E3 2013: It’s Not About Being Good; It’s About Being Better Than the Other Guys

Wat.

We’ve seen the Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo pre-E3 press conferences (well, as close as we’ll get from Nintendo…), and they’ve been kind of all over the place. Let’s get some reactions from ME! (That’s why you’re at my blog, right?)

Microsoft:

They talked about games! Ryse (kind of an Assassin’s Creed/God of War with gladiators?), Titanfall, Capybara and Superbrothers’ nifty-looking Below. Project Spark, which is kind of a world/game generator, I think? Another Minecraft, this time for Xbox One. A new game called D4 from Swery65. Forza, which looks less interesting by the minute. Halo Gear Rising. And they kept trying to get us to use Smartglass. Why would you make games for a console that doesn’t even need a controller – since you’re insisting on bundling a price-bumping Kinect with it – use a separate tablet? Especially when the uses are obviously so limited, superfluous, and – ultimately – pointless?

And then they announced the $499 price point. Add this to their used game policy (no.) and their internet-connected policy (every day.), and you have something that isn’t super appealing to people who are actually paying attention to this kind of thing. However, I don’t know these Draconian policies will amount in limiting consumer spending. Xbox is kind of the ubiquitous name in games today, be it because of the Call of Dutys or the family stuff or Achievements, and the Xbox One is apparently “breaking records” on Amazon…

Sony:

… although those records might be “Most Canceled Pre-Orders” because Sony LAID THE SMACK DOWN at their conference. The first twenty minutes of the presentation was SCEA President and CEO Jack Tretton explaining exactly why the PlayStation 4 will be better than the Xbox One.  He talked about trusting consumers and letting them have silly little things like “rights” and “ownership of their games.” He explained that you never have to connect the PS4 to the internet, ever, if you can’t or don’t want to. They even posted this video, demonstrating how game borrowing between friends will work on the PS4:

Owned. For the first time since I can remember, an E3 press conference stream showed crowd reaction shots. People cheeeeered louder than at any conference this year (possibly all time) because Sony has features that all consoles have in the current generation. Xbox One suddenly seems to be not about what it offers, but what it denies. Sony, meanwhile, subtly started charging ~$5/month for online multiplayer (a policy that Microsoft has been practicing since the very first Xbox) but will continue offering free games though its already-sublime-but-now-required-to-play-online PlayStation Plus service (which, by the way, will transfer to PS4 and include all three Sony systems). People don’t even seem to care about the multiplayer cost anymore.

While Microsoft seems to be becoming known for denying things to its customers, Sony is quickly becoming the one company giving us more. That’s how PlayStation Plus made such huge strides toward combating the super-connected Xbox LIVE service and, in many ways, surpassed it. It makes it easy to forget that the PlayStation Network went down for a month and lost all of our credit card information, because LOOK FREE AND USED GAMES!

Oh, and the indie stuff! This is where all the interesting stuff is happening and I’m gonna post a lot of it this week.

Nintendo:

They have been and will continue to live in their own little bubble. Eschewing the traditional E3 press conference, we got to watch a Nintendo Direct at 7 a.m. Pacific Time this morning. Well, eventually. The North American stream at the official Nintendo site didn’t work at all, and we all had to watch the U.K.  show on Ustream. Not ideal. It was… underwhelming. We got Mega Man and the Villager from Animal Crossing in Smash Bros. (which will be two separate-but-the-same games on 3DS and Wii U, much like they did with the recent Monster Hunter), and there was one new title announced that hasn’t been mentioned before: Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze for Wii U. This sounds like a new drink you can order at Taco Bell, but is actually a new 2D DKC game that looks almost exactly like the last one but with more of an emphasis on exploding barrels.

They also showed some Wind Waker HD footage. You could tell it wasn’t the GameCube version because there were Wii U buttons onscreen and it was widescreen. They said something about new color palettes, too. Maybe a CoD: Ghosts side-by-side dog comparison would have helped show off the power of the new hardware versus the old.

The problem with these games isn’t that the game are bad. Nintendo knows how to make fun, tight, quality software. But it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. The new Mario game, Super Mario 3D World, looks like an HD version of Super Mario 3D Land but with multiplayer (and playable Princess Peach, with that floaty jump from Super Mario Bros. 2). Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is just more Donkey Kong Country ReturnsWind Waker HD is literally Wind WakerThe Wonderful 101 looks like Pikmin 3, which they didn’t even show during this show (maybe they’re saving it for the other Nintendo Direct this week, along with the new Link to the Past?). Bayonetta 2… she has short hair.

I don’t know. I’m glad I’m actually going to E3 to see, play, and experience these games on the show floor, because if that was my only experience with the new Wii stuff this year (and, in the case of Smash Bros., next year), I would not be rushing out to buy a Wii U. A PS4, on the other hand? It looks like it can do all the stuff I want a next-generation console to do. And? It’s launching at only $399 – a whole $100 less than the Xbox One because it doesn’t ship with a camera (which will retail separately for $60). The choice of which console to pick up this winter seems clear.

Stay tuned here all week as I bring you all the stuff one random blogger from the Midwest can do.

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