Sony and Microsoft at E3: What it means for Nintendo
Nintendo fans will undoubtedly be interested in the company’s E3 press conference and all the announcements and excitement that comes with it. New console, new games, new technologies… What an event! But the press conferences of Sony and Microsoft are important too, and not only for fans of those companies. The big names in the industry influence each other, often indirectly, and the announcements of one company can have lasting effects on another. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my own thoughts on what the other press conferences mean for Nintendo in the upcoming months and into next year.
All the consoles are partly inspired by each other. For the Big Three, the test of a good console (or game) is what the players think of it, and how it sells. When a company innovates and the players respond well, it can affect the whole industry as the other companies jump onboard. For example, consider Nintendo’s motion gaming made popular by the Wii. This allowed the creation of new ways to play games, and made gaming more accessible to people who would have difficulty with traditional gaming pads covered in lots of buttons. The Wii was purchased and played by many customers who wouldn’t usually purchase or play a console. The rest is history, the sales speak for themselves. The Wii was an incredible success. Since then, Sony has taken a similar route with the extremely accurate PlayStation Move, which is very similar to the Wii’s control system using the Wii Remote. Microsoft took a different route with their Kinect, but they also recognised what motion gaming and accessibility could do for their console, removing the idea of controller altogether. And this innovation and inspiration comes from the other companies too and Nintendo recognise this. Right now, Nintendo is doing what it can to catch up with Microsoft’s online functionality, just as Sony has done with PSN.
To put the other press conferences in perspective, let’s have a quick recap of what Nintendo announced. The biggest announcement was that next year will see the release of a new home console, the Wii U. Very promising tech demos were shown, indicating that the Wii-U is a very powerful system. The console will again feature a new controller allowing new gameplay mechanics. Nintendo promised a strong 3rd party offering for the new console, and that the console will continue to satisfy casual gamers but also cater to hardcore gamers who want the most powerful new games on a powerful console. Nintendo delivered many Zelda-related announcements, and highlighted upcoming 3DS games from Nintendo and 3rd party developers.
Sony and Microsoft didn’t announce new consoles, although Sony did highlight the NGP and announced its actual name, the Sony Vita. There were a few other technology announcements, but most of the other press conferences were about upcoming games. On the hardware front, Microsoft pushed their Kinect system while Sony focused on PlayStation Move and their 3D technology. The Sony Vita is the probably the most important hardware announcement for Nintendo fans, as Sony’s new handheld will become the main competitor for the Nintendo 3DS as a dedicated portable gaming system. The Sony Vita is very powerful and outclasses the 3DS as far as graphics go. But the PSP also outclassed the power of the original DS, and it was still phenomenally successful anyway. Nintendo will need to continue delivering solid games, forging powerful partnerships with 3rd party developers, and improving their online functionality so that Nintendo gamers can play online with as much ease and enjoyment as users of Sony’s handheld.
Sony spent considerable conference time on 3D technology and worked hard to stress that they are the number one choice for 3D gaming on a home console, much as Nintendo is for portable systems. Nintendo have previously announced that they don’t want to create 3D games for their next home console, so Sony’s push for 3D won’t mean too much, but it did involve some other interesting hardware announcements. In an attempt to make 3D gaming more affordable for gamers, Sony is released a PlayStation monitor capable of displaying 3D images, and it is cheaper than other 3D televisions available on the market. What interested me most was that the technology would also allow two gamers (both wearing 3D glasses) to see different content on the screen. Instead of a split-screen gaming experience, both could have the screen all to themselves. This isn’t actually new technology and has been done before, but the implications for local multiplayer gaming are great. As I watched this, I felt Sony had a winner on their hands, something that might make Nintendo jealous. But Nintendo’s new controller for the Wii U quickly countered that in many ways. Gamers can have their own screens on their controller. One major advantage over Sony’s TV is that Wii U gamers can take their game away with them, off the large screen, and move around the home still playing the game. The Wii U will allow all-new gameplay mechanics that Sony will not be able to emulate with current technology, so some games will clearly be better on Nintendo’s console. Of course, Sony has some advantages too. Games that ideally require a whole screen, such as an immersive first person shooter, will probably work better on Sony’s system as both gamers will have full screen to themselves. Of course, this involves buying a new TV and 3D glasses and will be very expensive. Nintendo’s next console will offer this functionality out of the box.
Mircrosoft arguably had the weakest press conference regarding hardware. The main focus was Kinect and the upcoming games that would be compatible with the system. Some games are perfect for Kinect, others aren’t. Microsoft seem to be trying to force Kinect onto as many “hardcore” games as possible, with strange results. One of their major announcements was that Kinect could be used in Mass Effect 3 when it is released. While this might make sense for the hacking mini-games in Mass Effect 3, it is less than ideal for the normal gameplay. They also advertised that it would allow gamers to speak commands into the game. It seemed strange to me that gamers would spend so much money on Kinect in order to control their games with voice commands, when Microsoft’s headset microphones would do just as fine a job. Once the hardware talks were over, Microsoft’s real highlight was the same as Sony’s: the games. Both companies delivered announcements and trailers of their most popular exclusives. For example, Microsoft announced a new Halo game, and Sony played a new gameplay trailer for the latest title in the Uncharted series.
Microsoft has exclusive titles that its customers love. Some people will buy an Xbox specifically for those games like Halo and Gears of War. Although the PS3 was slow to gather the same respect when it launched, the PS3 now definitely has a very good selection of exclusives including Uncharted, Gran Turismo, LittleBigPlanet, Killzone and games by Team ICO. Fortunately for Nintendo, this is one of their strongest areas. For decades, they have maintained classic franchises and released incredible new exclusive titles. Nintendo has Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Kirby, Pikmin, Pokemon… and these all help sell consoles. Nintendo’s 1st party offerings on each system are respected for good reason, and many have gone down in history and being among the greatest games ever made. The main problem for Nintendo in more recent years has been the 3rd party offerings. While there have been some great games available for the Wii, Sony and Microsoft’s systems have had many more. The main reason is that the Wii is aging and cannot handle the latest and greatest games being created for PC/Mac, PS3 and Xbox. As already mentioned, the other consoles certainly do have very popular exclusive titles. If a gamer wants top exclusive titles, all the consoles do a good job these days. But if you want good exclusive titles and also the strongest selection of 3rd party games, Nintendo has sadly become the weaker option.
This is why I was excited for Nintendo at E3 this year. Many of the highlights of Microsoft and Sony’s press conferences were amazing new 3rd party games, like Darksiders 2, Battlefield 3 and Assassins Creed just to name a few. Gamers who play on Xbox and PS3 will have loved the announcements and trailers. These are looking to be amazing games for their consoles. My highlight was that these games – some of the best things Microsoft and Sony had to show on their big day – are going to be found on Nintendo’s new home console. What’s more, many of these will be launch titles. Ubisoft developers have stated that working on the Wii U makes games very easy to port to the Xbox. Some may complain that Nintendo has made a next-generation console, so we shouldn’t get the same games as the other systems. We won’t. There are the Nintendo titles, and once developers get a feel for what the console can do, I’m sure they will develop special titles just for the Wii U. But such a complaint would overlook some terrific news, as this fixes Nintendo’s biggest problem of late. When the world’s greatest 3rd party developers are creating a new game, they will be able to include Nintendo’s console. Some of us passionate fans may feel that Nintendo always wins as long as it has Zelda and Mario, but surely it would be better to have Nintendo’s original magic and the best multiplatform titles as well?
I feel the future success of the Wii U will be determined by many factors, but especially online functionality and 3rd party offerings. Many of us are current Nintendo gamers, but countless other gamers have ditched Nintendo for other consoles with a better online multiplayer experience, or so that they can play the best 3rd party games. Some gamers like myself have purchased the other consoles too so I can play Nintendo games, and the best 3rd party titles. Having several consoles isn’t the best solution, just ask my wallet! I think this has been a great E3 for Nintendo so far. They have already made a big win at E3 by announcing the strong 3rd party support for both the Wii U and the 3DS. This means much of the excitement from Sony and Microsoft’s press conferences now apply to Nintendo too as they will share the best games. I look forward to being able to play games like Battlefield 3 and then Zelda or Mario all on the same console. So what else? What’s next? If Nintendo want to have the greatest gaming console available, they will definitely need to develop a strong online component like Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Hopefully we’ll see some announcements and demos of the Wii U’s online functionality as the year progresses.
Judging by what we’ve seen so far at E3, and Nintendo’s new commitment to compete with the other companies for both casual and hardcore gamers, 2011-2012 should be very exciting for us Nintendo fans!
- E3 2011 (kulturnytech.com)
- E3 Press Conference Scorecard: Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo (wiigalaxy.com)
- E3 Conference Roundup: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (pcworld.com)
- E3 Press Conference Scorecard: Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo (1up.com)
- Kinect ad in the washroom? Really Microsoft? (winextra.com)
- Nintendo eyes hardcore gamers with Wii U (theglobeandmail.com)
- All the Most Awesome Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation News from E3 [Gaming] (gizmodo.com)
- Nintendo’s new Wii U aims to be a game-changer (guardian.co.uk)
- Sony: PS3 and PS Vita Could Replicate Wii U (escapistmagazine.com)
- Nintendo kicks off next generation of console wars (business.financialpost.com)