News, Views, and Reviews
Welcome back to My Views on what is happening at E3 this year. Day One was all about the big publishers (Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony) and their announcements, and Day Two was Nintendo and anything else that caught my attention. I’m going to start with the big N.
Nintendo made a strange announcement prior to E3, that they wouldn’t be on a big stage like everyone else. Their booth is there, at the Los Angeles convention center, but their game announcements went straight to the consumers via their “Nintendo Direct” online broadcast. The strange part about this decision is that it avoids the attention and big press that Nintendo needs right now, in favor of speaking directly to Nintendo’s main fans that probably own Nintendo products already. I think they call that “preaching to the choir” but we’ll see the effects of Nintendo’s direct message in the months to come.
To be honest, of the twenty-nine (29!) games revealed yesterday, few really caught my attention – but I’m not Nintendo’s target audience anymore – and that’s fine. Nintendo has a specific market, and they are choosing to play to their strengths instead of appealing to a broader audience. Of those 29 games, most of them were exclusives to the Wii U or 3DS, made by Nintendo or one of their 1st party studios. A few titles are third party exclusives like “Bayonetta 2”, “Sonic: The Lost World”, and “The Wonderful 101”, and a few more are third party multi-platform games that offer something unique on the Wii U compared to Sony or Microsoft’s versions. Ubisoft and Sega are pretty much the only big publishers supporting Nintendo at this point, but if they find success there, maybe other companies will follow. Traditionally, third party software doesn’t sell well on Nintendo platforms, and Nintendo chose to produce a new console that can’t compete with the power of the next-gen consoles from Sony and Microsoft, so I can understand why publishers are hesitant to support Nintendo.
At any rate, Nintendo’s list of new games is impressive. All of Nintendo’s games share a vibrant, cartoony art style, so “next-gen power” may be irrelevant. Fans of all ages will appreciate games like “Super Smash Bros.” that feature characters from lots of Nintendo games, and a few surprise characters from third party franchises, like Mega Man from Capcom. The “Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” came out less than 2 years ago, so a brand new, HD LoZ game is probably a few years off. In the meantime, Link fans can get their hands on an HD “Legend of Zelda: Windwaker” remake and a brand new “Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” on the 3DS. A Link Between Worlds is a new story that uses a graphically updated world from the classic NES game “A Link To The Past”. Another “remake” of sorts is the “New Super Luigi U” that treats fans to a Luigi version of “New Super Mario U” that came out last year. “Super Mario 3D World”, “Mario Kart 8”, “Pikmin 3”, “Yoshi’s New Island”, “Mario & Luigi Dream Team”, “Wii Party U”, and “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” round out Nintendo’s collection of new games based on popular franchises. (Is it just me, or does “Tropical Freeze” sound like a mixed-drink?) That’s a huge list of games that should keep Nintendo fans happy, and hopefully bolster Wii U sales in the coming year.
When the Wii U launched last year, it had two SKUs: a unit with an 8GB HDD for $300 and a unit with a 32GB HDD bundled with “New Super Mario U” for $350. With Sony’s announcement of the PS4 selling for $400 this holiday, I predict that Nintendo will have to a) get rid of the 8GB model because it’s not selling and b) drop the 32GB bundle down to $300 to compete with the PS4.
The “gaming PC” company teased a big announcement prior to E3, and yesterday they unveiled a new line of gaming laptops. Set to replace their previous line, the new laptops feature a new magnesium alloy and aluminum casing, the newest “Haswell” processors from Intel, and the high end 750M (and up) GPUs from Nvidia. As expected, these won’t come cheap: the 14″ version starts at $1,199, the 17″ version starts at $1,499, and the 18″ beast – boasting a 1080p display and dual-GPUSs – starts at $2,099. Obviously, these aren’t for everybody, but I thought they looked really cool. Plus, it’s important for competition and progression for somebody to take the first step and make some benchmarks.
Speaking of competition, the open-source, indie-friendly mini-console from Boxer8 ran into some trouble at E3. They set their booth up across the street from the convention center, I guess to appear as “outsiders” to the industry. This didn’t make the event runners, the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) happy, so they parked big trucks in the empty booth space in front of the OUYA booth. This didn’t deter OUYA founder Julie Uhrman, who just rented out the empty booth space in front of those trucks. The ESA sent the police to remove the OUYA booth, but when Boxer8 produced the necessary proof that they rented that space, the cops left them alone. It’s an amusing story, but I wonder why Julie is trying to be an “outsider” like this. Maybe it’s a publicity stunt?
A more popular Kickstarter-funded project, the Oculus Rift, showed a newer 1080p updated prototype at E3. The Rift is designed to immerse gamers with a 3D goggle-display unit. The display connects to a controller that the player uses for traditional controls, but the goggles also track head movement, providing a more natural, intuitive way of exploring virtual worlds. The updated prototype not only boasts a higher resolution display, it can also run the brand new game engine from Epic, the Unreal Engine 4. Squeezing so much processing power into such a small device is really impressive.
What’s really impressive to me, however, is the dedication this team is showing to this project, in spite of the tragedy they experienced not too long ago. The project co-founder, and industry veteran of many years, Andrew Scott Reisse, was tragically killed Thursday, May 30th, by a car in a cross walk just a few miles from his office. Like a scene from a video game, the car that struck Reisse had just ran a red light, after running a number of red lights, because they were being chased by police. The three suspects were later apprehended by the police. Hopefully, justice will prevail, as will the Oculus Rift project. Read more: http://news.techeye.net/mobile/oculus-rift-cofounder-dies-in-freak-accident#ixzz2W13mypeh
Xbox One: “Deal With It Part 2”
On a more amusing note, Microsoft can’t keep their own feet out of their mouths. Days before E3, a Microsoft representative was fired for remarking that customers would just have to “deal with it” when asked about the “always online” internet checking of the Xbox One. On Monday, Microsoft’s Don Mattrick addressed those concerns, before appearing in the big E3 presentation, in an interview, and is quoted as saying “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360.” Mattrick explained: “If you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device.” He’s not wrong, and personally, I think he has a good point, but his response has riled up the gaming community. Sony’s presentation on Monday night, about nine hours after this interview, had a different response: the PS4.
Those were just a few of the interesting stories from E3 on Tuesday, June 11th. There are more events and stories I’m not covering, like PC hardware developer AMD’s answer to Intel’s new “Haswell” CPU, the AMD “Piledriver” that boasts a 5ghz clock speed for consumers, but these stood out to me. Enjoy E3!