XBonX

I wasn’t intending on commenting this year’s E3 at all. Why? Life’s busy when you’re working your ass off and doing favours for friends. Nevertheless, here I am, repeating the same song I’ve been singing about Microsoft year after year; they need to get their shit together and move away from pushing PC gaming to console platform.

Let’s start with the beginning, the Xbox One X. If there’s something Microsoft and other console companies should learn from Nintendo is that naming your console is important as hell. The 3DS and Wii U both caused confound consumer confusion. Wii U was mixed as an update add-on for the Wii at its first unveiling. 3DS went well in comparison, but there was a period of confusion as well with those who aren’t Red Ocean consumers. The name is absolutely retarded. XBox One was backwards as hell and the title Xbone was well deserved. Xbox One X is a step towards the worse. You know have Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X on sale and Microsoft is talking about a console family. If there’s one thing that most people seem to agree about consoles is that they’re meant to simplify and straighten the whole business of playing games. This is the same shit that Valve did with Steam Machines and that went so damn well. At least give it a proper name to make it stand apart, like Xbox Scorpio or something. Having multiple systems for one console (family even, if you will) sure worked great for Sega. Certainly, the game market is different, but so is the economy and people are more savvy, generally speaking.

Hell, even the people on stage had to correct themselves first not to say Xbone. That tells quite a lot about how much people are respecting the brand and name of their flagship gaming console. Furthermore, why did they live through There’s no greater power than X? X+1 is greater than X. If they wanted to keep this philosophy going, they should’ve started naming their consoles after powers, like Xbox². Shit would’ve made more sense. Microsoft now also has a console with three Xs in there. Have fun with even more XXX jokes in the future.

The whole hardware centric mentality is computer gaming culture. It’s the same old song. History rhymes with itself, this time with 4k gaming. Remember when HD gaming was the next thing after the Fourth Generation of consoles? People still had their non-HD LCD television sets everywhere in their living rooms, CRT televisions were still a very common thing. Many miss the point that television sets costs loads of money and people are resistant on purchasing new hardware. Consumers will go their way out not to purchase extra hardware until something breaks down, unless they’re the forerunner technophiles that need to have the latest shit right away.

How much Microsoft pushed 4k as the defining trait of their software (and how this represented how XbonX was the most powerful console ever) tells how affairs are in a sad state. 4k is just becoming a standard with consumers (it’ll still take beyond 2020 before they’re widespread enough to be called common) but standard HD is something that’s just set in. The transition period is longer than what either Microsoft or Sony expects. I’ll give them this, future proofing their console is a decent idea, but it doesn’t really help when all your showcase games are either something that people have been playing on PC for some time now, or don’t look any better than what’s out right now. Microsoft is chasing behind Sony, but at least they’ve realised that VR is dead and weren’t pushing that. There were no gimmicks.

However, XbonX is the antithesis of current Ninth Generation that is the Switch. While XBonX emphasizes on living room gaming, the Switch’s hybrid status is where consumers have already gone. 4k means very little when people have a HD screen in their pockets to consume their time with. Microsoft is targeting the very core of Red Ocean consumer with their line of products. Xbox probably will stay successful only in the US, Europe and Asia just don’t give a damn about the aims Microsoft has for it. It doesn’t help that most of its games showcased were either ports of PC games or timed exclusives, meaning that the XbonX basically has no exclusives. Costing at $499 (I can guarantee that it’ll cost more in Europe) and having about fifteen multiplayer games prevously seen on PC and backwards compatibility with the first Xbox’s games, the price is far too high, especially when we can already foresee both Nintendo and Sony dropping their consoles’ prices just to give Microsoft the middle finger. Well, Nintendo doesn’t even need to, they just need to roll out some good software. Sony on the other hand needs distance themselves with the VR.

If there was one thing that further cemented the fact that Microsoft has their priorities mixed. Ten minutes of showcasing a damn car in an electronic entertainment expo is like promoting a new television show during an opera play. The whole Porche showcase was aimed at the hardcore racing and car fans. Sure, it’s always nice to see companies have licenses for real life cars for racing games, but this sort of masturbatory self-congratulations over getting a damn car taking your time away from games nothing short of short sighted. They should’ve just showcased it on-screen, introduce the driver and tell the people to check the car out on the stage floor and have a separate event there with further emphasize on the whole real-fucking-sportcar aspect.

Let’s not forget that most, if not all of the demos shows, were scripted from the get-go and will not represent the finished version. This tendency is unethical, no matter how much develops and publishers want to cover their assess with labels stating Does not represent finalised product or some shit. There was clearly an emphasize on certain titles over other.

Somehow watching all this has made me very weary. From a general perspective, there was nothing new. Those who follow modern PC gaming even a little bit have no need for the console, and Microsoft didn’t introduce anything worthwhile. Their emphasize of supporting the creative people who work in the industry and wanting to create the most powerful console to let these people to realize their dreams doesn’t help jack shit if they’re not going to listen to the consumer wants and wishes and only concentrate on mediocre trophy products. Hardware does not make or guarantee a good game. They’re not missing this point (though this can be doubted), but their market spiel is just overriding everything else.

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Let’s take a look at E3

I’ve been quite busy lately with all sorts of work from crafts to writing. I wasn’t on the E3 train like I’ve been in the past, and perhaps it was for the better. Let’s take a look at the Big Three and their presentations.

However, let’s take a look at the E3 2006. The Wii was unveiled, YouTube: Kaz Hirai and Giant Enemy Crab became an instant meme, and Microsoft had something that nobody remembers. Nintendo’s stocks took an uplift after Wii’s unveiling and it divided opinions. The Wii created interest that made forums and messaging boards burn with fire. 2006 was a great year for gaming, the like we haven’t seen since the NES was brought to the West.

So, can 2012 hold up against 2006? Let’s start with the Microsoft presentation.

It was an unsurprising event that MS began with a Halo showcase, and this is a strong beginning; showcasing live gameplay without interruptions is always a good thing. It looks nice and dandy, and I’d love to play this game… on a PC with keyboard and mouse combination. While I’m not too informed of Halo story, I do know enough to tell you that the introduction of Forerunners wasn’t the most interesting move. It was expected, but they did it. It’s nothing from me, I’ve never bought Halo before, and most likely I never will.

When the MS representative steps in, he begins with propaganda without anything to back up his statements. While I have not followed the last years sales, I have hard time to believe that the 360 would be outselling either the DS or the Wii. Indeed, after a quick check we can see that in 2011 the 360 had a four percent growth, while the Wii had an eleven percent decrease. Still, the 360 and PS3 were selling less than Wii in total.

The new Splinter Cell looks like a… like an uninteresting piece. Why has the camera shake like that? Is the Kinect support necessary? Co-Op sounds good, but the game looks clunky.

And then EA rep steps in with sports. Sports games are a driving force, especially in the West, but there’s nothing of interest here either. If you’ve played any of EA’s sports games during the last decade, you know the drill. The same lack of interest continues with the new Fable showcase.

A new MS rep steps on the stage while proclaiming that 2012/2013 will be the best year for the 360. Why? Because we’re getting sequels upon sequels released on the system with little variety? Shouldn’t every year be a great year for a console? Oh yeah, I forgot. The developers do not like creating good games all the time, just games they are interested in. Sorry, my bad.

Forza Horizon looks nice, but where’s the gameplay?

Then comes the hammer; the next representative start babbling about other entertainment on your console. It’s never good idea to give access to your rivals. This is a showcase what a dumbed down PC can do, not what a video game console can do. People buy your console to play games on them, and if you do not provide games, people will end up using these other services that are ultimately out of your pocket. The music showcase was horrible on many levels as well.

This begs a question; why is Microsoft concentrating putting all these functions on 360 rather than on Windows, the thing that makes money? They could have an insanely well balanced dual support between PC and 360, much like Nintendo has between it’s home console and handheld consoles.

The Nike part was boring, but technologically interesting.

At this point we’re 45 minutes in, and I have no feeling to continue onwards. The showcase has changed from console showcase to personal computer technology showcase. They’re also playing into the hip crowd with Game of Thrones and the like. Later on we see Resident Evil 6 and another Call of Duty and the like.

What Microsoft’s event lacked was interest. There were one or two moments in the beginning and in latter half that makes you ask Why can’t this be on PC? HD gaming is present, and because of that everything else is lacking. All the games showcased were dumbed down PC games which will sell to a certain crowd, but only Halo will keep selling any hardware. I have to ask if Halo would sell better if it was on PC rather than on 360. Every game here tries to aim for a movie like experience and affect how we play rather than what we play, the same problem that both Sony and Nintendo share.

Speaking of Sony, let’s check their event next.
Sony decided to go with trailer showcase with uninspiring music. This lasts solid four minutes, where I was already making tea and taking some crackers. Disinterest quickly sank in. Much Microsoft’s starting words, Sony’s representative begins talking about the true heroes of the industry; the gamers. This man knows how to talk and how to complement people as scripted. However, if the customers are so important to Sony, why are they still sinking in the Red Ocean and are unwilling to listen what their customers want?

When Heavy Rain developer stepped on the stage, I had shake my head. Interactive storytelling is does not equal gaming or vice versa. Storytelling may be part of video games, but storytelling has always been driving force in computer gaming. These people do not know what makes a good game. The most important thing they have to reveal is the voice actor. What they continue to show is not a game, but a CGI movie. This should be the point where people again realize that the PS3 is not a game console, but the same kind of dumbed down PC as the 360.

Then, PlayStation All-Star Battle Royale. I have to wonder what forums do these people browse if they haven’t had anything but positive feedback. Nobody addressed the elephant in the room, which is the fact that this game is almost 1:1 carbon copy of the Super Smash Bros. series. Even the HUD during gameplay is nearly identical. This is like grayer and grittier version of Smash Bros., but not any better. The Hydra’s barely do anything but hang in the background majority of the match.

Only 80% of all PS3s and and Vitas are connected to the PSN. I say only, as this is a problem for Sony. I believe even less Wiis are connected to Nintendo’s network, but the amount of trust Sony has put on their network is stupidly insane. However, I do not trust these numbers, as there was large amount of people who disconnected their PS3 from the network because of the security issues.

PSVita’s getting the same kind of treatment with video and music services as the 360 and PS3 has had for some time. Vita’s becoming more and more like a smartphone rather than a handheld console, which will be reflected in its lack of sales. We’ll come to this point after we’ve taken a look at Nintendo’s event.

Now this is funny; 45 minutes in and I’m feeling of skipping things again. We do know how Assassin’s Creed already works, and we do know how Farcry works. It’s good to see some actual gameplay on-stage, but their showcase is uninteresting. I do have to admit, that the idea of playing as a pirate woman was interesting, but the Assassin’s Creed setting put me off.

Sony’s Wonderbook was… a surprise. It’s a neat idea that I’d expect Nintendo to pull off, but this isn’t a game. As the representative himself says; interactive books. One could call them as visual novels, no? However, a lot of people has thought the same thing as I; if I were to read a book, I’d read a goddamn book rather than boot up my PS3 to “experience” it. Augmented Reality has far more better uses outside this kind of… toying.

PlayStation phones. Let ask you a question; do you play dedicately on your phone? hTC is a good manufacturer for sure, but why would Sony want to divide their attention from handheld gaming to smartphone gaming (which is just another form of PC gaming)? It looks like Sony’s spreading their resources rather thin.

It just might be me, but the God of War showcase was cartoony with over the top motions I’d expect to see in a WB cartoon. It also looks very much same to the Splinter Cell demo in MS’s event, except the setting was naturally different. From this I noticed that HD gaming, while it may look better, sharper and all that, but it also makes all games look dull, uninspired and lacks the same touches non-HD gaming has. It makes games look less interesting.
And oh, the fire special effects looked bad, even if this was just a beta of some HD game.

While the new God of War indeed was a nice showcase for those who enjoy QTEs and PC hack-n-slash, The Last of Us was that peaked my interest in the while event. The Last of Us looks freeroam and explorable game, but at the same time I’d love to believe that it keeps the lines tight. However, the human monsters, which just are damn zombies with different appearance, put me completely off. Objectively this the Last of Us might sell decently, but I have hard time to see this as a system seller; it’s still a PC game at heart.

Talking about system sellers, Nintendo started with a game that never moved any systems; Pikmin. There’s nothing interesting here, so let’s move along.

WiiU Gamepad, which I will continue calling Tablet controller, is a threat to the 3DS. It’s part of the unfocused gaming, which many people confuse with “casual” playing. I used my DS and GBA to play games while doing other things, like writing reports and watching TV. The Tablet controller can replace this as it shouldn’t be dependant on the TV in most cases. If I had a WiiU, I’d be using that to play Super Mario 6 while designing a new chair or the like. I would have no use for 3DS for this.

Another point that we have to think about the Tablet controller is that it is symmetrical in design. This should enforce the way controllers used to be, and I hope this will also be used in such way that the controls will utilize the D-pad before the stick. The more we analyse the Tablet controller, the more we can see good points in it. Naturally, the low battery life is a factor, but we also have to notice another point with WiiU and the controllers; you do not need to buy new controllers abundant if you already had four Wiimotes. You might need to buy one extra Tablet, but that’s that. It saves money from both the developers and customers’ pockets.

Now, if Nintendo has always heard fans voices to have a new Mario game in the launch of a new console, why didn’t Nintendo have a new Mario game with the GameBoy Advance, with the GameCube, with DS or Wii or with the 3DS? Because at then Nintendo was lead by artists, but now the business side of Nintendo is forcing them to make a good decision. The musics are still horrible thou.

Nintendo’s trying to gather a strong launch lineup for the WiiU, but at the moment its weak. If we take a look at SNES’ lineup, it was much stronger, but after Super Mario World it took Donkey Kong Country to make the console move again. At the moment WiiU is lacking games that will create momentum. We see ports and few exclusives that nobody gives a damn about, like Alien; Colonial Marine, which also is a PC game.

3DS’ upcoming Mario game is a Wario game. There’s nothing more to add to this. I said that this is the fastest and least budgeted Mario game from Nintendo to date, and this just proves it.

Nintendo Land. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about this. If it is a continuation of Nintendo’s WiiSports, then it’s a good piece of software. WiiSports was one of the moving forces on the Wii, but Nintendo never took advantages of ‘Sports, and Nintendo Land continues this mindset.

After these three videos, I’m still a refusing customer for Microsoft. They have nothing of interest for me, but in general their event was plagued of disinterest. Sony got me interested in one game, but then threw zombies at me. At least they got me to shake my head and wonder why the hell is this company still producing games. Well, looking at how their financial status is, this might not continue for long. Nintendo didn’t convince me either, but WiiU might not be that bad after all. It would make my Wii completely useless device, and I’d have to take my GC from the closet after all these years. They should include backwards comp with the GC and GC controllers as well.

Not one thing will be as successful during the following generation and years. This reason for this is the governing economics. In 2006 the financial structure of the world was much better and customers had more money to spend. In 2012 the economical situation is much more bleak and unnecessities like games will always take the worst hits. 600 dollar game consoles would not survive at any point any more, and this is why the rumoured 200 dollar price point for the WiiU would be good. This is also the first time Nintendo’s home console would be going against imaginary consoles; the future of Xbox and PlayStation, whenever they might come. However, if both MS and Sony would like to play their cards right, they could announce that they’d continue working on their current consoles rather than creating something new. This would a blow against Nintendo, as it would mean that both Wii and WiiU would have fought against the same rival consoles. Of course, the people at MS and Sony are idiots and want something new and expensive under their belts and further bankrupt the companies.

The companies here do now really get the current macro economics, but they are feeling them. If they would look at the current world situation they would be able to maximise their profits. This glance at their E3 shows that the companies still don’t get what the customers are here for even thou one of them has hit the point three times already. I don’t want to paint the walls with devils, but I’m truly starting to expect Third Video Game Crash.

Now excuse me, I’ll be watching something good after these headache inducing events; Hepburn’s Sabrina.

Sony and E3

Sony is pushing 3D TV’s and 3D gaming down the player’s and viewer’s throats. Even film audience is getting tired of 3D films, mainly due to the price, quality and eye fatigue. “Gamers are the first in adopting new technology” said Sony representative. In what area exactly we are first to adopt new technology? What technology are we even talking about? Artificial limbs? Sony’s going the same route with the PS3 that Nintendo went with 3DS. It won’t be successful, not at least to the company. They’re enforcing the 3D with their PlayStation branded TV. $300 bucks for the console, $500 for the TV and lord knows how much for the controllers and the other pair of glasses.

Other than that, I’m slightly hopeful for the PlayStation Vita. It’s as expensive as 3DS, but it has better values as a handheld console. It’s still a bit expensive, especially considering Sony decided just to do change $ into € without any consideration how Europeans would react. I’m not buying this one until its price drops significantly.
Just like the 3DS, PSV is not worth it.

Microsoft’s E3

Remember when Nintendo told us that their newest console, the Revolution, was going to have motion controls? The first idea that came to everybody’s mind after sex games was swords and Star Wars. How awesome would it be to have your lightsabre and fight against other characters. The Wiiremote is more or less built for sword fighting.

And then nobody made games using the Wiimote. Not even Nintendo.

What happened? Wii has untapped potential that no developer wanted to use. The reason is that makes people actually work something that means in games. If creating games is art, then it’s similar art to those that make utility items. You wouldn’t use a fork that had a spiky handle. You wouldn’t want to play a game that had bad controls.

Designing a good set of controls, and a good fork, takes effort, time and work. If creating a game is creating art, it should follow the ideology of an artisan; whatever you make, make it user friendly and work your ass off to please the customer. I’m not talking just about the controls, I am also talking about everything games have. In the end, no company served their customers completely in this generation. No company used Wiimote’s capabilities because it would’ve taken some effort. Rather, they’re trying to create the same games for the Kinect that had existed in blueprints for the Wii.

I wonder why. None of these games are aimed at the audience of Xbox 360, for the self-proclaimed “hardcore” gamers. They bought the console for FPS games, for Halo, and not for dancing games, they bought their console for the dumbed down PC games. Today we saw many games that are made solely based on the interest of the creators, not based on the interest of the market. We never wanted weaker and “womanly” Lara Croft, we wanted her to stay badass and strong. I can’t get over how cinematic and flowing the teaser was. It was like sitting in a movie theatre and eating popcorn while watching a subpar action flick.  If you thought that’s a good idea, then watch a movie and sell your games. Kinect represent those values that will be the undoing of games. All the games on Kinect has to let the players compensate for the lag it has, all the games have to be slow that players can move with the given pace, all the games have to be unchallenging so that the players might have a reason to keep playing the game.

Kinect games should be insanely hard and train the players to control their bodies completely. Just like players had to train their hand-eye coordination to beat the first games in the Arcades and on Atari and NES. Without pain, there’s no gain. Not to the players, not to the developers.  The audience isn’t retarded, so why to make retarded games?