E3 2012: Thoughts & Wishes

Get hype people! For the 2012 Edition of the Electronic Entertainment Expo is nearly upon us. In just over 43 hours, the biggest week on the video gaming calendar will kick off when Microsoft Entertainment & Devices/Microsoft Studios take to the stage to deliver the first of the E3 Press Conferences, which play host to the biggest announcements in gaming’s biggest week.

It’s always worth paying attention to E3, not just because you find out about all the coolest, most exciting news regarding upcoming games and hardware but also because of the spectacle. And the memes. Dear god the memes.

And so, I am suitably excited about the week ahead. So here’s a look at what it is about E3 2012 I’m looking forward to. And in case anyone’s wondering, I’m still planning to do a Post about the 2012 Eurovision Final and the fact Soluna Samay obviously should have won, but I’m holding off on it until the EBU releases the split jurors/tele-voting results, because I want to give them a look over first.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get to my Thoughts & Wishes for E3 2012!

Microsoft

Oh Microsoft, what is with you guys anyway? You had it all. Mindshare, loyal users, buckets of income, a cornucopia of beloved franchises on your hardware…And yet you’ve spent the past three E3s wasting everyone’s time pursuing a fool’s understanding of the Nintendo formula.

I’m not sure what it is which has caused Microsoft’s Nintendo envy to swell to such incredible heights over the past few years…Certainly Nintendo’s considerable success with the Wii had them looking at the Big N with considerable envy – after all, Microsoft had it in their heads that this generation was their turn for dominance. Every platform gets two generations to call their own, right? Nintendo had two, Sony had two…Then Nintendo, in Microsoft’s eyes at least, stole another turn in the winner’s circle.

Winner’s envy has never been a good look or move for Microsoft. The same thing is what led to the stillborn “zune” line of personal media players. Nor has copying ever done Microsoft much good. Windows Vista was a straight clone of Mac OS X with the Windows legacy and it bombed. Windows Phone 7 in contrast, is critically acclaimed. Microsoft, for all its history of shamelessly ripping off other people’s work, is at its best when it’s doing it’s own thing.

Which is why I think they’ve dug themselves into a hole with the Kinect. Kinect is Microsoft copying Nintendo on a conceptual level. The problem with copying that, as it has been with all notable examples of Microsoft copying other people’s stuff, is that Microsoft doesn’t understand what it’s copying. The flagrantly shoddy user experience of the Kinect is the result of Microsoft’s under-developed understanding of the success Nintendo has had with the Wii. They boiled it down to “motion controls = casual audience”. Wrong, so wrong. So painfully, juvenilely over-simplified.

The casual appeal of the Wii was baked into its very being. It’s not motion controls, it’s simplicity that won the day. Simplicity breeds intuitiveness. Kinect is wholly non-simple, and thus counter intuitive. Microsoft failed to realise that while Nintendo fixed the over-complexity of controllers with the Wii, controllers themselves are not inherently complex. Quite the opposite. They abstract complex actions into simpler ones. Kinect does not. The result is a terrible user experience. But nonetheless, one Microsoft seems to have unwavering faith in. No doubt spurred on by inflated hardware sales. The software sales tell a different story. So the big wish for me this E3 in terms of Microsoft…

For the love of everything you hold dear Microsoft, stop banking on the Kinect. The Xbox 360 is awesome in its own right. You thought so once too. Remember 2007?

Do more of that. Don’t go another year spending half your presser showing off games and game features that most people don’t want, and which will suck. No, seriously, almost anything related to the Kinect can and will suck in some way. Because it’s a wrongheaded solution to a non-problem. You’ve done it now, so continue to pursue it if you will, but let’s have some stuff that ignores it, please?

Halo 4 is so far Kinect-less. Keep it that way. New Gears of War, huh? Do yourselves a favour and keep the Kinect the hell off it. If you absolutely have to use it, just use the voice commands. And let’s get some new game announcements which are also Kinect-free. I can’t think of a single game announcement from you last year that was Kinect-free except the two Halo titles.

Cut that shit out Microsoft.

I’d also like to see you un-tie some of the internet service on Xbox 360 from Xbox LIVE Gold subscriptions. It’s flat-out dumb to expect me to pay you for services other platforms provide free access to, especially (though not exclusively) those which are themselves subscription based services. Of course you’re not going to do that though, are you?

Majorly uncool, Major Nelson.

Sony

So…About time you cut the price on the PlayStation Vita, huh?

Sony seems to be a company taking two steps forward then (at least) one back lately. They got away with the PSN debacle last year with surprisingly few wounds to show for it, then set about repeating past errors in the handheld market for…No adequately explored reason. In launching the PS Vita, Sony didn’t learn from Nintendo’s troubles with the pricing. More egregiously, they did not learn from the mistakes of the PSP.

“But Paul!” I hear you cry, “The PS Vita has two thumb sticks and like, zero piracy!”

Yeah, see, those were actually by far the least of the PSP’s worries. The lack or a right stick and the poor security were periphery mistakes. They were lessons easily learnt. Even Nintendo quickly supplied an option for a second analogue input of the 3DS. The lack of a second stick was never as big a deal on the PSP or the 3DS as it was made out to be. The PSP was a failure because it was wrongheaded on a purely conceptual level (The basic system vision and design was fundamentally unappealing outside of a theoretical scenario).

And the Vita is…Identical. The vision and design are…Unchanged. It’s so much just the PSP again that not calling it the PSP2 is quite frankly a laughably transparent coverup of its sameness.

Still, while – like its predecessor before it and unlike the 3DS and DS – it fails to offer anything unique to justify its existence, it could still find a level of success akin to the PSP itself if they’d just drop the damn price. To the point I’ll actually be shocked if they don’t announce a price drop.

In contrast to the poor fortunes of the PSVita, the PlayStation 3 is ticking along nicely. The third-placed home console is nonetheless the most successful third-placed gaming platform ever. The Xbox 360 is only beating the PS3 to second place by a few million units despite a year head start and the PS3’s preposterously shaky origin story as the Five Hundred And Ninety Nine US Dollars PLAYSTATION 3.

Sony needs to continue with its efforts to one-up Microsoft on the entertainment services front, and it looks likely they will. Meanwhile, some of Sony’s special blend of “high profile exclusives” would do well to materialise this holiday season, to see off the juggernaut that is the mighty Halo franchise and Nitendo’s Wii U.

It’s probably tempting for Sony to push a lot of high profile developments to PSVita, but that would be an error. The PS3’s position for the next year is more important. Big games for the PS3 Sony, it has to happen. The Vita has time yet, especially if you drop the price. The PS3’s got a limited opportunity to strike the Xbox 360 dead. Don’t give up on that.

A fascinating rumour doing the rounds pre-E3 has Sony acquiring cloud gaming service OnLive and integrating the service into their gaming ecosystem. It makes some strategic sense – Sony seems to be in love with the idea of PlayStation Anywhere & EVERYwhere. Seems amazing they’d be able to pull off such a high-profile gambit though. Colour me intrigued by the prospect at least.

Nintendo

Oh boy, this is gonna be a big one.

Nintendo are the first platform holder to blink in the arms race that is developing the Eighth Generation Home Consoles, and last year showed off some impressive tech demos and introduced us to their latest wacky idea: “I know, let’s make the DS, but like…HUGE and with your TV!”

Snark aside, Nitendo heard you liked to iPad while you TV’d and TV while you Wii’d & iPad’d so they put an iPad in your Wii so you can iPad while you TV while you Wii.

Again, snark aside, the Wii U is Nintendo’s (unfortunately named) latest vision for disruption in the industry. They’re playing a risky game though – they’re going first. Ask perennial “first out the gaters” Sega, and most recent first blinkers Microsoft, how well going first in the home console arms race usually goes.

Nah it’s probably quicker if I just tell you: Poorly.

Still, Nintendo has never been one to play by the beat of someone else’s drum. The mere existences of the Wii/DS and the DS/Wii U are proof enough of that. What Big N sorely needs to do at E3 then is show us why this…Tablet thing is worth our attention. They need to showcase games which shift the paradigm the way Wii Sports did. Having a map on the tablet isn’t gonna cut it. Blown up DS games won’t either. It needs to be fundamentally disruptive, something totally game-changing. Wii, with Wii Sports, showcased approachability unparalleled since the NES. Wii U is more complex, so approachability will be the remit of the existing Wii Remotes (Which are part of the Wii U ecosystem too of course). The centrepiece tablet controller has to offer something else.

Versatility seems like the obvious pitch Nintendo is going to run with – not least because their promo video last year showcased a number of different use case scenarios.

To that end, Nintendo is in big trouble if they don’t get their online services house in order. Nintendo Network is already an improvement on WiiConnect24, but it needs to put on a pair of big boy pants if Nintendo’s power play on versatility with the Wii U is going to pay off. It needs accounts. It needs to have communication (Seems likely they’re at least planning on sorting that out, the tablet controller is confirmed to support video conferencing in some way at least). It needs periphery entertainment solutions.

Day one, Nintendo needs the Wii U to be as personal as its name and main controller imply, but it also needs to take Nintendo’s existing social strength and combine it with their weakness, online. Nintendo blows the doors off their competitors at local multilayer and intimate social interactions. Now they need to recognise the importance of broader social and networking features and do them right.

This is something they should try and do with the 3DS too. It would benefit from software updates adding these kinds of features. In terms of games, the 3DS is doing alright. There are already some great 3DS games slated to appear at the show (Luigi’s Mansion 2, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion) so Nintendo are probably in good shape there.

I’d like to see Pokémon Black & White 2 make some kind of appearance in the presser, but it’s unlikely. Game Freak and Creatures Inc seem to keep their own counsel on when to show off Pokémon franchise stuff. Still, Black and White 2 is probably the DS’s last major hurrah – to the point that it’s almost baffling the pair are not 3DS games – so it’d be nice to see Nintendo show off something.

Third Parties

We have got to see more about this:

Professor Layton Versus Ace Attorney (Née Professor Layton Versus Gyakuten Saiban) is one of the coolest collaborations ever. It’d be great to get a date for it – especially if there as a Western date alongside the obviously earlier Japanese one.

On a similar note, if Capcom could see their way to showing or telling us something about Gyakuten Saiban 5, confirmed as inbound in January. Who’s the star? What’s the platform (It’s obviously 3DS and probably Vita, but damn it I want you to say anyway)? And when can we play it!?

I hear EA is prepping a sequel (Or some kind of revival at any rate) to the most beloved of all Need for Speed games. If the mooted Need for Speed: Most Wanted title does materialise, you bet your ass the Fandom Will Rejoice. I’m really keen to see if they can recapture the magic of Most Wanted’s story, characters, modes and aesthetic. There was something about Most Wanted that was like lightning in a bottle. It was so correct it seemed obvious – hence Carbon was mostly a clone of it (A passable if unspectacular one) and the later Need for Speed games which diverged from its formula have been, to varying degrees, let downs.

Need for Speed needs a kick in the pants after the hugely disappointing  The Run (Failed to properly execute on an actually decent premise). Reviving Hot Pursuit did the franchise favours not too long ago, so there’s high hopes for reviving Most Wanted.

I also want EA to announce a Mass Effect Trilogy pack. It seems almost inevitable that such a product will come to be. Having not played Mass Effect but recently having finally found time for Knights of the Old Republic, I’d be very interested in such a pack. Meanwhile, EA also has a giant elephant in the room to deal with from the same developer: The Old Republic.

Despite EA’s repeated posturing that they have no intention of making TOR an F2P title, you have to wonder at what point the dwindling subscription numbers will force their hand. Perhaps they have another solution to the problem up their sleeves. Regardless, it will be interesting to hear what, if anything, EA has to say about TOR. Also, MAKE WITH THE MAC PORT ALREADY.

Jeez.

Another big one from the third parties is Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed 3. After a serious bout of Capcom Sequel Stagnation, Ubisoft is finally bringing out an all-new AC and it looks fantastic. They never, in all they hyping of the previous fur games, gave me any idea of why it was I should care. But AC3 looks like it could win me over. In a similar vein, Hitman: Absolution looks like drawing me back to that franchise after some brief flirtations in its early days.

From our friends at Disney, there’s two new Epic Mickey games. The big budget sequel, Power of Two, and the first portable entry, Power of Illusion. They both look absolutely fantastic and I’m keen to see and hear more about them.

Those are the big third party games that spring to mind as being what I’m looking out for. I’ve doubtless missed a few.

Miscellany

As I tweeted earlier, one of the games I want to see isn’t even a real thing, it’s a nebulous wish for a certain kind of game with a certain theme. I don’t even care who makes it. I just…I want a dinosaur game, guys.

A big-budget, kick ass dinosaur game. I want someone to do for Dinosaurs what has been done to death for zombies. I want like Jurassic park: Trespasser done right with modern technologies or something. Maybe you can capture the dinosaurs and try to train them or something? I dunno. Just…Dinosaurs guys, come on. Jurassic Park: The Game from Telltale Games is pretty good (Not quite as good as their Back to the Future effort mind you), but I want something a bit less Heavy Rain and a bit more…Actual video game.

Hell I think at this point I’d buy a Turok game.

Just get it done. Dinosaurs are rad. Why is nobody making dinosaur games? Seriously, I saw like THREE new zombie games last year. It’s played out – and I LOVE killing zombies. Let’s shoot dinosaurs for a while, how about it?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s