Tuesday, June 05, 2012

E3 2012: What Did I Use For A Title Last Year To Describe The Death Of Innovation?

As it turns out, I didn't have a single title to describe that condition at E3 last year--there were multiple posts, all with the same theme: nothing interesting is happening.

Hey, guess what? Same shit, different year.

Chris Kohler (the gold standard when it comes to E3) had this to say before the Sony presentation:
After a mostly information-free Xbox conference I am hoping that Sony really blows it out of the water.

During Sony's presentation, infamous blowhard Jack Tretton said this:
This is the Super Bowl for those of us who live and die in the game industry.

And so what did Sony show at the "Super Bowl"? Kohler again, in summary:
... the conference was light on news.

Actually, here's his summary of the entirety of Sony's presentation, in just a few short paragraphs:
Sony showed Beyond: Two Worlds, the latest game from Heavy Rain maker Quantic Dream, and announced a collaborative game with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling at its E3 press event Monday evening.

Book of Spells is a game for a new Sony accessory called “Wonderbook,” which is an augmented-reality book that works with the PlayStation Move controller to show animated sequences that appear to be in the room with you. The game is one of a very few properties to feature new writing in the Harry Potter universe by Rowling.

Sony also announced that its PlayStation Suite platform for mobile games will now be renamed PlayStation Mobile. Also, Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified will be coming to PlayStation Vita this year (though no footage was shown).

Otherwise, the conference was light on news. Sony’s long-delayed The Last Guardian did not make an appearance at all.

Hey, it's nice that David Cage is making another game, and if it's half as good as the all-consuming hype buildup (D.C. will likely claim that it will change the course of human history, and I'm only half-kididng), then it will be an interesting game.

Wonderbook? Cute idea, and clearly an attempt to get people to buy the DOA Move controller, which no one has ever cared about.

Microsoft? They announced some games that ended in 2, 3, or 4, or maybe 6. They also announced "SmartGlass", which is basically an integration of content across platforms. This is a bright thing for Microsoft to do, and could possibly give Windows tablets a shot in the arm.

Primarily, though, Microsoft announced a ton of deals with content providers in their quest to replace your cable company's set-top box with a 360. Again, a good business idea, but when it comes to gaming, totally irrelevant.

Look, this is an inevitable consequence of the "take fewer risks" strategy adopted by Activision and then copied by everyone else. There's very little new IP in the console space because no one is going to take a chance on anything. It's all about the behemoths, and there's no room for anything else.

That also means, though, that nothing is fresh. Almost everything announced smells like month-old roadkill sprayed with Febreze. Christ, me writing about this feels like month-old roadkill sprayed with Febreze, because there's nothing new to explore or analyze.

Quirky games? Look elsewhere. Innovative games? Not found here. What a sad comment on an industry that was born from creativity.

Well, except for South Park: The Stick of Truth, which looks entirely fantastic. Maybe not innovative, but certainly damned funny.

Then there's Wii U.

I like that Nintendo is making an effort to push forward into the next generation. And I like that this isn't just a vanilla console--there are honest attempts at innovation.

The problem, though,  is that I remember how attendees at E3 responded to the introduction of the Wii.

In short, they went crazy.  Multi-hour lines to demo a Wii for maybe two minutes. Anyone with an ounce of common sense (not including the videogame industry analysts who lack even that) knew that the Wii was going to be huge. Huge.

Here's what I wrote last year (sorry to be self-referential, but it makes the point very clearly:
Look, you can bitch about the Wii, and some of the bitching would be true, but the Wii was one of the most beautiful pieces of design in gaming history. Why? Because it made video game play more like play. Instead of us death-gripping a controller in the same position for hours while we melted into a chair, we moved around like we would on a playground.

I think that was the whole idea: create a controller that allowed us to be on a playground.

So what is Wii U? Even after the demonstrations, I'm not sure anyone has a good handle on exactly why it matters. Describing it in one sentence would require about ten buzzwords. I'm not unwilling to buy it (I'm sure we will), but I get the sense that the excitement about the system is infinitesimal compared to launch of the Wii.

Big gaming, 2012: deeply rutted.

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