Who Won E3? The Big Three Showdown

It’s been the buzz of every social network with members following the expo: who “won” E3? Which of the big three names in gaming – Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony – had the best new releases and the best new tech? Who made the fans the happiest? Who can be crowned the winner? We’ve chatted about it around the office and this is the order that we’ve come up with.

WIN: Nintendo

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.

Why yes, that is incredibly pretty.

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.

PLACE: Microsoft

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.

Jump! For your l- I mean, for 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?

SHOW: Sony

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.

It's a Wiimote...with an idea.

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.

Katherine

Deal of the Day: RCA L32HD32D 32-Inch LCD/DVD Combo HDTV, because you need something to watch the rest of E3 on.

7 Response to Who Won E3? The Big Three Showdown

June 16, 2010 at 3:12 PM

I agree that Nintendo definitely had the biggest success of the big three consoles. They had the biggest showcasing of games, and they had the coolest new tech...but at the same time, backed that up with new games, too. That image showing a couple dozen developers who were all planning to create content for the 3DS was very telling, I think.

I felt like Microsoft was trying too hard to be "casual" and Sony was trying too hard to be "hardcore." Nintendo just talked to the audience as gamers. As usual, Sony prices their stuff too high...they need to find a way to bring down prices if they want more people to buy their consoles. And as for Microsoft's Kinect, I'm not sure how I feel about that. It raises some questions for me...how does the XBox deal with ambient sound and movement? Are people just not supposed to speak or move while watching a movie? What about the bodyscan technology for their fitness games? Does that really work to your advantage? Most 3D scan technology I've seen thusfar has been slow and clunky. I guess we'll have to see.

June 16, 2010 at 5:37 PM

I have not seen a modern movie in 3D yet. For whatever reason, watching films in a movie theater takes a toil on my body to the point where I feel very ill for the rest of the day. Even Princess and the Frog (the last movie I saw) left me feeling sick despite how engrossed I was in the film. I am afraid to attempt a 3D movie for this reason. An HD experience is not possible with my current finances, much less a home 3D experience for four.

Nintendo's presentation struck a chord with me. The Nintendo 3DS would be my first 3D experience beyond theme park shows. I will admit a bias toward the Nintendo franchise, but nostalgia over game plus the chance to experience that in 3D has left me excited. I am eagerly awaiting for a date and price point to be released. This is something I'd camp out for and is perhaps the first time I have gotten excited over the 3D movement.

I have been much less interested in Microsoft and Sony's presentations for a very simple reason. They are out of my price range. I don't own an Xbox 360 or a PS3. The current Xbox 360 is closer, and if my family were to buy another next gen system, that would be the most likely choice. However, we lack a set up to truly appreciate its graphical capabilities. Therefore, I couldn't get excited; it would be excitement for something I couldn't have or meant little to me. The question about bring 3D to the audience is very valid.

June 16, 2010 at 7:28 PM

Man, I'm not sure what to think of the 3DS. The whole 3D thing has started feeling kinda gimmicky to me. Did you hear they're remaking Ocarina of Time for it, though? I might have to get that or something.

Excited for the new Golden Sun game, of course!

June 17, 2010 at 7:49 AM

Hey, I like Twisted Metal. But that might be nostalgia speaking.

June 17, 2010 at 11:27 AM

lynxgriffin: I've read somewhere - I don't remember where or I'd link it - that Sony is only just starting to make a visible profit on the PS3 in its current price bracket and is therefore not likely to lower it anytime soon. They do have a habit of appealing to fans of fantastic graphics and FPs games, which might explain their "hardcore" advertising approach this time around.

In the Microsoft demo, every voice command was prefaced with "Xbox." For example, if you wanted the movie to pause, saying "pause" wouldn't cut it - you'd have to say "Xbox: pause." I'd imagine that would take care of the ambient noise issue. The bodyscan tech presented during the demo of the exercise game looked pretty smooth to me and reacted quickly. The Kinect is still being developed, though - it really is a "we'll see" until launch day.

Avie: 3DTV is beyond the financial capabilities of most households, I think. That's likely why it hasn't caught on thus far, and why the 3DS is so appealing.

The price issue is a big one and something Sony in particular has been struggling with for years. Both Sony and Microsoft are going to need very strong marketing campaigns to sell the Move and the Kinect - especially the latter, given that its $150 price tag puts it in the same price range as the Wii. I can see people asking why they'd buy the controller for one system when they can have an entire console instead. Either way, it looks like we've stepped out of a console war into a controller war.

tafkae: It might be a gimmick, but it's a gimmick people are buying into - if they're willing to pony up the extra six bucks to wear decidedly dorky glasses in a theater, who's to say they won't buy a system that lets them take that technology with them without forcing them to wear the glasses? It may be buying into the gimmick, but it's a clever innovation all the same.

I have heard about the OoT remake! Given Nintendo's fondness for nostalgia this year, I wouldn't be surprised if they sold the 3DS and OoT as a bundle.

Golden Sun has been a long time coming. I'll bet quite a few people are stoked about that one.

spiritsshadow: I'm not saying Twisted Metal was a bad game - I'm saying that it was never a runaway hit and was therefore a strange choice for a show ender, especially since Final Fantasy XIV and Little Big Planet 2 - both additions to wildly successful franchises - were also options for the finale.

June 17, 2010 at 11:11 PM

I knew Nintendo wouldn't disappoint! I honestly didn't think the Skyward Sword demo was that bad, but I'll admit that it didn't leave me with the same feeling of awe and excitement that I had after seeing the Twilight Princess teaser on G4 all those years ago. Plus the promise of all those nostalgic icons in upcoming games is more than enough to make me run to a Gamestop and spend some hard earned cash.

I have to say, like some of the other comments, I just don't know how to feel about this whole "3-D" thing. Is it the inevitable way of the future, or is it simply a gimmick that will go the way of the virtual boy?

I'm still not crazy about the "Wii-mote with an idea" that Microsoft is sporting, but they do have some promising games coming up.

June 22, 2010 at 8:39 AM

Skyward Sword's graphics aren't as impressive as Twilight Princess' were; I think that has more to do with the art style than anything else. Nintendo is definitely cashing in big on the nostalgia factor with this one, and given the excited reactions I've seen around the internet, it looks like it's working.

I'm not sure if 3D is the "way of the future" or not. It is, however, the current craze, and cashing in on it looks to be working for Nintendo and potentially Sony (provided Sony can market to the few who already have 3DTV).

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