It's the last day of E3 2012 and today is my first real chance to sit down and mull over everything that happened the past few days. Other years I'd say this was a problem. If I was trying to blog about E3 2004 after the fact I would have had to be pouring over vast tomes of notes and reactions as I scribbled down each revelation. This year not so much.
I'm having to reach for things to say about this year. What can you really expect from the last stretch of a console's lifespan? I knew we were up for a load a filler, but there were some interesting things to consider about where we could be headed.
I speculated that Microsoft would be fully embracing that two different camps of gamers (core and casual) and letting sinew of their entertainment catalogue hold it all together. The conference opened with a long demo of Halo 4 that seemed to really impress people. I've never cared that much for Halo, but it makes a good weekend binge, and I didn't see anything here that caught my attention. The visuals were striking but the gameplay seemed to be largely the same as it has been for a decade. Before things even began I was feeling sequel fatigue. Follow that up with more annual sports game, teasers for Splinter Cell and Gears Of War and I'm just feeling tired.
The games industry is even more 'new-a-phobic' than the movie industry. If it's not a sequel it generally doesn't get green lit. It's better to shoe horn your new idea into the shell of an older game and tack a 2 onto the end than it is to actually present a publisher with fresh new characters. Here we have truly hit that moment where you're so full you just have to pass on your sixth serving. Uncharted 3, Halo 4, Gears of War Judgement, Splinter Cell Blacklight, Assassin's Creed Revelations.....all these games could/should have been skipped and the series would be better off taking a breather. Even if they have jammed in Kinect voice commands it's just not enough.
More interesting to come out of the show was Smart Glass. The name, to me at least, conveys in no way what the project actual is or does, but after a while I got the gist of it. Smart Glass is essentially and app for your phone or tablet that acts as a remote control. I've spent way to much time navigating Xbox's clumsy menus trying to find something on netflix or a piece of DLC for one of my games. Smart Glass is going to make is as simple as typing 'Lost' on my phone to bring up the series Lost to stream. Beyond that you can use Smart Glass as a way to enhance a game, such as having an always on map for Skyrim that takes out the hassle of switching to the map screen every few minutes in game.
What Smart Glass hopes to do more than anything is make the Wii U look outdated. You alreadyhave an Ipad, right? So why would you by a brand new system with a tablet controller when you could just get an app for what you already have? It's a low blow, but at the same time Nintendo needed to learn that it can't just rely on gimmicky controllers these days.
NHL, NBA, and all day live ESPN are coming to the Xbox, along with a newly redesigned Zune marketplace. That was about the list for new entertainment options other than noting that the Xbox can now understand Spanish and other languages. I was surprised that there was no Skype announced since Microsoft recently purchased them.
What Microsoft was offering me as a core user was boring me to death, so I was actually looking forward to the parade of fake families playing Kinect games. I could at least make fun of them and that's better than feeling unimpressed. Even on that front Microsoft didn't unleash any bangers. Usher, yes that Usher, came out and danced for a minute. He wasn't actually playing a game or anything.....he was just dancing. Cause....I haven't got a clue. No children petting virtual tigers or adorably squealing at virtual Cookie Monsters, just Usher talking about wanting to get me naked.
The Usher dance sums up everything nicely into one word : unnecessary. You can't really skip an E3 press conference, although it may have done Microsoft some good to go dark and let the rumors of the next gen system build up some mystery. Instead of intrigue we just have rehashed sequels and a remote control app.
Here's to next year.