E3 2010 - It's about the Hardware and a Console Middle Age

Bill Loguidice's picture

Nintendo 3DSNintendo 3DSIn an interesting twist, this E3 has been about hardware and a console middle age. How is that a twist and what do I mean by that? Well, instead of the usual E3 when the focus is on hardware and the usual new, dedicated platforms, this E3 has really been about enhancing two of the three existing platforms with hardware add-ons, and, as a nod to the maturity of this console lifecycle, a rash of sequel-itis from the big three, with new entries in well worn game series. With no sign of either the Xbox 360, Wii, or PS3 being replaced any time soon, it's all about distinguishing your particular platform in a particular manner--Microsoft and Sony went with new, relatively expensive hardware add-ons (and the former one fairly slick redesign), and Nintendo went with its usual franchises. And oh yes, Nintendo slammed the gavel down with full details on the extremely impressive 3DS, the logical successor to the DS line (and thank goodness they went with the 3DS name and not some of the other names being bandied about).

So, let's take a look at what the big three offered up both right before and during E3, and provide some analysis:

Microsoft:

  • Introduced a slim, black Xbox 360 with a bigger hard drive and built-in wi-fi. It's very slick looking, though there's still no Blu-Ray drive for playing HD movies, so Microsoft is still sticking with HD streaming as the only active HD movie option.
  • Officially unveiled Kinect, formerly known as "Project Natal". This is Microsoft's attempt to muscle in on Wii's territory, and trump both Nintendo's and Sony's tech. You'll see lots of Wii-like mini-games, but the real potential of this add-on remains to be seen (for instance, it can in theory offer 3D on any TV without the need for glasses by tracking your eyes to adjust the image on the fly). It's also the only such option that is not designed around you holding a controller of some type. This is pure tracking, plain and simple, though very sophisticated tracking. The other interesting thing is that the 360 interface will be designed to be controlled via "Kinect", meaning hand and other gestures can control the menu system, among other things. The big "x" factor here of course is going to be the price, with rumors that prices will start as high as $150. That's a mighty big leap for most people and would be the single biggest limiting factor to reasonable adoption levels. Of course I'm sure we'll know what the actual price is going to be long before its November release date.
  • The usual sequels were revealed, like "Fable III", along with a small handful of original titles. The first two announcements were really Microsoft's big reveals, though.
  • Sony:

  • Not really new hardware, but they've upgraded their built-in wi-fi to "n", versus the previous max of "g". The Wii is the only one left on the slower standard, though it should be trivial for them to make the switch as well at some point (though don't bet on it, particularly since there's not a pressing need for "n" performance on the platform).
  • PlayStation Move was unveiled. This is the most direct knock-off of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk possible (or more correctly, Wii Remote with Motion+ and Nunchuk), but in a more refined package, and with the addition of a camera to further enhance precision. The usual rash of Wii-like mini-game compilations were unveiled, as well as enhancements to traditional games. While this will release for (presumably) far less than "Kinect", the most logical starting bundle is still $100, which again, is not as cheap as it should be for true mainstream adoption (you can buy the wand by itself for instance, for only $50). The reality is, "PlayStation Move" is probably an in-between solution to the "almost there" tracking of the Wii and the more sophisticated integration of "Kinect", so there really are three different approaches to the same exact concept. In any case, this is an undeniable win for Nintendo's original Wii gamble, with none of their competitors ever able to mock the system in a credible way again. This of course doesn't change the fact that the Wii has many failings and these are improvements, but it's their competitors playing catch up, not the other way around.
  • Sony's PSP. Ugh. Nothing new on this front, only a new marketing campaign focused on making the handheld seem like the cool option. In the face of the Nintendo 3DS, Sony has pretty much lost this battle as well. Still, the PSP remains the only portable option to get the full console experience in a handheld; that is until the 3DS starts to build up its library and likely matches that full console experience...
  • The usual rash of sequels were announced, including a new Little Big Planet game and a new Twisted Metal. A few original titles were also mentioned.
  • Nintendo:

  • Though I own every Nintendo platform (even most of the Japanese ones), I'm not their biggest fan, and I'm certainly not the biggest fan of their IP's. Frankly, I can take or leave them. With that said, for Nintendo IP fans, Nintendo delivered with their usual cadre of franchise successors. This would be enough for the fanboys, but it wouldn't have been enough for me. Luckily, Nintendo didn't disappoint...
  • To me, the most exciting announcement was getting the official details on the 3DS, the next generation successor to the wildly successful DS line. While it only sports one 3D screen on top (Nintendo was unable to figure out how to make a 3D touch screen), it sounds like it works very well and will at least offer PSP-like or better polygon performance (though I have a nagging feeling that developers *may* butt up against cartridge capacity limitations). A side effect of the 3D without glasses is that it requires various gyroscopes and accelerometers to keep the 3D image moving with your eyes/head, so it opens up all kinds of other uses for those trackers beyond just the 3D, though naturally having a real 3D system without glasses is its single biggest draw. It's also supposed to have a killer analog nub (much better than the mediocre PSP nub), as well as offer the ability to take 3D photos thanks to two front facing camera lenses. The possibilities are really out there with this device, and if Nintendo can release it at or below $200, it will easily be a huge success (and even if it's released at a slightly higher price, it should still be a success, though it will take a bit longer to gain full momentum). Of course, a $200 or lower price point means that things like the $190 DSi XL will have to be lowered in price and so on down the line. Of course we also have to assume that the games will likely be sold for $10 above the typical DS game prices as well. It also makes an interesting comparison between the $200 Wii bundle, which itself might seem even creakier tech-wise in the face of both its competitors and Nintendo's own efforts (knocking the Wii down in price by $50 - $100 in stages should easily solve that, though)...

    Though you certainly don't need me to say it, the 3DS is going to change a lot of things and is all but assured of great success both here and abroad. This type of screen and option WILL find its way into more and more devices, particularly once a touch screen option is figured out. Naturally, at first the software will be gimmicky, but so was the initial DS line-up, and that improved dramatically over time. Just taking the possibilities, there's much to look forward to.

  • _

    By the way, now that all three platforms have some type of motion controls/tracking, all three platforms will be getting a rash of both performance and fitness games. Do I smell a sequel to Wii Fitness for Dummies?

    So, what are some of your E3 thoughts?

    Comments

    Catatonic
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    Joined: 05/20/2006
    I watched a few minutes of E3

    I watched a few minutes of E3 coverage on TV, enough to see the expected ratio of creepy-looking-man-boys to bored-looking-models-in-uncomfortable-outfits.

    Bill Loguidice
    Bill Loguidice's picture
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    Joined: 12/31/1969
    Penny Arcade gets it
    Catatonic wrote:

    I watched a few minutes of E3 coverage on TV, enough to see the expected ratio of creepy-looking-man-boys to bored-looking-models-in-uncomfortable-outfits.

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/6/14/

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    Rob Daviau
    Rob Daviau's picture
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    Joined: 05/19/2006
    I never got anything after my

    I never got anything after my DSphat. The Nintendo Wii and DS library is not to my liking with all the poor licensed games and shovelware. I am not into Cooking Mama or casual type games, I loved Moon and Dementium the ward on DS but such titles are to few and far in between. I admit though the pictures and video of the 3DS do look inciting and THIS comment from the show has me hopeful:
    Nintendo has mentioned the 3DS will have the "biggest launch support ever" from third party devs, and a 3D Nintendogs should be a
    huge seller -- if only because it has cats too. Other games include Madden, Ninja Gaiden, Resident Evil, a Batman title, Splinter
    Cell, and, finally, a Metal Gear Solid entry.

    I just hope the 3DS isn't soon followed by 3DS Lite / 3DSi / 3DS xl etc if you know what I mean, sure I liked the DS Lite then the DSi and the DS xl but I stuck with my original DS Phat because there was not enough new game wise for each new model.

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    Bill Loguidice
    Bill Loguidice's picture
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    Joined: 12/31/1969
    I hear you!
    MaximumRD wrote:

    I just hope the 3DS isn't soon followed by 3DS Lite / 3DSi / 3DS xl etc if you know what I mean, sure I liked the DS Lite then the DSi and the DS xl but I stuck with my original DS Phat because there was not enough new game wise for each new model.

    That's something that is guaranteed, sadly. Nintendo, Apple, Sony, and Microsoft have all long since learned that you can easily goose sales by simply releasing incrementally improved products. Heck, sometimes just a new color makes a big impact.

    I went from a DS Phat to a DSi when I had to give my daughter my DS Phat after her DS Lite broke. Unlike with the DS or PSP, I believe I'll try to get a launch 3DS. That will maximize my time between Nintendo releasing the 3DS Lite...

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    Catatonic
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    Joined: 05/20/2006
    Very accurate cartoon, Bill!

    Very accurate cartoon, Bill! Ha ha.

    I don't have much to say about the products at E3. Videogames aren't really my thing anymore. (So why am I on Armchair Arcade? Well I do love the games from the old days.)

    Proud Mom and Promo Model (not verified)
    Bored looking models in

    Bored looking models in uncomfortable outfits? That is so lame! I am never bored at my job. I guess it helps that I love gaming and enjoy talking about games with others who love it. I only wish some unfortunate people would not project their values. Most models are very happy and love their work! I have done lots of venues, and gaming venues are by far the best. Everyone is very polite and respectful.

    Bill Loguidice
    Bill Loguidice's picture
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    Joined: 12/31/1969
    Booth Model
    Proud Mom and Promo Model wrote:

    Bored looking models in uncomfortable outfits? That is so lame! I am never bored at my job. I guess it helps that I love gaming and enjoy talking about games with others who love it. I only wish some unfortunate people would not project their values. Most models are very happy and love their work! I have done lots of venues, and gaming venues are by far the best. Everyone is very polite and respectful.

    That's great that you're able to report such positive experiences. It certainly seems that may not necessarily be the rule, rather the exception, but it's still good to get first-hand accounts like that from the trenches. Thanks for the info. Also, I don't think anyone is projecting their values in any of the comments to this thread, so I'd love it if you can expand a bit on that perception that you got...

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    Catatonic
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    Joined: 05/20/2006
    I don't mean to cause offence

    I don't mean to cause offence to the models, and of course my observations are based on 5 minutes of TV viewing.

    Matt Barton
    Matt Barton's picture
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    Joined: 01/16/2006
    Interesting discussion. I

    Interesting discussion. I hope no one takes this personally, but I have to admit to having mixed feelings about this. It seems a bit seedy, somehow, having some scantily clad model decked in a game-related "costume" try to promote a product. Perhaps it's effective, but surely there are less, shall we say, sexist ways to promote something? After all, McDonalds sells plenty of Big Macs without having to put exotic dancers out front.

    In my opinion, the whole "booth babe" thing is demeaning to women and, in fact, to gamers, who the publishers seem to assume are so sex-depraved or gullible that they'll fall for such shenanigans. Bill and I saw plenty of them at GDC, and, if anything, a lot of guys there seemed embarrassed by the whole thing. Sure, some were all about it, hooting and what-not, but is that the kind of vibe we want for the gaming industry?

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    Rob Daviau
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    Joined: 05/19/2006
    While I agree and see where

    While I agree and see where your coming from when you keep in mind the target audience and to whom they are trying to appeal to it is not surprising. I agree I prefer a more intelligent and mature attitude in the gaming community and I am not proud of how we are still perceived and things like this do not help but sadly I doubt it will change anytime soon.

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