E3 — Not For Me

As I play video games and write a blog, it is required by the laws of the universe that I write a blog post describing my reaction to the E3 Expo that is taking place over the next few days. By this point, all of the three major companies (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) have delivered their keynote speeches, and the internets are abuzz with frothing cynicism.

Microsoft: This was a problematic presentation. Halo 4 opened the show with footage of Halo-like happenings. There were glowy monsters and armored soldiers. Bullets. Shiny guns. Boring.

While I am sure that it will be a competent game, it is nothing new. On that note, the entire conference from Microsoft was a catalog of dullness and repetition. People do not care about Kinect. No amount of shouting or arm-waving will ever make so-called hardcore gamers embrace Kinect. It is the definition of peripheral … and it is ultimately pointless.

Eventually, after Microsoft finished showcasing games for the Xbox that are also coming to the PS3 and the PC (and possibly the WiiU), Usher started to dance on stage. I generally enjoy Usher. He appears to have a good attitude about life — and, let’s face it, the man can dance. He does not, however, have anything to do with gaming. The game that he was “promoting,” titled Just Dance 4 (or something, it doesn’t really matter), is just another iterative release designed to pad developer pockets while taking advantage of the “casual” market.

This stunt, however, just shows how incredibly out of touch the creators of the Microsoft presser are with their audience. We do not wish to see dancing. We do not care about Kinect. We want actual innovation (through actual technological advance, not through “SmartGlass,” which is just a pathetically transparent attempt to take some steam out of Nintendo’s WiiU sails) and we want new IPs.

For shame, Microsoft.

Sony: This conference was the best of the lot, though that is not saying much, as they were all failures to some extent. Sony’s strength lies in its extremely talented in-house game designers who continue, every year, to push out new and exciting content. The Last of Us? Looks fantastic. Ellen Page featured in a Heavy Rain-esque thriller? Sounds good. Unfortunately, however, those were the only two standouts.

Sony also needed to push the Vita much harder than they did within the conference. It garnered a few mentions from the various individuals on stage, and two significant games were announced for it (Assassin’s Creed and Black Ops), but there was no price drop mentioned, nor was there any attempt made by Sony to push the handheld as a “must-have” item.

Once the presentation moved into the requisite Playstation Move portion of the conference, Sony fell into the same trap as Microsoft. Nobody cares. The longer these companies try to force gimmicks upon their consumers, the greater chance they have at becoming gimmicks themselves. Wonderbook? While the Rowling endorsement is a financial coup (potentially), I find it hard to rationalize how Sony can declare this meta-reading technology as any sort of innovation whatsoever. Gimmick.

Nintendo:  This presser was easily the worst. Mario, again? Again? And again? Three new Mario games do not inspire confidence that the company can move beyond the “casual” moniker that has been applied to it. The WiiU is a waste of time and money for everybody involved. While there was much talk of detached gaming experiences and “new ways to play,” the WiiU is nothing more than a slightly upgraded Wii with a touch-screen controller. It is silly.

Do we really want NintendoLand? A theme park “game” that hammers the iconic Nintendo character lineup into casual niches is the true measure of the company at this point. There was absolutely no attempt made by Nintendo to distance themselves from the tried and true formula. After all, WiiU is just an extension of the Wii.

Ubisoft presented third-party offerings that could elevate the new console into more mature hands, but while they were heartily endorsed by Nintendo, Nintendo themselves offered nothing truly new. Sure, there is a new Pikmin offering, but Pikmin is an established franchise. Is the tablet controller really an innovation? I doubt it.

WiiU will fail.

In Summation: The pressers are simply out of touch. E3 is problematic in general, as the companies must try to appease the great masses of the gaming world, and those masses are incredibly diverse. Business decisions must be made alongside more practical decisions. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all know what their vocal fans want, but they do not particularly seem to care, with the possible exception of Sony.

The casual peripherals sell well. Dancing and singing games fly off of the shelves. Workout games? Gold mine. In their lust for an assured paycheck, though, the big three companies have forsaken their true core audiences for passing fancy. How many of the Wii balance boards saw use after a few weeks? How many times to people actually “just dance”?

The next generation of consoles must draw a line between the casual and the regular. Ideally, the large companies could create separate devices (branded under their respective names) that work, stand-alone, as exercise or musical entertainment. To lump them into the same console as Halo and Uncharted, on the other hand, diminishes the focus of what the devices were designed to do in the first place — play games. As a result of this dilution, these pressers become focused around the casual and unnecessary, instead of the core and innovative.

Bah.

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