While the Electronic Entertainment Expo took place in the Los Angeles Convention Center, as it has every year since 1999 — with the exception of 2007 when the show relocated to Santa Monica — this show was different in many ways from past years.
The halls were just as crowded, just as loud and the booth babes just as scantily clad. On the surface it was E3 as usual. But there was something different. In some ways the excitement was gone, the cheers at the press conferences weren’t as loud although these were more crowded than usual.
Is the industry maturing or just getting older? Chris Morris of CNBC.com tweeted that at E3 “40 is the new 20,” and for this old timer that sounds about right.
The “big” announcements were mostly sequels: Battlefield 3, Resistance 3, Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3 and Mass Effect 3. Are we seeing a pattern here? That said, I personally can’t wait to get my hands on Battlefield 3, and I’ll be sure to check out the other games as well.
But having had hands-on time with BF3, I felt as if I’d played it before. It looked better, no doubt, but that means my two-year-old computer will likely need to be replaced. It is just that the game played almost entirely the same, but that’s because I have played Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Vietnam, Battlefield Bad Company and Battlefield Bad Company 2 already. For the record, there never was exactly a Battlefield 1, but with so many games in the series it is easy to get confused — clearly the developers at DICE as well as publisher Electronic Arts can’t keep the numbers straight.
The same could be said for many of the games shown at E3. Is innovative well and truly dead? In a way this was the show where the music died. Other than one upcoming musical, Rocksmith from Ubisoft, the music genre seems to have left the building. Strategy games were an afterthought, and even WWII shooters, the lifeblood for many companies, was nowhere to be seen — except again from Ubisoft, which is bringing out Furious Four, a comic book inspired shooter that is more “Inglorious Basterds” and less “Band of Brothers.” What is Ubisoft thinking — or is it smoking?
What was also different about this E3 is that only one company really talked hardware. Yes, Microsoft talked about adding voice control to its Kinect for Xbox 360, and Sony will try again in the mobile gaming space with Vita, but only Nintendo is thinking next-generation hardware with the Nintendo Wii U. My take on that is that Nintendo is finally admitting that the Wii is innovative but the lack of HD support is a problem. While Microsoft and Sony can squeeze some life out of the Xbox 360 and PS3, Nintendo knows it would be kicking a dead horse with the Wii by the end of next year.
So it begins: a new hardware cycle, something that comes around every few years. But Microsoft and Sony aren’t playing along. The reason is clear — they see the writing on the wall. Long has it been said that the consoles killed PC gaming, but now turnabout is fair play. The Cloud could kill hardware gaming altogether.
And if you have systems that tackle HD-quality graphics, where do you go? Microsoft and Sony saw this, and while we might see updates to the Xbox 360 and PS3 down the road, it could be that the updates follow the trend of PCs, where the graphics, memory and processor increase but it doesn’t leave the older stuff behind — completely. That’s one possibility anyway.
Microsoft and Sony are just one year into their Kinect and Move, respectively, and they’re not about to do a full upgrade, so if they are thinking hardware upgrade, it won’t be anytime soon.
And let’s go back to mobile. Sony announced the PlayStation Vita, and when it announced AT&T as the official carrier, it wasn’t cheers but boos that greeted it. When was the last time any announcement at E3 was so loathed? I can’t remember any like that.
I also can’t remember when a company has had to start its press conference by apologizing for its mistakes, another stellar moment for Sony at E3 this year.
Finally, Nintendo stock fell to its lowest point since the release of the Wii. Do investors know something I don’t or maybe they just attended E3?