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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.
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