"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." - Arthur Miller

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

E3 Video Game News and Announcements

The big three of the video game industry has held its press conferences at the Electronic Entertainment Expo that is being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Microsoft announced a fleet of games for the XBox 360, Sony announced their new handheld called the PS Vita while Nintendo introduced their next console the Wii U with touchpad controller. Read on for more details; hit the title link if interested in watching entire video of their keynotes.

Nintendo was last in the press conferences but not least as it presented a strong lineup of games and a new console that may allow them to once again compete with the others. The keynote started with a symphony playing Legend of Zelda tunes to a montage of Zelda games as a homage to the franchise's 25th Anniversary. Sadly no special collection is being planned, instead they are simply releasing a few past games like Link's Awakening along with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) for Christmas. In other words just business as usual. Games in the pipeline for the 3DS include Super Mario Kart 3D, Star Fox 3D, Super Mario 3D, Kid Icarus 3D, and Tetris 3D. Most expected to be released by end of the year. Kirby Wii was also announced but the Wii was not the focus.

The Wii is going to probably start getting phrased out for a better version which gets an upgrade to HD and improved graphics called the Wii U. The main unique feature is the controller with dual analog sticks, front facing camera, around 6 inch touch screen and lots of gaming options, including not needing a TV to play as can use to the 6.0" touch screen to play if so desire. No price was announced (bus suspect in usual $300+ range) with a 2012 release date. Specs for the system include up to 480i to 1080p graphics, internal storage, access to SD or external storage via USB, downloadable content, and backward compatible to Wii games and accessories. A sign that Wii U has graphics at or same as PS3 and 350 is some of the games that are announced in being prepped for the system. Those games include Super Mario Bros Mii (cause can use Mii avatar in gameplay), Lego City Stories, Tekken, Assassin's Creed Revelations, Batman: Arkham City, Dirt, and Ninja Gaiden 3. Over all, the sales pitch sounds pretty exciting but doesn't really mean anything until next year. For a hands-on look, click here or here.

Sony's keynote mentions games but the real focus was introducing the PS Vita and its possibilities. In the game department, Star Trek (with Move "Phaser" controller), Need for Speed: The Run, Battlefield 3, Street Fighter v Tekken and God of War: Origins which is an HD version of the franchises PSP games.

The PS Vita was introduced and unlike Nintendo, they are ready to get this system out by year's end with a price point equal ($250 Wi-Fi or $300 for 3G) to the Nintendo 3DS but for a superior system. The look is similar to the existing PSP but with a larger OLED touchscreen. The 3G version is partnered with AT&T (sadly) and seems to indicate graphics are improved but not PS3 level. One of the great features of the system is the ability to play a game on the Vita, save it "to the cloud" and resume the game on the PS3 or vice versa. Exactly how widespread this feature will be is unknown but it seems the PSP Go model will be used with games being purchased from the PlayStation Network as no cartridges or discs where mentioned. Games being developed for the Vita include Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Ruin, Wipeout HD, Little Big Planet, and also Street Fighter v Tekken.

While Microsoft didn't introduce any new hardware, their keynote shows the future looks good for the XBox 360 with its excellent line up of games (if you love shooters and sports). Among the games introduced is Call of Duty: MA13, relaunch of Tomb Raider, more EA Sports titles of course, Mass Effect 3, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Fears of War 3, Halo Anniversary, Fable The Journey, Kinect Star Wars, and many more. So for XBox, it remains a focus on what has been working for them for the last few years.

Other games were not introduced during the above keynotes include Final Fantasy XIII-2 for PS3 and XBox360 and Halo 4. These are just a tiny fraction of the dozens of games shown off at E3. Pretty much the big change overall is where titles use to just be released for PS3 and XBox 360 with Wii getting a downgraded version, now titles will often be launched for all three consoles at the same time.

In buzz Nintendo has the most attention but with Wii U year out and Nintendo's often inability to make expected release dates, the buzz doesn't mean much. However, if the 3DS line-up comes out as promised (most by Christmas) that could give the handheld device a much needed boost (of course a price drop would help too). Sony showed a strong line-up but the success of the PS Vita will depend on the strength of its library and the cost. Sadly even though it’s all digital, Sony still charges as if it has packaging, delivery and store profits to consider in pricing so expect a $40 or so price per title. To me, the winner of E3 is the XBox 360 as they are not offering a bunch of unknown possibilities but a bunch of proven franchises with many available by end of the year. Next year on the other hand should be very interesting as the video game wars will truly kick off its next phase to claim king of the hill.

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