Round Table: Judging the Competition

Have you heard of “Sony” or “Microsoft”? Us neither.

By Lewis Hampson. Posted 06/09/2011 14:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

Judging the Competition round table masthead

After yesterday’s round table, we’re all talked out about Nintendo’s E3 2011 conference. However theirs wasn’t the only press conference this week (although, round here you’d be forgiven for thinking it) as Sony and Microsoft both took to the stage to discuss their gaming plans for the next year. With a flurry of Halo announcements, a slew of games for Kinect, more Uncharted than you could shake a stick at and even the reveal of the PSP’s successor, Vita, there’s plenty to discuss so let’s round table!


Mel Turnquist

 

I think Sony did a great job with theirs. The Vita looks fantastic and I think for the first time, the monopoly that Nintendo has had on handhelds will be given a run for its money. Especially considering the lower price and extra things, Nintendo will surely be on its toes with the 3DS. Their games look to be fantastic as they always seem to be on a visual level. The PS3 has been much maligned recently, but they seem to be getting back out of the ditch from the PSN outage. They had the most to answer for and they delivered well. Hopefully the hardware for the Vita will be as great as advertised and the games will look as good as they do there.

XBox wasn’t as memorable, in my opinion. While there was a good lineup of their usual franchise games, there was almost as much focus on the Kinect gaming. Since a good chunk of gamers believe that motion gaming is the devil (well, it’s not but it can be if implemented too much), it may not have been taken too well. The thing about Microsoft wasn’t that it was no good, it was just that it wasn’t really eye–popping or worthy of myself thinking “Well I’m gonna go out and buy myself an Xbox now!”

Honestly, all of the big three (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) did great, all things considered.


M. Noah Ward

 

I could leave this at “Mel’s right, next story,” but that’s too easy. I feel Sony did the best job in the press conference circus, with Nintendo second and Microsoft third. As Mel noted, Sony had a huge, recent PR fiasco to address, not to mention a responsibility to make PS Vita appealing while also justifying current and potential PS3 customers’ investments. Really, nothing was short–shrifted. Great first party exclusives were explored in depth, scores of others were touched on, and when multi-platform games were brought up, it was usually to highlight their exclusive content that wouldn’t be available elsewhere.

It also doesn’t hurt that PS Vita’s a very attractive, powerful machine, and the once “too expensive” price point of $250 (that’s what I thought when PSP launched) strangely seems appealing, given 3DS is sitting at the same price tag. The presentation was almost enough to make me reconsider if I should get a Vita before I get a 3DS, but then I remembered how many fantastic exclusives are guaranteed for 3DS, whereas Vita has a few sharp looking titles and a nebulous promise of “every other developer making something, too.” Yeah, think I’m going to wait and see on that one, Mr. Tretton.

Microsoft’s presentation, as I said to my cohorts here, was not 15 minutes of “Ta-da! Pac-Man Vs.!” or “Ta-da! Wii Music!” Though there were some groan-worthy moments and a determined (some may say desperate) attempt to justify Kinect as a hardcore peripheral, this was not the kind of exclusive content that made Sony’s show as appealing. That’s partly because access to Kinect functionality commands a $150 entry ticket (if you haven’t purchased it already) and uncertainty that what is Kinect-specific is going to be well-executed or something you’d want to come back to again and again.

If you’re wondering, I put Nintendo second to Sony because the conference, while chockful of hardware and games information and fewer charts and sound bytes, was still incomplete in several respects. The complete blind eye given to any upcoming Wii and DS content (Skyward Sword aside), the halfhearted address to third party 3DS titles (after last year’s trumpeting that 3DS was all about third parties), and the completely awkward juxtaposition of presenting Wii U as both hardcore and casual (in every respect, from name to design to games) did not confidently sell the machine. And apparently, investors agreed.


Adam Sorice

 

While they would never admit to it, I really think that Microsoft and Sony were both trying to market themselves in the mould of Nintendo this year. Obviously the industry’s been moving towards the wider casual market for years but what I mean is how they pushed their key content. If you were to some up Microsoft’s conference in a few words what would they be? Halo and Kinect. (Or if you’re Evan, disturbing and scary.) For Sony? Uncharted and Vita. A few years ago, these guys would have gone to the ends of the Earth to argue that no franchise was bigger than the strength of the console but now both Sony and Microsoft are piggybacking those consoles on key franchises and fan loyalty over unique design or sheer power. It’s completely a Nintendo strategy, excite gamers with what they love instead of blowing the roof off with something brand new. Sure, the Big N brought five Zelda universe games and seven Mario universe games to E3 but those franchise are both over 25 years old. Sony and Microsoft are both leaning very heavily on series which simply don’t have that pedigree yet and it may just burnout fanbases in the long run.

Outside of franchise-whoring, this E3’s big push was on hardware. Even if Wii U undeniably stole the show, Microsoft were overtly keen to strap Kinect to everything and its granny while Sony made a strong showing of their PSP Vita. Whether they’re both going after the casual crowd or not is a different argument but it’s safe to say that both these products are squarely aiming for a cut of Nintendo’s market share. Kinect seeks to appeal to not only the casual crowd but the demi-hardcore, people who like solid game experiences but like to see new things, people who aren’t purists. Microsoft thinks that a Fable on-rails equates to the way Super Mario Galaxy used the Wii remote and nunchuk over a conventional controller but I sense they’re way off based with that theory. Kinect has run out of rope very quickly and its simply down to the lack of precision control available. If the peripheral even had a palm controller with a couple of buttons on it then the things that could be done with it could expand dramatically but as it stands, it’s dead in the water.

As for Vita, this certainly poses more of a challenge for Nintendo. That competitive pricing of Vita’s Wi-Fi model at $249 (head to head with the 3DS) shows that Sony have learned a thing or two from their first bout with Nintendo, despite the fact they lost badly. Sure, the PSP wasn’t a colossal failure but outside Japan it was pumelled. (And inside Japan, it had Monster Hunter propping it up and nothing more.) The 3DS may not have had the best start to its life but Nintendo are still streets ahead when you realise that the only thing holding people back from buying 3DS is the high price and relatively absent line-up of quality titles. Regardless of current market status, the 3DS was built on the power of the 3D graphics and that is something that is going to pull people in sooner or later, regardless of price. Sony may have a strong setup going but it takes more than a shaky start to crush the company that made the Game Boy.


Smith Stuart

 

Am I the only one who sees Kinect as a creative failure? The limitations it presents to gameplay are unbelievable, and I can see kids getting tired of “games” like Kinectimals within 15 minutes. The inability to move forward without doing some idiotic body motion (like taking a squat on the john) makes it one of the stupidest, most prepubescent peripherals in all of gaming history. It’s just one big, hype-induced gimmick. I know you could say similarly of the Wii Remote, but as far as I remember Nintendo never marketed it as the “next stage of human evolution” like Microsoft did with Kinect. Just to let MS know, that statement comes with some serious gravity that it will never fulfill.

By the way, I find it quite interesting that Halo 4 is scheduled for a “Holiday 2012” release on Xbox 360. I thought that was about the same time the next Microsoft console was expected to launch, y’know, alongside Wii U; but this announcement makes it seem like Microsoft do not plan on a new console for quite some time. Then again, we could’ve said similarly of Twilight Princess, I guess.

As for Sony, I really couldn’t care less about its announcements. A substantial chunk of the PS3 games advertised during the show were stereotypical first-person shooters/war games (go figure) and Vita, like its predecessor, doesn’t have one title even in its forecast lineup that would reel me into purchasing it.

At the end of the first day I was left wondering if Nintendo’s competitors will ever innovate anything this side of Gameland. Without high-tech graphics and resolution, Sony and Microsoft have nothing going for me. And since Nintendo is looking to trod over into that territory with Wii U come 2012, they may not even have that anymore.


Joshua Johnston

 

I agree with Smith — Kinect is, in my opinion, a highly limited piece of tech that has limited application. I had already felt that way just watching the initial Microsoft videos, but playing Kinect earlier this year confirmed my suspicions; It is an amped up version of the EyeToy and its applications in games is very limited. With that as context, I couldn’t get very excited about much of anything Kinect-related that MS showed; all the Mass Effect and Star Wars bits seem limited and I would bet a fair amount of money that in two years Microsoft won’t have much to say about camera-based tech.

Sony, on the other hand, did a better job than I expected. They apologized profusely, they promoted lots of games, and their introduction to Vita was solid. Years ago a former Dojo staffer told me that PS3 would eventually become the big player in consoles and I disagreed. I think that time has shown him to be more right than I was, and the robust library of upcoming games for the system emphasizes that. Clearly Wii U is coming out just in the nick of time.


Andy Hoover

 

I’ll start out with the positive and give Sony some much deserved respect. PS3’s lineup of games is quite strong, and while I agree that it is a bit shooter heavy, Starhawk‘s “drop buildings from the sky” mechanic looks like it will add some nice tactical options, Dust 514‘s integration with the ridiculously complex world of Eve Online could be promising, and Uncharted 3 promises to deliver even more of what has made that series so amazing. And then of course there is Vita, and I am quite pleased with what I saw. Ideally, Sony would have shown off a greater selection of games for the new handheld, but the price point was much better than I was expecting and, once again, I am always happy to have more Uncharted.

Now it’s time to get negative.

Microsoft… I kind of understand what they are going for, but I definitely don’t think E3 is the time or place. Kinect has been a big hit for Microsoft so it makes sense that they would be expanding its game library, but the serious gamers who are the primary audience at E3 aren’t as interested. Disney and Sesame Street games make perfect sense for Kinect and actually looked pretty good for their target audience of younger kids. However, their attempt to push Kinect into core games ranges from the mildly interesting (Mass Effect) to the downright confusing (a Fable rail shooter?) and to top it all off I can’t help but wonder if there really is a demand for this content. Just to throw them a bone, I will say that I am looking forward to Halo Anniversary and I think a 2012 release for Halo 4 makes perfect sense, because it sets up Halo 5 to be released in 2014, right alongside Microsoft’s next Xbox.


Lewis Hampson

First up, we had Microsoft’s Press conference on Monday morning to kick it all off. For me it was almost exactly what I was expecting. Focusing mainly on casual games and gamers, Microsoft took the batten from Nintendo’s dire 2009 showing and brought it bang up to date… in HD! Complete with awkward–to–watch stage performances and all. As for games (I mean real games) nothing was announced that everyone didn’t know about, or expect. Halo without Bungie should be an interesting one to watch, but Holiday season 2012 is a long way off for gamers clamouring for more Master Chief action.

Of course Microsoft spent the majority of time focusing on Kinect with core games like Mass Effect 3 being shown off using Kinect voice command. Surely the free headset bundled with every 360 could do the same thing? Why is there a need to convince core gamers that Kinect is necessary for them? 360 owners who play Gears of War will not take to tacked on Kinect controls for games they will happily play with a standard controller, they neither want it nor need it. Microsft have sold millions of Kinects to the casual crowd, and that is where the market will always stay. Like I say, it reminds me of past Nintendo E3 press conferences when they were in the midst of motion control hype, and that is not a good thing for gamers like you and me.

Sony’s press conference (whilst by no means jaw dropping) was a distinct step up from Microsoft’s efforts, and offered varied exclusive content for PS3, as well as the sweet price point confirmed for Vita. Uncharted 3 looked great in the demo and cross platform play with PC is always a nice feature that should be included in more games. PS Move was not heavily featured, and at the same time not dismissed. This (like Kinect) is the casual gamers section and Sony offered no surprises in terms of content for their Wii—like controller. Of course the big focus for Sony had to be their new portable, and by my reckoning they may just have Nintendo a little worried. Competitive pricing, great games and exclusive content (Cole in Tekken X Street Fighter) can all add up and equal trouble for Nintendo’s fledgling handheld.

The PSN debacle was addressed in the correct manor with Sony then simply getting down to the business of games. 3D was again heavily pushed as were PS branded TV sets, and whilst they were admittedly reasonably priced, I still feel 3D with glasses is a technology that will never quite get off the launch pad before another advancement takes it place (think Mini—Disk and MP3) For me this E3 was by no means a classic. There was not one moment when my jaw dropped in amazement at what I was seeing (Nintendo included). There was no major wow factor for me, Microsoft seemingly abandoned the crowd that made their system such a success and Sony continued to plod along, safe in the knowledge that they had new hardware to share, with no real emphasis on games (where was Last Guardian, where is Agent!) Maybe I expected too much but it seems that this generation is winding down, putting on its slippers and reaching for its pipe ready for the new boys to take over in a year or two. We shall have to wait and see, but E3 2011 will go down in my books, as a bit of a false dawn in terms of any real revolution for the industry.


So you’ve read our fan boy drenched ramblings unbiased views on the wider gaming industry, now it’s your turn. What did you think of Sony and Microsoft’s presence at E3 2011? Let us know in the comments.

2 Responses to “Round Table: Judging the Competition”

  • 1358 points
    xeacons says...

    Well, I still say Nintendo stole the show. Now regardless of how the non-gaming stockholders are seeing this, let’s take this from a gamer’s point of view. We understand games, and, not to mention we’ve been listening to what rumors have been flying around about Project Cafe-now-turned-Wii U all turns out to be true, the conference didn’t leave us as much in the dark about the system as it might have the casual crowd.

    Sony’s on the other hand, was a close second. Mel does have a point that, with sorry sales, and a 3G competitor, Nintendo might see a worthy challenge to it’s reign on the portable market.

    Thumb up 0
  • 162 points
    LadyMushroom says...

    Vita is a great machine at a great price (yes, I am a Nintendo fangirl, and I won’t be buying one). Expect a 3DS price drop around the time Vita comes out. I’m hoping this also pressures Nintendo into releasing WiiU at a very competitive price!

    Thumb up 0

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