I’ve been out of the loop for some time, and it took this year’s E3 conferences to make me realise just how far. I can’t remember a set of conferences (ever since they handily started broadcasting them online four or so years ago, of course) that have gotten me so excited about what’s to come. And there wasn’t even a meaningful hardware announcement in sight! Well, there was the PSP Go, I guess.
Regardless, up until the last year I was pretty much tapped into the comings, goings and developments in the games industry. I’m not suggesting that I had any major contacts or was involved myself in any way, but putting together what amounted to a rolling news feed for (what was) Jolt.co.uk for three or so years meant I covered everything; facts, rumours, gossips, things I had a passion for and things I had absolutely no interest in. Such is the nature of rumours – especially pre-E3 ones – that if you cover enough bases, one or two will be proven true simply by luck. As a result, the last few E3 conferences held little in the way of surprise for me, or anyone else who makes their money writing about games.
I still write about games, of course, but not for Jolt, so my focus has naturally shifted away from rumourville. Going into these conferences, I had little idea what to expect, mainly because I hadn’t read any news stories or press releases about home console or PC gaming for many a month. Maybe even a year.
The end result, however, the day after the last of the three conferences hit the web, is that I now have the kind of excitement I had when I’d read ECTS coverage in the games magazines I’d spend my pocket money on in the early 1990s. I want to be involved again, buy games (which I haven’t for some time) and look forward to the future of the systems I own. Up until this week, beyond the kind of titles we all anticipate, I had little of that. I’d been playing FIFA on the PS3 and little else, besides from those I play for work.
Tonight I plan to have a mini-marathon. A bit of PGR4, possibly Forza 2, along with some Call of Duty 4, Assassin’s Creed and maybe even some Crackdown. All because I want to build myself up for what’s to come. And there is a lot to come.
I might be alone here, but Turn 10’s two trailers for Forza Motorsport 3 blew me away. Graphically, that’s a major step forward and it’s heartening to me that it’s happening on the oldest of the three formats. What else will developers be able to push out of all three systems over the coming years?
Natal had me shaking, too. As some of my more esteemed friends have pointed out, it’s unlikely that it’ll work in the way Microsoft’s press blurb and videos have alluded to, but the fact that’s the direction they intend to move is refreshing. A console I bought four years ago has the potential to recognise who I am merely by me standing in front of it – it’s the kind of step forward that would have needed a complete launch of new hardware a generation or so ago. Microsoft’s conference was easily the strongest it has had since it launched the 360.
Sony’s PS3 ‘wand’ (as I like to call it), too, raised my expectations. Indeed, the format as a whole seems to have a bright future now, where a year ago everything seemed up in the air. Its sales still aren’t what most would call impressive, but if its E3 is anything to go by, I’d expect it to be sitting on the shelves for many a year to come. That’s really some statement considering the comedy of errors that beset its progress ever since Sony’s shambolic E3 2006 outing.
Final Fantasy, God of War III and even The Last Guardian do little for me personally, but the PS3 seems to have a breadth of software that seemed beyond it a year or so ago. Sony’s conference really did mirror Microsoft’s in almost every way, even if it did lack some of the “wow” moments.
Nintendo’s Wii, of course, did it’s “wowing” many a year ago, and it’s still enjoying a stream of strong sales as a result. Motion Plus, however, wrangles me. It seems to promise the precision Nintendo always alluded the original Wii-Mote would have, and the fact they’re adding it now seems like a bit of a botch fix to me. It’ll be a hit, of course, but only because to play titles like Wii Sports Resort, you’ll need it. I don’t think there is actually much consumer excitement for Motion Plus, itself. In fact, I think if you tried to describe just what it does to the man on the street, he’d assume the Wii-Mote already does most of that anyway.
The PS3’s wand seems to take Motion Plus a step further as it is, with Sony’s demonstration – despite a dodgy start – showing the strength of the concept. I can see it being used in a slightly different way on PS3, however, dodging sports games cash ins and taking the ‘executive’s toy’ approach, which befits Sony’s stylish black console. Natal, on the other hand, has far more potential to go wrong, but – as others have suggested – could well be incorporated into big, blockbuster titles that attempt to plant you in their world. A Fable, Fallout, BioShock, Alan Wake or, dare I say it, Shenmue could make much use of such a wow factor. The fact Molyneux is already involved suggests this could well be on the cards.
But whether I’m close to the spot or miles off target, the fact I’m so excited about just what’s in store for the three machines this far on in the generation is a good sign. Four years after the Xbox launched, the focus was already firmly on its follow-up. When it comes to the 360 and PS3, it seems clear that things are only just getting going and, I have to say, I’m going to miss not writing about the circle of rumour and gossip that will no doubt surround them both.