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The Big Three E3 Press Conference Progress Report

Company: Microsoft
Unofficial Motto: Great, cutting-edge ideas ganked from other companies, without all that fussy “style” and “ease of use” nonsense.
Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Throwing lots of money around, making whatever’s on stage look slick and made-for-TV presentable by any means possible.
This Year’s Event Details: Kinect event with Cirque du Soleil, 06/13/10; press conference, 10:30am PST, 06/14/10
Did it Start on Time?: Yes
This Year’s Players: At the press conference specifically, there was Mark Lamia (Treyarch); Don Mattrick; Hideo Kojima and Shigenobu Matsuyama (Kojima Productions); Phil Spencer; Cliff Bleszinski (Epic); Peter Molyneux (Microsoft/Lionhead); Marcus Lehto (Bungie); Mark Whitten; Laura and her friend; Josh Elliott and Trey Wingo, the hosts of ESPN SportsCenter; Kudo Tsunoda; a little girl and Skittles the tiger; “Shin from Rare Studios”; Felicia Williams (Ubisoft); celebrity trainer Michael George; Naoko Takamoto, Alex Rigopulos, and Kasson Crooker (Harmonix); and Dan Greenwalt and Bill Giese (Turn 10). Whew!

CliffyB makes everything better.

Featured Hardware: Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal; a smaller, slimmer, shinier Xbox 360
Featured Games: Call of Duty: Black Ops; Metal Gear Solid: Rising; Gears of War 3; Fable III; a mysterious Crytek game called Codename: Kingdoms; Halo: Reach; several Kinect games with Wii, DS, and EyeToy analogues; a Kinect Star Wars game; and a version of Forza running with Kinect, now with more lifelike car porn!
Featured Features: Kinect’s features covered, including Minority Report menu navigation, video chat a la Skype, and voice control; Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7; ESPN on Xbox Live; the new 360 finally has built-in wi-fi.
Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Less of a reliance on mainstream celebrities.

Additional Notes: The structure of the press conference was pretty much unchanged from last year: open with a big, multiplatform title and follow it up with some Xbox-exclusive DLC-related announcement for it. Then, show something else multiplatform before going into the exclusive hardcore stuff before finally setting into Casual Land. Noticeably absent this time around were XBLA games, which is a shame considering that there are some interesting things coming down the pipe, but I suppose that that’s more of a hardcore thing, and since E3’s something of a mainstream showcase, not as important in Microsoft’s eyes.

As for Kinect: first off, it’s going to take awhile to get used to the new name, but at least it’s better than “Natal”; secondly, the launch lineup is about what I expected, coming from Microsoft. The Kinect hardware looks like a solid product, but that’s about all it looks like. So far, the software doesn’t transform it into anything special. If Just Dance hadn’t already existed, Dance Central might’ve been Kinect’s killer app. As it stands… we’ll see. Especially since Microsoft is being so cagey about Kinect’s price; so much so that one wasn’t mentioned during the press conference, even while a release date was.

*****

Company: Nintendo
Unofficial Motto: Simultaneously surprising and baffling people, simultaneously lifting the hearts of and infuriating fanboys, printing money, and just generally doing our own damn thing the best we know how for over a hundred years.
Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Sincere confidence mixed with the hope of acceptance, executives playing games on stage.
This Year’s Event Details: Press conference, 9am PST, 06/15/10
Did it Start on Time?: Yes
This Year’s Players: Reggie Fils-Aime, Shigeru Miyamoto, Bill Trinen, Warren Spector (Junction Point), Satoru Iwata, and dozens of women with 3DSes attached to them. About that last bit: if ever we needed absolute proof of the return of the “old E3″…

Featured Hardware: Nintendo 3DS
Featured Games: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Mario Sports Mix, Just Dance 2, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, GoldenEye, Epic Mickey, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Dragon Quest IX, Metroid: Other M, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kid Icarus Uprising, and a slew of big franchise name-drops for future 3DS titles, including Kingdom Hearts and Metal Gear Solid.
Featured Features: For the 3DS, an adjustment scale for the 3D effect, the two cameras on the outer case for taking 3D pictures, and the availability of 3D movies on the system, which seemed to me to be a rather pointed jab at Apple, specifically.
Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Reggie served as the ringmaster, instead of Cammie Dunaway.

Additional Notes: First off, I’m glad to have Reggie back in the driver’s seat. Cammie probably does a great job in her day-to-day work at Nintendo, but Reggie has a much better stage presence. Secondly, Nintendo was… impressive this year; so much so that all over the internet, hardcore gamers and press types are singing many praises about the 3DS, Zelda, and certain other things they showed. There are the usual spate of whiners complaining about the sole analog nub on the 3DS, just like they did with the original PSP, but such is to be expected.

As for my own thoughts? Zelda looked beautiful and interesting, though the glitchy stage demo was worrying; GoldenEye brought back memories, but I thought the graphics could’ve been better (yes, even “for the Wii”; look at what Capcom and Square Enix have managed to wring out of the system); I am sold on Epic Mickey; Kirby‘s style and very announcement filled me with joy; Reggie’s saying that DQIX comes out in “26 days” had me thinking, “Wow, that soon?!”; the trailer music for Metroid sent chills up my spine even though I’ve never played a game in that series; Donkey Kong Country Returns looks good on the surface, but I’m skeptical about its core; and I don’t have any strong opinions or feelings about the rest. Oh, and like many people, I’m looking forward to learning more about the 3DS, and eventually trying one out for myself.

Funniest bit about the Nintendo press conference: the Vitality Sensor that was introduced last year to much confusion was nowhere to be seen this time around… that is, if you don’t count the devices it inspired from EA and Ubisoft.

*****

Company: Sony
Unofficial Motto: You may hate 90% of our proprietary formats, but at least we make some awesome entertainment!
Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Montages, lots and lots of talking.
This Year’s Event Details: Press conference, 12pm PST, 06/15/10
Did it Start on Time?: Yes
This Year’s Players: Jack Tretton, Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, hundreds of 3D glasses, Kevin Butler, new PSP pitchman Marcus, Alex Evans (Media Molecule), John Schappert and Greg Goodrich (EA), Gabe Newell (Valve), and David Jaffe and Scott Campbell (Eat Sleep Play).

I would've liked to have seen more of echochrome ii at Sony's press conference. Have a trailer instead.

Featured Hardware: PlayStation Move
Featured Games: Killzone 3; the Move-ready Sorcery, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’11 (uhh…), and Heroes on the Move; InviZimals; God of War: Ghost of Sparta; Little Big Planet 2; Medal of Honor; Dead Space 2; Portal 2; Final Fantasy XIV; Mafia 2; Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood; Gran Turismo 5; Twisted Metal; and many, many more in the montages.
Featured Features: 3D gaming, via Killzone 3, and Move’s “1:1 movement”. A new, premium subscriber service for PSN called “PlayStation Plus”. The PS3 version of Portal 2 will have Steam integration, something which I was curious to hear more about, but not much else was said at the event.
Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Sony formally announced most all of their biggest stuff before the press conference, instead of risking leaks. (And even though Twisted Metal wasn’t one of these, rumors still abounded pre-show.)

Additional Notes: Sony conferences are… problematic for me. Two years ago, it was fascinating (in the same way a trainwreck is) because Final Fantasy XIII had just slipped from their exclusivity grasp. Last year came the much-anticipated Final Fantasy VII-on-PSN announcement, and my preoccupation with that tidbit, both on the FFVII Citadel site and in conversation with Citadel denizens, caused me to miss a lot. This year, a cousin called about three-quarters of the way in, and I was far too polite to ask them to call back later. The call went on until roughly the end of the press conference, and I had to catch up on Gran Turismo 5 and Twisted Metal details elsewhere.

This year’s press conference was kind of dull, as Sony’s tend to be. Sony lacks the Hollywood flash of Microsoft and the warm fuzzy nostalgia of Nintendo, and Tretton likes to drone on and on sometimes. Last year, charts made in LittleBigPlanet broke things up nicely. This year’s similar moments came courtesy of Sony spokesman Kevin Butler, and, in the most authentic moment from any of the three conferences, Gabe Newell, introduced with some help from GLaDOS.

One of the biggest surprises of Sony’s presser was the absence of a game: The Last Guardian. I was also half-expecting/hoping to see a Sly 4 announcement, what with The Sly Collection having been revealed the day before. Oh well, perhaps next year.



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