E3’s next week. We’ve been continuously wetting ourselves for the past 48 hours. You know, in a manly way. But let’s not forget the calm before the storm. Or rather, the storm before the storm.
What happened: Activision finally took the wraps off its mysterious Call of Duty subscription service – most of which will actually leave your piggybank happy and healthy as the day you first jammed a bunch of coins in its back crevice. It’s free, we suppose is what we’re trying to say.
What it means: “Blah blah blah Halo’s been doing this for years blah blah blah Call of Duty burned down my home, devoured my family, and totally never returned those DVDs I lent it.” It’s fairly surprising to see just how adamant gamers have been about not giving Elite the time of day, though the general reaction is hardly unexpected. Whipping boy, lightning rod, whipping boy whose best friend is a lightning rod – call it whatever you want. Fact is, it’s cool to hate on Call of Duty these days – oftentimes blindly so.
Granted, when the pitchforks and torches come out, Call of Duty is far from some innocent martyr. Even so, there are two sides to the coin. Call of Duty’s making some interesting moves in the social space – especially where Facebook integration is concerned – and deserves full credit for that. “Try something new already,” gamers constantly cry. Well, here you go. Baby steps, sure, but Elite’s praise-worthy nonetheless. Plus, we have to admit that rounding up some like-minded folks (via Facebook interests) and chatting about the latest Game of Thrones episode while also shooting dudes in the face is an idea we can definitely get behind.
What happened: Hideo Kojima waxed I-need-a-hug heartbroken about “meaningless” years and playing hooky from E3, but still managed to pretty much steal the show without attending it. Metal Gear Solid: Rising was sadly hidden away during Konami’s Big Boss of a bash, but MGS and Zone of the Enders HD collections and a sneak peek at a brand new engine went a long way toward making up for it.
What it means: Transfarring. We’ll get to the actual nitty gritty “what it means” stuff in a moment, but for now, what? There are no words – mostly because that isn’t one. We have mailed The English Language a basket full of cookies and meticulously constructed sentences, because we know it’s going through a difficult time. Anyway, Konami! We’re suckers for nostalgia and all, but Konami’s hitting the old back catalog pretty hard here. Don’t get us wrong: Kojima and co will do a double-take when they realize the majority of MGS: HD Collection’s day-one sales came from a small GameStop in north Texas. And Zone of the Enders? Do you accept credit cards soaked in anticipatory sweat and hurled in your general direction with enough force to slay a grown rhinoceros? Even so, Konami’s clearly treading water for now, with a very promising 2012 looking a lot more like its main event.
As for Kojima’s next project, who even knows? The Fox engine rendered some very nice trees, but – given Kojima’s history of notoriously long development cycles – who’s to say it won’t be woefully obsolete before the game even comes out? Perhaps it’s scalable for “next-gen” platforms? Or maybe it’s intended to fall toward the lower-end, so as to put all its eggs in transfarring’s basket. If that’s the case, we like it in theory, but it also opens the door for a flood of lazy PS3-NGP ports.
Microsoft talks “entertainment” future of Xbox, drops E3 hints
What happened: Microsoft didn’t beat around the bush. The Xbox is through being “just” a game console, it said, and crunched some particularly large numbers to back up its claims. Then it broke math by using the word “entertainment” more times in a single blog post than actually thought possible within the bounds of this space-time continuum.
What it means: It’s hard to argue against added functionality, but it becomes slightly easier when you’re losing out on the reason you purchased the machine in the first place. Games. We want to shoot things and fight monsters – to visit strange, new worlds and grievously wound their inhabitants. That’s what we signed up for, anyway. So now the question arises: Is the Xbox 360 a game console that also has a suite of entertainment features, or is it a living room centerpiece that also plays games? E3, of course, will have the final say on the matter, but Microsoft’s mission statement seemed to be more than a little chummy with the latter.
So, is Microsoft setting its aging box up for a fall? Well, failure to quickly capitalize on Kinect’s momentum aside, Microsoft’s done a pretty good job of broadening its brand’s audience this generation. And sure, an Xbox may not be the best Netflix/Hulu/music/ESPN-spin-off-that-no-one-watches player, but it is convenient. And sacrificing quality for convenience? Most people will do it in a heartbeat. Why do you think fast food chains now roam the earth – roaring and devouring smaller competitors as the dinosaurs of yore once did years ago? So then, the only real loser here? Why, that’d be you, John Q. Hardcoregamer. Really sorry about that. But hey, at least you have a cool last name.
What happened: Sony said it didn’t stand a snow sculpture of a delicate kitten’s chance in hell of competing with smartphones. Then it named its next portable machine as though it were – wait for it – a high-end smartphone. Also, games!
What it means: The NGP or the Vitamin Water or whatever we’re calling it is coming out swinging. Between a desert dry game lineup and a giant eShop-shaped hole, the 3DS’ early days have been something of a disaster. The NGP, on the other hand, appears to be seriously getting its affairs in order instead of being haphazardly flung out the door. The launch lineup has a decent many heavy hitters, Sony’s not trying to butt heads with mobile game developers, and the hardware sounds like a dream constructed specifically to combat people’s PSP analog nub-based nightmares. The only big question mark left at this point is price, but with a bite from the PS3 pricing debacle still stinging, odds are against Sony shooting too incredibly high.
What happened: It was a really good week for ultra-snazzy announcement trailers. Darksiders II, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Metro: Last Light all turned heads in spectacular fashion. And then there was Tomb Raider, which made us feel incredibly bad for all the times we’ve yelped in pain over paper cuts or stubbed toes. Because seriously, ouch. We’re guessing Lara’s not getting an auto-regen health system in this one, then.
What it means: Well, most obviously, 2012 is going to be a good year. We’d rather not be forced to look and not touch for an entire 365 days, of course, but that’s simply the way these things work. Beyond that, though, we have to ask: Is there any particular reason we’re even doing E3 anymore? Sure, it has its fun side, but if every publisher under the sun’s going to let all their cats out of the bag before the big show, then why spend so much time and money on what’s essentially a repeat viewing? Couple that with pre-E3 demo events for most of the major press outlets and you have a recipe for obsolescence. Dear gaming industry, please try making sense again. Smooches, our aching brains.