Saints & Sinners: Pre-E3 2012 Jamboree (June 1)
In the video game industry, the fans are bombarded by two separate yet equally important groups: Saints, who bring with them only the purest form of joy, and Sinners, beings dedicated solely to evoking misery. These are their stories.
E3 2012 is nigh; months of hype, rumors, and speculation will all culminate in a matter of days as the industry’s major players take to the stage and reveal their plans for the upcoming years. The biggest stage in all of gaming is one of intense focus for the Big Three (Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony) as they are tasked with kicking off the show in the best, most exciting way possible. Typically, these press conferences are humor fodder for the many years that follow, but, every so often, a true Saint emerges and separates itself from the pack. I feel that it is my responsibility as the resident arbiter of morality to bestow the necessary knowledge unto Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony to achieve this feat and leave E3 under the righteous banner of Sainthood.
Sainthood on the Line: What Can They Do?
Microsoft: Before you do anything, Microsoft, I want you to remember one thing: E3 2011. For you, that press conference must have felt like a fitting testament to the Kinect and the new direction of the Xbox 360 as a platform. For the rest of us, though, it was a fitting testament to the fact that live, motion-controlled demos are ripe with comedic virtue. Dare I remind you of the Kinect Sports Season Two presentation, a demonstration that proudly featured two fraternity brothers doing their best impersonation of a howler monkey getting shot while trying to show off the finer fundamentals of virtual football? That moment still resonates in my mind to this day as a prime example of how not to open up E3 as it should in your mind as a prime example of what not to do at this year’s press conference.
I understand, begrudgingly, that the Kinect is a thing. It is a thing that you have poured a lot of resources into and feel the need to mention at every possible turn, but I feel like there is a better way to integrate it into the discussion. Try isolating the live demos to one or two presentations and then leaving the rest to be seen on the show floor or in a delightfully edited video package. As a result, less consumers will feel affronted by the accessory and there will be far less opportunities for embarrassment. The press conference will certainly lose some of its humor, but it will more than double in its ability to be withstood as an hour-long exhibition.
Now, with the Kinect left to one or two demonstrations, there is plenty of time to focus on the other features so proudly presented by the Xbox 360. Remember that Summer of Arcade thing that you used to hoist up as a flagship of innovation in a sea of homogeneous lookalikes? That was a pretty good idea that actually garnered the company some credibility beyond the mainstream. I’d love to see some of the focus shone back on this promotion and on the developers that have helped to make it a staple of the industry. I suppose the extra minutes left by the reduced Kinect presence could also be used to promote the applications that have transformed the console into an entertainment center, but, for the sake of all that is good and holy, let’s keep the focus on games.
Without a doubt, the biggest game at show will be Halo 4. It would be easy enough to wheel out another pre-rendered trailer or a brief segment of the title’s campaign mode, but I’d love to see more of a spotlight shone upon the Halo Infinity Multiplayer feature that was announced two weeks ago. This is an actual example of creativity in a franchise that isn’t known for it and would undoubtedly enrapture casual and hardcore fans alike. Of course, either way it will be hard to lose out when showing off a new entry into the Halo series.
Honestly, Microsoft, I’m not expecting much from you. Outside of Halo 4, there is very little on tap that I see any reason to keep an eye on. All odds have this year being another one full of gimmicky Kinect titles and halfhearted iterations on the Fable franchise, but if you manage to deviate from that even a little bit I’ll be more than happy to give this year’s presentation positive marks.
Nintendo: I feel little need to retread over the fact that, yes, I can be a bit of a Nintendo fan boy and, yes, I do look forward to Nintendo’s annual press conference as if it were another, slightly more nerdy Christmas. This year’s event is no different: I’m pumped. Last year, we were given a taste of the Wii U so slight that it barely resembled an appetizer. To that extent, I’d also say that it barely resembled an appeteaser. In fact, let’s just say that the whole show ended up feeling like one big tease for this year’s exhibit.
That being said, it is absolutely, one hundred percent necessary for Nintendo to deliver a more substantive vision for the Wii U than it demonstrated last year. We already know that the console will sport an entirely new brand of controller, but what does that say for the platform’s software? Hopefully, this year’s press conference will offer a lot in the way of footage and reveals that help to alleviate the concerns that we are headed for another launch like the one that the Nintendo 3DS suffered. Pikmin 3 and a new Super Mario Bros. game are already being promised for the show; here’s hoping that their appearance is much more than a sideways glance made through a minute-long teaser.
Speaking of the Nintendo 3DS, it would be nice to see what Nintendo has planned for its portable future. Even after more than a year on the market there has yet to be a major, must-have title that set the platform apart from its competitors; at this point, I’m starting to think that the PlayStation Vita has it beat in every regard. I haven’t seen a good reason to pick up my 3DS in months so it would be nice to see if Nintendo can give me a reason to in the next few months outside of the already-announced New Super Mario Bros. 2. Where is the creative passion that sparked the best titles on the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS? I hope that it is merely waiting behind the curtains at E3.
The most important step to take in this year’s conference is for Nintendo to own its words. For the past year, the esteemed publisher has been beating its chest as the next bastion for hardcore games and franchises. Such talk is dissonant with their previous, casual-friendly message, but it is a welcome new tone for longtime fans such as myself. If you’re going to drop such lines, though, it is important that they be backed up with evidence. I don’t want to see Reggie Fils Aime peddling motion controls, party games, or statistics that indicate the perennial rise of Nintendo; I want to see Reggie Fils Aime peddling exciting new titles, powerful hardware, and facts that show Nintendo’s returned focus on what made them a hero among such members of the community as myself.
Of all three major publishers, Nintendo is carrying the most weight on its shoulders. The Wii U will likely be the only brand new console at the show and as such will be the center of attention. For Sainthood to truly be achieved, I need to see concrete proof that Nintendo is returning to its hardcore roots, and that kind of proof can only be dolled out through quality software that shows a dedication to the craft and not just a dedication to the mainstream dollar.
Also, don’t let this guy in. This man is a menace to society.
Sony: There are few things more perpetually boring than a Sony press conference. Despite my love of the company, I’ve never been successful in my attempt to make it through their entire presentation. Last year’s show saw the debut of the PlayStation Vita, a brand new portable system that launched earlier this year to the lack of sales that one might expect after seeing what happened to the Nintendo 3DS. A focus on this new hardware might just be the key for making this annually dull exhibit worth watching.
As I’ve mentioned in past editorials, the PlayStation Vita is a platform that legitimately has me excited for the future of portable hardware. Its technology is as impressive as any that have come before it, but, up to this point, it has shown little in the way of compelling software. None of that should be surprising; the best of what a system has to offer never comes within the first few months of its release. Such news comes as little solace to those that already own the handheld, though, and must be supplemented with something that can entice the average player. I’m more than happy to see wave after wave of PlayStation 3 titles coming to the PlayStation Vita, a phenomenon that wouldn’t be terrible to highlight at E3. I know how hypocritical it must seem for somebody that demands innovation to praise a publisher for porting their major releases, but I feel that this is a necessary step to cushion the system’s launch and give it time to develop before the unique, exclusive titles begin flooding in.
On the home front, the PlayStation 3 is anything but dead. There certainly isn’t as much excitement around it as there has been in year’s past, but it is still living and breathing for the foreseeable future with its own lineup of exclusives; The Last of Us will be there to likely steal the show with PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale lagging close behind. The only thing that could really surprise me or make Sony an undeniable Saint would be for The Last Guardian to appear and make the PlayStation 3 that much more of an enthralling proposition. Of course, were that to happen, I might succumb to eating my own hat.
The main thing that I want Sony to avoid is its usual penchant for statistical facts. Yes, we know, the PlayStation brand is doing very well, the PlayStation 3 will never die, and the PlayStation Vita is setting some kind of record somewhere. Nobody cares. All that anyone wants to see or hear at E3 is about what’s ahead so that they can accurately invest in the company that best suits their interests. I’m a big supporter of Sony, but if they so much as delve into one more statistical segment I’ll be shutting down my stream to play on one of their direct competitor’s devices.
Like Microsoft, I don’t have terribly high expectations for Sony’s showing at E3. The PlayStation Vita is already out and we already know what is has to offer so the only intrigue there will be in the amount of exclusive software it will be seeing in the coming year. The PlayStation 3 is fairly well established and doesn’t seem to be preparing much for the months that follow the releases of The Last of Us and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Stats are almost imminent. It’s very likely going to be a boring, by-the-numbers affair that has me and the rest of the world minimizing and booting up Diablo III. Sainthood shall be held ransom for The Last Guardian news.
Judgement will be passed