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access_time June 18, 2012 at 8:12 AM in Features by Ramon Aranda

Buy or Sell: Watch Dogs, Wii U, E3 Press Conferences, More

With E3 having come and gone, it’s about time for another edition of Buy or Sell.

In this week’s edition, we have Sean Garmer and Drew Robbins giving us their thoughts on the press conferences, Wii U and more.

So let’s get right to it!

1. What Nintendo showed off in respect to the Wii U was impressive.

Drew Robbins: SELL – What Nintendo showed off in respect to the Wii U was good, but it was nowhere near what I would call impressive; instead, it was a safe display of quality games that everyone knew were on the way.  Though the publisher’s top-tier releases, New Super Mario Bros. U and Pikmin 3, will undoubtedly be fantastic, neither did enough to show off the potential of next-generation hardware quite like Rayman Legends did at Ubisoft’s conference.  That said, I’m still excited for the Wii U, but that isn’t because of anything shown at this year’s press conference; it remains a speculative excitement based only on the console’s potential.

Sean Garmer: SELL – If we are going to get technical about it the people that showed off the best stuff for the Wii U was Ubisoft. Rayman Legends, Zombi U, The Avengers Game, Assassin´s Creed 3 all looked great. Nintendo showed off a safe approach to Mario, which does not really show off the true power of the system. They talked about certain stuff about the Mii Verse and the very cool looking Pro Controller.  They still did not tell us anything about how the Nintendo Network is different than the Wii, except that we got cooler friend codes really?  We get the silly looking Nintendo Land thing to end the show, they spent way too much time on a glorified port of Batman: Arkham City, and back to my main point I still cannot see how the Wii U is supposedly 50% better than the Xbox 360 & PS3.

2. You too are excited over what Ubisoft showed from Watch Dogs.

Drew Robbins: SELL – I wouldn’t say that I’m excited; I would say that I’m cautiously optimistic.  The first several minutes of the trailer and the teaser that preceded it showed a game that promises to be as creative as it is beautiful, but after that it began to fall apart for me.  Suddenly, in the middle of a video that had shown only passive, non-violent action, the game’s protagonist was forced to leap over the hoods of cars and shoot wildly at enemies in what felt like a standard, generic affair as it pertains to modern games.  If Watch Dogs follows the former approach as opposed to the latter, I’ll be thrilled to welcome it into my software library.  Otherwise, my interest is nonexistent.

Sean Garmer: BUY, BUY, BUY – Watch Dogs was the best thing about E3 that we actually got to see on television or via a PC. It was a total surprise and one of the reasons everybody loves E3. It´s also something we don´t get anymore with the advent of the internet and developers thinking no one is going to care about the game if they don´t announce it early. I loved that he has control of the entire city and he goes on these missions to try to disrupt certain things.  The main character using the traffic accident as cover was immediately impressive and I can´t wait to find out more about this game as the year goes along. The trailer was eerie and the way the game looks it makes you are truly inside this sprawling city as if you were playing a real life episode of “Person of Interest,” one of my favorite new shows on TV. So, this was right up my alley when I was watching the Ubi presentation.

3. There should have been a bigger focus on the PS Vita from Sony.

Drew Robbins: BUY – Is there any doubt that Sony dropped the ball with the PlayStation Vita at their press conference?  Having just launched the platform, it seemed inevitable that the publisher would at the very least shine a light on the handheld’s brightest prospects coming in the near future; they did not.  Sure, there was the not-at-all surprising reveal of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale coming to the Vita and the unveiling of a dedicated Assassin’s Creed experience, but where were the exclusives that help the hardware to stick out among the pack?  It’s not as if the PlayStation Vita doesn’t have such games; Gravity Rush, a title released just this past week, speaks to that notion.

The woeful display of the PlayStation Vita can be best summed up by this brief recap:  in their hour-and-a-half showcase, Sony highlighted fifteen-year-old games from their debut platform instead of several upcoming titles from their newest platform.  There is no defense for that.

Sean Garmer: BUY – Sony fanboys you can strike me down all you want, but this is turning into the PSP 2. Really Sony?  Are you seriously going to tell me that we should use the VITA to download PS One Classics and to play spinoff titles of bigger console releases like COD Black Ops 2 and AC 3: Liberation (though I will give Ubisoft for making it different by adding a female character and her own unique style.) At least Nintendo had the balls to show of the LEGO City game and also gave us a separate conference for their 3DS titles. I am not saying Sony had to do the same thing Nintendo did, but they could have at least shown us some original games like they did with BEYOND. I am starting to believe that G4 is right, Sony should really consider just letting some of their first party games available to IOS and just concede to Nintendo. Nintendo makes their portable important and does not inflate the price by trying to make their portable system the same thing as an I Phone. Nintendo to me are the only ones that deserve to have a portable system because they give it importance and respect. Sony doesn´t and seems to immediately give up on the portable when it does not sell well at first.

4. There isn’t a need for a PS4 or Xbox 720 anytime soon.

Drew Robbins: SELL – It’s hard to believe that, even after seeing a game with such visual flair as Watch Dogs, there remains a segment of the population which genuinely believes a new generation of consoles to be unnecessary at this moment in time. Even the most casual observer of the medium could point to recent PC releases and see that consoles are being left behind by their now-archaic technology. Yes, current-generation software like Beyond and The Last of Us are both stunning games, but their potential would be so much greater on more powerful hardware.

Also, can we stop calling the next Xbox the 720? It’s a terrible name that has no shot at being used. How about, instead, we call it the NextBox so, at the very least, the fake name is fun and wacky.

Sean Garmer: BUY – I think the letdown many of us felt about E3 this year was that there was this horrible aura of “Is Microsoft or Sony going to announce or give us a teaser of their next gen system.” Both of them kept quiet and decided to show off more of their known franchises and then pimp out more of the apps that are coming to each of their systems.  Everybody expected, “oh wait we are going to show you this awesome video at the end, that´s going to tease you for next gen.” However, we did not even get that.  Obviously, depending on what happens with the Wii U in the months after its release will be the big factor in how much of a next gen reveal we get at E3 2013.  However, I wouldn´t mind if we just get a teaser with some specs and they both show a few trailers for some games, while revealing that the release date will be in 2014.  I think both Sony and Microsoft have the ability to make it a few more years on the 360 and PS3.  It does not hurt to announce the new systems at all, but unlike the Wii, which had really gone past its selling point, they do not have to rely on doing that with 360 & PS3.

5. The Smart Glass that Microsoft showed off looks great, but developers won’t embrace it much.

Sean Garmer: BUY – I am going to take the cop out role here and say that I think developers will not embrace it until they see how Microsoft uses it with their huge titles like HALO 4 and how the fans respond to it.  Obviously, they can ask poll questions or find out through message boards, facebook, or twitter if the Smartglass is really being used in gaming.  Then I think we will see people start using it more because it can be a huge selling point for a game. It does make me want to get an I-Phone or Tablet, but I have to stay content with my old ass Blackberry Pearl.

Drew Robbins: SELL AND BUY – First and foremost, I’m going to sell the idea that the Smart Glass is great. As I said in my last column, Smart Glass is the solution to a problem that no human being has, has had, or will ever have; I don’t think that having a portable map on hand would make watching Game of Thrones any better than it already is and I certainly don’t think that I’d ever want to divert my attention away from a movie to read a description and facts about its lead actors and actresses.

Now, onto the more pressing concern: Smart Glass and its utility within core experiences. I think that the Smart Glass experience will go over as well with developers as the Kinect has with most of them that utilize it resorting to mere gimmicks. Unlike the Wii U’s tablet, a device that Smart Glass was compared to by many upon its debut at E3, it isn’t an application that will always be available. When playing games on Nintendo’s new console, you will almost always be forced to use the tablet as it is the main controller and, because of that, the features implemented there will seem more imperative to developers. Smart Glass, on the other hand, is an extension of the experience that will only be used by those who also own an exterior smart phone or tablet. I don’t see a situation in which Smart Glass becomes anything more than a cute experiment.

6. You enjoy gaming experiences such as Heavy Rain, Catherine and the upcoming The Last of Us.

Sean Garmer: BUY – I absolutely loved Catherine; it was in my Top 5 GOTY of 2011-2012. I really enjoy unique experiences like that, which truly explore why video games are such a wonderful medium. I have never owned a PS3, so I never got to play Heavy Rain, but I wanted to play it badly.  Last of Us is a game that has me considering getting a PS3 at some point just so I can play it because it looks like a great game. I love how you really feel the emotional connection between two main characters. Thinking back to even older games like Bioshock and Eternal Darkness that really make you think about what you are doing in the game.  I am all for giving us a cool experience like what “Last of Us” promises.

Drew Robbins: BUY – I’m having a hard time contextualizing The Last of Us as a title along the same lines as Catherine or Heavy Rain, but, regardless, I do quite enjoy games of this nature. In fact, Heavy Rain easily ranks among my favorites of the entire generation both for its impeccable presentation and for its unique approach to creating a more cinematic experience. As for Catherine and The Last of Us, having played neither but having come to understand both, I can say that I enjoy their approach to providing the player with a more mature narrative than the typical run and gun approach of their peers within the industry.

That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy frivolous, action-packed titles like Uncharted, but it’s nice to get a breath of fresh air every once in a while. After all, to quote Mission Hill, a show that is not in the least bit mature with its narrative, “it takes all kinds of fruits to make fruit cup.”

7. If E3 ends up leaving Los Angeles for the 2013 show, you’d like to see it return to Santa Monica or Las Vegas.

Sean Garmer: SELL – I really do like that E3 has continued to be a journalist only conference but personally because I don´t live in California I feel like I am missing out. I do wish maybe they would consider making it a traveling press conference where one year it is held in New York or in Texas or Florida or whatever. I think Santa Monica wouldn´t be a bad choice if it had to move somewhere. Las Vegas brings too many temptations to the journalists that are there for work and I don´t want to hear about “IGN has their own version of the Hangover Film because they went out and had a crazy night at casinos.” Not to mention, I think it would make it even more expensive for people outside of California to go to the event, than ever before. So, I guess I would say either keep it in LA, move it around to different states, or take it to Santa Monica.

Drew Robbins: BUY – Having never attended an E3, the obvious location that I’d love for it to end up in is somewhere near home such as Chicago or St. Louis, but, obviously, that’s not going to happen. Given the choice, though, Las Vegas would be a fantastic location for the biggest showcase in the industry. It’s a natural fit that would be beneficial to both parties involved: the ESA would have a more attractive location for its annual event while the city itself would be able to reap the benefits of a tourist population that is has a predisposition towards addictive, expensive experiences.

8. Out of the ‘Big 3’, you felt Microsoft had the best press conference.

Sean Garmer: BUY – Oh, Ramon knew I was going to say Ubisoft so he makes us pick between the Big 3. Nintendo started off well but then showed us a bunch of games we already knew about and then it ended it horribly with Nintendo Land. Sony started off great with BEYOND and ended well with Last of Us.  Sony just shamed the PS VITA and then slowed their press conference down to a boring crawl with the “Wonderbook” and then showed us off more God of War that doesn´t look that much different than the other games. Microsoft gave us HALO 4, Gears of War Judgment, Tomb Raider demo, Splinter Cell Blacklist, Smart Glass (which is a neat feature that also trumps Nintendo a little bit on the use of the second screen by making it accessible with stuff we already own.) People may not care about Usher, but that was cool having him there for Dance Central 3. The Madden 13 Kinect stuff where you can name players and hike the ball is pretty cool.  We got Fable Journey along with Microsoft showing us more of the Kinect stuff with Nike Training.  They had the most action packed press conference out of the big 3 and I think that´s why they win in my book.

Drew Robbins: SELL – Having only recently recovered from their press conference last year, I was delightfully surprised to see that Microsoft put on what I would consider to be a decent show.  However, as a showcase for the Xbox 360, I think that the event was lacking.  While almost every game shown was exceptional, a good majority of them were experiences that could be had elsewhere on the PlayStation 3.  Meanwhile, Sony used their press conference to highlight a wide swath of high-quality content exclusive to their line of hardware.  For that fact alone, Sony won the day in my eyes.


  • Andrew Kent June 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    I’d like to put my two cents in about Microsoft being the “best” at E3 out of the big 3. One quote struck me in particular “showed us off more God of War that doesn´t look that much different than the other games”

    Sean you mentioned Halo 4, Gears of War Judgement, and Splinter Cell Blacklist. What do all of those games have in common? You shoot the hell out of every living thing that is your enemy. They may look different, but they’re basically the same game. You jump, you shoot, and you kill things. Balls to the storylines because you can slap them into any game with guns and it would sell.

    Developers need to become more innovative and stop sticking to the fan favorites before the market becomes infested with nothing but shooters. Twelve years from now I don’t want my nephew begging me for Battleduty Modernfield Call of Halo Cell Ops 80.

    Nintendo did a phenomenal job this year, barring Nentendurland. They’ve finally got their heads out of their asses and brought adult games to their next generation console. They would have just barely stolen the show if they had announced a price and release date for the Wii-U…and possibly a Zelda game.

    I’m not a Nintendo fanboy, but Nintendo IS being innovative. Sure not all their games are the best but the developers and Nintendo themselves are brave enough to step away from repetition. Microsoft proved that it’s not innovative by coming out with yet another Halo game and Sony is just barely struggling to be innovative. Beyond looks like another cutscene filled movie game and All Stars Battle Royale is ANOTHER fighting game.

    Now, you could probably say well “Final Fantasy XIII is ANOTHER rpg”. But it isn’t. Each RPG has their own storyline, their own elements of game play. There isn’t one formula to play the game, their are multiple ways to play it. Sure, games like Skyward Sword are dulling down the RPG experience but games like Skyrim are taking it to a whole new level. You can’t say the same with FPS games. These companies just spice up the graphics, add “new” weapons, and give you a new person to fight. You go in, shoot, and kill things. How people enjoy such games I will never understand.

    It also pisses me off that developers are not using Kinect to its fullest potential. People are friggin docking SATELLITES with Kinects and all Lionhead studios can give us is a linear game where you stand in an area and shoot projectiles at goblins. Great. Thank you for totally destroying the Fable universe before you left Mr. Molyneux.

  • unlimitedlives June 18, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    As much as I want to hate games like Call of Duty, I really can’t say that all shooters are the same run and gun type of thing. Sure, that’s the concept but each story is different and so will the experience. For example Gears of War might be seen as a dur-shoot dur-cover type of game but it really is about the experience of fighting to live another day.

    Different people like different experiences. Some don’t need something new to play cause maybe they love the tweaked mechanics that help give them a better experience with the story which is how I see Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Each game has it own flow of entertainment. Some don’t like it as intense as a shooter and some do.

    I love shooters because I was that type of kid who grew up playing with dart guns and pretending to be a soldier in a living room filled with pillows to be used as cover. I relive my childhood joy through shooters.

    Mind numbing for some, heart pumping for others.

    • Andrew Kent June 18, 2012 at 6:22 PM

      I don’t know. Sure there’s a story but you could say the same about NASCAR or any other sport. You watch or play to see the storyline, to see if a car crashes or a baseball player gets injured. It’s all about living vicariously through the players. You see Black Ops 2 as a better experience, I see it as another left turn in NASCAR.

      There is a market for FPS games, but not the whole market. I’m just really upset that FPS games are starting to take over the gaming industry. It’s the “safe” genre and developers/publishers are going to wear it out pretty quick.

      • unlimitedlives June 18, 2012 at 6:55 PM

        I don’t know how you can compare a racing car game or a sport’s story with an FPS story but I see your point.

        The FPS market is not the whole market but a very big one. Everyone wants to be in a different world and first person shooters are a way into that world without the obstruction of player model like in third person games.

  • Ramon Aranda June 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    As much as I enjoy Call of Duty, there’s a reason I play Battlefield 3 a bit more…it just feels different. Looking forward to Borderlands 2 and other type of “shooters” like Dead Space 3 and the like. At some point though, the industry is bound to get over-saturated with the typical FPS.

  • Drew Robbins June 19, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    Andrew, as much I love Nintendo, I think they’ve done a disservice in that they’ve made it seem as if innovation can only be associated with a new, gimmick-ridden controller. Real innovation occurs, more often than not, within a game’s core mechanics.

    It’s easy to look at the landscape of first-person shooters and say that none of them have done anything to expound upon the typical gaming experience. However, if you look closely at a lot of the major franchises in circulation today you can see where they have contributed their own innovations. Gears of War may seem generic now, but before it was released cover-based shooting was barely even a thing. Halo streamlined the experience so that more people could enjoy it. Even Call of Duty contributed with its increased emphasis on story (at first) and the heavy integration of set pieces into regular gameplay.

    I think it would be silly to say that there’s a concern of first-person shooters monopolizing the industry. There will always be one genre that appeals most to the mainstream and that genre will receive a lot of attention for the time that it’s most popular. It’s no different than the film industry and its current love of super heroes. No matter what, there will always be a wide enough swath of titles from many different genres to satisfy everyone.

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