E3 2010, if it’s remembered at all, will likely be recalled as being the year everyone followed up on their promises. For Nintendo this meant bringing back old franchises like Golden Sun and Donkey Kong, and for Microsoft and Sony it meant filling out the details of their respective motion controllers, Kinect and Move.
All three – with the possible exception of Microsoft depending on your interpretation – have finally made good on their promise of one to one motion tracking. The new Legend of Zelda game was perhaps the most obvious success story in this regard. You swing your Wiimote and yes, it certainly looks as though Link is swinging his sword the exact same way. There seems to be a small latency issue with Microsoft’s Kinect, as well as some worrying reports about it having problems with seated players
, but for the most part these issues can be overcome with some smart game design.
The downside of Sony’s motion controller was made pretty obvious right then and there in Sony’s press conference. The Move’s wand, Tretton announced, would cost just $50. He then announced, in an appreciably quieter tone, that the Navigation controller would set users back a further $30. Even from my desk at home I could hear the audience’s cheers dramatically subside. $80 for a peripheral many aren’t even convinced by yet? That’s a hard sell if ever I saw one. Even the news that emerged later about users being able to use a standard PS3 controller single-handedly in its place didn’t manage to repair the damage done.
A fair amount of gloating was included in each press conference for good measure. Nintendo as always had the sheer facts to back their claims up. Those recited by Reggie apparently proved that both Nintendo platforms were still going strong despite recent industry buzz to the contrary. Sony chose to go for a more underhand, less classy, but ultimately more funny tact, by bringing out their latest advertising figure Kevin Butler to talk some smack about Microsoft’s Cirque du Soleil event. Conspicuously absent from Sony’s conference was any mention of hard numbers, but aside from a few angry shareholders there’s not likely to be anyone losing sleep over this.
Whilst not faffing about with motion controllers, each of the three managed to find a fair amount of time to talk about games. Microsoft and Sony both chose to play it safe, and fill in the blanks of games that we more or less already know about. Killzone 3, Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3 all received on-stage demonstrations, but nothing mind-blowing was shown.
It seemed that in many respects these two have divided their audience into two parts: those who want ‘innovation’ and those that don’t. For those that want ‘innovation’ they showed a wealth of motion controlled games, which, from the sidelines appeared to be providing nothing more than shallow casual experiences, fun – yes, but it’s questionable for how long. The other half, the ‘core’ gamers as we’re now known, were shown exactly what we’ve played before but (sigh) bigger better and more badass. “You like co-op?” they cried, “Here’s co-op for more players!” There was no envelope pushing at E3 by the big three this year, games were either aimed at a casual audience, or at the change-resistant hardcore. Those in the middle were left with little to look forward to.
After a couple of years of meandering banality, Nintendo were finally on form this E3. Alongside the impressive 3DS – which we’re now being told actually works – they managed to show off several unannounced games, the most interesting of which being Kirby’s Epic Yarn, a 2D platformer with buckets of charm, a unique art-style, and some genuinely interesting gameplay ideas. Of the three, Nintendo was the best at walking the tightrope between the new and established gaming markets, though it could be argued that this is only because they’ve had the most practise.
Sony’s show stopper came in the form of the GlaDOS introduced Gabe Newell, who took to the stage to announce a change of heart regarding the PS3. According to him, thanks to the support of Steam, Portal 2 on PS3 would be the best console version of the game. This was a welcome change for PS3 owners, who have until now received something of a raw deal from Valve, with either bad ports, or no games at all being released on their system of choice. Apparently this change of heart has resulted from Sony’s much less draconian attitude to DLC on their system compared with Microsoft, which is very important to Valve considering their habit of releasing free downloadable content. Unfortunately no mention was made of the game that has benefited most from this, Team Fortress 2, which could now find a happy home on the console.
The award for most conspicuously absent game has to go to The Last Guardian, which didn’t even get mentioned by Sony. After an incredibly debut trailer was shown at last year’s E3, many were certain we’d see the game in a playable form this year. Unfortunately many came away from the event disappointed.
It almost seems inevitable that press conferences have become a bit of a mixed bag. In our opinion, there needs to be a competing trade show for mainstream outlets, where companies can show off their games not intended for enthusiast gamers. The alternative, as we’ve seen this year, is an E3 with some very interesting moments, buried within shows that could otherwise take up far less time. Digs at ‘casual’ content aside, it seems there may well be something for everyone to enjoy this holiday, no matter what system they decide to use.