Another year, another E3. This marked the third E3 I have attended. Obviously, this year’s big focus was on the new console systems: Second Generation Xbox 360 games, the Wii, and the PS3.
Last year, after seeing the preview for the Xbox 360, the teaser demo for the PS3, and hearing about the Wii (then called the Revolution, a time which will be remembered as “Heterosexual Nintendo”), I was stoked. I boldly declared to my friends that this next generation of consoles would be remembered as a big turning point in gaming. Finally–at last–systems would have standard support for the goodies that make PC gaming so much fun (hard drives, keyboards, online connectivity), combined with native HD support and some serious rendering muscle. Finally, console makers would get it, and we were in for what would be some seriously high powered, interactive, and most importantly, fun, gaming.
I’m not ready to give up on my dream just yet, but after this year’s E3, I find I’m not nearly as optimistic as I was before. It seems each console maker has decided to taint my pure vision with their own versions of stupidity. Note that many of these mimic Jay’s views, but that’s because Jay isn’t a fucking idiot–what I’m about to talk about isn’t rocket science.
–PS3: Price, price, price. The price only becomes reasonable if you view the built in Blu-Ray DVD player a purchase you were going to make anyway. In my case, this is true, but I doubt the software or movie titles will make me want to suck it up and pay the price to be an early adopter, unless I stumble upon a leprechaun’s pot of gold or a drug dealer’s stash of cocaine (and sell the cocaine, as opposed to snorting it). As if this weren’t enough–the fact Sony is going to attempt to price games at $70-$80 pisses me off. And even more terrifying is if they can gain acceptance at this price level, other console makers will try to follow suit. And lastly, the first batch of games at E3 this year did not impress, but I’ll give them a pass on this because I think part of this was that they were real games, not demos (and thus not optimized for display). It is clear that you will need an HD TV for this system to make sense, however. I think the prerequisites for this system are about 3-5 years too early (it requires too much extra cost from the user).
–Wii: Besides the horrible name, which has been beaten to death (but still deserves a few more stomps in the face, Nintendo, what were you thinking for fuck’s sake?), I fear that Nintendo got too creative for their own good. On the one hand, we may look back at this as one of the boldest strokes of genius in gaming history. Or, there is the distinct possibility people will reject the controller as a novelty, and the system will trend back towards the standard controller (of which they already have a stripped down version shown at E3). The Wii isn’t really my demographic anyway, but I just can’t see myself playing these games for any substantial length of time. Gee, I’ve had a hard day at work, time to swing a remote control like a golf club to relax. Yeah, right.
–Xbox 360: I hate Microsoft, so as a result, I have the least to say about this system. I am annoyed they are marrying it to Vista, because it seems like the sort of stupid thing a giant monopolistic company does to ruin what forward progress they might be making inadvertently (tying a nimble gaming unit to the behemoth that is the OS group). Some of the second generation games looked good, like Shadowrun, but I’ll probably play it on the PC over the Xbox.
So, overall, I am not as thrilled about the next generation consoles as I might be. But there are some silver linings. First off, I find myself tempted to buy a PSP more than ever. There finally seem to be some decent games coming out for it, which has me pleased. This might just be my narrow, uneducated view (definitely), but I think there is hope yet for this system that is so gorgeous to look at, but awkward to work with. I still can’t bring myself to touch the Nintendo DS’ stylus, but judging by the buzz around the DS at E3, I am in the minority here. I am ok with this.
In terms of games, even though I never made it to the demo, the trailer plus the reports of my colleagues Ben and Noah on Spore make me want it very badly. It seems like the sort of bold and awesome game that doesn’t come around as often as you’d like. Shadowrun looked neat, because it was a new spin on an old genre (team based multiplayer games). I wish they’d do more with it, like combat magic and an MMO, but my guess is this is in the works, and will depend upon the original game’s success.
I was disappointed by the state of Square-Enix, with their theater presentation fairly bland. The FFXIII trailer for the PS3 looked cool, but I wish they’d release FFXII already and I hope it doesn’t suck. Every time I play the demos they have (and keep in mind I’ve done this three years now) for FFXII, I’m disappointed, but I’m hoping they surprise me.
World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, despite my obsession with it, failed to impress me as well. I think part of this is I play WoW for end game raiding, and they didn’t have anything that demo’d this (nor is it really demoable). Plus, I am thoroughly disappointed with the expansion race graphically, because they look like blue circus dwarves with tails.
Overall, it was a weak E3 year. My biggest highlights, beyond what was above, were the Sony and Best Buy parties, which weren’t even video game related (but they were awesome, trust me on this). My biggest concern is that with so many console makers making different leaps into different unknown territories (such as new pricing models and rampant stupidity), I worry that we’ll see an even longer development curve for good games on these systems. As a result, unless there is a killer release title you love, I would heavily encourage you NOT to buy any of these systems at release. Granted, this all could change in the next year, but I think the best approach for a gamer to take right now is “wait and see” on the next generation consoles. Let the prices come down, let some real developers get their hands dirty, and then make your choice. Unless you want an Xbox 360, in which case you know what you’re getting.