69comments Three Questions After E3
Posted Thu 7th Jun 2012 4:32pm by Ruser Saldana
Some thoughts on the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo
This year at E3, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony were very much battling to take over people’s living rooms. But while they showed some impressive technology and big games, each of their press conferences left me with a question about gaming’s immediate future.
Microsoft and their new SmartGlass application created the biggest buzz at E3. With it, people can, for example, bring up playbooks on an iPad for a game of Madden or stream information on actors to a smartphone while watching a movie. There are other uses for the app - thankfully too as scrolling through a filmography during a movie doesn’t seem like it would be a popular use once the novelty wears off. Also, when holding one controller, I’ve never found myself wanting to hold a second controller for any reason.
I understand others feel differently about SmartGlass, for which I don’t begrudge them. Regardless, it is going to have – at best – limited application for gamers. The Kinect was introduced primarily for gaming but its gaming contributions so far have merely been amusing. In that regard, it would be unrealistic to expect SmartGlass to be more successful than the Kinect (off topic, but I love the contrast of this app with the Kinect. Kinect: don’t use a controller! And now, SmartGlass: use two controllers!). Generally, there’s nothing wrong with the app not being game-centric, but considering the broadening gaming audience and rise of mobile gaming, is the growing emphasis on consoles’ media capabilities a sign that the success of future consoles will depend more on multimedia than on gaming?
Nintendo’s press conference was the most perplexing of the three. We got a glimpse of the long-overdue Pikmin 3 and a new Super Mario Bros. game for the Wii U. But then Nintendo announced a few media-streaming services (e.g., Netflix) and a lineup of Wii U games that people have been playing on the 360 or PS3 for a while now (e.g., Mass Effect 3 and Batman: Arkham City) or will have already played by the time the Wii U launches (e.g., Darksiders II). If one of your major selling points for your next-gen system is that it will have current-gen applications and games, I would argue that you’re doing it wrong.
Nintendo was great in the eight and 16-bit generations, and they have found plenty of financial success with the Wii and their handhelds. But isn’t their present-day image of a prodigious game company almost entirely based on what they did in the 80’s and 90’s? Financial successes aside and with a few exceptions, haven’t Nintendo’s contributions to gaming in the past 10-plus years been surprisingly unremarkable? And is Nintendo’s showing at E3 an ominous sign that the Wii U era is going to be equally unremarkable – at least for those who already have a 360 or PS3?
Sony showed off some of the PS Vita/PS3 remote play features, and it unsurprisingly looked a lot like the Wii U tablet controller and Microsoft's SmartGlass app (I imagine people over at Sega are cursing themselves for playing the controllers-with-screens card 13 years too early). There were also Wonderbooks which were neat, but were they really worth 15 minutes of stage time? Also: will there be an actual game in these Wonderbooks? I really don’t know. Sony could have done themselves a big favor had they skipped the live demo and just announced the first Wonderbook, Book of Spells, and the involvement of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
Gadgets and gimmicks have grown at an alarming rate in the industry, and it appears that Sony is happy to keep the trend going. But at this point, if the crux of a game is going to be highly dependent on a novelty input device, shouldn’t developers stop and re-think the kind of game they’re making?
We have plastic guitars and drums, mics, and DJ tables; Playstation Move, Playstation Eye, and Wii Motion Plus; Microsoft’s Kinect, Nintendo’s Balance Board, and EA Sports Active’s motion sensors. Soon, we’ll have the Wii U’s tablet controllers, Microsoft’s SmartGlass, and Sony’s Wonderbooks. Perhaps Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony should be less concerned about taking over people’s living rooms as it appears they already have.
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