Microsoft's press conference was a little bit of a let-down. Much like last year, they touted all manner of things related to Kinect and left much of the rest of the audience wanting more. The difference of the amount of content between Kinect-related and non-Kinect-related was huge: they spent more than half of the time talking about Kinect and all the wonderful things it can do. Admittedly, quite a deal of the new innovations with Kinect are impressive, the increased compatibility with mainstream games being the biggest selling point. The fact that more developers are adding Kinect features will definitely make Kinect more of a must-have feature in the years to come but it will definitely require more support to ever be more than a novelty. (To be fair, the voice commands in the demo of Mass Effect 3 were absolutely amazing and almost made me want Kinect right there. Almost.)
The fact that a large portion of Microsoft's press conference was devoted to non-gaming-related news was a bit off-putting to me; yes, there was a sizable amount of content about games, and yes, we did get to see some awesome demos of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and Mass Effect 3(that's a lot of 3's!), but the sheer amount of time they spent talking about how Kinect will allow you to make yourself into an avatar, or draw random pictures with your fingers, is kind of ridiculous. I realize that Kinect is important for the future of technology and is only a few steps away from actual virtual reality but I'd much rather them show me more interesting innovations than "take a picture of something you own and turn it into a 3D virtual image".
Most of the games showcased were awesome; I was very pleased that we got to see so much of the new Tomb Raider game, and the demos of the 3's were definitely worth the amount of time used to showcase them. The new Fable game has me at odds, though; I've always loved the Fable series, but The Journey looks like nothing more than a rail shooter. While that's an interesting twist of things, it seems like they were merely tasked with finding a way of utilizing Kinect in Fable, and I thought the gameplay demo reeked of that forced nature. Double Fine's newest game, Once Upon A Monster, will definitely be a big hit with little kids and parents but I'm surprised it won't appeal to that middle demographic; most of Double Fine's titles are able to appeal across the board without being offensive (except for maybe Brütal Legend), but this is definitely more finely focused. Still, good on them for bringingSesame Street to consoles! I don't really understand the appeal of the Disneyland Adventures game other than for kids who won't get a chance to go to the actual Disneyland, but I suppose that's a big enough demographic as is.
In short, I suppose my biggest problem with the Microsoft conference was that there was too much about Kinect and not enough that I felt applied to my demographic. I'm stoked for the games they demoed, and the announce trailer for Halo 4 was an awesome -- if not expected -- surprise. I think the biggest surprise in the entire conference, however, was the announcement that Minecraft would be coming to 360. Not only that, but that it would be an exclusive deal. That's kind of ridiculous, honestly and, though its popularity on 360 will never surpass the popularity it has on PC, I really do have to tip my hat to Microsoft for pulling that off. So kudos for that.
But, so help me, if they announce Kinect compatibility with Minecraft next year, I think I'll snap.
I think the conference that Sony put on this year outdid their performance last year by leaps and bounds. To be honest, the 2010 conference should've been called the "PlayStation Move Conference", because that's basically all they talked about. This year, though? There were so many interesting and exciting things being announced that not once did I feel bored or find my attention wandering. Let's go through the checklist, shall we?
PlayStation exclusive titles? Check. With stuff like Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, Resistance 3, Starhawk, the yet-to-be-named downloadable-only Star Trek game prequel and the newly announced Dust 514, I'm pretty sure Sony can hold their own in that department. Add to that all the additional PS3-exclusive add-ons from games like SSX, Need for Speed: The Run, Saints Row the Third and Battlefield 3, among others, and we're going to be waist deep in Sony exclusive material.
Titles that support Move (Sony's answer to motion gaming)? Check. With intriguing original titles like Medieval Move as well as having Move support for games like NBA 2K12 and BioShock Infinite (yes, that's right, BioShock Infinite), Sony is definitely adding interesting and compelling titles to their library all with Move support. And let's not forget about the newly-announced titles such as the exciting Dust 514 or the new Star Trek shooter, both of which look stellar and are supposed to have Move support added in. Sony is pushing their motion gaming more than ever before and, honestly, it's getting me intrigued in what they have to offer.
Titles that will support 3D picture? Check. Admittedly, this is a venue that a much smaller audience cares for, but Sony is planning on changing that. By announcing a new PlayStation brand 3D display that they will sell for cheap (Resistance 3, an HDMI cable, a pair of 3D glasses and a 24" 3D screen all for $500), they are doing a great job of giving people interested in 3D gaming a chance to try it out for a reasonable price. And let's not forget that the screen will apparently be able to support two-person gaming on the same screen without reducing to splitting the screen in half for each player and I'm sold. Considering the number of titles that Sony is releasing with 3D compatibility, I might very well buy that screen.
The rest of the Sony conference this year was spent mostly talking about the new PS Vita (previously known as the NGP) and, I have to admit, I'm rather impressed with how it looks. A front and back touchscreen, loads of intriguing exclusive titles (including Uncharted: Golden Abyss and a newly plannedBioShock title announced by Ken Levine himself), front- and rear-facing cameras and dual thumbsticks all add together to make a genuinely interesting and compelling portable device that might very well be worth your money. And, considering the respectable price of $250, that's a considerable deal on your hands. It even comes with a 3G connection if you shill out an extra $50. For a portable device that offers so much, that's quite respectable, especially when you consider the Nintendo 3DS runs for the same price.
All in all, the Sony conference was a good showing. I would've preferred a few more PS3 gameplay demos to be shown, but you can't always get what you want. And, considering the amount of footage they showed of games being played on the PS Vita, I can't really complain that much. There was a lot to get excited about and, because of that, I think Sony understood their audience much better than Microsoft did. Microsoft was all about Kinect and social networking and the like, while Sony relied solely on their games and gaming features to carry their conference. Add to that a rather classy apology offered by Jack Tretton regarding the PSN outage, before anything else happened, and I think we really have to respect Sony's presentation this year.
- Nick J
Wow, Sony really surprised me with the PSVita. Competitive pricing, impressive connectivity with the PS3 and wide variety of games could make the upcoming handheld an attractive option for gamers. The tech is solid. The OLED screen is reportedly beautiful and I'm excited to see for myself how good it actually looks. Sony seems to be employing the right strategy to appeal to a wide consumer base. There was something for core gamers and casuals alike.
So far, I'm impressed by how developers are approaching the additional controller input. Uncharted seems to make good use of the touch screen without it being forced as a novelty. The only thing that bothers me about it is the climbing. Using touch seems to take away that little tension you feel when navigating a long platform section, of slipping up and having to do the whole thing again. But, it's optional so it's not that big of a deal.
The selection of games seems to be solid for now, but the question remains how the launch line-up will be. If there are already 80 titles in development, then consider me surprised. Sony must have done a phenomenal job on convincing developers and publishers to get on board, considering that the PSP was largely abandoned due to the piracy problems. I think that Sony is showing us that they are going to do everything they can to support the new handheld and avoid the mistakes made with the PSP. How it will turn out remains to be seen, but I'm definitely more hyped than ever. What I want to see now in the lead-up to the launch of the system is support from the smaller developers. Sony has a working relationship with so many interesting indie developers that they must be trying to get some of them on board. I think that the new controller interfaces truly shine in the hands of the smaller devs.
The PlayStation 3D display seems to be a neat piece of hardware. A good price point, but my fear is that they might be sacrificing image quality for 3D and novelty features. Still, it represents a low prise of entry into the 3D space and if it's up to snuff it'll probably sell well.
The amount of exclusive content in multi-platform titles is on par with last year. Huge games will have an extra incentive for gamers to buy them on the PS3. Perhaps, console exclusive players will be motivated to buy Battlefield 3 on PS3 but I think we all know that the definitive version is on PC. Personally, I hate it when developers are adding extra in-game stuff in one version over the other, but I feel that adding an extra game on the disc is a nice way to utilize the size of the Blu Ray.
It was a nice surprise to see Ken Levine on the stage, but the real shocker was him announcing Move support for Bioshock: Infinite and teasing a Bioshock title on the PSVita. It'll be interesting see if Irrational Games are going to be developing on the PSVita themselves, or if the franchise will be handed off to some other developer. My guess is option number two.
All things considered, Sony had a really strong showing. Lots of things to be excited for and they are a step closer to turning things around after the PSN debacle. This might yet be the year of the PlayStation.