E3 2008: Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony Press Conferences

Every summer at the E3 videogame event the big 3 platform holders have press conferences to try to capture the attention of gaming journalism, mainstream media, and the public. How did they fare this year? All three conferences held few surprises, but there were a few stand-out moments.

In my opinion, Microsoft by far had the best conference — as well as the first). With live demonstrations of coming title like Gears of Wars 2, Fable 2, Resident Evil 5, and Fallout 3. A demonstration of their new OS upgrades for the Xbox 360, incorporating avatars (similar to Nintendo's successful Miis) and shared community spaces (beating to market Sony's vaporware Home). Other nice touches were the Netflix announcement, as well as new partnerships for video downloads with NBC, Universal and MGM. Microsoft also had new title announcements, such as a new Galaga, an upgraded version of critical hit Portal, and the title announced at the climax, Final Fantasy XIII. The latest game in the venerable role-playing series from Japanese behemoth Square-Enix, FF XIII was originally a Sony exclusive. Often cited as a title that many gamers bought a PlayStation 3 to play, FF XIII's appearance on Xbox 360 removes one of the big guns from Sony's arsenal.

Sony, which held their conference last, also had few surprises. A few titles for each of their platforms was shown: Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest for Booty and Resistance: Retribution for PlayStation Portable; Resistance 2, DC Universe Online, and MAG for PlayStation 3. MAG (Massive Action Game) is a first-person shooter from the makers of SOCOM, featuring 8 player squads engaging in battle with up to an amazing 256 players. There was even a God of War III teaser. There were no dates or real details to either the DC comics MMO, MAG, or God of War III. The details were for everything but software: a new PlayStation 2 bundle, a new PlayStation Portable bundle, the $400 PlayStation 3 system coming with a larger hard drive in September, and a new video download service with most of the Hollywood studios support that will be launched today. Virtual community Home was shown again, but once more a date for its release or other details were not given. For racing fans, Gran Turismo TV was announced — a collection of international TV shows (Top Gear, etc.) and live races accessible through the already released Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Sony had plenty for PSP owners and those who use PS3 for multimedia, but little about PlayStation 3 games.

Nintendo's press conference felt quite different than the others. There was a sedate mood to the whole thing, a whimsical tone. Nintendo demonstrated several games, with few surprises. The long rumored Animal Crossing for Wii was displayed, as well as Wii Music. The former is interesting because is supports a new microphone peripheral, WiiSpeak. The latter is from legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and lets people play a selection of 50 musical instruments using the Wii's standard motion controls. Players will play games, simple music demos, and record their performances. Another new peripheral was shown, the Wii MotionPlus — which adds greater motion precision to the Wiimote and will be bundled with Wii Sports Resort next year. Other titles shown were Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades and Spore Creatures for the DS. Another big reveal was Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the DS. But, no footage was shown or a release date revealed. Between the time devoted to WiiMusic and Wii Sports Resort, Nintendo once more focused on the mainstream rather than hardcore.

Overall, all three platforms will have new things this year — whether it is downloads, communities, or peripherals. In terms of game announcements, Microsoft gets the win, but Nintendo's casual offerings and Sony's portable content will find eager audiences. Gamers, mainstream and hardcore alike, have a lot to look forward to.

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