the studios didn't hurt either.

Can I just say that Little Big Planet looks incredibly cool? Can I? Because it does. Now, Xplay gave Infamous the best of show for the PS3 but from what I could see, it didn't look like all that and a bag of chips. Of course, they actually played it and I just watched them play it on TV so perhaps we should defer to their judgment.

The big problems with the PS3 haven't really changed all that much - buggy online features paired with a severe lack of games. Hey when one of your best games is basically a demo of Gran Turismo, you've got problems.

Now let's talk about 10 year lifecycles. While I appreciate Sony's commitment to the PS2, about half way through the press conference I started to feel like the only reason they were doing that was because PS3 sales were so low (not that they are but that is was it seemed like). My brother owns a PS2 so I'm happy they are supporting it but come on, is that really such a big deal that you need to bring it up at the press conference?

Objectively though, Sony is really on the cusp of "making it" in my opinion. There seemed to be a lot of potential there and I expect that next year's press conference will be probably as exciting as Microsoft's was this year. Of course, we'll probably see a lot of announcements of sequels as well but that is what consoles need - really successful franchises to get people to purchase. Now if only could get the Final Fantasy fanboys to stop crying we could all be happy.


This was a joker-faced suckfest. While Animal Crossing is a very good game (apparently, I haven't played it), it doesn't quite have the draw that a Zelda or Mario game would. It also was explained in such a way that someone that isn't familiar with the game couldn't possibly understand what it was about. Fishing with your friends? Decorating your house? Huh?

The sad fact was that Nintendo seems to be drunk on their ability to sell peripherals. I know I keep harping on this but HOW?! How are they doing it? Sony got into the console game because Nintendo canceled their disc drive add-on for the Super NES after contractual problems. But look at them now announcing add-on after add-on for the Wii. The shocking part is that they are actually selling!

The only thing I can take from the Nintendo press conference was that they don't think that hard core gamers are their audience anymore - and they are probably right. Hard core gamers buy their system first - not wait for the prices to drop. They peorder their games - they don't buy them used. They trade in 5 games to get a new one for free. Most of all, they never, EVER buy peripherals. They've already spent all their allowance on everything else. They are still bitter that you don't get two controllers bundled any more.

Hear this, Nintendo, you're playing a dangerous game. All those people out there that are so infatuated with your system may not be that way forever - and they certainly are going to get tired of buying add-ons pretty soon. When the next big thing comes out (and Sony and Microsoft are trying very hard to have it be on their consoles) all you'll be left with is a bunch of Wiis in closets and a ton of disenfranchised hard core gamers. That won't be a very good spot to be in.

Nintendo's conference was full of false smiles, forced "fun", and a deplorable lack of games. If this is what we've got to look for in the coming year (throwing a frisby to a dog is a game? Really?), it is going to be a big wake up call to Nintendo. We may be hearing words like "focus on our core" and "get back to doing what we do best - make great games" next year at E3.

The Nintendo advantage is that every game, whether it is multiplatform or not, feels like an exclusive on the Wii. The unique control scheme ensures that. This means when they brag about a game that is on multiple systems, it actually makes sense.

But they didn't do that.

Instead I had to hear about how intuitive the interface is and how graphics aren't as important as gameplay. Hey, I get it. I play flash-based games all the time that are a ton of fun if graphically inferior to the 360 games I play. But that doesn't mean that I don't expect a system that costs $250+ the price of peripherals to play all your stupid, big-headed games to have decent graphics.


Microsoft = Wow

Sony = Hope

Nintendo = Fail

Fine, label me a "hard core" gamer or whatever but as far as I was concerned Nintendo might as well not shown up. They weren't even trying. Even though I was much more excited about the Microsoft presentation (specifically because of all the, duh, GAMES), I felt like Sony has a lot of potential. I can't help but remember the days of the original PS and how cool it was. I believe they are going to come around and perhaps force Microsoft to upgrade faster than they would like to (especially if they haven't recouped all their losses from the Red Ring of Death debacle).

This year's E3 wasn't nearly as mindblowing as it could have been but it was very exciting. Gamers have got a lot to look forward to. I expect that next year's E3 is going to be a big one. We're going to see a great big competition between Microsoft and Sony to "out wow everyone" with Nintendo continuing to harp on their installed base (but ignoring the fact that their sales have slowed significantly) while at the same time talking about how they are going to get back to making games. I wouldn't be surprised if we never see another serious peripheral out for this platform after the Wii MotionPlus. I think that Nintendo has pretty much milked the public for all that they can.


About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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