The big thing, of course, at this year’s E3 was the console showdown. First, you have the second generation of Xbox360 games, which look to be, as expected, a vast improvement over the first generation. Next, you have the PS3, which, frankly, looks unimpressive. And last, of course, is the Wii. As I started writing this, I was standing in a line so long for the Wii that if the damn thing doesn’t make my dick grow two inches and women love me even more, it was a waste of time.
I’d like to touch on the upcoming price war, and wonder what the fuck Sony is thinking. Sony has always been positioned as the Cadillac of systems, targeting adults focuses on superior performance and typically a very robust game offering. They certainly are thinking “Cadillac” with their $600 price point (the $500 is a decoy and a joke). My huge concern is–based on the first set of games shown at E3–this is going to be an even tougher sell than it already seems. Granted, most of them were at 30% or less completion, but I am very, very nervous.
The Wii, conversely, focuses on gameplay and is marketing at kids (and thus, their parent’s wallets). If the Wii comes in at a significantly lower price point–I think Sony is in big trouble. Also, the Wii’s graphics are pretty good as well– I’d say they looked better than the PS3 ones, but I think part of this was that the PS3 games were real games, not demos, so the graphics weren’t finalized yet. On the high end, they’re competing with gen 2 and then gen 3 Xbox games, and on the gameplay/kids side, they face a much tougher sell against a cheaper (and stronger kid’s brand) in Nintendo. The real question here is if there are enough early adopters willing to buck up and drop $600 in the 18-30 demographic to make the PS3 work. Personally, I think that if any company can pull this off, it’s Sony… but it’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out.
Now, on to the Wii! After waiting in a long line and after being exhausted from the badass Sony party (had to drop that we went there, sorry, it was awesome), we waited over an hour to see the Wii. No announced release date, but the Nintendo people we talked to said that it was due out Q4, in time for Christmas, of course. The Wii has two controllers, the wand and the “nunchaku.” The name Nunchaku was picked because it makes brandishing a controller like a real sword seem less wimpy, and the target teenage demographic responds well to any ninja weapons. The only confirmed title is Zelda, although there were a lot of various demos. Our impressions…
Noah: Liked the system. Liked the controller, but concerned about how replicable the learning curve for games are.
Ben: Liked the system. Did not like the controller. Not really sold on playing with that controller in front of a group of friends.
Horatio: Liked the system. Liked the controller, but concerned about being able to play it for multiple hours.
Golden Jew: Liked the system. Liked the controller. I also have some concerns about being able to play for extended periods of time. You’d think that our wrists were strong from umm… auxiliary gaming activities, but it turns out the Wii uses “different” wrist muscles.
Wii games we played:
Obstacle Course (Noah): This game was just a demo. Controller was cool, but seemed to be uncalibrated. Probably a relic of the fact it’s a demo.
Mario Galaxy (Noah): Looked very cool. There were both space and planetary levels. Graphics were very, very cool. Gameplay was fun, but more of the same “learning curve” stuff.
Project HAMMER (Golden Jew): I was unclear what the plot to this game was, besides the fact there were a whole lot of robots that needed smashing. It was fun, but some of the moves felt clunky. Gives you an idea of how to wield two systems at once.
Golf Game (Ben): Liked the game–but didn’t like the control aspect for it. Too sensitive on the backswing. Not a huge fan of the controller overall.
Red Steel (Horatio): Seemed to be some moves that were simply senseless demonstrations of the technology (such as shaking the nunchaku to open doors). The calibration felt good, parrying swords and aiming the gun were fun.
Bomberman (Golden Jew and Horatio): This just had some fun mini games that gave you more feel for the technology. A fun aiming game and a fun sonic style tube game. Both used only the nunchaku.
Overall: we liked the Wii a lot more than the PS3. Nintendo is on to something very innovative– but we’ll see if “innovative” equals “cool” and more importantly “fun.” The controller is novel, but we’re not yet sold on it being long term fun. Part of that might be because it goes against decades of conventional controller wisdom… but part of it might just be that it’s too alien.