E3 is like Christmas for gamers. The fact that we’re on the cusp of a new generation of consoles (sorry, Nintendo) makes this particular E3 a special one. We’ve already had initial shots fired by both Sony and Microsft,but we’re still missing some pretty critical info on both consoles. I expect we’ll see a release date and a price point for both consoles, “officially” opening them up to pre-orders, but I also expect we’ll see a bunch of exclusives announced and shown. Because games! Video Games!

The big press conferences that were thrown by Microsoft and Sony were for the benefit of the mainstream media (Microsoft’s more than Sony), but E3 is for gamers, however you want to define it. With the “holiday season” upon us, the only questions is what will E3 give us this year: beautiful new shiny things or lumps of dirty coal? 

Thursday, 11:52 am – Gavin

The new Kinect sensor does come packaged with the XBone.  But then, that’s even more motivation for me to pick up a PS4, if I were headed down that road.  The XBone is more expensive and contains stuff that I simply don’t want.

I agree with matt that the XBone won’t fail.  Internet nerd rage does not necessarily translate into real life rage.  The biggest thing that Sony has going for it is the price.  The always-online component of the XBone will turn away some on principle, some in practice, but what’s the percentage of console owners who have broadband connections?  We can talk raw numbers about those without broadband connections or permanent reliable connections, but how many people without broadband or permanent reliable connections were likely to buy a new console anyway?  Note that none of this is to be taken as an apology for Microsoft – I find the always-on component to be repugnant and their hubris to be nauseating.  I’m just trying to empathize with their business decisions.

Third party support is a tricky mistress.  A third party won’t sign on to develop games until they’re certain that the install base is there.  But customers won’t join the install base unless they’re certain they will get what they want, which is third party support!  It’s a never-ending cycle.  Ubisoft has announced that they are “modifying” their partnership with Nintendo, contingent upon Nintendo selling more consoles.  It’s really sad to hear that because Ubisoft bought in to the system big-time.

Publishers and developers are reactionary by their very nature. They design a game for a certain platform; they don’t design the platform and then design the game (except in Nintendo’s case). I don’t necessarily blame Ubisoft for saying “sell more systems first”. Ubisoft took a big risk in spending a lot of time and money developing for the Wii-U, and at least in North America, Nintendo’s marketing of the system has been quite poor. Nintendo does owe Ubisoft big-time, in my opinion. Now, seven months in, we see that system sales aren’t great. But will E3 give Nintendo a bounce? Who knows. I hope so, because I love the system and want it to succeed.

I don’t disagree with Ubisoft’s approach – they’re a public company after all, and are beholden to their shareholders. They can only exist as long as they’re making a profit. It’s just a shame that none of the other companies feel like they can take that kind of protracted risk associated with developing for the Wii-U.

The common narrative has been that there are no games for the Wii-U.  I dig that, because there aren’t a ton of must-have titles.  The E3 Nintendo Direct obviously changed that, so hopefully the install base picks up and the developers buckle in and go along for the ride.

Also, my point re the next Uncharted was in relation to a new Zelda title, as Uncharted 3 is older than Skyward Sword.  I’m fully on board with the idea that we need a new Metroid.  Ignoring the misogynistic abortive effort that was Other M, we haven’t had a genuine Metroid game since 2007.  That’s crazy-talk.  I’m hoping that now that Retro is finished with Donkey Kong Country, they’ll get to work on a AAA, back-to-its-roots Metroid title.  I don’t mind a dev team taking a long time to develop a game (within reason), so long as they release the game when it’s ready.  Same reason I don’t flip out about Half-Life 3.  Clearly it’s not ready yet.

Nintendo definitely approaches business differently than Sony and Microsoft.  Perhaps it’s because they realize that their cash reserves are due in no small part to every Japanese child for the last ten years being given a DS as soon as they emerge from the womb.  Perhaps it’s because the Japanese development teams consistently knock it out of the part with their efforts.  I don’t mind the business philosophy because it brings me games that I love and hardware that doesn’t shit the bed when the mercury rises a few degrees, Microsoft.  The entire character of Nintendo is such that they are “different”.  They can’t change that without fundamentally losing the heart of their business.  There’s nothing wrong with “doing it your way”, if “your way” is successful – past history has shown that Nintendo is incredibly successful despite the frequent doomsayers.  Poorly-launched consoles are nothing new.  Has the Wii-U’s launch been great?  Absolutely not.  But we want to be careful of judging things by their first year.  It’s not like the PS3 died after its abysmal launch.

Anyway, enough of the E3 stuff for now – gotta save something for the next podcast.  I’m about to head back to 2006.  I decided that my next game is going to be Splinter Cell: Double Agent.  This one has flown under my radar for nearly 7 years now.  As I frequently mention, I adored Chaos Theory, so yeah, DA has big shoes to fill.  But considering how much I loved 1 and 3 (Pandora Tomorrow was good, but too hard for my taste), I’m surprised I’m not more hyped for this game.  This is a good thing, though.  It means I’ve successfully managed my expectations, which as we know is a big theme here at Gamentary.  I don’t know what to expect, and that pleases me.  I know a spoiler, sadly, but Splinter Cell’s story, while workable, isn’t my primary driver.  The fluid gameplay has always been the key engine for that series, so I look forward to seeing what “new” (because it’s 7 years old) mechanics they implement.

Wednesday, 4:16 pm – matt

One thing I started thinking about was the final price difference between the PS4 and Xbone. we know the PS4 will debut at $399, but wont include the eye camera to “complete” the system, does the new Kinect sensor come packaged with the Xbone?

I don’t think the Xbone will fail at all, fanboys will continue strong allegiance towards Microsoft and might view some of the things Microsoft if focusing more important to them. with the ps vita already bought it makes sense for me to go with the PS4 to try and maximize the potential of both systems. playstation has done a great job but as we saw with the original wii, each console tries to mimic the best features, and companies will adapt to the competition in order to make money. Ricky pointed out Xbone has stated their strict policies are open for change, so if they start losing out you know they will change it up.

My biggest wish was for Nintendo to get some third party support. gamers cant be happy with a single company (seemingly) making games for it, they need to start pumping out some more titles and having one “great Nintendo” game a year isn’t enough for me. the playstation was a complicated mess of a system for developers to work with, the with the new generation Sony admitted this and went with a simple approach; asking developers input on how to make the new machine better. Third party support was an issue with original wii and as far as I can see nothing has been fixed for the wii-u. blackberry has a similar fuck up with their phones but corrected it (to an extent) with their system but asking smart phone developers for their input. Nintendo seems happy to give everyone the finger and say “THIS is how we do it in japan”

I see Gavin’s point about there not being a new uncharted game for the PS4 but like Metroid that isn’t developed by Sony but Naughty Dog and the third title only came out November 2011….

Wednesday, 1:36 pm – Ricky

I’m just going to leave these here.

Wednesday, 9:41 am – Gavin

Sadly, I can’t take credit for XBone.  That’s been floating around since the announcement of the system.

There hasn’t been a new Zelda announced because Skyward Sword was only two years ago, and during an old Nintendo Direct, they did announce that they were working on one, but in the meantime, they’d re-release Wind Waker in HD.  We might as well complain that there hasn’t been a new Uncharted game announced for the PS4, considering Uncharted 3 was released for the PS3 before Skyward Sword.  Nintendo EAD has been working on Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Wii Fit U, Wii Party U, and then there are the recent games that they’ve already released, like NSMBU, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Nintendo Land, New Super Mario Brothers 2, etc.

Also, consider the timeline for Zelda releases:

Legend of Zelda: 1986
Link’s Adventure: 1987 (1 year)
Link to the Past: 1991 (4 years)
Ocarina of Time: 1998 (7 years)
Majora’s Mask: 2000 (2 years)
Wind Waker: 2002 (2 years)
Twilight Princess: 2006 (4 years)
Skyward Sword: 2011 (5 years)

Remember that Ocarina of Time was released two full years after the Nintendo 64 was released, and it’s heralded as one of the best games of all time.  Plus, consider the fact that every single home-console Zelda title with the exception of Link’s Adventure and Wind Waker are playable on the Wii U, either through backwards compatibility (Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess) or through the Virtual Console (LoZ, LTTP, OoT, MM).  Nintendo shouldn’t price Wind Waker as a premium title, but them releasing it shouldn’t leave people scratching their heads either.

However, on topic, Game Informer reports that the new Zelda is almost ready for announcement.

Metroid isn’t a Nintendo EAD IP anymore.  It’s a first-party exclusive originally developed by Nintendo, but Nintendo hasn’t been the sole developer of a Metroid title since Super Metroid.  It’s been a Retro Studios title since 2002.  This is the one game that I want to see them release, or at least announce, but Retro did just finish working on Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (beautiful game, stupid title).

Nintendo has a vested interest not just in selling titles, but in selling all of their titles, which is why they push them all, all of the time.  If they just wanted to make blockbuster games, then they would have three IPs and nothing else – 3D Mario, Zelda, and Metroid.  Selling 10 million copies of Super Mario 3D World would be awesome, but they know they can’t count on that. Their first party IP is integral to the company’s survival as a whole, so they have to push it all.  Not everything appeals to me, but how could I fault a company for doing what it takes to survive, if their decisions don’t actively hurt or hinder me?

As for it being time for a new Smash Brothers?  ABSOLUTELY.  It’s the fourth game in the series, and by release date, it will have been six years since Brawl.  Brawl is a good title that holds up well, but people have been playing it for years.  If they can improve upon that, then why wouldn’t they*?

*”improvements” contingent upon the game actually improving upon Brawl.  Obviously we can’t make that call until we sit down and play the game.

On another note, I’m cheering for Microsoft in much the same way that Ricky is, in that I don’t want them to fail.  Truth is, I did have a lot of fun with both my Xbox and my 360 and competition is healthy for the gaming industry.  If Microsoft fails, it lets companies like Sony and Nintendo rest of their laurels.  If Microsoft can threaten market dominance for either of those companies, then those companies will be forced to innovate, to appeal to consumers, to develop, to do something to get us interested.  We’ll see price drops, incentives for publishers to bring good products to market, etc.

Schadenfreude is a fun thing, but as gamers, we shouldn’t want any company to fail.  Don’t like EA?  Fine, some of their practices annoy me too, but they have done a lot of good for the industry in their time and they’ve brought out a lot of great titles.  Nintendo bothering you?  OK, that’s cool, but they price their systems in a way to be an anchor for the gaming industry.  Everyone would charge you $1000 for their console if they thought they could get away with it.  Having a low-priced alternative is a good thing.  It spurs competition, and the industry thrives off of that.

Wednesday, 9:14 am – Ricky

I’m loving E3 so far, probably the best show in recent years. It’s no surprise that I credit a new generation of consoles with the hype surrounding the show, and the nerds/geeks/gamers are just lapping it up.

I’m a gamer (and a nerd and a geek, sure, whatever title you want to give me) and while I’m firmly in the PS4 camp right now, I’m cheering for the Xbone as well. Think about the Xbox 360 when it launched in 2006. Now, think about the Xbox 360 today. Notice a difference? 7 years is a long time, and I have no doubt that console will grow and change. Same goes for the PS4 and Wii-U of course.

But as far as “winning hearts and minds” at the beginning of a new generation of consoles, it’s Sony’s game to lose at this point. Microsoft continues to put its foot in it’s own mouth: “We have a product for people who can’t get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360”, Don Mattrick, President of Interactive Entertainment and chief “bad guy” to gamers right now. That’s a bit of salt in the wound for their “online check-in” approach.

But here’s another pinch of salt: Despite Microsoft’s statements to the contrary, Peter Moore, EA’s COO, said “EA had nothing to do with the Xbox One’s licensing policies and hasn’t even figured out whether to get involved.” This goes DIRECTLY AGAINST Microsoft’s assertion that the DRM policy is coming from publishers, not Microsoft.

Again, the Xbone will grow and change for the next few years, and I’ll admit that it’ll probably morph into a console I’d like to own. But right now, I’m just hoping Microsft rights the sinking ship and gets back on track with their PR. I’d much prefer a 3 console future than a 2 console one.

Tuesday, 2:46 pm – matt

I’ll chime in, Ricky and I had a fun time texting back and forth during the PS4 announcement, and despite the fact the casual or non gamers would have looked at the presenters and said “wow you guys are just a bunch of nerds still” im really excited for a next generation GAME console. the PS4 design is a bit slanty, but remains a “playstation” model design, I don’t really care about the aesthetics – the price and online features were the big takeaways for me.

I would have laughed if Nintendo actually came out and said “so heres the wii-u… uh, again. there seems to be some confusion out there about the wii-u so lets clarify…”

not seeing a new Zelda or Metroid game is a bit worrying for me, a lot of Nintendo franchises are feeling old and forced (new system = gotta have a new smash brothers!?!?!?!?!?!). typically games are still months if not a year away from when we first see any footage, so that means its looking unlikely we’ll see a Metroid or Zelda wii-u title before late 2014 early 2015…

that sucks…

once again Nintendo will have their niche but I highly doubt anyone who wants a PS4 or XBONE (I like that one gavin) aren’t going to be swayed to buying a completely different type of system (wii-u) because its under a hundred bucks. if anything it will just be people will extra cash to burn thinking “why not”.

Tuesday, 10:58 am – Gavin

Pokemon X & Y.  New 3D Mario with multiplayer.  New Donkey Kong Country with multiplayer.  New Mario Kart.  New Super Smash Brothers, and Super Smash Brothers on 3DS.

IWATA OUT (drops mic)

It was a no-nonsense, plain-language release from Nintendo today, and it was just GAMEGAMEGAMEGAMEGAMEGAMEGAME.  They could have done more to explain the system as a whole, but I understand that they can’t do that, not when the system has already been out for months and not while MS and Sony are filling journalists’ heads with news about their consoles.  You have to just barrel ahead and not show weakness.

There were a few video montages of games to be released, but they were games we generally knew about already.  I think my biggest disappointment is the lack of a new Metroid title.  But of course, search around the interwebs and I’m sure you’ll find a million doom-and-gloomsayers all complaining that “they didn’t show us _____!”, so I’m not too worried.  Of course there’s going to be one, and lest we forget, it was eight years between Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, the two greatest games in the Metroid series, and two of the greatest games of all time, with Super Metroid firmly in the #1 spot.

I wonder if we’ll see a price cut anytime soon.  I anticipate one for the holiday season.  In order to compete with the absolute showstealer that was the PS4, Nintendo will have to offer an incentive, and despite the fact that the first-party exclusives for Nintendo are the best (in my opinion), that’s simply not enough.  Drop the price to $299 for the Wii-U deluxe, and you’ll see serious competition.  The mere psychology of that $300 threshold is sufficient to spur a serious sales frenzy for the Wii-U.  We already saw how nuts people went for the $400 PS4 vs $500 XBone.

Monday, 11:09 pm – Ricky

PS4 will launch at $399 with used game sales allowed, no online DRM, and a host of games that look awesome.

Well, you can shut it all down. We’re done here.

Monday, 8:16 pm – Ricky

I’m not sure where to begin… I think I’m going to do this as a “highs and lows” sort of thing. Yeah, let’s do that.

Highs so far (all conferences except Sony’s)

  • Microsoft showed games. Lots and lots of games
  • Below from Toronto’s own Capy, with music from Jim Gutrie. I just love both teams – go play Sword and Sorcery if you don’t get why.
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth. Yep, it’s still South Park in game form. I want it.
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division: It’s new IP, an MMO, and I’m not sure what the heck else but I’ll be damned if I didn’t get excited for the next gen when I saw it

Lows so far (same conditions as above)

  • Xbox One’s price. $500 is more than I expected. I’m not saying it’s the wrong play, but I’m just saying I’m not taking the dive at that price.
  • The comments from Rare as mentioned by Gavin below, as well as Aisha Taylor’s “#girlwood” tshirt. I don’t think these two things are doing much for the current state of affairs in the industry.
  • Absolutely NO MENTION by Microsoft about all the shit that poured out online last week regarding always-on DRM.

I’ve only skimmed the news for EA and Ubisoft, but I’ll catch the conferences tomorrow and come back in for a second round of thoughts, including Sony’s conference tonight. For now, here’s Below and The Division to keep you entertained.

Monday, 3:18 pm – Gavin

Not getting too much into the details as I could easily obliterate pages and pages with my opinions on what we saw, let’s just put this into perspective:

An XBone at launch will cost you $500.  Plus $60 for each game.  Let’s say you get two games within the first month.  So, you’ve spent $620.  That’s $700 after tax.  But don’t forget the cost of your LIVE membership, at $60/year.  Want a second controller?  That’ll be another $60, because that’s what Microsoft charges for their controllers.  You’re looking at $828 after tax, plus an ongoing maintenance fee of $60/year.

The WiiU retails for $350, including a game (Nintendo Land).  Buying another controller for multiplayer?  Pick up the WiiMote+ and Nunchuk for $40 for the pair.  In fact, to reach $828 after tax, you could buy the console, the second controller, FIVE full-priced ($60, even though that’s not what all games are selling for) and you’ve still got $50 left to play around with.  Plus your online is free.

Sony has a chance to absolutely destroy the XBone’s install base, if they’re able to price their system accordingly.  A $400 PS4 would completely overshadow anything that Microsoft has to offer, I suspect.  All of the consoles (or perhaps I should say, the exclusive series) will always have their die-hard fans, but there’s no universe where someone who is on the fence will look at a $400 console vs a $500 console that will ultimately do the same thing, and say “Yeah, I’d rather spend the extra $100”.  So, let’s see what Sony has to offer here.  It could be very, very interesting.

Also, I understand that I’m a fairly liberal, sometimes over-the-top PC kind of guy, so perhaps there are grains of salt with which this should be taken, but during the demo of Killer Instinct, the producer, a male, told a female participant against whom he was playing, to “relax, just let it happen, it will all be over soon”.  Considering there is currently an hypothesis that the gaming zeitgeist is fairly sexist, maybe this wasn’t the best thing to say.  It sounded a little rapey.

Monday, 8:06 am – Ricky

Here’s the conference schedule for today and tomorrow. We’ll definitely have reactions throughout the day/week, so check back often. (all times EST)

Microsoft – Monday, June 10th @ 12:30PM
EA – Monday, June 10th @ 4PM
Ubisoft – Monday, June 10th @ 6PM
Sony – Monday, June 10th @ 9PM
Nintendo Direct – Tuesday, June 11th @ 10AM