It has been about two weeks now since this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) grand finale. Gamers’ expectations were high for the popular video game trade show; however, it is obvious from the online chatter that, for many gaming fans, E3 2012 did not meet those expectations. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft failed to deliver any of the big or surprising moments that have been a long-time E3 tradition. People look forward to the wonder and excitement brought forth by the marketing teams of the big three console manufacturers. Now that everyone has had some time to cool off and recover from the seemingly lackluster E3 announcements, we are going to take an objective look at why things may not have been as intriguing as gamers were hoping for.
Microsoft’s Focus on Entertainment
As I mentioned in my pre-E3 2012 article series, Microsoft has made their Xbox 360 into a very multimedia-focused device. It was no surprise then that the major announcement coming out of Microsoft’s E3 press conference was SmartGlass, a multimedia software platform that turns smartphones and tablets into additional interface devices for Xbox 360 media services and games. While the media portion of SmartGlass looks interesting, the gaming examples are limited at best and seem to have been created to simply steal thunder away from Nintendo’s Wii U tablet controller. Besides SmartGlass, Microsoft predictably focused most of their press conference on showing off third-party games like “Tomb Raider” and “Resident Evil 6.” It is no wonder Xbox fans walked away unimpressed — big first-party titles other than the obvious “Halo,” “Fable”, “Gears of War,” and “Forza” combination Microsoft has been milking for years. The lack of interesting games and game-centric features is a telling sign that Microsoft is hard at work on their next-generation hardware.
Sony’s Exclusive Games
Sony followed up Microsoft’s press conference with a larger emphasis on first-party exclusive games. There may not have been any major surprises from Sony’s conference, but their line-up of in-house PS3 titles surely impressed. New game properties like “Beyond: Two Souls” and “The Last of Us” engaged gamers, while other titles like “God of War: Ascension” and “PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale” rounded out the show. In between their solid first-party software showcase, however, Sony failed to excite gamers over their still fresh portable: the PS Vita. With the only big highlights for the PS Vita being a new white hardware bundle along with exclusive “Assassin’s Creed III” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops” spin-offs, it seems as if Sony has all but given up on their handheld. It may just be that, much like Microsoft, Sony is focused on their next-generation game console that is rumored to be unveiled at next year’s E3.
Nintendo’s Wii U Falls Flat
If there was any presentation that stands out as the most hyped and highly anticipated, it was Nintendo’s. Their new Wii U game system and the GamePad tablet controller was announced at last year’s E3, but this year Nintendo was expected to prove to gamers what makes the Wii U a worthy successor to the Wii. In some ways they accomplished this, and in other arguably more important ways, Nintendo came up short. They showed a new Mario game, “Pikmin 3,” and the Wii U’s showcase title, “Nintendoland.” It’s not that any of these games didn’t look interesting, fun or graphically impressive, but they simply did not produce the level of excitement a new HD entry into other Nintendo franchises like “Zelda” and “Metroid” may have created. Gamers walked away a bit confused about what Nintendo is trying to accomplish with the Wii U. Is it a “hardcore” console, or is Nintendo leaving fans behind again to deliver more “casual” experiences like the Wii? This is a question Nintendo has been slowly addressing since E3, and will continue to do event after the Wii U launches later this year. Nintendo had the most to gain at this year’s E3, but it seems that Nintendo pulled some of their heavy-hitting software from the show in anticipation for next year’s E3. Besides Wii U, Nintendo’s 3DS received a small bit of attention by confirming dates for previously announced games and showcasing a couple new titles. Overall, Nintendo’s conference did the minimum needed to get people interested in Wii U.
E3 2012 in a nutshell
One word sums up this year’s E3 very well: preparation. All three console manufacturers seem to have diverted most of their attention to the next-generation. Despite the Wii U releasing this year, it still seems as if Nintendo, like Microsoft and Sony, is preparing to battle it out next year. Games like “Watch Dogs” and next-generation graphics engines like Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 give gamers a glimpse into the future of the game industry. We’ll just have to wait until next year before we see what the next-generation of game consoles will bring to the table.