Microsoft Kinect. PlayStation Move. Countless games with the number 2 in the title.
Yes, another E3 has come and gone. And after sitting through hours of keynotes, and sifting through more pictures and videos than the porn industry can churn out in a week, I've come to this conclusion: What's new is . . . well actually not so new.
Let's start with Microsoft Kinect. Prior to E3, there was a lot of intrigue with this device (even the name Project Natal sounded mysterious and cool). And the capabilities of Kinect are no doubt impressive. But thus far, from what I've seen, heard, and experienced, Kinect is basically an EyeToy on steroids. Really good steroids, but still steroids. It is my feeling that the very design of Kinect is flawed, because it's based around the notion that the end user doesn't want a controller. I don't know that this has ever been proven to be true. For all of it's motion control glory, the Wii is still designed around a controller you can hold in your hand. I think it appeals to our natural love of handheld gadgets. Take that away, and honestly I don't know that the experience is better than a novelty. What would have been better is if Microsoft had spent the next couple of years perfecting and expanding the Kinect experience, and then integrated it into the next Xbox hardware itself. And demand that developers find ways to incorporate it's capabilities into games that also use controller input. Do not leave controllers behind, rather use the Kinect to bring the Xbox to life, give the hardware itself life. Then we'd be talking about something interesting. Enough with kicking, dancing and deflecting balls, or looking at cars from angle you don't care about.
On to PlayStation Move. Wow, really guys? About 5 years ago, at Sony's top secret R&D offices in Foster City, I was privy to a behind closed doors private demonstration of the earliest version of the what would eventually come to know as the PlayStation Move, complete with spongey colored ball and all. Back then, they were just exploring the technology. In 5 years time, the only thing that's changed is the graphics. (I swear on that story by the way . . . I really did see this) The "Gladiator" demo that was given? Seen it 4 years ago . . . it just looks better now. But it's not all that exciting. And certainly nothing that the Wii hasn't already done. And really, if you're going to rip off the Wii, at least don't be so blatant about it! I mean, the Playstation Move looks almost exactly like the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. (save for that previously mentioned Spongey colored ball) And again, just as with the Kinect, and the SixAxis controller before it, we find Sony trying to squeeze Move functionality into places where it doesn't belong. An impressive game like Killzone doesn't need motion controls for it's next iteration, and if it did, then make them mandatory, not an option. One thing that I respect about the Wii is that you don't have an option in most cases. Wii games are build from the ground up with the Wiimote in mind, and you know that going in. Trying to take on Nintendo's market share by releasing a similar device doesn't seem like a smart business move. It seems very desperate in fact.
And let's not forget about Nintendo. While the 3DS certainly treads new ground in respects to innovation, it must be worth noting that the majority of the games announced for the 3DS are remakes of old N64 games. That means games that are 10 years old!!! Certainly no creativity or innovation there. It's the equivalent of all these stupid movie studios adding 3D to movies that were never meant to be in 3D. And on the Wii front, Nintendo gives us The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. While I have some faith that the controls will tighten up by release, I can't help but be disappointed by the fact that it looks almost identical to Twilight Princess. Again, we've seen this game before. I preferred when Nintendo through us a Curveball with The Wind Waker. Al least it took the series in a different direction, something we need more of from the Big N.
Last but not least, look at the some of the major titles at this years E3. Dead Space 2, Portal 2, Infamous 2, Killzone 3, LittleBigPlanet 2, SOCOM 4, Patapon 3, Yakuza 4, Mafia 2, Force Unleashed 2, DJ Hero 2, Rockband 3 . . . shall I keep going? Seeing a truly new game is a rarity nowadays it seems. While the industry is still healthy, it doesn't bode well when the majority of games on display at the show are sequels, or worse, bi-annual entries into long running series. Games are starting to look and feel too similar to each other. That might be good for the consumer, but overall it's bad for the people making the games, because there's nothing that stands out. While not everyone can make that killer app, it would be nice to see some more effort as opposed to mailing it in and collecting a check.
All is not lost on this years E3. Certainly the size and scope of this years show was a good indication of the health of the gaming industry. But as a fan and member of this industry, I have to wonder, is someone going to take us to the next level, or are destined to be stuck in a Pac Man maze . . . doomed to repeat the same thing over and over until the whole thing crashes?