One of the biggest video game publicity events took place in July: the E3 Media & Business Summit in Los Angeles. That means lots of gaming news, updates and a sick amount of eye candy.
Microsoft capitalized on the recent news that the Xbox 360 will get a price drop ($299 for the 20-gigabyte hard drive). They boosted interest in the console by showing off some impressive new games and Xbox LIVE features to be released this fall.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM MICROSOFT’S PRESS CONFERENCE:
XBOX LIVE NEWS
>>Xbox LIVE will get a completely new interface this fall that will feature avatars that you can customize any way you want to create the perfect virtual you. You can see all your Xbox LIVE friend’s avatars too and join parties with them where you can chat, look at pictures, play “community games,” or make your own game show using a new LIVE feature called Primetime.
THE NEW XBOX LIVE INTERFACE WITH AVATARS. IMAGE FROM MICROSOFT.
>>The Xbox 360 will be able to stream Netflix movies over the Internet. Owners of Microsoft’s sweet little console can already download lots of movies from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, but Netflix offers more than 10,000 movies and TV shows with more on the way. You will also be able to share a streaming movie with your online friends if they are in your Xbox LIVE party.
>>More movies from Universal Pictures and MGM, and more TV shows from NBC will be available on Xbox LIVE Marketplace starting today.
XBOX 360 GAME NEWS
>>Final Fantasy XIII will be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A PlayStation exclusive until now, Final Fantasy has no specific release date in 2009. Developer Square Enix also discussed some other Xbox 360-exclusive RPGs soon to be released; Infinite Undiscovery on Sept. 2, The Last Remnant on Nov. 20 and Star Ocean: The Last Hope in spring 2009.
FINAL FANTASY 13 ON THE XBOX 360 WAS A BIG SURPRISE. LOOK HOW SURPRISED THIS GUY IS. IMAGE FROM SQUARE ENIX.
>>Another game making it’s Xbox debut is Resident Evil 5. A demo of the game and its new co-operative online mode was shown for the first time. The game is set to release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on March 13, 2009.
>>A live demo of the post-apocalyptic RPG shooter Fallout 3 showed off its amazing graphics and effective weapons. Developer Bethesda Softworks announced they would have lots of downloadable content that is exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Games For Windows. The game is due in October.
>>A video and demo of Fable II was also shown during the press conference. The demo featured a cool, pet dog that you interact with throughout the game and the new co-op mode that allows players to drop in and out of other player’s games at will. Fable II is an exclusive Xbox 360 title to be released in October 2008.
>>The most highly anticipated game of the year, now that GTA4 and MGS4 are out, is Gears of War 2. A new trailer was shown that highlights the game’s new “meat shield” feature. Also shown was a co-op campaign demo featuring the flamethrower, using shields for protection/movable cover and some new enemies. The game features five vs. five online play, including Horde Mode where a five-man-team mows down armies of Horde. Gears of War 2 will hit stores on Nov. 7 so be sure to take that day off from work.
MARCUS PHOENIX IS BACK AND SO IS HIS CHAINSAW. IMAGE FROM MICROSOFT.
>>A new karaoke game called Lips will be available this holiday season. Not only does it come with loads of songs to sing, it features wireless motion-sensitive microphones and the ability to sing from your own music collection of DRM-free songs. Plug your MP3 player into your Xbox and sing any song you want. I’m not sure how this works, but I really like the sound of it.
>>The exclusive release of Rock Band 2 on the Xbox 360 in September (way before its release on the other consoles) will feature over 100 new songs, the ability to transfer songs from Rock Band and much more downloadable content. Developer Harmonix plans to have over 500 songs available by the holiday season.
It’s already been a big year for Nintendo, and many folks were wondering if they’d have anything left to announce. But despite the much-anticipated early arrivals of Mario Kart Wii and Wii Fit, they’re not out of the game yet.
>>The Wii MotionPlus accessory (pictured) will enhance your Wii Remote’s movement sense.>>Wii Sports Resort will build on the successful model of Wii Sports, Wii Play and Wii Fit, adding a “day at the beach” atmosphere. Look for this to include a MotionPlus attachment.
>>Animal Crossing: City Folk will be out in time for the holidays, bringing back the popular shared world that has already been on GameCube and DS.
>>Who needs a headset? The WiiSpeak microphone will allow multiplayer voice communication between ENTIRE ROOMS of players. (Used with Animal Crossing.)
>>Wii Music will let players rock out with 50 instruments and record and edit their own music videos. It will incorporate the Wii Balance Board accessory (already sold with Wii Fit) for use in percussion, for example. Miyamoto-san played the sax with just a Wii Remote. Sweet!
>>Star Wars: The Clone Wars, based on the upcoming CGI movie and TV series, will have the head-to-head lightsaber duels you’ve been craving, with shaking “lightsaber handle” remotes and powers like Force lightning. Shocking!
>>What’s missing? A storage solution for downloaded content! Also, new Mario and Zelda titles were confirmed in the works for the Wii — but you’ll probably have to wait awhile.
>>Between an American version of a popular Japanese DS cooking utility and plans to let the DS help you navigate airports, Nintendo is working on making their handheld indispensable to everyday life!
>>What’s missing? There were rumors that a new, low-cost (under $100) DS unit lacking a Game Boy Advance cartridge port would be announced. Nothing yet …
Sony is hoping to gain a larger part of the gaming market by expanding their library of exclusive games and offering a completely unique online experience.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM SONY’S PRESS CONFERENCE:
PLAYSTATION NETWORK NEWS
>>Starting today, the PlayStation Store will offer movies and TV shows to rent or buy. Major studios like Sony Pictures, MGM, Lionsgate, Fox Home Entertainment, Warner Bros, Disney, and Paramount Pictures have all signed on for the online video download service. Standard and high-definition content can be stored on the PlayStation 3 and copied onto the PlayStation Portable for no extra charge.
PLAYSTATION HOME: WHERE ALL THE COOL KIDS HANG OUT. IMAGE FROM IGN.COM.
>>PlayStation HOME, the community-based service for the PlayStation Network, is still being worked, but a video showed off its customizable avatars and living spaces, and some cool Resistance-and-Warhawk-themed places for online folks to hang out.
>>Ratchet and Clank Future: Quest For Booty will be an exclusive PlayStation Network downloadable game that continues the story from Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction released last year. The game is expected to be available before the end of the year and will cost $14.99.
>>Owners of Gran Turismo 5 Prolog will be able to see live coverage of real races, exclusive behind-the-scene videos and more on Gran Turismo TV, a new online video show starting August 1 that is only available on the PlayStation Network.
PLAYSTATION 3 NEWS
LITTLE BIG PLANET IS ONE OF MANY EXCLUSIVE GAMES FOR THE PLAYSTATION 3. IMAGE FROM MEDIA MOLECULE.
>>One of the most exciting games of the year for the Playstation 3 is Little Big Planet. The PS3-exclusive title offers players the ability to build their own environments and make their own video games. You can also post your creations on the PlayStation Network for you, your friends and the world to play. The game’s incredible physics engine, easy to use content-creation tools and seemingly endless number of ways to color, decorate and build environments makes it a sure-fire hit. The game will be available in October.
>>A new Resistance 2 trailer and demo were shown at the press conference and Insomniac Games promised the game would feature expansive environments and lots of huge bosses. The PS3-exclusive sci-fi shooter will hit the stores sometime in November.
IT’S OFFICIAL, GOD OF WAR 3 IS COMING TO THE PLAYSTATION 3. IMAGE FROM SONY.
>>Sony’s most exciting, yet somewhat predicable, announcement was God of War III, another exclusive game for the PlayStation 3. A trailer for the game was shown and ended with the main character, Kratos, saying “In the end, there will only be Chaos.” No release date has be set yet, but expect this title sometime in 2009.
>>A bunch of early PlayStation 3 games like Resistance, Motorstorm and Warhawk will be added to the Greatest Hits Series and offered for $29.99.
>>A new trailer for inFAMOUS was shown. The PS3-exclusive open-world action/adventure game is due in Spring 2009.
>>A new 80GB version of the PlayStation 3 will be available in September for $399. It will have the same functionality as the current 40GB version of the console which means no backwards compatibility.
PLAYSTATION 2 NEWS
>>A limited edition PlayStation 2 bundle including LEGO Batman and the Justice League: The New Frontier DVD will be available this fall for $149. Sony says developers are continuing to make games for the eight-year-old console and that 130 new titles will be out by the end of 2008.
E3 was a mixed bag this year. What did we learn? That Microsoft is coming off as a little elitist these days, and Sony a little desperate. And Nintendo … they’re just pissing people off. Observe: Penny Arcade’s three-panel summary (language warning).
But hardcore gamers heard exciting news about the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. For example, Square Enix surprised and delighted RPG fans when they announced that Final Fantasy XIII — the latest installment in a venerable series that has long been PlayStation-exclusive — will be available simultaneously for PS3 and 360 in 2009.
But beyond the familiar and much-anticipated RPGs and shooters that have always been the bread and butter of the video game industry, a movement is brewing to make gaming accessible and even attractive to the masses — and once that happens, there’s no stopping it.
Microsoft took a huge step toward making their console an indispensable home appliance by announcing an alliance with Netflix. Nintendo wants their handheld to become a navigation tool in places like airports — and your kitchen. And more and more publishers are opening their once-arcane inner sanctum just a crack to let us in and play with their tools. No more do people have to just wish they could create their own characters and elements; they’re doing it, now, and it’s only going to get bigger!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE DEVELOPERS’ E3 PRESS CONFERENCES:
GAMERS MAKING GAMES
User-generated content is relatively new trend in gaming that hasn’t taken off … yet. Little Big Planet looks to change that by giving gamers an easy way to create fantastic content they can share with other PS3 owners. The puzzle platformer and world-creation game will be available in October.
Will Wright’s new opus Spore lets gamers create their own creatures and watch them evolve and interact with thousands of other online players. The life-simulation/real-time strategy game is set for PC and Mac release on Sept. 7, with the Nintendo DS spinoff called Spore Creatures set to drop the same day.
On another level, online gaming networks, like Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and the embryonic Wii Ware, are making it possible for small developers to get their content out there and maybe, one day, be big developers who can hold their own press conferences at E3.
GEARS OF WAR 2 WILL BE A BLOODY GOOD TIME. IMAGE FROM MICROSOFT.
Gears of War 2 was one of the most stunning and visually impressive games at E3. The original game is still one of the Xbox 360’s best and now Epic Games has fixed any problems it might have had and added a bunch of exciting extras like new weapons, “meat shield” and “dueling chainsaw” features, five-vs.-five online multiplayer and a more elaborate single-player campaign with lots of gameplay variety. Gears of War 2 will hit stores on Nov. 7.
SHOOT VIRUS-INFECTED CRAZIES IN RESIDENT EVIL 5. IMAGE FROM CAPCOM.
Finally making its way to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Resident Evil 5 is set to release on March 13, 2009 — Friday the 13th! The survival horror video game looks to continue it’s trend of scaring the crap out of gamers with the addition of enhanced lighting effects, destructible environments and co-operative online play.
IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT IN FALLOUT 3. IMAGE FROM BETHESDA GAME STUDIOS.
Surviving in a post-apocalyptic United States is not an easy thing to do, but man does it look like fun. Fallout 3 is an action RPG that has a lot of weapon and character customization options as well as beautiful graphics and a compelling story that changes as you play. The game is said to have nearly the same scope as Oblivion, which means you’ll probably never run out of things to do and see. Expect Fallout 3 to join the “Game of the Year” list when it’s released on Oct. 28 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
NINTENDO: WTF, SERIOUSLY?
Nintendo apparently blew their wad before E3 this year with Wii Fit and Mario Kart Wii — leaving nothing but a new controller, Animal Crossing and Wii Music.
All loyal Wii owners got was a new controller that basically fixes the old one, another Wii Sports sequel, Animal Crossing, Wii Music and a vague promise of new Mario and Zelda games sometime in the future. There were no major announcements related to the embryonic but promising Wii Ware or the storage space problem for said online service.
DS users also got hosed. I mean, they’ll get to play Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars, Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades and Spore Creatures. But the rumor of a lower-priced DS that drops the obsolete Game Boy Advance cartridge slot turned out to be just that — a rumor (for now). And Nintendo talked a lot about how they would like to see the DS as an indispensable tool for travelers and cookers. Yeah, right.
MAKING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC TOGETHER
Music games are nothing new, with favorites like the Guitar Hero series still going strong after bringing the genre to America three years ago and Rock Band quickly catching up.
But Wii Music, announced at E3, will no doubt bring the genre to even more gamers than ever — especially the casual ones Nintendo covets so. Lips will bring karaoke to the Xbox 360; Konami has something called Rock Revolution; Disney Interactive has something called Ultimate Band that uses the Wii Remote; and Nintendo DS will get Rhythm Heaven.
Get the picture? Rhythm is where the party’s at these days. What does it mean? That even if you can’t play a real musical instrument, there is now a venue for you to live out your wildest dreams: your living room.
And isn’t that what gaming has always been about?
For more news and LOTS of videos, check out the official E3 Website.