Microsoft is not straying far from the beaten path and has unveiled a swathe of sequels to established franchises at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 (E3 2011) in Los Angeles.
But let’s start with something that was genuinely surprising and delightful: Minecraft will be an Xbox 360 console exclusive with full Kinect support.
That’s right kids, it’s the same worldwide indie PC hit you know and love now with hand gestures!
The announcement was made during the vendor’s E3 conference but no in-game demo was shown so it is hard to appraise whether this is a good or bad idea but the move will certainly expose the game to an even wider audience. Although it has to be said the whole "console debut exclusively on Xbox 360" claim is somewhat cheeky considering Minecraft will be available for the Sony branded Xperia Play gaming smartphone...
Among the newest games announced was Halo 4. After Bungie said it was bowing out of the series that put Xbox on the video games map, Microsoft set up studio 343i to oversee the Halo line after Halo: Reach.
“A new trilogy begins when Halo 4 releases in 2012,” according to Microsoft.
(Ed note: The world face-palmed when that statement was made…)
This will be the first full-length game 343i develops and despite recruiting some old hands from Bungie, it is still unclear whether there is potential for this “new trilogy” to live up to the lofty standards set by its predecessors.
343i is also working on a remastered commemorative edition of Halo: Combat Evolved.
Other notable sequels mentioned include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 by Infinity Ward, Gears of War 3 by Epic Games, the tailored-for-Kinect Fable: The Journey by Lionheaed Studios and Mass Effect 3 by BioWare.
Then there were more family-friendly Kinect titled announced such as Dance Central 2 and Kinect Star Wars but Microsoft has signalled its intention to target the adult market with its motion control add-on through a new game Ryse by Crytek.
The Kinect-enabled game developed by the folks that brought you the ‘graphic-on-steroids’ Crysis series is being touted by Microsoft as a “historical epic” and is the first M rated game motion sensor game for the vendor.
Set in ancient Rome, Ryse certainly contains more gore than you would see in Kinect Sports and Microsoft is promising a “cinematic, visceral, action-packed experience”.
While Minecraft on Xbox is exciting and Ryse does look interesting, Microsoft’s reliance on tried-and-tested sequels is a little disheartening. With Xbox competitors bringing out new and innovative products by the bucket load, it begs the question as to whether the company will be left behind the rapidly changing gaming landscape.
And Sony Dominates…
While Microsoft attempted to convince gamers that Kinect really was more than minigames, and Halo 4 is something you want (even though you’ve not seen it yet), Sony needed a strong showing at E3. Following the PR disaster that has come from the various hacks the vendor has experienced, E3 was to give it an opportunity to regain some faith in the eyes of its audience.
And it managed one of the most exciting E3 presentations that we’ve ever experienced. It wasn’t so much one product unveiling as a sequence of very impressive technologies that places the vendor well in the gaming space for the next year.
The first is the budget-priced, but exciting 24-inch, 1080p HD 3D TV. For $US500, you’re going to be able to get a TV that brings splitscreen gaming back, but with a difference. Using special glasses, one player will see one “screen,” the other will see an entirely different image – meaning that in the comfort of home two people will be able to play splitscreen games, without cheating. The price of this PlayStation-branded TV includes a pair of the glasses (normally priced at $US70) and a copy of the hotly-anticipated Resistance 3.
Meanwhile, Sony also unveiled the PlayStation Portable (PSP) successor, the PlayStation Vita. This handheld console links back into player’s PlayStation 3s in a very organic way, allowing them to share a save file – play the game on the big screen at home, keep playing it on the Vita on the bus.
This means the Vita shares hardware almost as powerful as the PlayStation 3, which is significantly more powerful than its rival, the Nintendo 3DS. And amazingly, the price is being kept right down – at $US249 (or $299 for the 3G-enabled model), the Vita costs the same as the Nintendo 3DS. I can only assume this means Sony is loss leading with the console, but it should also guarantee some strong sales – especially in Japan, where the aging PSP still outsells the 3DS by a substantial margin.
In terms of software, Sony continues to have a strong line up of exclusives; games that won’t appear on other systems. Properties such as Star Trek, God of War, Shadow of the Colossus are big deals in the gaming world. Even bigger is Dust 514, a game from the same team behind the very lucrative EVE Online role playing game.
Good games, exciting technology, cheap prices – great showing by Sony. It just clawed back a lot of lost ground.