E3 2010 came as usual with a lot of hype, some great previews, plenty of disappointment, and an array of questions left unresolved. I, like most people, was not able to attend the event, but having watched the keynotes online, will make my own commentary. This year’s conference seemed to be about three things, new ways to interact with games, sequels, and online communities. To me, I found that to be very disappointing. I am not saying I don’t want to check some of these out, I just wouldn’t place everything into those baskets. It makes me believe that much of the industry is desperate for some fad, much like the movie industry, because they think that’s what people want. Who needs to invest in making good product, if you can make it 3D! But let’s break it down.
Sony and Microsoft both came out with a new controller meant to make games more interactive, while Nintendo came out with the new 3DS. Nintendo has the best odds of a successful product here, as they were smart enough to make it backwards compatible WITH the new effects. Whether it really changes how players interact with games, I don’t think it will be that huge of a shift.
Between Sony and Microsoft, I have to go with Sony. The response time and having full controls makes me think it will help them tap into what the Wii already has. As for Kinect, it didn’t seem very appealing or comfortable to use. Conceptually it is fantastic, but no one looked like they were actually enjoying the experience. They also seem to be trying to be to hard to be like Nintendo. Kinect Sports looks just like Wii Sports, heck, even the fonts look similar. Compare that to Move Sports Champions which seems to be properly targeting the console’s audience.
It wasn’t just the console manufacturers hyping this interactivity, but developers were on board too. Too bad they came out with mainly exercise and dancing games. It seems a lot of effort to build this for what seems to me to be a fairly limited audience. This just reinforces my belief that all this new technology is destined to fade out. Sure, it is fun to get up and play this way, most people will probably prefer to sit on their asses when they play games. I can’t even see myself playing the new Zelda game if I can’t use a regular control after a while. But I am sure they will support it for quite a while. I can’t really say that about Ubisoft’s Battle Tag, which is probably the lamest thing I have seen at E3 in many years.
Once upon a time, E3 was where you went to check out all the cool new games and the different IP’s that developers were trying to pitch. Sure, there has always been a certain amount of franchises offering a new addition, but there was very little else this year. You could hear it in the cheers (or lack of them) as each company announced each new sequel. Gears of War, Metal Gear, Need For Speed, Assassin’s Creed, and on and on. I expect that kind of stuff from Nintendo, but they only release new versions every couple of years, which helps it seem fresh.
It doesn’t make sense to me why they are focusing on this so much. Well, I do. It’s all about getting more money, but it seems to be a very short-sighted plan. Look at what has happened to the Music Game genre and how fast it has been dissipating. We are reaching a saturation point where people are going to stop buying these yearly releases, knowing that they can get one the following year. It’s going to kill the industry.
The biggest push this year appears to not be games at all, but all the ancillary product that will “change the way” we use the consoles. Microsoft has hooked up with ESPN to broadcast through Xbox Live, which could be interesting if it weren’t for the fact that most people likely have a cable box that would allow for it through TV by itself. Though it could be a great deal cheaper through this, so I will wait and see on this one. Valve announced it was bringing Portal 2 and the Steam Cloud service to the PS3, which sounds full of potential.
There was more hooking up with online content such as facebook, last.fm, and the like, to make your experience closer to the internet. One thing most people missed, Google releasing more info on Google TV, which is essentially doing the same thing. It’s like the convergence has begun at last.
Developers were also on this band wagon, especially in the area of user created content. ModNation Racers, Trackmania (and others), Little Big Planet all pitched this as the next big thing. I completely agree, but I fear that this is a very bad sign for developers. Why hire big teams to create your sequels, when you can just let the users do it all for you. It’s a slippery slope, but one that is coming whether we like it or not.
Odds and Ends
There were a few things at E3 that I personally want to give a shout out to. New trailers from Shank (Klie Entertainment), Swarm (Hothead Games), and Death Spank (also Hothead Games).