In the days following the big press conferences at E3 this year, we’re finally able to make a determination about who won the show, but first some analysis.
This year’s video game shit show’s main theme seemed to be convergence. As we saw at the Microsoft conference, there are more space shoot games than ever before. Gears of War 4 and Halo 4 mark the returns of two series that no one plays for the story anyway, so it could be set anywhere or at any time and be identical. The real clincher of this nonsense was of course the debut of Carl of Duty: Black Cops 2 (aka Call of Duty 9). It really can’t get any more run of the mill than this, people. A franchise of games set in the past that got lost along the way by jumping into Modern Warfare and was praised for returning to the past with Black Ops is now returning to the future with Black Ops 2. Just gotta add in some future space and laser guns to complete the little boy fantasy.
Also converging is the world of media outlets with video game consoles. We’ve seen trickles of this with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and most recently Amazon Prime, but with the land grab for streaming video subscriptions happening now, everyone’s begging for a piece of the action. I won’t bother listing all of the services here because they’re mostly identical, but they’re all on every system and half of them are sports. And speaking of sports, it seems like these conferences just couldn’t get enough of sports and fitness. I understand there’s a dedicated group of diehard fans that can’t get enough sports games, but the whole concept of getting excited for a nearly identical game every year just baffles me. And you’ll only be able to trick parents into buying their fat kids a video game based on its supposed fitness credentials before you have a closet full of white plastic bathroom scales.
Converging over at the Nintendo conference was Mario. Now you can play the exact same game on the Wii U that you were already playing on the 3DS. And the Wii. And the DS. With the dual announcement of “sequels” to the hit 2D platforming franchise New Super Mario Bros ___, Nintendo is reaching the point of self-parody. We now have 4 games of nearly identical art styles designed to be system sellers, and they’re pretty much just rehashes of Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World. And to the confused parent at X-Mas time, I wish you luck, my friend. The Wii games will be sitting right next to the Wii U games (either this year or next, whenever the Wii U is released) and an exhausted parent will definitely confuse New Super Mario Bros. Wii for New Super Mario Bros U. It’s going to happen at least once. And throw into the mix New Super Mario Bros 2 (3DS) sitting right next to a greatest hits version of New Super Mario Bros (DS), it’s just a recipe for disaster. At some point Nintendo will have to stop making identical games with nearly identical names, but I guess as long as they are safe bets that earn a lot of cash, you can’t fault them for being crazy.
Rounding out the convergence theme were two competitive announcements from Micosoft and Sony, each trying desperately to hold their own against the Wii U without having to do very much work. Sony unveiled the fact that the PS3 can be played with a PS Vita as a controller, and if that’s not enough excessive hardware purchases for you, Microsoft announced some new shit called SmartGlass that requires an Xbox 360, Kinnect, and a smart phone or tablet. All of this in vein attempts to stay relevant with 6 and 7 year old hardware. But at least this wasn’t as bad as Sony’s first demonstration of PS Move.
In terms of the winner, our bet is on Sony who had a solid line up of games on display (The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale) despite devoting way too much time to some stupid interactive Harry Potter book for children — that also requires the purchase of PS Move. Nintendo’s show was alright, except there wasn’t a clear system seller announced at all for their brand new system. If they’re banking on Pikmin 3 moving units, they are setting themselves up for failure. And then Microsoft was just all around pathetic, only covering sequels of tired old franchises, streaming video services, and sports. God damn sports.