Being on vacation in a land with limited internet access all of last week during E3 was not conducive to staying caught up on the happenings of the worlds most important video game expo. This week, as I catch up on the announcements and coverage I’m finding myself superbly underwhelmed.
None of the press conferences really had the pop of recent years and there was a feeling like the whole industry is in a holding pattern just waiting for the new consoles to be released. The problem with that, is the new consoles aren’t being released. As expected, both Microsoft and Sony were mum on future hardware plans and Nintendo was a disaster for completely different reasons. Lets break this down and discuss the disappointments.
The Microsoft press conference was full of obvious reveals and uninspired features. Sure, Halo 4 looked great, really great, but Gears of War: Judgement was only a teaser and is one of the chief violators in the “let’s just keep making the same games until Xbox 720 comes out” department. Forza Horizon was interesting but it coupled with Fable The Journey only shows the lack of depth in the Microsoft first party stable. Both Black Ops 2 and Dance Central 3 are obvious choices to include in the press conference and Tomb Raider continues to impress.
Let’s talk about Smartglass and the Xbox 360 as a media box. Does Smartglass look interesting? Yes. Is it ground breaking or Wii U crushing? No! It looks more like bonus features a-kin to what you would find on a DVD or more specifically Blu-ray. It adds to the experience but in no way looks like a must have. If that was supposed to be a show stopper, Microsoft greatly over estimated the pull of that tech. A slew of new video content providers were announced during the press conference. Familiar names like Nickelodeon, NBA, ESPN, NHL, Univision and Machinima were said to be providing more stuff for you Xbox to do that is not playing games. I’m going to be honest…I really don’t care at all about streaming video content or extra apps for the 360 and outside of Netflix most users would agree with me.
South Park looked good, and I’m sure Resident Evil fans were foaming at the mouth for RE6 footage, but in the end all of the game announcements were known quantities. The only non-XBLA game that was a new IP was a Nike Kinect Fitness game…I rest my case.
Sony usually thrives on their breathe of strong first party games, and this year, that wasn’t the case. Games like Beyond: Two Souls, The Last of Us and even Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale were highlights. God of War: Ascension was Sony’s Gears of War: Liberation, in that it seems like a game everyone’s willing to play, but no-one’s excited about. A lady assassin in Assassin’s Creed on the Vita and a Call of Duty: Black Ops logo were shown, but nothing too mind blowing looks to be happening on Sony’s tech heavy handheld system. Hate to say I called it, but I called it.
Why Ubisoft, a company with its own press conference gave Sony two different demos in Assassin’s Creed 3 and Far Cry 3, is beyond me and Wonderbook could be the snoozer of the entire E3 week. There was very little talk of the Move, and no mention of 3D. No mention of Sly Cooper 4, or the new Ratchet game. No sign of The Last Guardian, or the lightly teased Irrational Games Vita project. Having even less content than Microsoft shows that Sony’s A-teams have moved on to bigger better games on the PS4, but since the PS4 doesn’t exist yet nothing can be said about any of them.
Oh Nintendo, how badly did you need a homerun at this year’s E3? The 3DS has found its footing, but it took Nintendo’s biggest guns (Super Mario and Mario Kart) to get it there. Keeping the steady stream of good games coming to it is a must. Most of all, E3 2012 should have been the coming out party for the Wii U, Nintendo’s questionable, new, and definitively unproven hardware platform. Last year’s reveal did not set the world on fire, and with no news on the Wii U since last E3, Nintendo needed to come guns-a-blazing to win the hearts of gamers. They didn’t win anything. Hey, big surprise, another generic 2D Mario game is coming for Wii U, and all those weird demos from last year’s show have been bundled together as NintendoLand. Pikmin 3 was finally announced, but that’s a game with very limited appeal. To round out the Nintendo published Wii U games, I give you Wii Fit U and SiNG. I don’t want to actively boo Nintendo, but boo, boo, boooooo. Come on guys, is that it?
Maybe the 3rd parties will step up. Nope, what we saw were numerous ports of games that already are or will already be available on other platforms. Mixed into this was Tank! Tank! Tank!, ZombiU and a New Scribblenauts. Outside of a few additional Ubisoft titles and an unannounced Wario game, that was it for Wii U titles. It was a vapid showing that didn’t prove much of anything. Should I buy a Wii U? Maybe, did I see a killer app, or even a truly compelling piece of software that proves the Wii U isn’t a gimmick? No. After last year’s E3 I called the Wii U Nintendo’s Dreamcast. I was mostly joking, but the more I analyze what I saw at there press conference, I might have been right.
The Wii U is still a wildcard that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. It can’t cater to grandmothers and have 19 buttons, but it can’t court the hardcore crowd with ports of games they have already played. There were some highlights on the 3DS side, Luigi’s mansion is exciting, and so is Paper Mario. The Epic Mickey for 3DS seems cool and both Kingdom Hearts and Castlevania will keep their respective fan bases at bay.
Overall, I give this year’s E3 a “Meh” on the completely fabricated scale of me being excited about things. That’s just above a “Yawn” and just below an “I Guess”. Next year will be the year to end all E3 years. PS4 and Xbox 720, WILL be announced and we can finally move on from this never-ending console generation, at least I hope.