E3 2012 Pre-Game Rundown
With the big show only a few hours out, I’ve been sponging up what I can from a hurricane of press releases, early streaming conferences and what other sites have reported. If spectacle is E3’s strongest draw, sheer mass of content comes in a close second. It’s like a giant 3-day long commercial for the industry and I can’t help getting excited about it every year. And it all starts with the press conferences.
Nintendo was quick to get out of the gate on Sunday by streaming a prerecorded conference focused on the Wii U, the console announced at last year’s expo. The point they seemed to want to make is that Nintendo is finally embracing what “online” means to video games. Sure, they’ve offered versions of interconnected play on several past consoles, but a lack of functionality and a frustrating system with which to actually connect to friends or opponents, players were left in the lurch. Sony and Microsoft just do it better. With Wii U, players will be connected to an activity feed to see how their friends are doing and what they’re playing. They’ve called in the Miiverse, sticking the cartoony and family friendly Mii avatars fans already find on the Wii.
But it doesn’t stop there. Nintendo promises to extend the gaming experience to any web-enabled device, including smartphones and tablets. Plus, the new system’s hyped touchpad controller is promised to be a video calling device, though we’re guessing you’re only able to call other Wii U owners.
No games, no other real details were put out, but they did make it clear they want the hardcore audience back. For the type of titles that don’t rightly fit a touchscreen type of interface, Nintendo also announced the aptly named Wii U Pro Controller. Simply put, this is an Xbox 360 controller, down to design and color, though the buttons and the analog stick on the right are swapped vertically.
One has to wonder, is it too little, too late?
Monday pitted most of the big boys up against each other with live press conferences. Half of Microsoft’s presentation was to announce sequel after sequel. Another Halo, another Call of Duty, Resident Evil, Gears of War, Splinter Cell and the expected line of sports titles. As expected, the 360 is going to see a slew of home entertainment additions, outside the gaming realm, as the Xbox pushes more and more to be the centerpiece of entertainment in the living. New streaming programming is on board, but more importantly, Smart Glass is a bit of an innovation. Microsoft intends to extend its Xbox Live experience, whether it be movies, music, games and yes, even the World Wide Web by taking advantage of smartphones and tablets of all kinds, not just Windows enabled devices. Scrubbing through the dashboard, resuming videos you’ve been watching from one device to another or getting custom game content synced as you play. Oh.. and Internet Explorer. Send links from your phone to your TV. It’s about freakin time.
Sony’s conference was, for the most part, blah. Lots of numbers and how they plan to keep the Vita and Move alive by somehow introducing very few new titles. The saving grace, held for the end is a new outing titled The Last of Us: A surprisingly green post apocalyptic tale of two survivors just.. surviving. It plays out like a VERY violent Uncharted (from Naughty Dog, big surprise).
I’m sure people are looking forward to Assassin’s Creed 3, God of War Ascension and Far Cry 3, but do we really need a Sony version of Nintendo’s massively popular Smash Bros franchise? Yeah, I suppose it could be fun to get a Big Daddy up against Nathan Drake for giggles, but PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale just comes off as a “me too” title that comes pretty late in the season to be exciting.
Nintendo’s actual conference is still about 9 hours away, I’m just not sure I can stand another 90 minutes of Reggie Fils-Aime’s fake enthusiasm and non-smile. We’re expecting to see a gaggle of titles announced for the Wii U (if not a release date and price point). Among them are a new Mario titles, Super Smash Bros, some sort of 3DS crossover, a new Rayman title and ZombiU, a nice and bloody horror survivor title from Ubisoft, shown during their own conference Monday, that provided no gameplay footage, just slow bullet-cam pre-renders of gore and destruction as if to say “Look, we can be hard core too!”.