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E3 2011 Recap - Conference Thoughts + Who Won [roundtable]
 
As of Tuesday, June 7th at 10:30 AM Pacific, all Press Conferences of 2011's Electronic Entertainment Expo are over. Of course, we'll be seeing tons of game demos and interviews starting there, and continuing all through Wednesday and Thursday, but we already know all the major announcements, reveals and games we can look forward to. So, with that information in mind, join me in my E3 2011 Recap, in which I'll be giving my personal thoughts of the show, entailing my in-depth analysis of all three major Press Conferences (sorry for discriminating, Ubisoft and EA, it's just that... well, yes, you are less important), and ending off with a conclusion saying who won and why. I hope you enjoy!

Microsoft's Conference

E3 kicked off with Microsoft's press conference at 9:30 AM Pacific on Monday. Overall, not only was I not impressed, but I was also disappointed and worried with what Microsoft continues to choose to focus on, a trend that started at last year's E3 and seems to continue. In fact, my impression of this year's show is pretty much the same as last year's. There were some cool games I already knew are coming out, and I already know are cool; like Gears of War 3, Mass Effect 3, Halo: Combat Evolved HD, Tomb Raider, and Forza 4. During the last 10 seconds of the show, the spotlight was taken by a Halo 4 Teaser, which, like all teasers, revealed absolutely nothing except the announcement of the game. Which was smoothly ruined earlier in the morning. All that took up 15, maybe 20 minutes of the show. Everything else was Kinect and software which supports it.

You can't floor an audience with this.

At last year's conference, I was excited to learn about Kinect's awesome-sounding technology, only to be later disappointed by the games available for it, such as Kinect Adventures, Kinect Sports and Kinectimals. Therefore this year, going in, I expected Microsoft to show off more interesting software, which caters to the core gamer a bit more, especially considering the feedback they got last year. What I ultimately got was, the reveal of awesome features like the ability to scan-in any object and have the peripheral recognize it flawlessly, and the ability to draw in 3D. Awesome! And then... on-rails Fable, on-rails Star Wars, Sesame Street and Disney (also on-rails, by the way). Does that make me want to buy Kinect, which I still haven't? No. Is that enough to satisfy a hardcore audience at E3? Definitely not. Perhaps Microsoft was blinded by the numbers moved by their casual software last year, but even then, Kinect's potential is going to waste.

Sony's Conference

Also on monday, at 5 PM Pacific, after EA's and Ubisoft's Conferences, came Sony's showing. I already knew before going in that Sony's Next-Generation Portable was going to be talked about in detail, so coming off of Microsoft's Conference, I was willing to bet my house Sony's would be better. As expected, it was. After a brief apology about the PSN fiasco (which was handled well, I thought), Sony showed some PS3 games. Resistance 3, Starhawk, Uncharted 3, among others. What initially struck me as odd is that almost the entirety of their lineup supported 3D gameplay; not only that, but they made a big deal out of it. I was thinking, "How can you make such a big emphasis on 3D when only a small portion of the market owns a 3D-capable TV as of today?". Apparently they thought about that too (which is not surprising, it doesn't take a genius), because they announced a 24" 3D-Capable Monitor from the Playstation brand, which comes bundled with a pair of 3D glasses and Resistance 3 for $499. It's a good deal.

They also showed a few Move games. They announced Bioshock: Infinite (which looks awesome) will be supporting it. NBA 2K12 was there, which looked alright, but the real surprise for me was Medieval Moves. This is a game developed from the ground-up to take advantage of Move, and it actually looked fun. There's a variety of weapons you can use in the game, and they change in the fly depending on the gesture you make. No weapon select screen is needed. There's also puzzle-solving, and of course, combat with enough variety for a demo. It looked all-around good, and aside from that, I liked that a lot of more hardcore-oriented games are supporting Move as an option. Emphasis on option. That's how you do it. Not with Disneyland Adventures: On-Rails Flying Edition.

And also, of course, we were treated to Sony's new portable system, now officially called the Playstation Vita. As we already knew, the system features a touch screen and a rear touch pannel, not to mention Wi-Fi and 3G. They announced a lot of Playstation 3 favorites are coming to Vita, like LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted, and they looked like fun. They also announced the system will retail for $249, and $299 for the 3G-enabled model, which is a great price point and actually raises a threat for Nintendo's 3DS. Unfortunately, it won't be out this year. My only gripe with the system (and it may prove to not be one as the future draws nearer) is most of the games they showed looked like console games on a handheld. I think handheld gaming is different from home gaming, therefore requires different types of software. But they still looked fun.

Sony's new handheld: The Playstation Vita.

Overall, Sony delivered. There weren't major "wow" moments, but it was more than enough to satisfy fans, and get new people to jump in on the Playstation brand. Can't wait to hear about more Vita games (Where's LocoRocco Vita where you tilt the screen? Seriously).

Nintendo's Conference

Finally, on Tuesday at 9 AM Pacific, Nintendo took the stage. As was the case with Sony, we knew beforehand Nintendo had the showing of a new system under its belt: the successor to the Wii, which was known as "Project Cafe" until today, when it became known by its official name: Wii U. Doesn't sound much dumber than Wii, if you ask me. The controller was confirmed to have a 6.2" screen, which will be able to play Wii U games, via a wireless signal received from the system itself. This wireless signal allows for games to be played without using a TV (assuming you are near the system for the wireless to work, of course. This is not a handheld system), or to play games that utilize both the TV screen and the controller screen together in unique ways. The system is also fully backwards compatible with Wii software and controllers. We saw some concepts of these games, and they looked interesting to say the least. It's also possible to browse the web on the touch screen, and share whatever you desire with the big screen. It's a neat idea, and I'm sure there are tons of things it can do we don't know about, and more even Nintendo doesn't know about. The controller also has a camera, a gyroscope, two sliders, etc. It basically looks like a 3DS sans a top screen, 3D and with one extra slider. No real games were shown, aside from a Lego game (what?), a new Super Smash Bros was announced which will also come out on 3DS (YES), and a New New Super Mario Bros. Nothing too concrete, though.

Nintendo's Wii U. Above: System. Below: Controller.

Half the show was given to the Wii U. The 3DS stole the spotlight for the remainder of it. Tons of games were shown, some previously unknown, and all complete with new trailers (though some of those absent from the conference itself) - Paper Mario 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Ocarina of Time 3D, Mario Kart 3D, Star Fox 64 3D, Super Mario 3D, and, the big surprise - Luigi's Mansion 2. It was good, and most of them will release this year, which is definitely nice.

The beginning of the show addressed Zelda's 25th Anniversary. Basically, to celebrate, neat Zelda items will come out throughout the year. Ocarina of Time 3D in September, Zelda Four Swords for free on 3DS, Zelda: Link's Awakening on the eShop today, two music CD's (Ocarina of Time 3D's Soundtrack, and an orchestral CD with music from the entire series, based on live performances that will be happening in all major regions throughout the year), and finally, Skyward Sword on Wii this holiday season. Much better than the mediocre celebration Mario got for his 25th Anniversary.

Overall, Nintendo delivered and then some. The only problem (though it's a significant one) I had was that Wii U doesn't come out until around November of 2012. And they showed one (I repeat, ONE) Wii game at the conference, and that's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which thankfully comes out this holiday season. We know about a couple others (Kirby Wii being the most interesting), but they didn't mention them at the show. The 3DS is nice, but a handheld system and Zelda can't sustain Nintendo for two entire years (you have to remember nothing very interesting has released on Wii since November of last year). I sure hope there's more announcements coming for Wii. Even so, it was a nice showing.

So...

Who Won?

This is no real surprise, but it's a big toss-up between Sony and Nintendo for me. Sony showed some awesome stuff, with no huge setbacks, but nothing insanely impressive. Nintendo actually wowed me a bit with the Wii U and what they're thinking about doing with the controller, and the 3DS line-up for this year alone looks very nice. But there's far too little for console gamers until fall of next year. But, after much consideration, I have to give it to...

NINTENDO

Even though I'm a huge fan of the company, I was as objective as possible (I do realize I can't be entirely so) when deciding this. The fact of the matter is, Nintendo's killer software wins once again for me. Don't get me wrong, Sony's games look nice, even Microsoft had some potential killer apps in there, but Nintendo really came through showing an impressive line-up for 3DS in 2011, and laying the groundwork for amazing Wii U titles (the huge third party support shown for that definitely helps). So, just like last year, The Big N does it again for me in 2011.

I know it's common place for writers to say this at the end of articles, but I mean it: I'd love to see your comments regarding the winner for you, and whether you agree or disagree with my comments. Thanks!

Bonus: Zelda for Wii U.

Note: This article was also posted on PK Gaming.

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Posted: 06/08/11, 03:33:49  - Edited by 
 on: 06/08/11, 05:04:28
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Sony or Nintendo. Probably Nintendo though. They coulda easily, EASILY swallowed and shat out E3 if they had showed what they should have; an actual game/tech demonstration showing what the thing can do with the controller and the new tech in tandem. Mario, Zelda, anything.

That was a moronic mistake by Nintendo IMHO.
Posted: 06/08/11, 03:53:15  - Edited by 
 on: 06/08/11, 03:53:56
It's funny, because I own a Wii and a 360 and never really got into Sony's products. Yet...

Sony had the best press conference of the three.

I have it scored:

Sony: B
Nintendo: C-
Microsoft: D

None of the three hit a home run this year. Sony had the best combination of games being shown, big announcements, and a lack of embarrassing themselves.

That's really the only difference between Nintendo and Microsoft this year. Nintendo didn't do anything to embarrass themselves, but they didn't really make the splash that they could have; as a fan of Nintendo for a long time, I imagine that a lot of that was by choice, which is too bad. The press conference itself just wasn't very good or interesting, either. Aside from the 3DS section in the middle, it was too much talking and hand-waving, not enough games.

Microsoft just didn't have a very good show at all. They did more than Nintendo in the sense that they showed tangible games, but much of what they showed just fell flat, if not crashed and burned. The "casual" Kinect games I probably would have skipped anyways, but the core implementations of it -- Fable and Star Trek -- looked embarrassingly bad. The only good implementations of Kinect in "core" games shown at Microsoft's show was limited to essentially a menu in Ghost Recon, and the use of voice in ME.

Sony's show was the only one that was consistently strong from beginning to end. They didn't waste time dilly-dallying with orchestras playing over old games, or repeating stuff that they just showed in sizzle reels. They showed a lot of software and cut down on the BS, and though I wasn't in to every game they showed, I give them credit for putting on the best actual show of the three, and the only show targeted towards the audience (live, on TV and on the web). Nintendo and Microsoft did not really deliver in this regard. It's where I thought Nintendo went wrong with terrible shows in 2008 and 2009, where the majority of both shows did not resonate with those that were watching. Last year, they rebounded with a show that focused on games, but unfortunately they didn't continue with that this year.

EDIT:

Damn, that Zelda picture is hot, though. Might be my new wallpaper shortly...
Posted: 06/08/11, 03:57:07  - Edited by 
 on: 06/08/11, 04:10:17
In term of amazing products available this year:

1. Sony
2. Nintendo
3. Microsoft

In term of unbelievable potential to kick ass next year:

1. Nintendo
2. Sony
3. Microsoft

In terms of my overall "OMG" excitement levels while watching E3 this year:

1. Nintendo
2. Sony
3. Watching my paint dry
4. Microsoft
Posted: 06/08/11, 04:00:43
Sony won this year IMO.

Nintendo simply did not show enough tangible games, although I realize that all of their offerings for Wii U are probably not in a state to be demoed right now. I think they were simply handcuffed by being in a transitional period between generations. They still could have pushed more 3DS software I think, gave the 3rd party efforts more than just a sizzle reel.
Posted: 06/08/11, 04:03:42
For me the NGP, err... Vita, stole the show, that's one sweet piece of kit, and at a very reasonable price considering just how damned powerful it is and how gorgeous that OLED screen is.

Nintendo did pretty good too, lots of cool 3DS games, including Luigi's Mansion! The Wii U is pretty neat too, but like others have said, we haven't even seen one actual game yet. I need to know a lot more information about it before I'm sold.
Posted: 06/08/11, 04:08:16
Sony's conference was the best paced and balanced, although they had too many people on stage who were clearly uncomfortable talking to large crowds.

Microsoft had some big problems. Specifically Star Wars Kinect.

Nintendo tried to march to the beat of its own drum while appeasing the mass - and these two things usually don't work together. Nintendo did their best to explain the WiiU, but there was still an air of secrecy and that is what muddled the entire conference and why people were confused. So they couldn't just ignore WiiU, because there would be a mass riot, but they weren't backing down on their own philosophy, which is keeping things secret for as long as possible. They wanted to highlight what they wanted to highlight, and that wasn't exactly the same thing the press (us) wanted them to highlight.

I will say, though, the idea Nintendo presented with WiiU has me extremely excited - much like the Wii revelation - even though their presentation of that idea was flat. They would be the clear winner if they would have showcased some Wii games, like Kirby. And what about Pikmin 3? Has that been put on the backburner?

It's a close call between Sony and Nintendo. Personally I give the edge to Nintendo.
Posted: 06/08/11, 04:12:20  - Edited by 
 on: 06/08/11, 04:14:07
cusideabelincoln said:
Sony's conference was the best paced and balanced, although they had too many people on stage who were clearly uncomfortable talking to large crowds.

Yeah, that's true. It seemed like some of the mics were on before they were supposed to, and before that one speaker (who was clearly nervous) came on, at least on TV it sounded like one of the mics picked up someone saying "You HAVE to go out there!"
Posted: 06/08/11, 04:15:28
i didn't know I wanted HD so bad until Nintendo finally got off their asses and brought it.

But in general, I concur on your sentiments in that order GE.
Posted: 06/08/11, 04:24:09
- Sony gets my vote. Between the games and hardware, I walked away from their conference thinking, "I've GOT to own their products." I pre-ordered a $249 Vita on Amazon today.

- EA comes next in they just brought the heat with game after game after game. It was pretty incredible.

- Nintendo is 3rd. 3DS software looked great. I was anticipating Cafe/Wii U reveal the most from E3, but oddly it wound up being a pretty big letdown with its lack of solid information. Not sold on Wii U until I get more concrete info.

- Microsoft comes in last for me. Funny as it's my favorite console this gen but the new Kinect focus and messaging just isn't for me (and I was actually hoping the promise of "core" Kinect games would deliver).

EDIT:

Oh, and this too:

deathly_hallows said:
For me the NGP, err... Vita, stole the show, that's one sweet piece of kit, and at a very reasonable price considering just how damned powerful it is and how gorgeous that OLED screen is.
Posted: 06/08/11, 04:28:13  - Edited by 
 on: 06/08/11, 04:30:14
Eh, it is hard deciding between Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft completely failed but Sony amazed me with the Vita (especially the price) and the 2012 PS3 list while Nintendo amazed me with finally third party support with all the Nintendo games on a console, all in HD and the 3DS's lineup this year...

I'd say Nintendo by a little bit, as Sony's Vita at first glance is good, but upon thinking about it, all the games look very "console-like" in gameplay and in design. $250 is a great price, but why would I buy a Vita when I get just get a PS3 for $50 more. I play handhelds for handheld experiences, not console experiences.

I'll wait and see as time goes. Will the Vita just get console ports of games like IMO was shown at E3 this year? Or will it get actual original, compelling software that draws me into handhelds. The potential is there. The rear touch-screen really can give the Vita the handheld experience that I personally am looking for.
Posted: 06/08/11, 05:03:01  - Edited by 
 on: 06/08/11, 05:04:55
I only watched Nintendo's conference, but I'm really excited about the new system. I'm a little disappointed that it doesn't seem like stuff like Chase Mii or Battle Mii will come out; those games definitely look fun enough that I'd want to have them to play. I'm also glad that there will be a decent selection of third-party multiplatform games on the system. While I don't really care about any of the games they showed off, it brings me hope for the future of the system.


I am disappointed though that the Wii has nothing on the horizon aside from Zelda and Kirby and stuff. I want Xenoblade and The Last Story and Zangeki no Reginleiv and etc.
Posted: 06/08/11, 06:27:52
Nice summary of all 3 conferences, GE. Maybe I should watch Sony and Microsoft's conference for comparison, but I will say Nintendo had an outstanding showing.

And man, that last image of Zelda running on Wii U...
Posted: 06/08/11, 20:40:01
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