E3 2010 is history, leaving legions of gaming media to catch up on lost sleep and millions of gaming fans to ponder the implications of the show’s big stories. After the nearly fatal two year experiment that was the “small E3,” the Expo has once again resumed its place atop the gaming universe, in no small part by the big news bombs dropped by the Big Three. Microsoft put on a Kinect clinic, Nintendo rolled out 3DS, and Sony showed off Move… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Developers of every size were on hand to promote games of every conceivable genre.
But let’s cut to the chase: the question on everyone’s mind is, who “won” and who “lost?” We give our thoughts below. As always, feel free to give your own take in the comments.
Reggie Fils-Aime. Nintendo made a tactical decision this year to keep Cammie Dunaway off the press conference stage. That proved to be the right call; while Cammie is an enthusiastic Nintendo “blue ocean” spokeswoman, Reggie has natural stage presence and enjoys better chemistry with the E3 male-dominated audience. Reggie last Tuesday was at the very top of his game, whether it was acknowledging the competition’s work (his passing reference to Kinect was pitch-perfect), introducing a jewel-laden Wii lineup, or building up a dramatic crescendo that peaked with the announcement of 3DS. If you didn’t leave the Nintendo press conference ready to take out a home equity loan to fund your Nintendo cravings, you don’t have a soul.
Mickey Mouse. For the last year, whenever I’ve heard about Epic Mickey, I’ve thought, “yeah, whatever… it’s not Kingdom Hearts so I don’t care.” And then I watched Warren Spector’s hands-on demo at the Nintendo press conference and thought, “holy cannoli, this thing is for real.” The paintbrush mechanic alone — which is far more awesome live than it sounded on paper — is worth the price of admission, but Spector’s team is also throwing in branching plot pathways related to moral decisions and a round of RPG and adventure elements. Sign. Me. Up.
Kleptomania. If you enjoy the art and science of highway robbery, you had to love this year’s E3. Microsoft’s demonstration of Kinect simply reaffirmed its place as a shameless rip-off Sony’s PlayStation Eye. Sony’s demonstration of PlayStation Move simply reaffirmed its place as a shameless rip-off of the Wii Remote. Microsoft showed off fitness software that was a shamless rip-off of software already available on Wii. Sony showed off a sports compilation that was a shameless rip-off of Wii Sports. As for Nintendo — they showed off a 3D handheld that doesn’t need glasses and is like nothing on the market today.
3DS. Nintendo hit a home run with 3DS, earning near-unanimous praise from the gaming press. The most common refrain has been “it actually works!” as if media types were skeptical that 3D could be achieved without glasses. Not only can it, but Nintendo didn’t just churn out a DS+3D: the new portable has better graphics, widescreen on the top, better online capabilities, and a much-appreciated analog nub. Factor in a robust game lineup that includes several AAA titles and Nintendo once again reminded the world why it rules the handheld roost.
Sony’s Sorcery. Notwithstanding Playstation Move’s absurd lack of originality (and, no, that stupid glowing ball doesn’t count), I have to give them props for demoing a game worth having. Sorcery uses the Wii Remote — er, Sony Move Controller — to great effect, allowing for the casting of a multitude of spells across various elements. It also has a storybook feel via voiceovers and some great character designs. This one is a ways off yet, but it looks like it could be interesting.
Presenters not named Reggie Fils-Aime. The main corporate face for Microsoft’s press conference was Senior Vice President Don Mattrick. Sony’s primary speaker was, once again, Sony America President Jack Tretton. Mattrick comes off as an arrogant nerd, like Mandark from Dexter’s Laboratory or Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. Tretton has been a fixture in Sony pressers, oscillating between embarassing self-depreciation and unfounded cockiness over a PS3 which hasn’t been all that impressive. I don’t care how “kid-friendly” Nintendo products supposedly are — you put Mattrick and Tretton in a steel cage with Reggie and he’d be doing more than just taking names.
Microsoft Kinect. Microsoft’s demonstration of it’s motion-recognizing camera was worth hating on several levels. It was so long that it crowded out time better served showcasing hardcore titles. Instead, it demoed a vast array of pet simluations and fitness games, none of which any of us probably care about. It was loaded up with irritating fitness experts and ESPN anchors, none of whom probably give a lick about gaming. Its lone hardcore game, Star Wars was an on-rails slasher that unintentionally reminded us of Kinect’s liminations. The notion that Kinect is in any way a threat to Wii is beyond laughable.
The motion control budget. Let’s face it: if you want to waggle your hands (or your whole body) on PS3 or Xbox 360, be prepared to shell out some serious change. GameStop has Kinect pegged at $150, while the Sony Move Controller and subcontroller together (not including the Eye) will set you back $80. This is on top of the consoles themselves, which aren’t exactly pocket change. This also assumes that the purchase of these peripherals will be justified by a wide body of titles, something that may not be safe to assume at all.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This has nothing to do with the game’s potential, its graphics, its interface, or the promise (finally) of an orchestrated soundtrack. Instead, this has everything to do with a cringe-inducing debacle of a demonstration during Nintendo’s press conference. Thanks to interference (IGN’s Craig Harris believes it relates to audience infrared), the game looked broken on stage, with Nintendo Godfather Shigeru Miyamoto unable to perform even rudimentary attacks with any conistancy. Nintendo got a save, thanks in large part to the demo booths available to play the game after the presser, but from a PR standpoint the first impression is the most important, and Zelda failed on that front.
Marcus Rivers. Sony has a new mascot to sell the PSP and PSPGo. Earth to Sony: unless you live in Japan, the PSP doesn’t matter.