The three game console creators have kicked off this year’s E3 — the Electronic Entertainment Expo — with their respective press conferences. As the console war heats up, these press conferences gain new significance as the gaming industry and video game enthusiasts look for signs that one company will surpass the others.
Microsoft’s conference last night didn’t feature earth-shattering announcements. Instead Microsoft’s execs focused on the success they’ve had and the array of games that will be released in the second half of this year. They cited that there are now 7 million users on the Xbox Live network and revealed upgrades to the hi-def offerings on Xbox Live with the release of Disney films. The fact that Xbox 360 would be the only place to get the three top selling franchises of the past five years — Madden Football, Halo and Grand Theft Auto — in one place was focused on.
Microsoft debuted a few new trailers, but no huge revelations, just a solid lineup of games: besides those three hits above, also anticipated titles like Mass Effect, Lost Odyssey, Bioshick, Call of Duty 4 (with a multiplayer beta launching soon), Bioshock and others. Surprisingly, there was no price drop announcement, something I expected after Sony surprised everyone Sunday night. It seems Microsoft is satisfied, for now, with Xbox 360’s current price and sales figures.
Nintendo’s conference this morning focused on the company’s big franchises and future online plans. The Japanese company’s execs also stressed how Nintendo has not only expanded the game market to women and older players, but also have become the leader in sales on both the Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS — if sales of the Wii continue at the current rate they will soon surpass Xbox 360 with the most systems sold worldwide. They showed Metroid Prime 3 (August 27), Super Mario Galaxy (Nov. 12), and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Dec. 3). They also showed Legend of Zelda: the Phantom Hourglass for the Nintendo DS.
Finally appeasing gamer demand, Nintendo revealed the company’s plans for online gaming, with Guitar Hero 3, FIFA Soccer, and Madden this year, as well as a new Super Mario Kart for the Wii next year. The game to get the most attention was Wii Fit. This new title draws upon Wii’s strength of motion control games that appeals to the whole family and takes it even further–a motion sensitive “Balance Board” is stood upon and a variety of aerobics, step-aerobics and yoga exercises are practiced. There is fun too, with a dance game, a soccer game, and others. It seems Nintendo will continue with its own brand of innovation.
Sony’s press conference this afternoon covered everything from the PSP, to PlayStation 3 games of this year and next, to the virtual world PlayStation Home (now has some connectivity with Sony Ericsson mobile phones). Besides the already announced PS3 price cut, Sony revealed an enhanced PlayStation Portable will be released this fall. This PSP is 33% lighter, 19% slimmer and has a better battery. It will be $199, bundled with a 1 GB memory stick and a Family Guy video. It also has the feature to output high quality video to televisions.
Sony showed a great number of trailers for PS3, including several impressive exclusives: optical illusion puzzler Echochrome, the platformer with user content Little Big Planet, the new game in the Socom franchise, the Tomb Raider-esque Uncharted, action game Heavenly Sword, the GTA meets super heroes experience of Infamous, and the latest in the driving dynasty of Gran Turismo. Sony had a diversity of information and media, selling the viability of its offerings compared to its better-selling rivals.
When one compares the products the three companies, you realize it boils down to this reduction: the $499 PS3 with its exclusive games, Blu-ray player, and PlayStation Home; the $399 Xbox 360 with its exclusives and vast Xbox Live network; and the $249 Wii with its exclusives, and unique control schemes. No matter how the systems compete, one thing is certain to me, each by themselves have impressive offerings and the game industry as a whole is greater than it has ever been.