Thoughts on this year’s show.

Well as we wind down from the huge annual E3 event I suppose I should talk a little bit about it here before it becomes old news, and nobody cares. This year pretty much confirmed my thoughts going in a couple of weeks ago. E3 2013’s biggest focus was on the DRM schemes Microsoft imposed upon anyone buying it’s new Xbox One, and whether or not it’s competition at Sony,  or Nintendo would be doing the same sort of thing. The conventional wisdom seemed to be that Sony would have used something similar. Or done something not as far reaching, yet still somewhat restrictive. But that wasn’t the case. For the five of you stumbling upon my blog, who didn’t catch any of this stuff the basic breakdowns were:

  • Microsoft confirmed gamers’ worst fears about DRM schemes in it’s new Xbox One. Buyers should know the console will have mandatory installs of games to the hard disk, and will be tied to an account. As such it limits what you can do with the game when you’re done with it.  You can give it away to someone on Live (Provided you’ve been online friends for a month or more). You can trade it in at an authorized reseller provided the publisher of the game will allow you to.  Microsoft has set up an infrastructure where these retailers will be able to de-authenticate traded titles publishers decide have tradable licenses. The console has to have an internet connection to be able to connect to a server once a day. If it can’t you won’t be able to use the system properly until it can.
  • In it’s defense Microsoft showed off games for the Xbox One as promised. There were teasers for  a new Halo, a new Killer Instinct (Which has both a full price sku, and a F2P micro transaction per character model), a new Forza, along with several 3rd party games. The biggest being a timed exclusive of EA’s Titanfall. This game actually looks like a system seller. But it remains to be seen if these games can make people forget about all of the XB1’s many restrictions enough to want to buy them. From my own anecdotal experiences talking with people yesterday, my gut says no. Unscientific to be sure, and I could indeed be quite wrong. But I don’t see it.  Especially with gaffes like this one.

The other big news was the Playstation 4, and Sony’s commitment to not do what Microsoft is doing in terms of a DRM scheme.

  • Sony showed the rest of the system specs. It too has a 500GB hard disk. There is a camera available, but it will be sold separately.
  • The system will not have extensive built in DRM as once feared. Playstation 4 has the same situation Playstation 3 had. Players can share games,  resell games, lend games the way they always have. The system also does not force players to connect to the internet once a day the way the Xbox One does. Suffice to say, most everyone at E3, and on the internet sighed relief upon this news.
  • Sony also showed off a large number of games. Killzone, Gran Turismo, and Infamous entries were the big Sony games, but everyone seemed most excited to see a new Kingdom Hearts. Many of the other trailers were multiplatform games.
  • But the biggest two announcements from Sony were good, and bad. The bad news for many is that to play online you are now required to pay for PSN+. Granted, many were already paying it, and a lot of players skipping the Xbox One who had the Xbox 360 this time around are already used to it. Still, paying extra for something that used to be commonplace will certainly be a sting to some. The good news though is that the console is going to cost $399.99. This puts Sony in a very competitive position because they’re making PS4 $100 less than XB1, and a scant $50 more than the Wii-U.

Yesterday Nintendo brought out it’s Nintendo Direct announcements from E3, and while unconventional it may prove to work out for the company.

  • Nintendo partnered with Best Buy to have E3 Wii-U, and 3DS stations set up in select locations during E3 so that the public could actually try some of the games out. E3 is supposed to be an event journalists, and those in the industry can get into (Yes I know some folks find ways to get in, but it’s really not for them). So it really is a great way for them to build rapport. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year all 3 vendors do this. If fans like a hands on demo they probably are more apt to buy it. Plus if you can’t go to E3 getting to try a game early is the next best thing.
  • Nintendo’s bombshell this year was part of an otherwise expected announcement. Everyone pretty much expected new entries in key franchises due to a software drought that has stalled Wii-U sales. Among those entries was the new Super Smash Brothers everyone knew was coming. Everyone knew Namco, and Sora were teaming up, and as such there was hype. After all, these are the guys that make Tekken. But nobody expected Capcom’s Blue Bomber to show up as a guest character. Even if I’m wrong, and a couple of people had, they probably didn’t think the announcement would be so spectacular. Two other Nintendo characters were announced as Smash newcomers. The villager from Animal Crossing, and the trainer from Wii Fit. The game will have versions for Wii-U, and 3DS each with different stages.
  • Nintendo showed off some more of it’s first party offerings. An impressive new Mario game called Super Mario 3D World which combines Super Mario 64, Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA), and Super Mario World elements into a really cool 4 player mainline game.  They also showed off Mario Kart 8, the new Xeno game from Monolith, a new Retro Studios take on Donkey Kong Country, Super Luigi U (A standalone expansion pack for New SMB Wii-U), Wind Waker HD, Poke’mon, as well as the exclusive Platinum Games’ Bayonetta 2 (Which will have multiplayer Co-Op), and Wonderful 101
  • Nintendo also showed off a few third party games to quell some of the worries many have that it could be relegated to “Nintendo game” status the way the Wii was for a lot of traditional action game fans who ended up on PS3/360. Some of these included the new Splinter Cell, and the director’s cut of Deus Ex.  This probably won’t quell those worries from what I can tell, but these are looking on par with the other versions for the most part. The graphics gap is nowhere near the gap between the Wii, and the PS3/360. Be that as it may Reggie Fils-aime did tell Game Trailers personality Geoff Keighley  in an interview that Nintendo was trying to build it’s install base for the Wii-U by creating enough fun first party experiences that people will want the system for so that way they can better attract third party publishers.

From my vantage point looking at a lot of things that happened at this year’s trade show, Sony clearly had the most excitement coming out of it’s conference. They went out of their way to put a stark contrast between themselves, and Microsoft in terms of how to go about DRM. Sony listened to the potential customers coming away from Microsoft’s first two reveals, and capitalized on it at E3, gaining a lot of mindshare.  They announced a very competitive price point that a lot of players will respond to. They showed off some big titles. They certainly executed properly.

Nintendo tried to move the ball forward. The E3 directs may have disappointed those who love the typical grandiose that comes with every year’s convention. But in my opinion they did a lot of unconventional things that paid off. Getting kiosks at a retailer was a great move. I know a lot of us who love this hobby dream of experiencing E3 but never will. A lot of us are always looking what’s coming out with a keen eye too. Being able to play Mario Kart 8 a year, and a half before it comes out is a pretty big deal to some of us. Nintendo for all of it’s imperfections did seem to take at least some of the criticism to heart. They showed us a lot of new stuff to play. And even if they don’t get all of their third party ducks in a row, it does seem that the Wii-U will deliver enough unique experiences to supplement those who primarily game elsewhere.

Microsoft did go out of it’s way to show games as promised, but again seemed to really lose mindshare to Sony at this show. It’s too bad too because outside of the bad DRM restrictions, and mandatory once a day check ins, it could contend. The TV stuff isn’t even so bad, and it makes Smart Glass pretty viable. Unfortunately though, as long as the company keeps pushing things to the grindstone it looks like it will be the system for “Microsoft games” much in the way people have criticized Nintendo systems over the last 3 generations. But for far more worrisome reasons.  Microsoft really did make DRM the talk of the show. Most of the interviews you can find on game sites this week ask about DRM to just about everyone. Even after the EA conference, and Ubisoft conference.

I know I didn’t talk about those at all really but they do have some pretty great things coming out. Battlefield 4 does look like it will impress. Tablet users as Generals, does seem at the very least intriguing. New Mirror’s Edge, and New Battlefront probably will deliver. People are stoked for Ubi’s Watch Dogs, Rayman, and Assassin’s Creed. Splinter Cell looks like it might be a return to form. The Division certainly had an interesting trailer.

If I had any major beefs with this year’s show though it would have to be with the lack of news on middle tier games, or under the radar games. I find throughout the year I enjoy these sorts of titles. The week isn’t over yet though so that news my still come once the fervor from the megaton announcements die down a little.

It’s going to be interesting to see where people go when these new consoles arrive. Personally for the time being I’ll likely focus on PC. The major games mostly seem to be hitting the PC so until there are enough exclusives to warrant a system that’s where I’ll continue to play.  That’s not to take away from the three consoles though. Sony has a great piece of tech, Nintendo has a lot of content coming, and for all of it’s faults Microsoft has a capable box. I suspect they’re in for a rude awakening though as I’ve said before the furor over their moves may drive customers to the competition.

At least I’ll be able to buy Rise Of The Triad very soon. If you haven’t heard about this reboot of the classic 1995 cult classic, do check out some of the footage. A lot of buzzworthy information has been trickling out on it these past few conventions like LAN play in addition to typical internet multiplayer. An open non-linear old school single player campaign. Gib effects unseen since Unreal Tournament 2004, and a moddable game. So folks can make new stages, characters, total conversions, you name it. It’s a tall order. But I can’t wait to get it, and see if it delivers on it’s promises.

In any event the event may have been a bit somber going in, but there was still certainly a lot to be excited for.

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