Five Lessons to Take Away from E3 2013
1) Do Things Differently…
Nintendo has a great habit of subverting everyones’ expectations. They know what’s expected of them, and they seem to gleefully enjoy doing something entirely different. Instead of getting beat up between the two big kids duking it out, Nintendo decided to duck the playground entirely. They skipped the traditional large-scale, celebrity-and-announcement-napalmed press conference, and opted to zap their announcements and videos directly to gamers through Nintendo Direct.
It was a ballsy move, but it seems to have paid off. E3 visitors seemed happy with the games they had on display, and gamers at home got the same news they would have from a flashy conference. Nintendo knows the Wii U, like the Wii before it, can’t stand toe-to-toe technically with Microsoft and Sony’s beastly boxes, so they’re smart to posit it as a unique alternative.
2) … But Not Too Differently (Apparently)
Oh, Ouya. What are we to do with you? I’m honestly more confused than excited or skeptical about the Android-based console. It’s meant to bring the simplicity of mobile gaming to televisions at home, a concept I can’t say entices me at all. Mobile games and console games exist in different realms in my mind, and I come at them with drastically different expectations.
However, given its low price point and extreme openness to small developers, I’m not entirely ready to write it off just yet. Sure, it’ll be running a lot of iPhone nonsense like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and that crap where you give baths to Alligators. But I could easily see a developer who might not otherwise have the opportunity create something like Guacamelee, Outland, or The Walking Dead. (Their developer kit is available for free on their site.)
(An aside: the ESA were real dicks to the Ouya. Was calling the police really necessary? It’s a new piece of technology which they wanted to show off and — judging by its insane Kickstarter — a lot gamers are interested in. Hell, is the Ouya a threat to the big companies? Is the Ouya a threat to any of the companies? Hopefully the situation changes next year.)
Maybe it’s just what we need, because…
3) Vive L’independence!
I’m totally stoked on how much attention Sony devoted to indie games during their press conference. Last summer, Microsoft really touted its indie flair, giving gamers access to numerous, cheap, well-reviewed indie games. Sony seems to have taken that lesson to heart and is turning the PS4 into a bastion for indie gaming. They spent a big chunk of time talking about new, independent fare like Transistor, Don’t Starve, The Witness, and Octodad: Dadliest Catch.
4) Remember the Core
No matter what you think of their products, companies dug deep this E3.
EA brought an olive branch. They kicked off with some fairly by-the-numbers announcements(ish): DICE’s wildly expected Battlefield 4, and Titanfall, a new, mech-based FPS multiplayer from Respawn Entertainment (ex-members of Infinity Ward, if to you that inspires hope). They then turned things to a hard left and announced Mirror’s Edge 2, a sequel to the cultishly beloved but financially disappointing 2008 original. They also announced a new Star Wars: Battlefront game, a series inexplicably missing from this generation. (Oh, and Peggle 2, for the REALLY hardcore crowd.) No matter what you think of EA, they definitely brought it to E3 2013.
Sony did likewise, resurrecting another why-the-heck-didn’t-one-come-out-for-PS3 franchise, Kingdom Hearts. Yes, part III will be coming out soon to pick up the adventures of Sora and co. They also took the opportunity to announce Final Fantasy XV, and there may even be people who are excited for it.
Microsoft was not to be left out. The Xbox One will be getting a new instalment in the Killer Instinct franchise. That was a weird announcement, considering its been absent for two generations. I haven’t played KI since the mid-90s, so I have no idea whether or not the formula will translate well.
Man, all these old franchises! Part of me is excited, the other far more logical, dominant part, is saying, “NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS A REMAKE/SEQUEL/REBOOT. STOP BEHAVING EXACTLY LIKE HOLLYWOOD.” But whatever, I’m looking forward to next year’s announcements of new Ecco the Dolphin and Conker games.
5) Listen to Your Audience
*Seriously, Microsoft, that was a trouncing. A lot has been written about the controversial design choices of the Xbox One, so I’ll keep this brief. The always-on Kinect and 24 hour internet check is straight up creepy. It’s really, really 1984. I mean, 95% of players are going to be online most of the time anyway, so forcing people to ‘check in’ online feels ultra-sketchy.
The used game DRM is just a pain in the ass. Trading games is a part of the culture. Video games are pricey, and not everyone can afford their own copy of something day one. I’m looking at the massive stack of games in front of me and at least give of them belong to my roommate; he’s got a similar number of my games in his room.
This is a prime, textbook case of looking at numbers and not people. I’ve been a staunch Sony supporter for some time, but I believe people should play what they want to play on whatever they choose to. This is the first time, however, I’ve ever had any active dislike toward Microsoft. I certainly hope some of these policies change, for the good of the players who pick up the Xbox One.*
Everything between the *asterixes* was written about 12 hours before Microsoft decided to (almost) completely backtrack on the mentioned policies. In the interest of full disclosure, I left what I wrote intact because A) it proves that Lesson #5 is absolutely essential (as if that wasn’t obvious) and B) my first point still stands.
I commend Microsoft for having the balls and brains to reconsider their decisions. Even if I still absolutely hate the creepy ass mandatory 24 hour internet check up.