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E3 2010--deja vu all over again

Sony and Microsoft wanted everyone to get worked up over Kinect for Xbox 360 and PlayStation Move, but to this observer, this all seemed very much like what we heard a year ago. The big news was really about 3D.

It was nice to find out the actual brand name of Kinect, and the release dates of both Kinect and PlayStation Move, but beyond that, the hype over the motion control systems from Microsoft and Sony was pretty much old news.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

LOS ANGELES--Can someone please tell me why we've spent the last two days rehashing the highlights of E3 2009?

If you were here for last year's video game mega-convention, you will recall that the big news from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo was the true dawn of the motion control wars. Microsoft unveiled Project Natal, Sony showed off its prototype system, and Nintendo pulled back the wraps on some new improvements to the Wii Motion Plus.

All told, these innovations were going to take us to the next level of video game play, where it's all about gesture-based control and traditional button-based controllers became a thing of the past.

Flash forward to this week, though, and the highlights of the press conferences, at least Sony's and Microsoft's, seem someone familiar. Let's recap. At Microsoft's event on Monday, the biggest news was the formal unveiling of Kinect. This, of course, used to be known as Project Natal.

Microsoft announced that the device would be available November 4 and was able for the first time to name some actual games that will be Kinect-enabled. There will be 15 launch titles, including Ubisoft's Michael Jackson game, as well as six that were featured during the press event, Dance Central, a dancing game from Rock Band developer Harmonix; Kinect Sports, a game that offers soccer, bowling, track, and more; Kinect Joy Ride, a racing game; Kinect Adventures, a game for navigating down rivers and railroad tracks while trying to hit targets; Your Shape, an exercise game; and Kinectimals. However, the demo was very much like the one from a year earlier.

The same goes for Sony's event on Tuesday. While Sony, too, was able to name some actual titles for its motion controller--which it calls PlayStation Move--including SOCOM 4, NBA 2K11, Sorcery, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and others, and announced Move's launch date and pricing, the discussion of it was awful familiar.

Except that it was even more familiar than Microsoft's rehashing of the Project Natal news, since Sony had a big PlayStation Move event just three months ago in San Francisco during the Game Developers Conference.

Sony also had a big PlayStation Move event at the Game Developers Conference in March. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Only Nintendo managed to really avoid covering all the same ground, as it didn't really get into discussion of its controller system. I guess it's satisfied that everyone knows what it has to offer and what's on the horizon on that front.

Now, don't get me wrong. For Sony and Microsoft to be able to finally tell us when they will be rolling out Kinect and PlayStation Move and some of the games that will be coming for those devices, is worthy of some coverage. And it's not like I expect either of those companies to jump ahead of their console generation cycles and come out with new Xboxes or PlayStations just because I want them to talk about something new.

And it's also not like I expect Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to abandon their annual E3 press blowouts. There's simply too many people who want to hear what each company has up its sleeve. It's just that I would like them to not make such a big deal out of the same old news. Of course, it's a two-way street, so before companies like Sony and Microsoft can be counted on not to get so excited about this old news, then the press, the fans and the analysts also need to find a way to be a little more measured about things that we've heard before.

And that is, I'll admit, pretty unlikely.

3D Gaming
Short of the motion controller "news," the biggest announcements, in my view, from the Sony and Nintendo press conferences both had to do with 3D. In the case of Nintendo, it was the unveiling of the Nintendo 3DS, the forthcoming 3D version of its massively popular DS handheld device. And for Sony, it was the announcement that the PlayStation 3 would now support 3D gaming.

The 3DS, from Nintendo, could be the first 3D device in the world not to require special glasses. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

And to be fair, it's not like either company downplayed this news. For Sony, 3D gaming was pretty much the first news of the press conference. And Nintendo saved the 3DS until the very end, the One More Thing of its presser. Yet somehow, despite those facts, I'm betting that when all is said and done here at E3 this week, Kinect and PlayStation Move will be seen as the biggest news of all.

That said, it's worth looking at the 3D developments a little more. For Nintendo, it's impressive that it has created an all-new 3D device that doesn't require special glasses. My CNET colleague Dan Ackerman stuck around after Nintendo's press event to inspect the 3DS and came away cautiously impressed.

In the case of Sony, I wasn't sure how much people would care about 3D gaming, but based on the reaction of those in the Shrine Auditorium, where its press event was held, I'd have to say a lot of hard-core gamers are pretty eager for this new development.

Ultimately, my takeaway from all three press conferences is that this is definitely an off-year in the console business. There are no doubt some very big games coming to the big-three consoles, titles like Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3 for the Xbox 360, Gran Turismo 5, Killzone 3 and Little Big Planet 2 for PlayStation 3, and the new Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong titles for Wii. And it's good to know about pricing and timing on PlayStation Move and timing for Kinect. And of course, the 3DS.

Still, none of this qualifies in my view as major news. But then again, we're still mid-generation when it comes to consoles, so I suppose I shouldn't expect too much. Then again, with the amount of time and energy that the big three put into their events, it's hard not to set high expectations. If only they delivered.

On June 24, CNET News reporter Daniel Terdiman and his Geek Gestalt blog will kick off Road Trip 2010. After driving more than 18,000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Southeast over the last four years, I'll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation and more throughout the American Northeast. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. In the meantime, you can follow my preparations for the project on Twitter @GreeterDan and @RoadTrip.