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Analyze This: What Went Under-Reported at This Year's E3?

June 23, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

Doug Creutz, Cowen and Company:

Under-reported announcements or events:

The Project Natal demo from Microsoft got most of the ink, but I really thought Sony's demo was superior from a gaming perspective.

Natal appeared to me to be a technological solution in search of a problem. Do I really care if I can navigate my Netflix queue without using a controller? I had a very hard time envisioning playing Modern Warfare 3 using Natal. By contrast, I had a very easy time envisioning it (and enjoying it) using Sony's control/motion capture scheme.

Microsoft appears to be trying to steal casual gamers away from Nintendo, which is a difficult proposition given that you're essentially asking casual gamers to upgrade twice during the cycle (assuming they already own a Wii).

In contrast, Sony is squarely targeting the core gamer market, which is what they need to be doing. Of course, there is a wide chasm between a demo and a finished, playable, appropriately-priced product.

Favorite or least favorite things about the event:

Ubisoft's Splinter Cell Conviction was the upside surprise of E3 for me. The gameplay and creative approach to storytelling was really impressive. Along with Assassin's Creed 2, Ubisoft has an impressive looking one-two punch coming this fall.


Ubisoft's Splinter Cell: Conviction

I also thought Tony Hawk: Ride looked very promising. Activision Blizzard appears to have nailed it in terms of creating a product that should be appealing to a wide audience.

There was a moment in EA's Mass Effect 2 demo where the main character is on a ship that's getting blown apart, klaxons going off, etc. You step out of an airlock into a section of the ship that's exposed to vacuum. It's suddenly soundless and you can see outer space all around you -- it was a breathtaking moment, more emotionally impactful than a somewhat similar scene in this year's Star Trek movie.

As far as least favorite, I'd have to say EA's Dragon Age trailer ranked up there. Having played RPGs since Wizardry back in the Apple II+ days, I'd say there wasn't a cliché that the trailer failed to hit. It was highly disappointing, especially considering this was the same BioWare who wowed me with Mass Effect 2 (and Baldur's Gate, back in the day).

I also wasn't a big fan of Activision Blizzard's decision to hold its analyst presentation on Sunday. It forced everyone to come in a day early, and as a consequence, leave a day early. As a result, I didn't get to spend as much time on the floor with the games as I would have liked.

Is E3 finally back in the game?

Yes, E3 appears to be back. This year was a nice median between the overcrowded insanity of 2006 and the ghost town feel of 2008. It's an important event for the industry and I'm glad to see the ESA came to their senses and brought fun and excitement back to E3.

Do you have a business-related question about the video game industry that you would like to suggest for discussion in Analyze This? Are you a professional analyst and would like to take part in this column? Email howardhwen@gmail.com.


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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Comments


Tom Newman
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I did not attend, but most of the games that got a lot of press coverage were those we were expecting anyway. I really wanted to see more coverage of some of the niche games that were shown, and one of the games I am most looking forward to, Demon Souls (Atlus), was totally under the radar as far as press coverage is concerned.



What coverage I did see was very impressive, and the show looked amazing on TV. Hopefully next year I can attend in person!

Maurício Gomes
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I was not impressed by natal at all, it to me looks like a cool nearly useless gadget.



But the PS3 controller DID impressed me.

Joakim Hagdahl
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One thing I've noticed is how many commentators only seem to focus on the things presented during the press conferences, disregarding the other things.





Sony had the Eyepet, a game up for release late 2009 that is very similar to Milo but with less smoke and mirrors and more content and more interaction. But even so Sony is reported to only have shown 'tech' and no games for this casual drive' even though what they showed was both. Both the tech demo that showed that the new controller was fully functional.



And then they also showed a title that is doing most of the things of 'Milo' and in my opinion presenting a far more interesting interactive character as it is a Pet rather than a human.



You are encouraged to touch a pet.



Touching a boy?



The question I see is, who is interested in these games? Eyepet is squarely aimed at kids, 5-10. But who wants to play with Milo? He is a kid that you have to talk with, so that will eliminate the very youngest audience and equally so the older audience who'd rather be playing skill based or plot focused games.

Alexander Bruce
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I've thought about Natal, and I think that one of the issues with it is actually with how people talk about it in relation to other devices and how it relates to the games that they know and play right now. They'll compare it to how motion controls are used on the Wii, which I actually think is the wrong example.



First off, Motion Controls on the Wii are a terrible example of innovation for the most part, because there's not a huge number of games that use them correctly, instead opting to add waggle, etc. But I'm not criticizing that. I think the better comparison, especially after statements like "Natal appeared to me to be a technological solution in search of a problem", would be the DS.



When the DS was announced, hordes of people on message boards etc. criticized it as a gimmick, saying "why do I need 2 screens or a touch screen to play these games? I could just use one big screen and the games I know could be done in THIS way instead.". An example of a game that would have completely lost its appeal without the DS, however, would be something like Kirby Canvas Curse. It used the new mechanics to make a new style of game, and I still think it's one of the best examples of a DS game. It could have been done with a mouse, sure, but that's not portable, and Nintendo doesn't have a mouse on any of their platforms.



Natal has the potential to be the same. Rather than saying "I had a very hard time envisioning playing Modern Warfare 3 using Natal", think about what the technology offers that other technologies don't. Disregarding whether it's possible with Natal or not, the style of implementation could be used for things like Head Tracking, which is something people have been vocal about wanting on forums, but moreso than that I think of the Milo demo (real or not) where the goggles (or some other object... can't remember what) are thrown out and the player catches them. Getting a sense of depth between you and the game could add something that we're not really seeing right now, and it's not as simple as saying "yeah but you could do that with a controller / motion controls", because they just don't translate as well.

Glen Watson
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I think Sony is a little out of touch with reality, with a global recession that is have a bigger impact on sales of games and electronics than predicted and no real improvements on the economies of the world anytime soon, they should have really cut the prices. They are still predicting unrealistic numbers, and it is only going to hurt them even further.



I've seen some of the technology of Project Natal easily demonstrated in blogs and other events by the engineers that now work on the project. It is like Microsoft went around the web and threw money at these people to come work for them. It really was a brilliant idea to combine all these ideas into one device. Can't wait for the next step after that: Somatosensory haptic gloves and Augmented Reality glasses, then you can't argue that Natal is unpractical.



As for E3, I didn't attend this year because I really wasn't paying attention and didn't know it was going back to more of a show format. When I attended back in 2006 I did notice that 1 in every 2 badges read GameStop or EBgames. They need to kick the retail out, seriously limit it to studios(developers), publishers, manufacturers and the media(and the small amount of industry students they allow). Retail gets advanced copies of these games to play already.

David Fried
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Consider Milo an early experiment. Now imagine that someone makes a game like Facade using the Natal and adds voice recognition. As long as they can keep the lasers from burning out everyone's retinas, I think we'll see some very unique and interesting games come from the Natal.


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