It is done. The media frenzy and orgiastic excitement has died down to a dull roar. It never fails to surprise me how much better the coverage of the conferences becomes with each passing year. This year was one of the most involved ever for those who weren’t able to go. Between Twitter, live streams, live-blogging and myriad other methods of social networking it is possible to experience the whole thing from the comfort of your own home. The disadvantage of this is, in terms of news especially, that knee-jerk reports and one-sided stories are becoming more and more commonplace. So as the gaming population sits back and takes some time to digest the things they’ve seen and heard this week, I have a few observations to make about some of the newsworthy material I read as E3 went on.
My favourite story of the week was the plunge of Nintendo’s share price as a result of the Wii U’s announcement. No one mentioned that a quick glance at the recent history of both Nintendo and Sony’s share prices shows they have been in decline for a while now anyway. And be honest, Sony’s conference didn’t magically make things better in the financial sense, especially when we discover that they’re playing the long game with the Vita and won’t actually be turning a profit for the first few years of sales. Microsoft is a harder one to nail down: their share prices have been up and down for a while now and, once again, being honest; they’ve not really taken any risks this year in terms of hardware. In fact, the Microsoft conference left me feeling that they’re trying to push a lot of gamers into using Kinect. Yes, the demonstrations with voice commands and weapons customisation using the players hands to give an exploded view of his gun are very impressive, ground-breaking even, but once the novelty wears off it risks getting very old pretty quickly. How long before Kinect gamers can be characterised by an unusually hunched gait and a strange tendency to shout commands at household appliances?
What about Nintendo’s new console? Once over the initial confusion about whether it was a new console or just a peripheral for the Wii, the Wii U seems to have underwhelmed the world slightly. First of all, it has a silly name. So did the Wii, though, and that’s got the best sales figures of any of the consoles. Secondly, it’s different. Really different. I think that the success of the Wii U will depend largely on how third party games decide to treat the tablet. Having watched all of the available videos it seems that there might be a temptation to simply use the tablet as the inventory screen or something secondary to gameplay. I have few concerns about first party games, obviously Nintendo will know precisely how they want to innovate and change our relationship with the games we play on a home console and the hardware we use to do so. If other developers put on their thinking caps then there is a great opportunity to use the controller to extend the domain where we play our home consoles from just the living room to, who knows? The next room? The garden? Beyond?! Wii controllers have become a gateway to archery, dance, boxing and much more; the Wii U controller could once again completely change the way we play games. However, if developers refuse to step up to the mark then the technological potential will go to waste and risk leaving gamers cold. Whatever happens, there are a lot of people out there who would kill to experience their favourite Nintendo franchises in full HD.
Speaking of Nintendo’s core franchises, one of them was conspicuous in its absence this week: Metroid. It was incredible to see what’s coming for Mario, Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Zelda, Starfox and even Kid Icarus, but no Metroid. Perhaps Samus is on sabbatical for the moment after Other M. Instead, we get a sequel of one of my favourite GCN games, Luigi’s Mansion. This seems to be the least well-accepted title of the upcoming releases, which is a big shame because the original game was quirky, full of charm, had a decent story and plenty of ghosts to suck up with the trusty Poltergust! Presumably, Luigi will have an upgraded model to cope with the ghosts haunting all the mansions that appear in the game. This is probably the title I’m most excited about, but Nintendo’s 3DS definitely seems to have come out on top this year with a breath-taking number of first party games on the way. I’ve certainly decided I’ll be getting one as soon as I can (especially if I can lay my hands on a flare red one like they have in Japan now!).
The Sony conference was slightly underwhelming, especially given the fact that most of the wow factor was lost through the constant leaking and publishing of information about upcoming releases. The only real surprise was God of War: Origins Collection, and it’s hard to get all fired up over a port from a handheld. The last game I played that was ported from a handheld was Secret Agent Clank and that was horrible. The PlayStation Store does, however, have a lot of interesting titles on the way. I’m a sworn lover of all things PixelJunk; the sheer addictiveness and re-playability of every game they’ve released for the PlayStation so far has caught me hook, line and sinker. Lifelike looks truly weird and hypnotic, the demonstration I saw left me wanting to give it a go. As for Sidescroller, that looks reminiscent of Gravity Crash, another game I enjoyed, but with a large injection of awesome thrown into the mix for good measure. So there’s still hope for Sony, despite a comparatively poor showing.
Now, last week I was rather cynical on the subject of E3, saying it was the first step on the road to disappointment. I don’t want to completely go back on that; there is little doubt in my mind that some of the games being hyped will not live up to expectation. First hands-on impressions of Duke Nukem Forever are not particularly flattering, EA Games’ The Run has a lot to live up to after the stir the gameplay trailer caused and the PS Vita is on the back foot as far as Sony’s reputation for handhelds goes. Yet, there is something fundamentally and inherently exciting about watching the conferences, not really knowing what’s going to happen in the next hour; that feeling of butterflies in your stomach when upon glimpsing the logo of your favourite game. Most important of all, though, is that even in the self-congratulating atmosphere of E3, where everyone is there either to boast how fantastic this game or that console is, or to be told how amazing this game or that console is, there is a sense of something we don’t necessarily get from press releases, previews and all that jazz. There’s the sense that the people involved with making the games are one hundred per cent committed to what they are doing; they love it and are all genuinely pleased and excited to be able to show their opus to the world. It is a world apart from the money-grabbing decision makers and the financial advisors, and that is a good thing. For just a few days the big, faceless companies and corporations give us all a glimpse of the energy and enthusiasm these people have for their jobs.
So as this week draws to a close and the excitement falls away to the more serious discussion and critiquing of E3, spare a moment to celebrate that spirit of unity and love shared by everyone in attendance for video games. I’m glad that even if nothing else, for those few moments as I watched the video for Super Mario 3D on the big screen, I felt like a little boy again.
Video games were a part of Chris's life from the Mega Drive onwards. He has many happy gaming memories, including the first time he collected all the chaos emeralds in Sonic 2, collecting all SSBM's trophies (yes, all of them) and, more recently, collecting far too many platinum trophies on his PlayStation 3. In the real world, he has a degree in French and is currently living in Frankfurt, Germany. Follow him on Twitter @DPrime_Chris
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