E3 2009: Nintendo and Sony Press Conferences

It is once again that time of year. The time of year when not only does yours truly become another year older, but also a time when the entire video games industry goes into a frenzy of elusive reveals, shocking announcements and mind blowing revelations. It is a dream of mine to one day attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) in Los Angeles. Consequently, that dream may, hopefully, be closer than I realise but more on that later.

This has been the first year that I have managed to stream and successfully watch all three E3 press briefings from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Yesterday was Nintendo and Sony’s chance to shine, given how Microsoft blew everyone away. So, how were the other conferences?

Oh my guava! Nintendo never stood a chance! For a company which has always been proud of innovation and catering for children, this was most probably one of the most boring conferences I have ever seen. Not just mind numbing, but also completely lacklustre. What happened to the spark that Nintendo used to always have? The energy and playful youthfulness? Instead there were just ‘suits’, talking in monotonous tones and droning on about sequel after sequel after sequel *yawn*. What happened Nintendo?

The following constitutes the main and most exciting Nintendo announcements:

Facebook photo uploads for the DSi
Wii Remote Plus – adding precision and functions which should have been there from the start
New Wii Titles: Super Mario Wii, Metroid Prime M, Wii Sports Resort (successor to Wii Sports), Super Mario Galaxy 2
New DS titles: Kingdom Hearts, Golden Sun, COP: The Recruit, Mario VS Donkey Kong,
Biggest announcement: Wii Vitality Sensor

Okay, so let us get something straight. The biggest and best announcement for Nintendo’s E3 showing, which will apparently usher in a new era of game play, was… a heart rate monitor?! Are you kidding me? Seriously? Seriously! Nintendo, what the heck? I can just imagine what it will be like:

“Hey, who is up for some Wii? Let’s play. Oh, but wait, before we do, let’s check our ‘vitals’ to see if we’re healthy enough. You can never take your health too seriously you know, what with Ronald McDonald and all”. Alternatively, “I’m sorry little Johnny, but you can’t play Wii anymore. The Wii Vitality sensor says your heart might explode if you do”. Oh yeah, fun times – The Wii Vitality: Every obese child’s worst nightmare!

Granted, if you are a devout Nintendo fan you would most likely have enjoyed the press conference, especially the announcement of the new Metroid and Mario games. Granted some of the announced games do look good, but only less than a handful are exclusive to the Wii. The rest can be found on other more capable consoles. In the end, I stand by my opinion that Nintendo’s conference was the most uninspiring of the three. Better luck next time!

After Nintendo’s dismal showing, anything Sony did would have been great. Thankfully, Sony didn’t disappoint.

Last night, just as the Sony press conference started, we had a power outage. Turns out that one of the ‘phases’ from the municipality blew out. Thankfully we have a three ‘phase’ house, so we switched the main power over to one of the other ‘phases’. As a result, and after an hour of mild *cough* cursing, I finally managed to watch the show.

Sony’s conference was great. From the fantastic club beat, before the show started, to the announcement of over 364 new games, over the three available Sony platforms, I was left feeling pleasantly surprised. In truth, Sony did a good job of making the show as flashy as possible. Even so, it paled in comparison to Microsoft’s E3 press event, which featured celebrities, exclusive announcements and technology that is truly revolutionary.

The following constitutes the main and most exciting Sony announcements:

PSP-Go officially announced: $250, 50% smaller, 40% lighter, Bluetooth, 16GB internal memory, Memory Stick Micro support, slide form factor, no UMD drive
Most notable PSP game announcements: Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Gran Turismo
Most notable PS3 game announcements: God of War 3, Agent (new Rockstar franchise), Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV Online, Gran Turismo 5, MAG (256 players online), The Last Guardian (New ICO game), Modnation,
Most surprising announcement: Playstation Motion Controller

The big trend this year was ‘motion control’. Ironic, considering how Nintendo introduced and commercialised motion controls with the Wii while, at the time, both Sony and Microsoft shrugged it off as a ‘gimmick’. Two years later and each of the gaming industries titans now have motion controls of some kind. Go figure!

Sony’s new motion controller resembles a Wii-mote with one major difference… a colour changing golf ball like protrusion on the top. Furthermore, the new controller uses the Playstation eye for motion capture, similar to Microsoft’s Project Natal. In essence, Sony’s motion controller is a mild mix of both the Nintendo Wii-motes and Microsoft’s Project Natal (but no where near as sophisticated). However, and in my opinion, I do believe that Microsoft’s Project Natal is the true evolution of game play mechanics and will emerge as the victor in this battle for motion control supremacy. Just think of what Tom Cruise could do in Minority Report, using just his hands, face and voice – that is Project Natal!

The conferences this year were great. Microsoft completely stole the show, allowing Sony to take a respectable second place while poor Nintendo struggles to learn from past, and current, E3 blunders. Since this has all been about E3 and you all know how it is a dream of mine to go, and since my birthday is in a few days, I thought that I may answer the statement that I have been alluding to.

Next year I will be turning 25, which is a quarter of a century and halfway to fifty. Consequently, for my 25th Birthday, my father has agreed to send me to tour the states for a month or two, as well as to attend E3 (I almost screamed when he told me, I am so excited). The best part? I get to take someone with me to enjoy the experience! How cool is that? Well, when it happens, you can be sure that I will blog and Tweet every moment of it!

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

E3 2009: Microsoft’s Press Conference

It is once again that time of year. The time of year when not only does yours truly become another year older, but also a time when the entire video games industry goes into a frenzy of elusive reveals, shocking announcements and mind blowing revelations. It is a dream of mine to one day attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) in Los Angeles. Consequently, that dream may, hopefully, be closer than I realise but more on that in another post.

For the very first time I managed to stream and successfully watch the entire Microsoft E3 press briefing. All two hours of it. How was it? Absolutely mind blowing! Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson managed to sum it up perfectly: “E3 2009 may not have officially kicked off yet, but it’s already been a show to remember. After all, it’s not every day you get to see the likes of James Cameron, Paul McCartney and Pele chatting about videogames. Nor is it every day you get to have a conversation with a virtual 10 year-old or play Burnout with an imaginary steering wheel” (Project Natal Hands-on, Eurogamer, 2009). Yes, it was that good!

The following constitutes the main and most exciting announcements (For the full press release, please click here):

Facebook integration
Twitter integration
Last.FM integration
Xbox Live Video is now Zune Video On-demand: all content is 1080p (full HD) with 5.1 surround and is streamed (no queues or downloads)
Avatar Marketplace: buy new clothes and props for your Avatar as well as Avatar “unlockables” via achievements.
Most notable game announcements: Beatles Rock Band, Crackdown 2, Forza 3, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, Metal Gear Rising, Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach.
Most surprising/awesome announcement: ‘Project Natal’ – You are the controller via facial recognition, voice recognition and full body motion capture. Think Minority Report like functionality, for all games and all of the time. Simply incredible!

In all honesty, the Microsoft E3 press briefing was astounding. Short of announcing a successor to the Xbox 360, no one could have suspected the true capabilities of ‘Project Natal’. This is truly an evolution in video game play. The Nintendo Wii came close, but from what I have seen, ‘Project Natal’ blows it out of the water!

Here is an excerpt from an IGN article by Scott Lowe (full article here) )with impressions of the Microsoft E3 press briefing demo of ‘Project Natal’:

“Surprisingly, Microsoft not only unveiled the initial details of Project Natal to the media today, they also demoed the product live and in person. Members of the development team demonstrated two tech demos — a painting game and a kickball-style game. The painting game essentially has players using virtual cans of paint to splash on a canvas and create images. The painting game really showed the technology’s ability to detect arching movements and swift, but subtle hand motions. The kickball scenario, on the other hand, displayed how the camera could intelligently detect a player’s arms, legs, and head’s orientation and velocity in 3-D space. For the kickball game, the player swatted, kicked, and headbutted kickballs to knock down distant objects. What was impressive about both demos was the speed and efficiency of the device. As far as we could tell, there was little or no lag between a player’s motion and the in-game reaction. Equally impressive was how effectively the camera detected the precise angle of a player’s thrusts, jabs, and kicks, and how accurate the subsequent in-game representation was” (Scott Lowe, IGN 2009).

Microsoft Xbox – ‘Project Natal’ Product Featurette

There is so much more to discuss about ‘Project Natal’ that I will dedicate an entire post to this revolutionary form of game play in the near future. However, if you cannot wait to learn more, check out these videos:

Peter Molyneux of Lionhead showcases ‘Milo’: a virtual AI-driven game character
Ricochet Stage Demo: use your whole body to hit balls into obstacles
Paint Party Demo: use your entire body to create art

Tonight is Sony’s conference and tomorrow is Nintendo’s. Microsoft have undoubtedly set the bar high and only time will tell if the other video game giants will be able to compete or outdo the competition.

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!