I don’t like the way your looking at me Mario….
by Robert Bruce
On day one Xbox’s focus, as far as I could tell, was primarily on Kinect games and Halo 4. I don’t blame them at all, but their floor area was very sparse, and most of that floor was either the gargantuan line for Halo 4, or people demonstrating a couple choice Kinect based games; including a Marvel-Avengers-esque game, a dancing game and some other games that didn’t really grab my attention (I believe one was the Wreckateer which is a sort of Kinect version of Angry Birds that certainly has some promise). Behind this section was a number of smaller XBLA games, which actually interested me more than any of the above games. Deadlight caught my eyes more than any of the other things showcased in the XBLA section. Deadlight reminded me a lot of the old-school Blizzard’s Blackthorne, only with zombies and many generations forward in graphics tech. The game is a “2d-esque” side-scroller that takes you through a zombie laden apocalypse; and I realize how boring that sounds conceptually. What’s interesting is the the lighting effects or lack thereof that contribute to the challenge and feel of the game. Lush city-scape backgrounds and a great job of atmosphere contribute to what looks to be an interesting game experience.
The feeling I got was that focus has shifted here in XBOX land from the purported “Core” to the non-core(?). I hate using the “casual” moniker because I don’t think it captures that audiences’ true interest in gaming, and is a little derogatory. However, I think its a much different audience that gets excited about a dance game versus those who get excited for Halo 4. I shouldn’t say that the “Core” is getting no love. Rather a little less obvious and flashy love. In other words the demographics for gaming is opening up to a larger set of audiences, rather than just males of a certain age, dreaming of big muscly men replete with chainsaws attached to swords attached to rocket launchers, mutilating aliens, or Nazi’s, or terrorists, or apparently nuns (see Hitman: Reloaded Vengeance 32, or whatever- can’t remember the name, but there was some Hitman there with killer nuns- different booth; but I digress). Obviously, the biggest thing that Xbox was talking about announcement-wise was the “smart glass” stuff, but not much was available for that on the floor (if I missed anything with this thing, please comment).
Now we come to Ubisoft, what remains of the big “Core” focused gaming producers. They had a lot to showcase, and much of it was exciting. Watch Dogs looks easily like the most interesting game of the entire show, and one of the few new ideas coming out of a big dev house. More about that title in my next article. Assasin’s Creed did not seem to have much of a reception amoung my colleagues, but maybe it’s just that I am the only one interested in what they are doing here. They had a pretty cool multiplayer trailer, that I didn’t get to play . At first I was completely uninterested in Tomb Raider one of the other big games by Ubisoft, but now my interest is piqued. You are fighting for survival in the middle of a jungle, and the primary conflict of the game is solving a series of organic puzzles –by this I mean, not moving blocks up and down, but putting a bow together and then shooting a deer to eat, and building a camp fire for warmth, etc. I can see where this sort of game could breathe a lot of life into an otherwise lifeless series.
Unlike some of my journalistic colleagues, I really liked Nintendo’s showing this year. They seem to be developing a fairly interesting launch line-up for the Wii U, and I like the controller idea, but I think the information that will really make or break the Wii U is: what role the controller will play in the system?; will it be required?; Will is be a separate cost?; Will it be super expensive?; and then the other primary question is whether the price point will be that magic point that the buying public will be willing to part with for what amounts to an update to the Wii, rather than a full generation forward. None of these questions were answered by the E3 announcements, but I am hopefull, given some interesting titles; Nintendo Land, Pikman 3, New Super Mario Land U among others. Further on in the year if they announce some post launch stuff for people to be hopeful for, I think that will probably help them a fair amount as well. 3DS suffered from a shaky launch and a distance from the games that might be needful to users, I really hope they are learning over there in NintendoLand. I never know what to think of the profitability of peripherals. It seems like such a crap shoot, so when they showcase the wii fit board’s cross functionality with the Wii U pad thing, I kinda just shrug… I mean it might work, but I have no predictions on it, and it ain’t my thing, so there is that.
I told you I would talk about this social media/ iphone/ smartphone game trend, but I will keep it short, because I am sure you will read more about this from smarter people (or already have). If the sheer size of the booths these type of companies had at this years E3 is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised if next years E3 is even more heavily swayed towards these sort of companies and these sorts of games; replete with small re-hashed Mario Karts, Farming Sims, Mafia style Facebook games, as well as the occasional card based game. I imagine the big prod companies will also start the facebook versioning of their larger game IPs -a la Bioware and Firaxis’s Facebook-ization of some of their most popular titles (namely Dragon Age and Civ).
(Next: E3 and the state of things pt.3… What’s going to be important going into the rest of 2012, and Final Impressions )