This was not a difficult decision to come to. Nintendo’s presentation had everything, from long-awaited announcements to impressive new tech. They played heavily on the ever-important nostalgia factor, that feeling that makes every gamer wish for the Good Old Days When Games Were Awesome, by announcing sequels to, additions to, or remakes of long-loved franchises, including Mario, Kirby, and Metroid, and even going so far in the Wayback Machine as to create sequels to Dragon Quest, Golden Sun, Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye 007, and even Kid Icarus. Their lineup of new games was just as impressive, including Mii Party, a Mario Party-esque game for those not interested in franchises, and the long-awaited Epic Mickey, Disney’s (hopefully) triumphant return to gaming.
Of course, there was the requisite new Zelda game, and while the demo for the new game, subtitled Skyward Sword, was a bit rocky due to wireless interference, the graphics and mechanics were as impressive as ever. We didn’t think Nintendo would be able to follow up Twilight Princess’ sword duel with Ganondorf. If the Skyward Sword preview is accurate, they’ve done all that and more.
Of course, they saved their best for last, debuting their newest piece of technology: the Nintendo 3DS.
Their claim to fame? 3D technology without the use of glasses – something that went completely against the 3D movies and 3D televisions, complete with glasses, being touted as the future of entertainment. Nintendo even went so far as to laugh at the glasses, jokingly referring to them as “fashion-forward” and stating a goal to get rid of them.
While the jokes are fun, it’s the tech that’s important. The 3DS is the size of the DS and the DSi, with the top screen being 3D-capable. This means the Nintendo 3DS can play trailers from 3D movies, handle 3D games with ease, and even take 3D pictures using the dual lenses on the outside of its frame. It also includes a gyro sensor, WiFi connection, and SD card slot, as well as a graphics engine that may well put it ahead of the PSP. In addition, it looks like Nintendo intends to partner with a laundry list of developers in order to have a full line of games at release time, including THQ (racing), Capcom (Resident Evil), and SquareEnix (Kingdom Hearts). Our only big complaint was the fact that we couldn’t see the 3DS being demoed – the small-screen technology on the handheld console didn’t translate to a less advanced big screen. Various gaming bloggers who attended the conference tweeted after their experience with the 3DS, saying the 3D resolution was “fantastic.” While this 3D technology might not have much application beyond entertainment, it’s still incredibly impressive.
With its new technology, nostalgic games, and friendly marketing approach, Nintendo simply blew away the competition.
The Good: Major nostalgia factor, marketing that came across as friendly rather than corporate, the Nintendo 3DS – the only truly new technology from any of the Big Three
The Not-So-Good: Rocky demo for Skyward Sword, a piece de resistance that couldn’t be demoed on a large screen
The Reaction: “Nintendo 3DS” was trending on Twitter for a solid eight hours after the conference ended. No other technology announced at E3 had that many tweets from that many people.
Our Questions: What are the release dates for all these new games? We want something to put on our calendars.
Microsoft had the honor and the enviable position of presenting first, and they gave it everything they had. Their first move was to announce Metal Gear Solid: Rising and Halo Reach, the latest additions to their most popular franchises. Their previews were short-lived, however, as Microsoft made way for its central focus: the motion-capture accessory called Kinect.
I wrote a full review on Monday, but the long and short of the Kinect is, it’s a camera and motion sensor that hooks up to the Xbox 360 and allows the gamer to play games without a controller. Microsoft took the opportunities the technology presents to market its system towards casual gamers, introducing games like Kinectimals (think Nintendogs with tiger cubs) and full-body fitness and dance games. All the gamer had to do was move and their character on screen moved with them – no controllers needed.
Microsoft also showed off the Kinect’s ability to take voice commands on the menu, allowing the user to command anything from Zune to Netflix to the new ESPN channel added for Xbox Live Gold users. They then topped off their conference by introducing a new version of the Xbox 360 – smaller, black, with a 250 GB hard drive and Wifi built in – and giving one to every member of the audience.
The Kinect’s technology has some fantastic potential, even outside of gaming and entertainment. Think of the possibilities if computers, cars, and just about every other piece of technology we use could recognize us with the ease the Kinect does. Unfortunately, Microsoft bombed hard with advertising. The spotlight spent too short of a time on their highly-anticipated games, and the publicity for the Kinect was grating, with live game demos running on entirely too long, played by people trying far too hard to impress us. If Nintendo was a friend recommending a game to you over lunch, Microsoft was that garishly colored noisy pop-up ad that your browser couldn’t quite block.
Microsoft’s technology was impressive, even if it was a bit of an updated “been there, done that.” The Kinect gives the company a strong second place finish.
The Good: The Kinect’s impressive motion-capture capabilities, the addition of voice commands and ESPN, branching out into new markets
The Not-So-Good: Demos were long and annoying, we’ve seen it all before, not nearly enough screen time for MGS and Halo
The Reaction: Mixed – some people loved Kinect, some people couldn’t stand it, and some just couldn’t decide.
Our Questions: Why didn’t Microsoft announce the price for the Kinect? We had to find it from an accidental GameStop leak. Also, has the new 360 fixed the hardware problems that plagued the old one?
Poor Sony. These guys have been behind on the console race ever since Next Gen consoles hit the shelves. While they did have some impressive demos, they had the misfortune of following Nintendo’s conference. Right after Nintendo denounced 3D glasses, Sony handed them out at the door of their conference.
Unlike the other two conferences, Sony started their big reveal off with their tech: the PlayStation Move, a motion-oriented controller with the unfortunate design of a black Wiimote with a yellow clown nose on the end.
The PlayStation Move proved to be an advancement on motion-sensor remote technology: incredibly fine movements were caught and relayed accordingly into the system. The latest Tiger Woods golf game used this perfectly – any slight adjustment of the Move controller adjusted the club, and a good golf swing was required to get the best results from the game. A newer game, Sorcery, also used the Move’s sensitivity to its best advantage, channeling the controller’s flicks and swishes into wand movements to cast spells. Sony then treated the audience to a 3D montage of games to be released with Move technology, including Gran Turismo 5, Kill Zone 3, Mortal Kombat, and the Sly Cooper collection. They also introduced a collaborative game entitled Heroes on the Move and featuring PlayStation’s more successful franchises: Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, and Ratchet and Clank. Heroes on the Move promises to be the Dissidia of the PS3.
The PlayStation Move was the end of Sony’s technological announcements; they followed it up with a list of new releases, sequels, and previews. After promising a full 70 new games for the PSP in the coming year, they announced a paid addition to the Play Station Online network, entitled Play Station Plus. Plus subscribers would gain access to exclusive content and some free games, not unlike Xbox Live’s gold membership.
Sony then moved onto their larger console games, announcing sequels to God of War, Dead Space, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, Gran Turismo, InFamous, and – surprisingly – Portal. The show-stealer was the Little Big Planet 2 demo. True to LBP form, LBP2 allows gamers to customize their characters, including multiple new upgrades, and create any sort of game they want, from RTS to FPS to RPG and far beyond. LBP has added a fantastic array of new features and should have been the final release of the press conference if Sony wanted to go out on a high note.
Instead, Sony ended with the announcement of a sequel to Twisted Metal, a racing/shooter meld that was vaguely successful in its previous incarnations and a rather strange finishing move for a corporation with as much to prove as Sony.
While Sony’s technology also has the potential for application outside of entertainment (think sports training for starters), the overall concept of a motion sensor control has been on the market for over two years now. If Microsoft’s conference was Been There, Done That, Sony’s was Been There, Done That, Bought the T-shirt, Donated It to Goodwill, and Promptly Forgot About It. Retreading old ground has left Sony at the rear of the pack, if only just barely.
The Good: Kill Zone 3, Medal of Honor, Little Big Planet 2, Portal 2, the added sensitivity of the PlayStation Move
The Not-So-Good: Insulting other game corporations during your presentation (really, Sony? Really?), the Been There Done That factor, the lack of anything very new
The Reaction: Also mixed. Fans of FPS and RPGs were delighted. The rest of us were a bit bored.
Our questions: How does Sony plan on bringing 3D to its audience when most households do not own a 3D television? Also, why revive Twisted Metal?
There’s our rundown and our rankings. What do you think? Do you agree with Nintendo’s place at the top? Should Microsoft have dominated? Or were we completely wrong about Sony? Let us know! We’re interested to see your rankings.
Deal of the Day: RCA L32HD32D 32-Inch LCD/DVD Combo HDTV, because you need something to watch the rest of E3 on.