E3 2012: The year of ho hum

The E3 Video Games expo was held in Las Vegas this past week.  The big three, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all held their respective conferences on upcoming games and hardware.  Microsoft showed off more Kinect games and showcased its SmartGlass technology.  Nintendo held three press conferences to spotlight the upcoming Wii U hardware, Wii and Wii U games and 3DS games.  Sony, with no new hardware and few standout games spent an ungodly amount of time talking up some higher profile and ultra violent games.

Nintendo was first out of the gate with press conference number 1, which was about the Wii U.  Details like the new controller, resolution (720p, sadly) and other details were given.  The Wii U will, contrary to earlier speculation, handle two of the new game controllers. The new controller features an LCD display, stylus, dual analog sticks, standard controller buttons and the ability to stream the currently playing game to the panel.  The panel can also act as a secondary screen, forming a DS like experience.

Microsoft was next with its presser about new Kinect games and SmartGlass.  I’ll skip the games and talk about the SmartGlass.  SmartGlass is, seemingly, Microsoft’s answer to the Wii U’s new controller. The big difference:  the secondary screen can be a tablet or smartphone. Microsoft announced support for, of course, Windows Phone, but also Android and iOS, meaning iPad and iPhone will be welcomed into the XBOX family.  Among the uses for said screen:  ability to show secondary information about a television show being watched via XBOX and something like Xfinity or HBO Go. The example they showed was Game of Thrones. The show was being watched on a big screen while a map of the current location of the on screen characters was on the secondary screen along with other information.  When playing SmartGlass enabled games, the secondary screen can do things like allow the player to map out their next move (Madden NFL was used as an example).  The technology looks fantastic and is tightly integrated with Kinect for voice.  Microsoft is, clearly, leveraging Kinect for a multitude of uses.  The early stuff is looking very promising.

Sony was up next with its lackluster presentation. Try as they may, the games were mediocre with one or two exceptions.  God of War whatever looks great.  Last of Us looks good too, it is another, rather violent, shooter featuring zombies. And, really, you can never have too much zombie action.  Right?  Sony also unveiled WonderBook.  WonderBook is a peripheral (OK, so they DID have SOME hardware) that is used with its silly ‘MOVE’ Wii mocking controller.  The idea is get you immersed in a book. The book they demoed was by JK Rowling and is an extension of the Harry Potter universe. You have to learn spells and potions.  While the idea is novel, the implementation looked rather embarrassing as the software failed to properly read the MOVE a few times.  I don’t really see why they bothered with WonderBook, but they did, which is a wonder to me. Sony did highlight the tight interaction of Vita, its latest attempt in the handheld market, and the PS3.  I have to admit, that was pretty impressive. However, it is, yet again, a take on the Wii U console and tablet integration, so not much new here.

Nintendo was back up with more on the games for Wii U and 3DS. The standard fare will be released…new Mario Brothers, a Luigi Mansion sequel, a few more adult oriented games (or, as some say, ‘hardcore’) and others.  Once again, Nintendo proved just how clueless it is when it comes to E3 presentations. They really need to look at Sony and Microsoft for these things.  Sony had zero to show, but the crowd went wild.  Why, I have no idea.  Anyway, the lack of a Mario Kart title was puzzling.

The last Nintendo presser focused more on the Wii U and a game called NintendoLand, which is really a bunch of tech demos wrapped up in a theme park theme. Included mini games are an Animal Crossing game, Zelda and a Donkey Kong mini game.

Companies like Activision and UBISoft also presented. The only game the interested me was, of course, Call of Duty: Black Ops II.  An impressive and lengthy trailer was shown at the end of the Microsoft presser that showed off part of the single player campaign mode.  The President of the USA is a female who bore more than a striking resemblance to former First Lady and current Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton. While not much of the back story was given, the game is a continuation of the original Black Ops and, seemingly, does not incorporate the events in either of the Modern Warfare games. It looks great, though.

All in all, this years Expo was lackluster.  Disappointing, actually.  With the PS3 and the XBOX 360 both maturing and nearing end of life, there was lots of speculation that replacement consoles would either be announced or actually shown. Neither was. And Wii U? Well, let’s just say it is not overly impressive either. Of course, it will sell, since it is compatible with current Wii games. No announced date or price, but speculation has mid-November as the date and $299 as the price.  We will see.

Until next time, happy gaming! 

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