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6.10 The Cooler

From Wii U to PlayStation Vita: 10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories

By TSSCrew / 06.10.11

Photo from CrunchGear.com
Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the annual video game conference and show at the Los Angeles Convention center, and its unrelenting hype machine has taken over the gaming world once again. Tons of new games and tech dropped to a maelstrom of buzz at the show floor and online. We should be in for another solid year in gaming but there are some noteworthy trends on the horizon. Novel hardware met old favorites as heads fawned over tomorrow’s anticipated releases. TSS’s resident geeks in S.Cadet and AJ sounded off on the expo’s most compelling products and trends. Drop the controller for a moment and see what pieces stood out the most and why they’ll be important for the next year and change. Get those pause menus on deck because you’ll want to read what they have to say.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: AJ’s Picks

Nintendo uncharacteristically seems to be the first of the ‘Big 3′ out of the gate and into the next generation. Wii U, their new home console, is the highlight of E3 2011 whether you think the product makes sense or not. Besides that rather sizable announcement, this years convention was downright tame with the audience being treated to a rather unremarkable spread of sequels, shooters and remakes. Is the creative well starting to dry up for video game developers? Or are they comfortable with releasing the same product with slight tweaks year after year? People are going to buy Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 whether it’s innovative or not. Seems like Nintendo is the only company content with trying something new. They rightfully deserve the spotlight.

1. Wii U — Nintendo products are always really, really good at toeing the line between innovative and gimmicky. Wii U, Nintendo’s latest home console, seems content to continue that trend. What will obviously make the most headlines is the system’s controller. The pad includes all of the standards we’ve come to expect with a giant touch-screen in the middle. Seriously, look at that thing. One can only speculate how well it operates but I would never want to play a game of Fifa or NBA 2K on an iPad with joysticks. I’d imagine playing a game of COD would be equally brutal. And seriously, how much will those things cost? Let’s not forget the console will only support one pad at a time along with multiple wii-motes as well.
Skepticism aside, early reviews of the product say it works wonderfully and the touch screen element has been utilized well with the games on display at the convention. The games are obviously the crème of the crop so good reviews should be taken with a hefty grain of salt. Nintendo is great at marketing themselves as different: releasing products which are equal parts groundbreaking and head scratching. Wii U you have our attention.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: AJ’s Picks


2. Halo 4 Announced — Do people still care about Halo? Microsoft is banking on it as Halo 4 was one of the few big names to be “revealed” in the sense that we had no idea it was in the works. Ok, it had to be in the works, but the fact that Microsoft waited ‘till E3 to reveal it says a lot about the company’s expectations of this once legendary franchise. The reveal clip is pretty cool: featuring Cortana awakening Master Chief from the self-induced coma he put himself in at the close of Halo 3. Of course his spaceship is on fire. When are things boring for Master Chief? He brushes his teeth with guns and frag grenades. The first Halo game crafted without work from the fine folks from Bungie is sure to be a good game; Microsoft put a lot of money into this. Time will tell if it can wrestle some cred back from Call of Duty.
The fourth iteration of Halo is being handled by the relatively green 343 Industries, a Microsoft-owned development company responsible for the design of a handful of online add-ons as well as other Halo-related media: like comic books and novels. Microsoft is essentially handing the keys to their most valuable franchise to dev who, as a whole, hasn’t taken on a project of this magnitude. Uhh… good strategy?

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: AJ’s Picks


3. Dead Island — Zombies might be getting a bit played out but c’mon; this game looks awesome. Its emotional, little-girl-turning-into-a-zombie trailer has been around for a while but actual gameplay elements hadn’t been revealed until E3. A four-player co-op survival game, Dead Island is more RPG-driven than one would think since it’s kind of a throwback to older iterations of Resident Evil. Supposedly you’ll be going on undead-related quests. That just sounds like fun.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: AJ’s Picks


4. New Sports GamesFifa 12, NBA 2k12, Madden 12… yup, they were all in attendance. Fifa looks to reinvent itself with a brand-new physics engine. Fifa 11 is damn near perfect, so this had better be groundbreaking stuff. NBA 2K12 seems more or less content with keeping the status quo and Madden? The ‘ol horse is just trying to stay relevant.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: AJ’s Picks


5. Gears Of War 3 — Microsoft’s other alien-killing franchise gets a new iteration in September with the release of Gears of War 3. Based on videos and press releases, the threequel seems to be focusing more on upgrades to the online system: including a jazzed up Horde mode. The series is known for its over-the-top nature so one can reasonably expect a pretty awesome single-player mode as well.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: S. Cadet’s Picks

This year’s E3 didn’t yield a bunch of exciting surprises. Much of the “shocking new reveals” were leaked or officially released early in some form or fashion with few new challengers entering the mold. You’d think it’d make little difference to those who follow gaming less closely. However I feel like the show’s “world premieres,” even for them, were a bit expected. There’s still plenty of releases to anticipate and some of the show’s new tech shows promise. Yet I’m not about to leaping out of windows like my uncle Ron Browz over this year’s offerings. E3 2011 furthered the notion suggesting games are scarily resembling the TV, music and film industries. Familiar themes and hot genres always rule the roost but the race to similarity is getting long in the tooth.

6. PS Vita Enters The Fray — The original PSP sold 70 million units worldwide. Nevertheless, interest from consumers and devs alike waned as fewer marquee games dropped year by year. PSVita looks to make right on a few of the PSP’s design snafu’s like omitting UMD’s for new media and introducing dual analog sticks. It’s visuals also approach PS3-quality and features some refreshing touch controls. The market changed dramatically since the PSP hit the scene. Mobile gaming took off in a major way on iDevices and Android products. One has to wonder if portable behemoths like the Vita, priced at $249.99 for the wifi only version and $299.99 with a system outfitted with AT&T’s 3G service, can thrive as the handheld space is more competitive than ever.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: S. Cadet’s Picks


7. Shooters R’ US — First and third person shooters have been gaming’s most prevalent genre for years now and they’re not letting up. Gaming always moved in trends and certain types of experiences reigned supreme throughout the industry’s history. Plus it’s sort of hypocritical to harp on shooter dominance since I’m looking forward to a few: namely Battlefield 3. Some more variety would be welcome since it seems like every company needs to produce a marquee gun bonanza to keep up with the Jones’s. Interesting worlds and compelling experiences shouldn’t necessitate firearms. It’s time consumers, publishers and devs take notice and come up with some novel concepts.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: S. Cadet’s Picks


8. Sequel-itis — Some tried and tested as well as relatively dormant franchises made grandiose returns at this E3. Seeing healthy franchises prosper while others come back is nice. I’m excited for more than a few sequels like Far Cry 3, Uncharted 3, Mass Effect 3, SSX and Forza 4. However I can’t shake the feeling the market could really use some new IPs to shake things up. It’s well known how expensive and risky it is to barge in with a rookie title what with publishers wanting to maximize revenue and gamers flocking towards what’s commonplace. Making little headway in presenting new, exciting titles is somewhat expected but still annoying.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: S. Cadet’s Picks


9. Microsoft, Developers Still Can’t Kinect The Dots — Microsoft dropped a bunch of content for Kinect aimed at families but its endeavors on the traditional side leave much to be desired. It’s simply not being used creatively to enhance gaming across the board. Forza 4‘s Kinect head tracking is a nice start even though similar tech exists elsewhere. The Ghost Recon Future Soldier demo, on the other hand, presented a decent proof of concept but it looked less practical than playing normally. Kinect’s been out for a year but it’s conceptually still in the oven. Perhaps it’ll come around but I’ll keep my money in my pocket for now.

10 Of E3 2011′s Biggest Stories: S. Cadet’s Picks


10. Can Consoles Keep Providing Entertainment Beyond Gaming? — Microsoft’s Xbox Live TV announcement got swept under the rug but could affect people’s expectations of consoles in the long run. Consumers already use them for more than gaming as most current systems play DVDs, PS3′s play Blu Rays, and apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus rapidly gain popularity. Xbox Live TV’s content provider list isn’t available and pricing plans haven’t been released despite it’s impending release “this Fall.” Nonetheless, using consoles as DVR devices could catch on since many are already at the heart of families’ living rooms. The caveat lies in the fact suggesting DVR’s are already widespread. Users have little reason to switch if they’re accustomed to their original set up. That’s where Kinect controls come in but using a $100 remote as a hook seems silly. Ahh well, this could very well end up on the cutting room floor along with E3 promises of yore. We’ll keep an eye on it to see how it develops.


TAGSE3GADGETSMicrosoftMicrosoft Xbox 360NintendoP.C.Playstation 3PS3SMOKE BREAKSonyVIDEOSWii U

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