Greetings humans, Monki here again with HardCoreQueen's look at the Nintendo and Sony press conferences held yesterday morning.
I'll see you on the other end with a few updates and my thoughts. We'll kick it off with HardCoreQueen's thoughts on the Nintendo press event!
Not counting last night's excellent Microsoft Presentation, E3 kicked off in earnest today starting with Nintendo's 9 AM press conference, where they spent an hour and a half to tell us nothing. To comment on yesterday's report, what I'm trying to do is give you a stream of consciousness and a flavor about what it was like to actually be at the event. Not necessarily detailed information about the games because frankly you can get that anywhere and an event like E3 it's hard to really digest everything that we're seeing and put it into a detailed report for you in the middle of the night. So if you want more than very basic details about some of these titles, this is the wrong column for you, go to gametrailers.com or gamespot. Unlike me, they have actually had extended time on these titles and have been playing preview builds for months so their coverage should be more in-depth then my basic - "Wow, that looks great and plays amazing!"
I'm also a dedicated gamer who has every console - but a Wii and have covered the industry for 11 years. My name comes from the fact that I have never lost a hardcore match in THQ's WWE Wrestling Series (As a matter of fact I beat the developer of WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 08 today in a hardcore match), however, I do lose in everything else (Halo, COD 2, . Now back to today's installment of the HardcoreQueen at E3. I started the morning off at 6 am and struggled to get out of the house to catch Nintendo's Press Briefing at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
Before I start, I must confess, I don't understand the Wii craze. I don't particularly care for the controller or the entire idea behind it. I don't want to "interact" with my games, I want to sit back on my couch, with a bag of chips and simply play them. Flailing my arms and wrists about for an hour or more isn't a thrilling experience. As a matter of fact, my old lady wrists start to hurt after about 10 minutes on the controls.
While the games on the Wii are innovative, they still feel like fads or mini-games. Now my opinion may change if I could actually walk into a store and get a console. It's been 9 months since the launch of the Wii and they still aren't available?
I always love attending Nintendo Briefings they usually have some great swag - namely an nice briefcase or backpack (but nothing this year) and a real rock star, fun atmosphere. That was again the case here as Nintendo's head marketing guru Reggie Fils-Aime walks out to thunderous applause from the audience. He starts off by saying, in a deadpan - "I'm very happy."
After that we get about 15 minutes of numbers about how great Nintendo is doing. The DS sold 40 over million units, the GBA and DS account for over 60 percent of the game market and more numbers that they repeat every single year. We then get a 2 minute news package about how wonderful Nintendo is, supplemented by interviews with families.
Reggie comes back and announces that over 100 new Wii games are in development and over 140 DS Games. According to Nintendo they don't believe in targeting marketing segments, "Everyone's a Gamer." Yay, Its 20 minutes into the show and I'm rapidly getting bored, when are they going to show some, oh, I don't know - GAMES!
The first major announcement happens about 25 minutes into the event, that's when just-call-him-Reggie, whipped out the Wii Zapper, a very cool looking light gun that is a shell that will house your Wii Remote and Nunchuck. The thing looks like a beast and will be packed into some super secret upcoming title that Reggie wouldn't give details on. The Zapper will cost $19.99 and will be released this fall.
After this we find out that Smash Brothers Brawl will debut December 3rd. This briefing is getting frustrating, we're over a 1/2 hour into it and we still are getting info about any of the games. We now see a clip of some nobody Nintendo fan site webmaster talking about how wonderful Nintendo is. My question is "Why should we care?" Show us some games already!
We finally get a game demo at about the 40 minute mark and it's for Zelda The Phantom Hour Glass on the DS. Hey, Zelda is an amazing franchise and I love this game, but I didn't get up at 6am to see a demo of a DS Version of Zelda. After this, we get a demo of Metroid Prime, again, nothing new or amazing.
Reggie now talks about Nintendo's online plans, saying "What if you had a online plan that no one knows about." My response was, "And?" So we get some more numbers about how 5.5 million people have used the DS WiFi to play online, and the Wii Channel has had over 1.5 million downloads. Development partners will now have WiiWare a tool that will help them build more online enabled games. In addition to this, Nintendo is launching a new Wii Channel called Check Mii Out (tentative title) that will let you rate other people's Mii's.
Other online titles coming will include Mario Strikers Charged, Madden 08, Fifa 08, Dragon Quest Monster Joker, Guitar Hero III and in a big announcement Mario Kart will have online Multiplayer as well and will come with a new controller - the Wii Wheel, a completely wireless, compact steering wheel.
After this slew of announcements we have yet another Newsreel. Did Nintendo buy VNU and not tell us? They showed over 6 different newsreels that all showed essentially the same thing. After this we see a little bit of Mario Galaxy and find out that it's coming out this November 12th. Then we see a very brief (like 20 seconds) of My Sims and the amazingly awful looking High School Musical: The Game.
We get some more game announcements (No footage) including Rayman Raving Rabbids 2 - First Bunnies Around the World, a game called Flash Focus, something called My Word Coach (which will be a spelling game) and a really interesting title called My Life Coach. Reggie joked that what more do you want from us, "We train your brain, now we're going to train your life," would have been fantastic if we could have seen some of these titles, found out when they were going to come out, pricing, you know minor details.
After an hour of being frustrated, gaming's savior Shigeru Miyamoto comes out, and in an example of how bad this Press Conference was, not to a standing ovation like he almost always gets. Miyamoto is here to debut his latest baby - Wii Fit and it's amazingly cool. Basically this is a fitness game, it comes with this "Pilates" style matt that Nintendo is calling the Wii Balance Board, it's a wireless controller that you stand on and can exercise with. The game will calculate your body mass and health, it calculates your balance and you can do traditional aerobics exercises like stepping, knee bends, etc. It's really turns the idea of exercising from being a "chore," to a real game.
The crowd was grumbling a bit as they left the conference and several people left early - to catch the Sony shuttle. Tuesday night, Peter Moore threw down the challenge to his competitors by saying that "All their cards where now on the table," and set the tone for what the rest of the week should have been like. Nintendo took an hour and a half to essentially tell us and show us nothing.
Ouch! 90 minutes to show off nothing eh?
Here is a link showing off the Wii Zapper. Looks kind of like a spiritual cousin to the SuperScope. Am I the only one who owned a SuperScope?
There was one game that has been shown off so far from Nintendo at E3 that I'm pretty amped about. CONTRA 4 for the DS!!!
Love that heavy metal old-school soundtrack. Alright, up next is HardCoreQueen's look at the Sony event.
Sony's Annual E3 Conference was held this year on the Studio Lot. As usual Sony knows how to create a nice party atmosphere and no one does a finger food spread better than Sony. Not only did we get tasty little pigs in blankets, some weird little quiche things, but they also had an open bar prior to the doors opening so everyone was in a real festive mood walking in. With our bellies full and half of the crowd getting properly liquored up it was time for the doors to open. The first thing people commented on was the nice "shag" carpeting and the plush chairs.
Out of the big three companies Sony has the hardest task, they have to reassure the folks who already purchased their Hardware - from the PS2 to the PSP to the PS3 that they are aware of the problems and are taking steps to correct the sinking ship. They also have to convince new people to ignore the negative PR and jump aboard the train. Can they succeed in changing the conversation with this briefing?
The show kicks off in a weird way with an avatar on the screen and Jack Tretton the President of Sony CEA (from this point on, I'm not going to attempt to give titles as everyone at Sony appears to be President of Something) giving a voice over and a brief look at their new Home product - which really is Sony's answer to Second Life. Home will be the new "free" online "dashboard product for the Playstation Network and looks amazing. This could almost give XBox Live a run for its money. Jack is no Kaz or Reggie, or Peter Moore. He's pretty dry and he freely admits that he's not as exciting as our boy Kaz.
Jack starts by giving us, gasp, numbers on the PS2. After an hour and half of Nintendo's numbers, the last thing I wanted to do was see another "sales" presentation. Show me games, dammit! God of War 2 sold over 2 million copies, 160 new games coming to the PS2, PSP UMD movie sales up 30 percent (does this mean they sold 3 UMD movies in the last year?) 140 games coming to the PSP including - Socom, NBA 08, Sonic Rivals 2, SWAT Target of Liberty, Final Fantasy Tactics and more. This brief clip reel looked pretty impressive and makes me want to blow the dust of my PSP and fire it back up.
Hey, it's Kaz! He's out to continue the PSP discussion by dropping the long awaited bomb that the PSP has been redesigned, it's slimmer and has a better battery life, improved video but the big news it that it now has a video out function, so all those UMD movies you purchased can now be played on your flat screen televisions. The new PSP will come in 3 new colors including "Piano Black," "Ceramic White," and "Ice Silver," and in various bundles.
The Entertainment Pack will include an collector's edition "Ice Silver" PSP, a copy of Daxter, and a 1 Gig Flash card. Then in a cool little surprise Chewbacca came out to introduce the Star Wars Special Edition Pack which will include a 1 Gig Card, a Ceramic White PSP with a Star Wars Logo and a copy of Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade. The retail price on these bundles will be $200 and will be available in September.
It's almost worth purchasing another PSP, or at least begging Sony to send me one, just to get the video out feature. But I have to be a wet blanket and ask - Where is the long rumored hard drive version? This is a great step in the right direction, but it's baby step and needs a bit more tweaking. You see that? My man Kaz always comes with the goods.
Ah, now it's time for another one of my favorite gaming executives, Phil Harrison does his little pimp walk onto the stage to give us some scoops on the PS3. We get another look at the Home network and it really does look amazing. Second Life really needs to start worrying a bit about what Sony is doing.
Phil starts by talking about five new titles that will be coming to the Playstation Network, the first one is a weird minimalist puzzle game called Echochrome. I have no idea what to say about this game, it's barely a game from a graphical point of view but the game play looks intriguing, I'm not quite sure what I was looking at. But it had something to do with a stick figure walking around a stick house trying to "piece it together?" I couldn't quite tell. But it looked interesting.
After that we got a look at a couple of other titles including Pain and Folklore. The weird thing about the Playstation Network is that I'm so used to XBox Live's 50 meg limit [ed: no longer a limit on size!] that when watching the games that are coming for the Playstation Network it's like night and day, the idea that we'll soon be downloading full, next gen games onto our hard drives definitely excites me. Like the PSP, maybe I'll finally have some great games to play on my 20 Gig PS3.
Phil showed off some more features of Home and in a nifty little trick, all Sony Erickson Cell Phones will now have the Playstation (or Home - not the 3D) interface. So he took a picture of the audience and then somehow uploaded it to his "Home" and that photo appeared in a picture frame in his house. It was very neat, the other unique feature of Home is that you will be able to publish your Home content to your own social networking website. It's not clear how this will work, but the possibilities of this could be amazing.
We get a little talk about the amazing success of Singstar and Sony describes it as iTunes meets MySpace. Apparently there have been over 300 million songs downloaded to date. After this we get more on the recently announced Sony price cuts. In case you didn't hear, Sony's 60 Gig PS3 is now $499 and there's a new 80 Gig model that's $599. I sure wish I didn't pay a grand for that gimped 20-Gig model on launch day.
In another major announcement, the folks at NCSoft are now part of the Sony family making all of their future MMOs exclusive the PS3 and Playstation Network. So could this mean we'll get a console version of City of Heroes or City of Villians? I'm visiting with NCSoft on Thursday so I hope to get some details on what this new partnership means.
Another good move for Sony is they are tightening their partnership with Epic Games and Midway by optimizing the Unreal III Engine for PS3 development. This will hopefully mean better games, "faster."
The show closes with Hideo Kojima the creator of the Metal Gear Series to give us the scoop on MGS 4. This will be the last of the series and will answer all of the questions from the previous three installments. He then went on to tell us that everything in his new trailer is real time game play and that we would be the first to see the new trailer. The crowd goes crazy as the lights dim and we get a peek at more Solid Snake.
This new trailer isn't as innovative or fun as previous MGS trailers but it looks amazing, this is perhaps the best looking future "Next-Gen" game ever and will certainly raise the bar. There's a really cool looking extended fight sequence and some other neat touches in how the game is lit, to details like how the hair flows, incredible.
Just when we think the Press Conference is over, there's more, finally we get to see real live game play from Kill Zone. At first I was skeptical, since I believed Sony's bs a few years ago about that being real game footage. But then I looked over and saw someone actually holding a controller. It's a mixed bag, don't get me wrong Kill Zone looks fantastic, but I think once they actually got into the game play it "only" looked a couple of steps above Resistance - which was no slouch in the graphics department. Kill Zone is really shaping up nicely, if you can curb the amazingly high expectations Sony set for it two years ago, it should be a major seller.
Sony came to play, didn't repeat the mistakes they did at last year's E3 and may have been successful in changing the conversation. Most of their goals were met with their presentation and heck, I'm ready to kick my 20-Gig PS3 to the curb and upgrade to the 80 gig model and get the new PSP. The only problem with the PS3 is their exclusives aren't as strong as Microsoft and Sony still needs to do a lot of work in that area.
It seems like they really dropped the ball there on the assumption that Blu-Ray would be a compelling enough feature to convince gamers to get it over the 360. What they fail to realize is at the end of the day, gamers want games and if two consoles are essentially equal in every other way you always go with the one that has better exclusive games and at this point, it's Microsoft.