E3 2009 – Who “won” the press conferences?

By Patrick Garratt, Friday, 5 June 2009 09:07 GMT

megaton

And that’s that. One of the greatest E3s for years is done. There were megatons. People are still hiding under their kitchen tables. The conferences were nothing if not sensational. Our goosebumps refuse to settle.

But let’s not be rational. Let’s mark the platform holders’ performances out of ten. Let’s say who “won”. Why not?

Hit the link.

Microsoft – 9/10

One IM we got after the Microsoft presentation on Monday captured the situation perfectly: “If Sony’s going to top that, they’ll have to wheel John and fucking George onto the stage.”

There wasn’t much wrong with 360’s E3 showing. There was very much right with it. It started off with The Beatles: Rock Band’s unbelievable intro graphics, Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney on stage. All You Need is Love is exclusive 360 DLC, said Microsoft. A reasonable way to kick off E3.

By the numbers, 360’s line-up in that presentation was phenomenal. Hawk came first, then the unparalleled Modern Warfare 2 with exclusive maps, FFXIII got a good date in early 2010, free-to-play Avatar racer Joy Ride held its own, Crackdown 2 got announced and trailered, Left 4 Dead 2 was confirmed as another 360 exclusive, Splinter Cell: Conviction knocked it out of the park, Forza 3 looked ridiculous, Halo: ODST got a long demo and Halo: Reach was confirmed for 2010.

Alan Wake dated for early 2010. Kojima came out to confirm MGS Rising for 360. There was a ton of “entertainment” stuff like Last.fm, Facebook and Twitter integration. Then Microsoft wheeled out the megaton: Natal.

Is it a long way off? Probably. But Molyneux’s Milo was just amazing, and the demos worked properly. The implications are ridiculous. You’ll have to wait, but Microsoft showed it was serious about attacking growth in the games market. It was a very cool way to round it off.

Look at it again. If we’re just talking about exclusives, Xbox 360 has Left 4 Dead 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Forza 3 and Halo: ODST confirmed, shown and dated for this Christmas. It’s good shit.

Microsoft did two things, as Aaron Greenberg pointed out in an interview on Wednesday: it did “now” and “next”. And it showed something spectacularly different in Natal on the tail of a bombshell line-up bursting with exclusives.

Steven Spielberg saying Natal was the most exciting thing in games the next day was icing on a large cake. We’ll go for 9. The only reason it’s not a 10 is because there was no “hair-stand-on-end” moment and Natal did look a long, long way off.

Sony – 8/10

Let’s get it out of the way. Sony’s E3 press conference this year was superb. Many “industry watchers” went into the showing with serious misgivings about the company’s ability to deliver after so many false dawns. Sony had been leaking harder than a rotten condom in the month leading into E3, and with both TRICO and PSP Go ostensibly spoiled a fear that there was simply nothing left was in place on the big day.

Microsoft’s played a blinder on the Monday, and Sony was under pressure. No question. When Tretton walked onto the stage, though, his expression showed he believed he had answers to Microsoft’s biggest guns.

To some extent he was right. There was a sense of déjà vu, though, in the opening 45 minutes, and backstage chatter among those watching pointed to doom. PSN has 24 million accounts, Sony said, and we were straight into Uncharted 2.

It looked amazing, and the crowd cheered, but there was no date. MAG appeared, and was played. But there was no date. A PSP version of Assassin’s Creed was announced and dated. Something called Media Go, a PC app for accessing the PlayStation Store, sailed past unnoticed, and suddenly we were onto PSP Go.

We knew everything (word is the “leak” was a deliberate move to capture headlines ahead of the Microsoft conference), but Sony topped the Qore info with a price and October launch date.

And what a price. $250 and €250. Ten thousand winces rippled the internet. Yamauchi, as expected, showed GT PSP, and very good it looked too. Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker was announced and dated. Hirai said thanks and goodnight.

Hilarious, Kaz. Tretton powered up. Res Evil for PSP, FFVII for the US PSN, then the first proper biggie: Rockstar North’s Agent as an “exclusive” (we’re assured it isn’t). Eyes appreciatively widened.

Lost Planet was announced for PS3. Good stuff. Things were moving. Then the megaton. The world stopped. FFXIV announced, trailered and proclaimed exclusive. It was a classic E3 power-play. In an instant, though, it was confirmed as an MMO, and the more astute may have noticed some raised eyebrows at Tretton’s claim the game was completely PS3-only.

Both Square and Microsoft said the next day it was a non-exclusive.

The motion tech was next. This was not pretty. The two guys doing the demo couldn’t get it working properly at first, and compared to the promise of Natal it looks distinctly “old”. Time will tell.

Then there were three epic showings few could argue with. A new, beautiful trailer for Last Guardian was followed, unexpectedly, by GT5, followed then by a gobsmacking God of War III play demo. All exclusive, all completely sensational, all but GoWIII… without dates.

That was the big problem with Sony at E3 this year. The exclusives were showstopping and relatively plentiful, but what are we actually looking at this holiday? Uncharted 2 was confirmed as a “fall” release in this week’s beta, but why not announce it in the press conference? It’ll probably be confirmed solidly at Gamescom, along with the PS3 price cut.

The Last Guardian looked phenomenal, but it could be at least 18 months way. And despite assurances from Yamauchi in the conference’s wake that GT5 would be released any time, a chance of disrupting PSP Go’s launch by bringing out the PS3 version anywhere near GT PSP seems very slim. It’s 2010 for sure.

God of War III’s “March 2010” date has “slip written all over it,” as one pundit had it yesterday. What’s the must-have Christmas game for PS3? Uncharted? MAG? Against Left 4 Dead 2, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Forza 3 and Halo: ODST? There was no Heavy Rain, which we assume will come in Germany, but can it have a chance against such a solid slate of traditional action exclusives from Microsoft this Christmas?

Wicked, wicked videogames saved the day. One proper gigaton, even if it was a “stretch” of truth. Too many questions. No clear plan for holiday 2009. No price cut. PSP Go’s too expensive. Too many people saying, “Wait for Cologne” afterward. All a bit “old skool”. A motion “wand” that looked too much like a dildo. And an apparently ineffective dildo, at that.

It’s an 8 to us.

Nintendo – 6/10

After last year’s shameful display, Nintendo didn’t have to do too much to redeem itself at E3 2009. A few hardcore games, less obvious tat, more seriousness. We got all three.

Super Mario Bros Wii was straight out of the gate, with four-way multiplayer and 2.5D graphics. It immediately shut everyone up, as, no doubt, it was designed to. The game looked fantastic, and was dated for the holiday. A good start.

Wii Fit Plus came next, and, again, you can’t argue with it. It’s a behemoth of this generation and Plus was shown as a solid update in a quick demo. It was dated for the holiday.

Reggie came out for a long Wii MotionPlus demo, and things dipped off. The “ironic” hyperbole came to the fore and flashbacks to last year were difficult to ward off. Wii Sports Resort and “precision control” seemed to go on forever, presumably because the game will likely sell millions.

Some basketball demo. The crowd was quiet. Step it up, Fils-Aime. You’ll be throwing virtual Frisbees soon. Red Steel 2 is MotionPlus-only, they said. We know, we said. FF: The Crystal Bearers was shown (old), and then, thankfully, we moved onto DS.

Kingdom Hearts was dated for September, Mario and Luigi 3 was announced and dated for autumn, a new Golden Sun caused some gasps. Much better.

Cammie killed the thrill by talking about interactive novels. A shame. COP: The Recruit from Ubi looked OK, then there was a bunch of inevitable Nintendo shit about dressing up dolls and “diversity”. The vultures circled at this point.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong for DS did little to lift the mood. Iwata came out and started throwing around huge numbers about potential markets, waffling on for far too long, and then announced his Vitality Sensor. We were in “what the fuck” territory now, with the word “fail” being thrown around with gay abandon on various message boards.

And then. Galaxy 2. That worked, and no one expected it after the Mario Bros reveal at the start of the conference. Reggie beefed it up. The Conduit, Resident Evil, Dead Space: Extraction. Now we were interested.

Then the Reginator loosed the nukes. A new Wii Metroid game from Team Ninja was confirmed for 2010 and trailered. Multi-megaton. The net quaked. Job done.

It was good. Two new Mario titles and a Metroid Wii game isn’t shit. Nintendo’s got Wii Fit Plus, Wii Sports Resort and Mario Bros for Wii in 2009, all of which are likely to keep the coffers stuffed.

But it’s still light. And third-parties were largely absent. And Cammie’s “costume” was unforgivable.

We’ll have a 6. Without Metroid it would have been a 5.

Next week – E3 software: the winners and losers

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