The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo typically concentrates on the games major publishers hope consumers will either purchase or put on their holiday wish lists in the coming year. Though there's always a certain amount of hardware, in the form of controllers, accessories, and PCs, for the most part, this a show about software, not hardware.
The exception is when a new game console is launching, and over the many years I've attended the show, I've seen the launches of the Sega Dreamcast; Sony's PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and PSP; Nintendo's GameCube, Wii, and DS; and Microsot's Xbox and Xbox 360. That said, 2010 is the first year without a major living room console launch where I've seen almost all the attention focused firmly on hardware rather than software.
What made this year unique was the presence of both the Microsoft Kinect platform and the PlayStation Move, as well as Nintendo's handheld 3DS console. We'd all seen the Kinect (then called Natal) and Move before, but this was the official holiday season kickoff for both, with finalized names, details, and release dates.
Both motion control systems have their strengths and weaknesses, but I thought that Kinect especially had promise for home entertainment control, and the PlayStation Move provided the kind of precision and accuracy that core gamers would most appreciate.
The 3DS, at risk of being written off as a novelty in the era of me-too 3D, was a surprising success (at least in the small doses it was offered up to attendees), with eyeglass-free 3D that actually seems to work. Though that's only a tiny personal screen for now, it makes those expensive, cumbersome active shutter 3D systems feel like a much tougher sell.
If the technology behind the 3DS holds up, it's really only a matter of time and scale before consumers expect all forms of 3D to not require glasses.
These new hardware devices were impressive in person, but they're all still a tough sell; console add-ons have traditionally not succeeded (from the Sega 32X to the Xbox HD-DVD drive), and Nintendo fans may have upgrade fatigue after the DS, DS Lite, DSi, and DSi XL.
The second major reason this year's E3 felt like it was all about hardware, was that the software largely failed to impress. This left the field wide open for the Kinect, Move, and 3DS to steal the show.
I've already detailed the overreliance on sequels and spin-offs, many on a rapidly accelerated production cycle to feed the need for annual product installments. But, there was a handful of games in development seen either on the show floor or behind closed doors that made my must-play list (and yes, most of them are sequels). In no particular order, they are:… Read more