Maybe I’m turning into an old fart, but E3 really didn’t do it for me this year. The show remains utterly console-centric, despite the many exciting recent developments in non-console game ecosystems. The games on the floor, with a few notable exceptions, felt like more of the same (“look, another racing game with realistic graphics!”) At least the new Splinter Cell and DJ Hero both managed to intrigue me. And for those of you who haven’t seen it, check out the Natal teaser video. I thought it was impressive (and I’m particularly excited about the prospect of never having to sign into LIVE again thanks to facial recognition, as well as not needing to touch a controller to fire up Netflix on my 360.)
Regarding the PS3’s motion controller vs the 360’s Natal vs Wii Motion Plus…
I believe that the PS3’s controller is irrelevant because it fails to meaningfully innovate above and beyond Wii Motion Plus. By the time it hits the market, millions of existing Wii owners will have already purchased Wii Sports Resort and/or Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Millions more consumers will have purchased new Wiis with Motion Plus in the box. No one will purchase an already-too-expensive PS3 because its (extra) motion controller is supposedly a bit more accurate than Motion Plus. And if Sony doesn’t announce a big price cut on the PS3 by this holiday, all of this is irrelevant, because the PS3 will be D-E-A-D. (Note: I also still believe that it will take more than a $100 cut to really turn things around for the PS3, but who knows when Sony will be able to manage anything more than $100.)
Natal, on the other hand, does bring something sufficiently new to the table, and if you ask anyone who had the opportunity to demo Natal, they’ll tell you that it really is as accurate as Microsoft claims it is. The problem is that Microsoft has an utterly abysmal record of launching new peripherals for the 360, not to mention a history of underestimating how difficult it will be to turn the hardcore Xbox brand into a truly mass-market brand. Will Microsoft be willing to bundle Natal with incredible software and sell it for a relatively low price? Will Microsoft be willing to spend an enormous sum of money on marketing Natal? Will Natal come bundled with every Xbox 360 from the day it is market-ready? Will Natal be market-ready anytime soon? Without an answer to every single one of these questions, it’s hard to be too excited about Natal.
At any rate, my opinion was that Microsoft dominated E3 this year. It announced a number of great new games (including yet more previously PS-exclusives), it presented a truly compelling picture of Natal, and it pleasantly surprised everyone with Facebook and Twitter integration into Xbox LIVE (see Kim’s thoughts on the latter.) But E3 domination does not equal market domination in 2009, or even 2010. You can count on Nintendo’s continued market dominance in the short to medium term, at least.
Last thought: I’m disappointed by the number of people who have ridiculed Nintendo’s Wii Vitality Sensor. I don’t care how silly the thing looks — it’s another interesting attempt by Nintendo to do something new with games (and if history is any indication, they’ll pull it off.) I can’t wait to play the first horror game that makes good use of my heart rate. And while I doubt I’ll buy it, you can bet that if Nintendo does release a meditation game, it will be a commercial success.
PS. for a good laugh, check out Penny Arcade’s take on Natal. ;-)