E3 2013 — I’m back in on videogames, guys.


I Almost Went To E3 2013.

It was just about two months ago I wrote about my lack of interest in where the videogame industry was. My oh my, how things can change in two short months — or, more accurately, four days. Before I jump in to the convention itself, let me give you some context for just how big this E3 was for me.

About 3 weeks before the convention, I was offered the opportunity to attend the show (I know a guy who knows a guy). While I was initially interested in the idea, I ultimately turned it down, largely due to conflictions with work and class, but also because recent changes in my life led me to question whether I really cared about games all that much at all. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially my disinterest stemmed from a sense of stagnation in the industry, and a rather sinister notion that games were becoming a little too big — that gamers (and developers) were getting short shifted by console manufacturers in favor of  publishers and retailers hitting their projections and bottom lines. As much as I was interested in Xbox One and PS4’s next steps, at the time I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to actually go to E3, despite the offer I was given.

It goes without saying but holy shit did I make a huge mistake.

A Shot In the Arm; A Shot To The Head

E3 2013 was without a doubt the best E3 I’ve seen since I began following the event about 10 years ago, and arguably the most impressive convention since its inception.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that, if you’re reading this, you saw the conferences, read the previews, and watched and re-watched trailers over the past week. You witnessed every moment I did, and are probably excited about many of the same games as me — no need to recap the news or highlights. But I’d like to take a moment and talk about the things that really mattered to me.

Sony and PlayStation 4

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First and foremost, Sony. God damn, Sony. I was already interested in the PS4 after the February event (and even more so after the Xbox One reveal last month), but let’s be honest, Sony — no, ‘scuse me, Jack Tretton — slayed Monday night. I’ll admit, the always online and used game ‘controversy’ surrounding the Xbox One didn’t affect me, and in fact I found the entertainment-slant of the system to be far more offensive. Still, Sony’s showing of good faith towards gamers resonated with me. Sure, I’ll probably be mostly buying my games digitally from here on in, but the fact that Sony are keeping the option to buy and trade physical copies is a positive. Not to mention they’re launching at a whole $100 cheaper, despite being the more powerful system. I’ve heard some say that in those five minutes where the used games, PS+ cross over, no online restrictions, and price were all announced, that Sony won this new console war. Whether or not that’s how this all ultimately plays out, it was enough to completely change my feelings on console games, so much so that I preordered the PS4 the moment the press conference had concluded.

The Games

No matter how awesome any console is on its own, it’s nothing without games. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys, but damn were there some amazing looking experiences on show this year. Here are the ones that really caught my eye.

 The week started out strong, with Microsoft opening their conference with what was my personal favorite of the show, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Open world Metal Gear, featuring Keifer Sutherland as Big Boss, and some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a game? Yes. A thousand times yes. This is shaping up to be something of a reboot for the series as well; while it’s clear MGSV will maintain Kojima’s brand of goofiness and absurdity, the trailers shown at E3 also feature some of the darkest moments in the series by far, including torture, child soldiers, and a (literally) gut-wrenching scene in which a package is removed from Paz’s body cavity. Between the gameplay demoed and the the themes being explored in the story, MGSV is steadfastly affixed to the top of my anticipated games list.

Not only did Monday begin with a bang, it ended with one as well. Bungie’s gameplay reveal of Destiny was one of the first moments of the show where I started to really see the potential of this new console generation. Sure, it was a sci-fi FPS, but the scope of the world, the polish of the multiplayer gameplay, and the (again) the graphical fidelity on display really captured my imagination. Bungie has never let me down before, and I have high hopes for Destiny.

The third big surprise for me came in the form of Final Fantasy XV. I have always had an interest in the Final fantasy series, but the past half-decade for the RPG franchise have been rocky at best. After years in development hell, Final Fantasy Versus XIII has emerged as Final Fantasy XV. Yeah, it looked really Japanese — in a way that would usually turn me off from a game. But the speed of the gameplay, the design of the characters, and the setting the trailer took place in really grabbed me in a way few JRPGs (or, frankly, Square Enix games) have since the PlayStation 2. While at this point I am maintaining cautious optimism, I can see this becoming one of my most anticipated games.

Finally, in terms of “next-gen” games, The Witcher 3 sounds like it’s shaping up to be the fantasy RPG to play. It’s more than a year away, but early impressions from the show floor have been so overwhelmingly positive, with many stressing that the game is the best example of “next-gen” on display this year, my already-high expectations have only been bolstered. The previous games in the series are some of my favorite of the previous generation, and I look forward to closing out the trilogy with what sounds like will be a groundbreaking role playing experience.

But those four games weren’t everything; Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag secured itself a spot as my PS4 launch title of choice next to Infamous: Second Son. Sony’s support of indie developers was one of the PS4’s biggest selling points for me, and Super Giant’s Transistor was the highlight of their indie showcase; I’ve seen that trailer dozens of times, but it never fails to give me goosebumps. And, despite my tepid response to the Xbox One in general, Titanfall looks like an immensely fun multiplayer game, and I’m thankful I’ll be able to play it on PC as well. Finally, these will come as no surprise to those who know my taste in games, but Dark Souls II and Rayman Legends. That is all.

So many questions about the next gen were answered this week, and for me, the answers we got were beyond my expectations.

What Next?

Of course, in light of all my excitement, this does bring up personal questions: will I start writing about games again? Does this invalidate many of the statements I made just a few short weeks ago? Well to be honest, no, not really. I was compelled enough to sit down and knock out these E3 reactions, but I’m only now beginning to feel excited about games again after almost a year of struggling to stay interested enough to even play them. A lot of that was caused by forcing myself to pay attention to aspects of the business I really dispised, and try to play or be interested in games I had no interest in. I think I need to just enjoy videogames as a hobby for a while. However, that said, this E3 has sparked my interest in an ENTIRELY NEW aspect of the industry and games press. I’ll expound more about that soon, but I guess it’s worth saying that I’m not quite ready to write off the gaming industry as a possible career path, certainly not like I was a couple months ago.

Ironically, about a week before my “epiphany” that maybe games weren’t for me anymore, I finally bought a Playstation 3 and PS+ membership. Tomorrow, I will purchase and play The Last of Us and finally put some real use into the system. For some, the game represents the swansong for this console generation (they forget Dark Souls II is still several months out), but for me it’s the first step into the next generation, and I can’t wait to experience it.

Guys, I’m really excited about videogames again. It feels awesome.

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Xbox One Reactions

Xbox-One-Console

Two days ago, Microsoft finally unveiled their next in their line of home consoles, Xbox One.

While we can officially add it to the list of “most baffling console nomenclature” along with the Wii U, there’s far more to raise an eyebrow at with this new console. Details are still sparse, but from what we know the system will be slightly less capable in terms of raw processing power than the PS4. That’s not much of an issue for me, especially considering that in terms of architecture both consoles seem have far more parity than the Xbox 360 did compared to PS3. At the very least, we can probably expect both consoles to have games performing quite similarly.

Perhaps the least surprising thing Microsoft focused on was the entertainment angle of the new console. The majority of the conference was taken up discussing Xbox One’s TV features, as well as it’s almost instantaneous application switching. From the demo shown, users should be able to flip between TV, games, music, and more, with just a quick phase to your Kinect.

Youtuber Darkbeatdk’s above highlights clip is a rather apt summary of the system’s reveal. These features were admittedly cool, but for many gamers the focus on TV and entertainment was disheartening. I do share in the sentiment that there was a lack of games shown, and that the three shown off (Quantum Leap, Forza, and Call of Duty: Ghosts) weren’t big surprises. However, prior to the conference (and throughout it, as well) Microsoft has assured gamers that E3 will be the place for games, and I look forward to seeing what they’re bringing to the Xbox One.

That said, there are some things that leave me worried; namely, the inability for Indie developers to self-publish on the system — something both Sony and Nintendo allow. As a gamer increasingly interested in smaller, creative projects, I was disheartened to learn that Microsoft was not embracing this section of the game-development world. Similarly, though I’m not entirely opposed to owning a system that must stay connected to the internet, I did find Microsoft’s vagueness on the subject confusing, to say the least. It seems even Microsoft is unsure about what exactly they’ll be requiring from consumers’ internet connections.

Going into this reveal, I didn’t have many expectations, but I did hope I’d leave it with a modicum of the interest I felt after Sony’s PS4 reveal earlier this year (even though I’m not entirely sold on the PS4, either). Instead, I felt like I had just watched every rumor about the new console come true. What we saw was a company on top making investments in for-sure things: the biggest AAA games; television and movie streaming; NFL and sports apps; and voice-recognition/gesture controls. I’ll be honest, I’m a sucker for Halo and that franchise alone could sell a console to me. It also wouldn’t be hard for Microsoft to win me, and many other gamers, over this E3 but giving us a good look at some of the promised 15 exclusive games coming in Xbox One’s first year. But it’s not all about games anymore, and truth be told, I kinda like the media-hub idea they’re pushing for this new system. It’s a smart move. As many writers have pointed out, the gaming console as we know it is dead, so companies need to widen their net if they want to survive. If we still want the living-room experience, Xbox One and PS4 are really our only bets.

Oh well — there’s always PC gaming!

Reacting to Sony Meeting 2013: The PS4 is Real.

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And there you have it.

The PS4 is real; it’s powerful, it’s innovative, and easy to use for both developers and consumers, and we’ll be playing it this Holiday season.

But most importantly, we saw games. New game, new IP. Sure, there were sequels, but there were so many amazing looking announcements. I’m still processing and decompressing — that was a solid 2 hours of impressive footage and exciting ideas. I don’t want to over-hype it, but the system sounds impressive. It ‘s seems like a truly next-gen machine, and Sony has clearly made some important partnerships. There are still questions — most notably price, exact release date, and form factor — but we also got a bunch of great things to look forward to.

I wonder what Microsoft will do. But right now, I’m just very happy about what we saw. The developers showing off their games, and talking about how easy to use the hardware is were really good to hear. I’m just very pleased with what we saw. I’m excited for E3 and getting more info because right now, I can see myself owning a PS4 and getting a lot of use out of it. I may even buy a Vita.

Sony’s Big Announcement: Will it Bring Innovation, or More of the Same?

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Today’s a big day; Sony is poised to announce the “future of Playstation” in just a few short hours. We can only assume this means the next Playstation console. I’m very excited, not because I’m foaming at the mouth for a new console, and not because I’m a Sony fanboy  (I haven’t owned a Sony device since the PS2/PSP days); it’s because finally, hopefully, I’ll start to see the changes in video games I’ve been hoping for.

For the past few years, I’ve had a pretty interesting relationship with video games. Mass Effect and Metroid Prime got me back into games in a big way. I was given an Xbox 360, and for the first time in my life became a console-centric gamer. I now own my first handheld in close to 6 years with the 3DS. But at the same time, I found it harder and harder to find the types of gameplay experiences I wanted. I don’t care much for shooters. I don’t play much multiplayer. Neck stabbing or violent combos don’t sell games for me; and most importantly, I don’t play games on my phone. At times, these past 4 or 5 years, I’ve felt left behind in terms of the type of gamer I am and types of experiences I want.

It seems like the driving force behind a game today is “how do we make it marketable?” Who the fuck cares!? Games feel more like products these days and creative experiences. I understand this is a business, but for a while there I really thought we were on to something. I used to see games big and small being talked about as artistic creations, lauded for their creativity and innovation. Now I just see pandering and stagnation. I don’t mean to say that all the big game franchises out there are simply “products,” but from the way games are marketed, to the way they’re covered in the gaming press, to the way they feel and look, the entire medium looks dull.

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There are literally thousands of games out, right now, that you can go play and experience. Games from throughout the medium’s history, from a plethora of genres. There are thousands of unique characters to meet, hundreds and hundred of worlds to explore, and a near-infinite number of stories for you to create. But those games are out. We’ve played them. No matter how much I try to convince myself there’s change coming, it won’t: older games are irrelevant compared to the new Playstation; The Ouya won’t outsell the next Xbox; An iPad will be more appealing to the mainstream consumer than a game console. Maybe, these pandering money-grubbing companies will leave consoles behind and flock to tablets and phones. And though the PC and console markets will shrink, they could be home to the game creators who are interested in making interesting and creative adventures and stories for us to explore. Or, maybe, we’ll all just be playing Angry Birds on our TV’s for the rest of our lives.

Gaming has (hopefully) reached its peak. I say that not because I don’t want people to experience the creativity or innovation of videogames, but because I want the medium to stop caring about catering to the mainstream. I’d be more than okay if the next generation of consoles weren’t as ubiquitous as the Wii, Xbox 360, or PS3. Maybe the gaming landscape would become interesting again.

So here were are, mere hours away at our first glimpse of the next generation of consoles. Whether or not you’re a fan of Sony this is a big day. I am filled with hope and excitement, but also anxiety and concern. The seemingly immenent failure of the Wii U disappoints me because I felt the Wii U represented the type of innovation the industry was (maybe) moving towards. Now, I’ unsure.

I don’t know if I’ll be buying into the next gen consoles. I feel like I’ve been playing (or at least seeing) the same games over and over. I’m ready for new ideas. I’m ready to wowed. I don’t care how powerful these new machines are – I’ll always prefer PC to console in terms of processing muscle. I care about games and experiences. I hope Sony delivers.

Next-Gen? No Thanks.

“Next gen,” two little words that make me tense up and feel overwhelmed. Why? Simply put, I’m not ready for it, nor am I remotely excited by the prospect of a new set of consoles.

Some of you may feel exactly the opposite, and I can see why: new leaps in graphical abilities; better AI; sleeker hardware, UI, and control schemes. But I don’t really want any of that. What I want is new experiences, new ideas — even new genres or takes on existing ones — from the games themselves, not the hardware. But the big gaming publishers don’t seems to see it that way.

More Graphics

It seems like the biggest driving force behind the next-gen push (and really any console iteration leap) is graphics. Recently, 2K games president Cristoph Hartman said that the industry can’t hope to evoke any sort of real, honest emotion until games achieve “photo realism.” He cites Brokeback Mountain as his example of the type of emotions games could create, but haven’t yet. To make matters worse, Crytek, developers of the graphically-powerful Crysis series, made a statement claiming that the current generation’s graphical capabilities have been tapped, which somehow means we need to move on to the next set of hardware…

Bullshit, I say. Not to the graphical capabilities being maxed, I’m pretty sure that’s true. But the part that makes me roll my eyes is this notion that graphics are immediately tied to the level of emotion response and entertainment value we get out of games. This is absolutely and unequivocally false. Let’s look at this past generation — one where graphics have been venerated above all else as the major draw to gaming. Off the top of my head, the one genre that has succeed this generation is the military FPS — the “bro-shooter”. These games had mountains of cash pumped into their graphics engines to create as “realistic” an experience as possible. The result? Stagnate, same-y shooters caked in a veneer of brown textures and lens flares. I’m not knocking these games, I’m sure there have been some great titles, but I never touched them because they never looked appealing. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Spec Ops, Killzone, Resistance… even games like Gears of War  could be thrown into the mix. Show me a screenshot from one of these “realistic” looking games, and I probably couldn’t tell you which was which. Then again, I could easily point out games like Enslaved, Borderlands, Tribes: Ascend — even Uncharted and Halo, due to their own unique looks and art styles. 

Wait, wait. Don’t tell me…

The problem is, the people saying graphics sell games have a point: when it comes to the (rather large) percentage of gamers who only buy 2-3 games a year, and usually only from the same franchises (Madden, Call of Duty, etc.), graphics matter big time. Being the first thing they see is a screenshot or trailer, this crowd needs to see marked improvements from one year to the next in order to be sold. I don’t mean to generalize, but just take a look at the comment section on Youtube or gaming blogs. You’ll find fanboys and shooter-bros writing off games entirely just because another titles graphics are “better.” So, to a point, 2k games and Crytek are correct: in order to continue pandering to this section of the market, we need to hurry up and jump on board with the next consoles. But not really because that’d be silly.

Development Costs

I’m gonna take a quick tangent to touch on development costs before I return to Hartmans’s rivitingly asinine remarks about photo-realism and emotion.

Games cost a lot; AAA games cost even more. Those graphics engines I talked about earlier require millions of dollars. In an effort to keep up with the likes of EA and Activision’s massive budgets for their annualized franchises, smaller companies are forced to pony up stacks of cash to even hope to compete. We witnessed this with 38 Studio’s Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckonning. Curt Schilling borrowed money from Rhode Island in order to complete the game. The game sold very well, over 410 thousand copies in the U.S., but the Governor of Rhode Island felt that wasn’t enough, calling the game a “failure” for not selling a projected 3 million copies (a rather unrealistic number for a small, niche title). Due to this and number of other internal scandals, 38 dissolved. Now, THQ faces a similar fate, their fate in the hands of gamers who buy games like Darksiders 2. EA hopes to see Dead Space 3 sell over 5 million copies, despite the past games not selling anything near those numbers. Now imagine a game with wildly experimental gameplay and presentation, but whose developers need to sell 5 million copies to see a profit. As Minecraft creator Notch said in response to Hartman’s statement, “you limit the number of new genres if you focus on photorealism.” Experimentation and creativity are always diminished in favor of sure-things.

Leaked picture of Xbox “Durango” dev kit

For instance, at E3 we saw Dead Space 3 paraded about as a bro-shooter. For fans of the series, this was infuriating. We saw the same happen with Mass Effect 3. It turned out that both of these first impressions were false, but it underscores a major problem in the industry. Companies want to compete; they want to have the flashy high-fidelity graphics, fast-paced action gameplay, and huge set pieces to draw in the CoD crowd. But in doing so, they alienate the core audiences. Spending too much money on graphics and homogenizing your gameplay is a dumb thing to do. And what’s more, it’s entirely unnecessary.

Emotional Depth

Okay sure, I’ll admit, I am enamored with beautiful graphics as much as the next guy At E3, I was awed by the Crysis 3 demo; Watch Dog‘s animations made me giddy, and the things Unreal Engine 4 can do are mind blowing. But when I think back to the games that really made an imprint on me, it wasn’t because the looks “real,” it was because they looked unique.

I have several games in my library I hold up as having impeccable art direction. And with most of those games, my emotional connection to the experiences and stories within are stronger because they captured my imagination and creativity. I don’t need to say it for the dozenth time, but Dead Space, Rayman: Origins, Dark Souls, The Legend of Zelda, and Shadow of the Colossus enraptured me with their beauty and atmosphere.

Much like a Pixar movie, videogames that feature highly stilized visuals have been the ones I not only remember best, but have the strongest connection with. Super Metroid’s archaic sprite-based graphics still instill the feelings of exploration and isolation I had the first time I played it. And even though they looks like ass today, games like  Medieval, and th N64 Zelda games have a charm that few games of this generation ever achieved.

As ominous as ever.

But it would be false to say that every emotional experience I’ve ever had with a game was due to creative or memorable art design. No, the single most memorable and impactful part of any and every game is its gameplay.

For me, videogames are game design first, and stories/visuals/music/etc. second (if not further down the list). They’re not movies, not comics. They are unique in the way they allow for entirely different types of stories and interactions to occur. I’ve harped on it before, but games need to chill the fuck out with this whole “imitating cinema” thing. There have been some truly moving stories told in videogames, but if you can’t present them in  way that allows me to PLAY THE GAME, then your game has failed. Heavy Rain is a perfect example of a game that, truly, would be better suited as a movie. I’m a big proponent of the silent protagonist as it allows for the player to connect directly to the world and story, rather than act as puppeteer or pilot guiding a pre-made character down a pre-determined path. But for every Gordon Freeman, there’s a Jon Marston. On the flipside, for every Samus Aran there’s a…. Samus Aran. My point is, games should not be about narrative archs or photo realistic visuals — that’s cinema’s game. No, games are about gameplay and interactivity. We need to remember that.

Silver Lining

Hawken: powerful, yet stylized graphics.

I don’t need a new generation of consoles. I’m perfectly content with what my Xbox 360 and PC can do. I still feel there is life in this generation, if for no other reason than indie/retro development. I don’t care how flashy the next big shooters look. Hell, despite my excitement for Darksiders 2 and Halo 4 (games with stylized visuals that put emphasis on gameplay, mind you) it’s titles like Hawken, Ultima Forever, and the Baldur’s Gate re-release that have me really excited. I’m even excited at the fact that games are still coming out for the Dreamcast.

And like I said, there are plenty of great games still to come on the Xbox 360 for the next year or so, if not longer. And despite my aversion to talk of new consoles, the OUYA has me very, very excited about the future of game development, Free 2 Play games, and indie games. So perhaps there is one new console I’m excited for.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: I love F2P, indie, and retro gaming, and love the types of games still coming out for these “dated” systems, not because of their graphics, but because of their gameplay. I still love AAA console games, but based on the recent climate of that development scene, I worry about the future of companies like THQ, Square-Enix, Sega, and Even Nintendo and Sony. And while I will always have a place in my heart and on my shelf for the next big Bethesda and Bungie games, they’ve become secondary to the far cheaper, and far more engrossing titles from companies like Mojang, Double Fine, Supergiant, The Behemoth, Frictional Games, and dozens more. My only hope is that I’m not alone in thinking that.

E3 2012: the Bad, and the Ugly

So, now we’ve got the good things from E3 2012 out of the way, it’s time to talk about those moments that were bad, and just downright ugly.

And there were certainly a few worth talking about. First off,

The Bad

Sony’s press conference had a conspicuous lack of Vita chat, even with the announcemnet of an Assassin’s Creed 3 spin off and new Black Ops title coming to the system. In fact, besides a few games shown on the floor — mostly by other publishers — it almost came off as a silent acceptance of the Vita’s poor performance in worldwide sales, even a quiet confirmation the company will support the handheld, but only as far as its current legs can carry itself. It was disappointing, but in some respects not very surprising and certainly not something you can blame Sony for all that much at this point (besides the high price, lack of support, strange marketing decisions, etc.)

Then there was Nintendo. Oh Nintendo… it was their E3 to lose — with high expectations for a new console, Nintendo bungled their conference with an underwhelming and flaccid display, devoid of any surprising and absolutely no guarantees on what to expect post-launch window. Hell, no guarantees on when to expect the console launch itself, nor any price. Sure, it was confirmed there would be no price or release date, but I thought for sure we’d get an idea, maybe even a general time of when to expect the announcement of the release date even… But no, nothing.

On top of that, the games shown during the press conference were either unsurprising (Pikmin 3, Super Mario Bros U) or just down right boring (Nintendoland). Thankfully, Ubisoft was there the provide a glimmer of hope with their new ZombiU franchise. But instead of showing off the game and the cool features it is implementing, Nintendo instead opted to spend 10 minutes showing off Batman: Arkham City — a game that will be over a year old by the time the Wii U Launches. Coupled with Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3, and confirmation that Alien: Colonial Marines will ship on the Wii U after the PC, 360 and PS3 versions, you had a rather sad and sorry display for third party Wii U support. The show closed with fireworks, and no big announcements. The future of the system was left entirely untouched: what’s Retro bringing? What kind of third party support can we expect? What studios are working on future software for the system we can expect months or years after the Wii U launches? These questions remain unanswered.

Wii U’s biggest hope.

Even worse, the separate 3DS press conference they held the day after showed off essentially the exact same products teased at the Wii U conference the day before, and the more impressive Wii U and 3DS announcements weren’t even made until AFTER the press conferences. It was a mes, and an altogether disappointing E3 for Nintendo.

The Ugly

This year was hard for me. Even though I can point to at least a dozen games I was impressed by and am excited to see in the next near (or more), it seemed like every game was toting a “3” suffix — Assassin’s Creed 3, Dead Space 3, Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, Pikmin 3 (all of which ended up impressing me this year). We also saw the fourth entry in the Gears of War franchise, Halo 4 (technically a “reboot” of sorts, but still the sixth entry in  the series), ANOTHER Assassin’s Creed (the eighth or ninth in the series), and a new God of War (the fourth home console title, and sixth overall game in the franchise). Plus the next Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games as well.

It was fatiguing. And, to be honest, in a lot of ways I almost felt ashamed for getting excited about some of these games. Do we really need another God of War, Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty? I know these look great, and will be highly successful, but ever since this generation sparked the trend of yearly franchises, I find myself getting more and more cynical and worn out on these characters and scenarios. They’ll be great games, absolutely. But I would really like to see this generation wind down and make way for new ideas.

And it’s not just because I’d like to see new IP.

These yearly franchises have brought in a new type of gamer. Something like the “hardcore casual gamer”, aka, bro-shooter fans. They usually just buy 1-2 games a year (almost undoubtedly Call of Duty and Madden) and not much else. There’s millions of these guys — chances are you know one. By no means are they bad for games sales, but marketers and PR departments seem to think they’re the audience they need to be selling their games to, and E3 was proof of that. The biggest example is Dead Space 3. Behind closed doors, convention-goers were shown tense, suspenseful moments, broken up by tussles with gore-hungry necromorphs. It looked and played like Dead Space, albeit with some changes, and a few steps further down the path of action sequences started by Dead Space 2.

But by no means was it it a third person shooter.

But if all you had seen or heard on the new game was the 30 second trailer at EA’s press conference. you’d probably have thought they were showing off Gears of War, complete with duck-and-cover shooting, meat-headed co-op partners spouting off testosterone fuled “Shits” and “Fuck Yeah’s” and balsting gun-toting space marines — the opposite of why people play Dead Space. Thankfully, we were assured the single player is devoid of AI companions (for the large majority at least), the cover stuff is not the main focus, and the humans actually mutate and morph in The Thing-like fashion once you’ve damaged them.

Blaahhhh.

I could go on and on, the point it, games seem to be marketed towards a certain type of gamer these days, and that bad for two reasons. 1) when those bro-shooter fan pick up the game and realize it’s not Gears of War or Call of Duty, they’ll be frustrated, confused and disappointed. And 2) when core-fans of series like Dead Space and Mass Effect see their games marketed as CoD or GoW, they become frustrated, confused and disappointed. No one wins.

It’s part of a larger problem with the videogame industry as a whole, and highlights the issue of how to market games to the right people. Games (and the gamers who play them) are becoming just as diverse as movies, television, and music. Not every movie-goer sees all the big movies, and no core-gamer plays all the big games. I think it’s probably a time for more niche marketing and press in the industry itself.

But like I’ve said, I could go on and on. The the industry is changing, and despite how great the majority of games were, this year’s E3 is proof of that. If nothing else, the biggest thing I came away with from E3 2012 was my excitement for E3 2013, and its potential to bring us new experiences and innovations.

E3: The Good

E3’s now a week behind us, and big reveals and press conferences even further back than that. E3 2012 was a strange year — a year of transitions and wheel spinning, and estrangement. That’s not to say it was a bad show this year, or that there were no great games. On the contrary, there were some great presences from several titles, and numerous developers and publishers wowing us enthusiast crowds with some damn good looking games.

There were certainly missteps, I won’t shy away from that fact. But overall I was satisfied with what I saw. So let’s get into some of the things that grabbed my attention from this year’s E3. Continue reading “E3: The Good”

Powercast Episode 8: Prom-e3-us

We’re back, once again, with a new episode of Powercast!

In this episode Marshal joins Nick and I(Brendan) in the studio for an in-depth discussion on Prometheus, upcoming movies, and all the big news and games from E3 — including Micosoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo’s press conferences, as well as Halo 4, The Last of Us, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed 3, Wii U — and more!

Download below, and be sure to send any questions or comments to askpowercords@gmail.com, or comment below.

We’ll be back soon with some cool new stuff, stay tuned!

Powercast Episode 008: Prom-E3-us

With: Brendan, Marshal, Nick

Length: 2:04:10

Download (right click, save as)


E3 Day 1 Wrap Up: Games and Press Conferences

It’s heeere! The most exciting week in gaming, where some of the biggest announcement are made and the newest games shown off. Kick starting the week were 4 pressers from Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony. Here’s our thoughts on the big moments (and upsets) of E3 2012: Continue reading “E3 Day 1 Wrap Up: Games and Press Conferences”

Brendan’s E3 Predictions

Here we are yet again; just under a month away from the gaming worlds biggest trade show, E3, where the biggest announcements from the biggest companies are made each year. Plenty of fellow fans, bloggers, and press have begun weighing in on what their predictions are for the three big companies — Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo — and what we might be seeing at this year’s show. So, I thought it’d be worth it to talk about what others are predicting, as well as my own thoughts on what to expect at E3.

Sony

Starting with Sony, there’s been quite a lot in the news lately. First off, Sony has confirmed there will be no talk of their next home console this year. There were, however, two huge Ps3 titles recently unveiled — God of War Ascencion and Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale (long name..). As these are both big announcements for the company, it surprising to see them shown off close to E3.  IGN writers Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty are both convinced this could mean we’ll see a much stronger emphasis on Sony’s new handheld system, the Playstation Vita. I’m inclined to agree. While it’s not uncommon for many of the company’s announcements to surface prior to their press conference at the show, the Vita has been lagging in sales compared to Nintendo’s 3DS handheld — their biggest competition. With total sales for the 3DS over 17.13 million, the Vita’s 1.8 million — by no means a failure — seems lackluster.

This is largely due to a lack of titles post-launch. Despite the system having one of the strongest software lineups of any console launch, it’s failed to supplement that initial batch of games with quality games. The Vita is not an iPhone; it can’t sell itself on its (high impressive) hardware alone. It’s a gaming platform and needs more games.

That’s why I believe Sony’s E3 conference will focus heavily on the Vita, specifically new titles to persuade new buys, and reassure early adopters — such as the recently revealed Soul Sacrifice. On top of that, I have a feeling Sony may announce either a bundle or price drop for the system. Starting at $249 for the system ($299 for 3g internet model) and another $20-$100 for a memory card, and $30-$40 per software title, the Vita has a steep point of entry (for comparison, a 16gb Playstation 3 now runs at about $299 MSRP, and $50-$60 for software; the 3DS sells at $160 per system, and $30-$40 per game). In order to drive up sales numbers, Sony needs to either drop the price of the system and/or memory cards to a more reasonable level, or offer bundles that include a decent sized memory card and retail games.

In a recent earnings call, Sony optimistically projected an anticipated 10-16 million more Vitas sold this year. If that’s really going to happen, we need a price drop, and at the very least, more games.

Microsoft

Ironically enough, the one system I own is from the company who is rumored to have the least to show this year. Microsoft have been sitting easy these past couple years, remaining on top as both the entertainment and gaming hub of this console generation. Microsoft will probably do what they can to maintain that image, says industry analyst Michael Pachter, opting to focus less on core gaming, and more on their successful Kinect device and their growing presence as an entertainment hub.

Microsoft also have stated they have no plans to show off any new hardware, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise; they’re currently on top in the North American market because their system appeals to a wide audience. The Xbox 360 currently boasts a large number of apps from companies and services like Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, UFC, HBO GO, Bing, and even beginning to work with cable providers to bring content directly to Xbox 360 users. Microsoft have found widespread mainstream success — much like Nintendo with the Wii. While Nintendo’s success was driven by the Wii’s user-friendly interface, Microsoft have evolved that functionality with the Kinect, and applied it to media beyond just videogames.

At this point, the Xbox 360 is becoming almost like an Apple device; it hold many uses and applications, not just one. While Microsoft’s bread and butter is still their gamer audience, they also have the benefit of mainstream appeal. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in the past couple years, that often means the core gamers get overlooked in favor of furthering their mainstream success.

I doubt we’ll see much in terms of new or exclusive software titles from Microsoft. We’ll probably get a look at a new dashboard update for the 360, and more details on their new $99 plus subscription model for Xbox. Other than that, in terms of videogames, I don’t think we’ll see much besides Halo 4.

Nintendo

Probably the most talked about of the three, the gaming industry has their eyes on Nintendo for one reason: the Wii U.

The only one of the three hardware developers to actually show off their next console iteration, Nintendo have a lot to prove. Launching a year or more before the competition, the Wii U has been under scrutiny by the games press. IGN’s Rich George, along with numerous others in the press, are both excited and apprehensive about the new console. George laid out a list of points Nintendo needs to hit in order for the Wii U to be a success, mainly first third party support, and a reasonable price point. Nintendo’s other recent hardware launch, the 3DS, despite an overall highly successful turnout, began its life cycle with an uncertain future. A high price point and lack of first party games stalled the system’s sales, until a price drop and second batch of games gave it a much needed boost.

The Wii U cannot repeat this, and Nintendo is well aware. But while E3 will be where we undoubtedly see the true power of the new console, and see some much needed new titles, we won’t know the release date or starting price for the Wii U until closer to the system’s Fall 2012 launch window.

I’ve already said I’m looking forward to Nintendo’s press conference, and have hopes we’ll see some good games, I also feel they have the most to lose an are taking the biggest risk launching their system so early. And being heavily marketed at core gamers, I doubt they’ll see the same success with the Wii U that they did with the original Wii. If I were to make one suggestion for the company, it would be to create a new IP that shows off the strengths of the system and validates the need for a tablet controller, but also shows Nintendo is serious about getting back the core gamer audience. We’ll see if they can pull it off.

Closing thoughts

Overall, this year has potential. The full unveiling of a new console from Nintendo, the possibility of tons of new software from Sony, and new media and entertainment announcements from Microsoft will make E3 2012 an interesting one for sure. I’m sure we’ll come away impressed, but at this point I doubt we’ll see anything unexpected.