Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Jun. 10th
So a weird thing happened this morning. Nintendo may have managed to win the E3 press conference tourney by not holding a traditional press conference.
Instead the game maker posted a “digital conference” online that featured a tightly edited preview of their 2014/2015 game releases that eschewed the pomp and circumstance of E3 traditions for clear messaging: we’ve been making some really cool games.
No part of the Mario supporting cast was left on the unemployment line with Yoshi and Toad getting their own games, and everyone being drafted into the new Super Smash Brothers—the fighting game mash-up that puts characters from Nintendo and beyond into a battle arena.
If Sony and Microsoft’s press events were five course meals Nintendo’s feed was pure dessert that we could all watch in our pajamas. What’s more modern than that?
For my money the most interesting game show was Mario Maker, which uses the WiiU’s gamepad as a level editor for Mario. Player can plan out a Mario “course” on the grid, and then play it either with the original Super Mario Bros. art or modern graphics. No word on if there are social sharing of levels or any of that jazz, but seeing the most fundamental of video games being brought right into remix culture like that brings a smile to my heart.
Sony nearly had an ace of a press conference, unleashing a tidal wave of announcements. For the first hour and twenty minutes of their event it looked as if the electronics giant was going to top Microsoft’s “all games, all day” strategy with a triumphant spotlighting of innovative indie games. Then the deep Sony instincts kicked in and they managed to stumble for half an hour on business numbers and pushing non-game content.
That breather lasted long enough that questions about the line-up began surfacing: Sony is just as dependent on third party titles this cycle as Microsoft, it would seem, and many of the indie titles were announced as “debuting on consoles” on Playstation 4. That’s not as bad as the section on Free to Play games, which literally had an asterisk on the gameplay video to point out the truth that “some features require a fee.”
The corporate double-speak hasn’t seemed to affect the goodwill of the gameratti yet, but the seeds of the next gamer culture reversal have been sewn.
Yet the goodwill is great: the space exploration game No Man’s Sky—which promises a procedurally generated universe that is both constantly expanding and shared with all players—promises to be the game that so many of us have dreamed of. Every instinct I have is to abandon myself to hope on this one, but I have to wonder if a four man team can really deliver an algorithmically created universe where even the game makers don’t know what they will discover. I want it to be true, but I also can’t think of any game that’s taking more of a risk in terms of what’s being promised. No Man’s Sky is one of those “console debut” indies Sony put front and center. We still don’t know exactly what that means, aside from some period of timed exclusivity.
Sony may have stumbled, Microsoft of the past style, with the TV announcements, but it recovered with a TV announcement: the Playstation TV microconsole will be hitting the United States in the fall for $99, and bring with it the ability to play PS Vita games and stream games using Sony’s upcoming Playstation Now service. The box will also act as a remote-play device for PS4 owners, so that multiple TVs in a single household can pay PS4 games.
For those gamers who want to get access to the broadest possible library of games for the lowest price the PS TV is an unbeatable option. Playstation 4 owners with a single TV may have little reason to pick one up, but Xbox and WiiU owners who balk at shelling out for a full console can get access to Sony’s deep library, and many of the indie games that they spotlight are slated for the Vita, which means they should be compatible with the PS TV.
Sony wrapped their conference with three game videos: Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Uncharted 4. The message was clear: a strong library is coming, but for both Sony and Nintendo much of that library looks to be arriving in 2015.