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E3 provided as many questions as it did answers

The 2009 E3 has succeeded in generating excitement for the future of industry, but that excitement goes hand in hand with an equal amount of uncertainty. It seems for every instance each of the big three actually seemed to get it right, there were and equal amount of instances were predictability, hypocrisy, and an overall lack of proper focus on actual 'games' that weighed down their overall success.

Regardless, despite the varying grading scales many gamers have been attempting to use amidst efforts of judging which company had the better showing, most bipartisan observers should agree that despite some rough patches all three major conferences were not too bad, no one particular conference stood out as being significantly worse or better than another, but thats not to say that each conference did not have it's own theme. Looking back, I believe the story of this E3 reflects how each conference seemed to follow three different points of focus.. the past, present, and future.

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The Past - Nintendo : Being the current sales leader Nintendo came into E3 with the least to prove.. which was evident in not only the initial part of their own conference(which consisted of endless sales numbers and business strategy droning), but also with Sony and Microsoft blatant efforts toward making the art of ripping off Nintendo's Wii market strategy the theme of the event.

While some may recall my complaints of the other two platforms focusing too much on their third party titles at times.. this was the complete opposite for Nintendo as they insisted in not only dwelling in the numbers of the past couple years, but also in sticking with the same old heavy handed 1st party software strategy. Honestly, even though Nintendo isn't exactly desperate to make a splash at this particular time.. I was rather disappointed that they would not use this E3 as an opportunity to show that their Wii software catalog consisted of more than Mario and a mound of shovelware.

You wouldn't think that Nintendo admitted to their desire to give the Wii a kickstart in sales based on the very different handling of it and the DS. I'll admit that despite my annoyance with the DSi, Nintendo should be given credit for its proactive approach towards expanding the scope and capabilities of their handheld platform.

The same cannot be said at all with the Wii, besides the motion sensor plus(an unfortunate patch job of unfulfilled promise with the Wii's motion sensor functionality), ideas for how to expand the Wii's scope have seemingly stalled. To further expose the discrepancy between the efforts focused on the Wii and DS.. Nintendo had a pretty solid lineup of titles for the DS this year, while the Wii was yet again relegated to the fate of needing rehashed 1st party franchises as a crutch.

Obviously the biggest announcement for the Wii software wise was Super Mario Galaxy 2. I was partially correct on my belief surrounding a possible SMG2 announcement this year, because despite the fact about being incorrect in believing that it would be announced at all, it still is not the title Nintendo planned on releasing later 'this year'(which happens to be a Wii version of New Super Mario Brothers). Anyways, I'm both pleased and concerned about this announcement, happy because I was a huge fan of the previous entry.. concerned due to how soon Nintendo is already trying to push a sequel.

The other big stories are a Team Ninja developed Metroid title(which seems very promising).. and Nintendo stating that 2010 is the a hopeful target for the next Legend of Zelda. As far as the Zelda announcement is concerned, as much as I am hoping for a new one as soon as possible.. the announcement seemed like a rushed attempt at trying to pad their lacking E3. Because let's face it, this is really the first target date mentioned by Nintendo.. and any Zelda fan already knows that you can safely tack on another 2 years to the original target date.

Nintendo seems to be riding on the past to carry through the next year with the Wii, which is like I said.. rather disappointing. Yes.. SMG 2 and Metroid: The Other M were exciting announcements, but the Wii's main software show this year revolved around 1st party titles that will not even be out anytime soon, another first party title with new developers, some new system colors, a patch work hardware "upgrade" and fricken rehashed "DS" game for the Wii. Good stuff at times, but I expected more. I suppose I have only myself to blame for expecting anything different though.

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The Present - Sony : After several years of primarily dwelling in future projects.. Sony has finally come around to to be active in the present tense as well. Despite great games on all platform fronts, thanks to recently released exclusives like Killzone 2 and Infamous to go along with a well rounded selection of available 1st and 3rd party titles for both the PS3 and PSP that this is the first year that I firmly believe that Sony has had(and will to continue to have) the strongest software lineup.. and its about damn time.

In all honesty.. it was put up or shut up time for Sony.. and I think that so far they are answering the call. Despite some mixed reactions I had to some portions of their conference and overall strategy.. their growing software selection speaks for itself and has proved to be Sony's strong point heading into the future(and they didn't have to rely on ripping off the other guy's exclusives to pad their numbers..). God of War III, The Last Guardian, Uncharted 2, Heavy Rain, and Gran Turismo 5? Hell yeah. Adding another motion sensor gimmick to the market and the PSP "Go"? Umm.. maybe..

When SCEA President Jack Tretton prodded out the two douche bags(and the hideously unfinished design of the Sony wand) to screw around with Sony's latest attempt at ripping off the Wii I cringed.. I could barely continue to look at the damn screen out of sheer disappointment over something I thought Sony was beyond at this point. Listen.. Project Natal and even Sony's Eyetoy Plus(or whatever the hell they'll call it) has potential, but someone needs to pass the memo to these company execs that cheap crappy motion sensor gimmicks IS NOT the only to innovate in gaming.

Even Sony's Eyetoy plus presentation had some cool looking tech demos, but especially after Microsoft showing their intentions towards attempting to beat Nintendo at their own game I really hoped Sony would have thrown a curveball and tried taking innovation in a much needed(and far less traveled) change of direction.

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Now the PSP Go.. I'll admit that when I first learned that the leaked pics and specs were in fact legit I.. well.. didn't take it too well :lol: . But after taking a step back and analyzing the new PSP iteration's potential, as well as Sony's intended business strategy, I calmed down a bit. That's not to say that I am anywhere near satisfied yet.

Although not resource friendly, they are intent on keeping the PSP 3000 and PSP Go on the market at the same time.. so I am glad that gamers still have the choice between a physical storage method and a digital one. Seeing as how this is "not" the PSP2 I now realize that the absence of a second thumbstick is not so bad.. since none of the games being made would even utilize it as the PSP Go plays current gen PSP games.

Also, $249.99 for a sleak 16gb gaming handheld is reasonable, seeing how a 16gb iPod Touch is $300. Those were some of the details that I am now fine with, but there there is still one sticking point that I feel is CRUCIAL to potential success for both versions of the PSP.. as now there is no mention of store bought UMD's being able to be backed up and played on the PSP Go.

Sony has been doing a surprising number of things right with the PSP recently and placed a larger than expected emphasis on the PSP platform besides the Go. They secured numerous third party titles like Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, Resident Evil, Soul Calibur(w/ Kratos as a playable character), and Dissida: Final Fantasy to go along with PSP versions of major 1st party franchises like Little Big Planet and Gran Turismo.

They have already touted Skype, a browser, the exciting ability to download and play PS1 hits like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, & Resident Evil(among many others) as well as PSN access through the PSP.. and are thankfully working towards expanding accessibility of PSN through the PC with such examples like the PSP Go Media Manager that will allow gamers to buy digital distributed copies of future PSP games through their home computer.

My question is this: With Sony building up so much accessibility in other areas would they build a wall between UMD and digital purchases? Why make customers have to choose? I strongly feel that being able to still have the option of purchasing the physical copy of a game and getting a digital copy along with it would go along way towards the success of the PSP.

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The Future - Microsoft : Like Sony, this E3 reflected a change in tactics for Microsoft. Usually M$ has always been the one pushing the "here and now" strategy(which coincidentally is usually the safest approach), but now has a shift towards hyping future projects. Like I have alluded to before.. although Microsoft has some good titles on the way.. their presentation this year primarily focused on a couple hijacked exclusives(more of a sign of the times than anything M$ has done IMO) and hyped tech demos of far off peripherals.

This year's E3 has potentially turned the tables in quite a few instances. Natal shows immense potential "but" also the first true potential vulnerability for Microsoft this generation. Anyone ever notice why Nintendo and (primarily)Sony have been the biggest targets for criticism the last several years? It's because "they" are the ones they have been taking the big chances while M$ has usually played it safe.. hell, M$'s last major gamble was entering the market at all back in 2001.

Look at the pre-E3 XBOX360 as an example.. M$ rushed it onto the market in 2005 to get a grace period over the other two platforms.. they price their consoles in between the expected price ranges of the Wii and PS3.. they stick with industry standard DVD.. and they primarily focused on backing games in the safest of all genres, the shooter. While Nintendo was planning to simplify things on top off adding an unproven motion sensor approach amidst desperate attempts at reviving their dying company.. and with Sony yet again fighting a battle on multiple fronts with backing a new and unproven HD disc format as well as testing the depths of how much technology the modern gamer desired in their consoles(among many other examples).. Microsoft stuck with the status quo.

All that changes now. This isn't Sony or Nintendo being put under hype's microscope, it's Microsoft that will feel the pressure post E3 hysteria to live up to fan expectations. There is also a very likely possibility that Project Natal will land well after both Nintendo's Motion Plus AND Sony's Eyetoy Plus. Not to mention they will be attempting to counter a Nintendo Wii that has its motion sensor technology built in and included in its original pricetag(with all of its games compatible with it) with a 'peripheral' that not only still needs announced titles that are compatible with it.. but also needs its price compounded on top of the console's price.

To further complicate matters, Natal's much heralded Milo demo is from Lionhead studios and Peter Molyneux, who while I respect for his enthusiasm and ambition, is known for creating good games that only live up to a fraction of its hype.

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Bottomline, UNTIL Natal can overcome the hurdles of being an overpriced "add-on" (and show it as being doable "before" XBOX720).. the limitations of the DVD(you cant honestly tell me that intensive Natal games can fit all of its sensor info, 48 in all, on standard DVDs), the other limitation of the 360 not having the uniform hard drive standard, and a majority of 360 games competently utilizing it(So far only Rare and Lionhead have announced projects).. Natal = Vaporware.

Only time will tell how relevant Microsoft's future projects will be. Project Natal? They will need to "prove" its viability. Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm etc. being added to the 360's dashboard functionality? Thats great. I'm all for all three systems expanding platform functionality, but please add a browser to the 360 Microsoft.. even the 'DS' has one by now.

Left 4 Dead 2, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, and Halo ODST/Reach? Definitely some quality games their, but Microsoft firing off so many of its exclusives so soon is REALLY starting to show through. Annual bare bone versions of Left 4 Dead and a million and one Halo knockoffs without Master Chief may not do the trick as well as they might hope until the next Gears of War and Mass Effect can be rushed out.

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Top Game of E3 2009:

God of War III (PS3)

My Top 10 Games of E3 2009:

God of War III (PS3), The Last Guardian (PS3), Final Fantasy XIII (multi), Bioshock 2 (multi), Uncharted 2 (PS3), Assassin's Creed 2 (multi), Metal Gear Solid Rising (multi), Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii), Batman: Arkham Asylum (multi), Modern Warfare 2 (multi)

Biggest Surprise:

No X360 version of Metal Gear Solid 4, instead MGS Rising going multiplatform

Biggest Disappointment:

Valve releasing a second Left 4 Dead before finally getting Half Life 2: Episode 3 out

Favorite Conference:

Sony

Least Favorite Conference:

Ubisoft

Most Impressive In-Game Demo:

God of War III - Kratos vs. Helios

Most Surprising In-Game Demo:

Honestly, the 256 player battle in Mag (PS3)

Best of 2008 Selections

A little late, but here are my best of 2008 selections. Quick side note.. I again made a seperate category for best mulitplatform title as well as only considered platform exclusives when it came to the platform specific awards, which in my opinion is a more appropriate way of doing things.

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2008

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My Game of the Year - [spoiler] Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3) [/spoiler]

Platform Awards

Multi-Platform Game of the Year - Grand Theft Auto IV

Best PS3 Game - Metal Gear Solid 4

Best XBOX360 Game - Gears of War 2

Best Wii Game - Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Best PSP Game - God of War: Chains of Olympus

Best DS Game - Final Fantasy IV

Best PC Game - Crysis: Warhead

Genre Awards

Best Action/Adventure - Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3)

Best RPG - Fallout 3 (multi)

Best Shooter - Gears of War 2 (XBOX360)

Best Platformer - LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

Best Horror - Dead Space (multi)

Best Fighting Game - Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii)

Best Driving Game - Burnout Paradise (multi)

Best Rythm/Music Game - Rock Band 2 (multi)

Best Puzzle Game - World of Goo (Wii)

Best Expansion Pack - Wrath of the Lich King, World of Warcraft (PC)

Special Achievement Awards

Best Story - Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3)

Best Graphics, Technical - Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3)

Best Graphics, Artistic - LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

Best Cooperative Multiplayer - Left 4 Dead (multi)

Best Competitive Multiplayer - Resistance 2 (PS3)

Best Atmosphere - Fallout 3 (multi)

Best Original Music - Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3)

Best Licensed Music - Rock Band 2 (multi)

Best Sound Design - Dead Space (multi)

Best Voice Acting - Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3)

Best New Character - Niko Bellic, Grand Theft Auto IV (multi)

Best Original Downloadable Console Game - Mega Man 9 (multi)

Best Downloadable Content - Burnout Paradise (multi)

Best Boss Fights - Metal Gear Solid 4 (PS3)

Most Memorable Moment - Metal Gear Solid 4's Epilogue (PS3)

Best Implementation of User Generated Content - LittleBigPlanet (PS3)

Best Original IP - Dead Space (multi)

Best Use of a Creative License - Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (multi)

Most Surprisingly Good Game - Braid (multi)

Best New Gaming Hardware - nVidia Geforce GTX 280 video card

Most Improved Sequel - Saint's Row 2 (multi)

Biggest News of 2008 - EA's tumultuous Take 2 takeover bid

Dubious Honors

Most Disappointing Game - Haze (PS3) *This was by a mile.. not only did it deprive the PS3 of a a great opportunity for a new IP earlier on.. it also single handidly sank Free Radical(and possibly other projects like the Timesplitters sequel along with them).

Flat-Out Worst Game - Emergency Mayhem (Wii) *I think about half of the Wii's 2008 releases could have had a virtual tie in this category.

Worst Game Everyone Played - Too Human (XBOX360)

Best Game No One played - World of Goo (Wii)

Least Improved Sequel - Dynasty Warriors 6 (XBOX360)

Worst Use of a Great License - Iron Man (multi)

Best of 2007 selections

While 2007 did have it fair share of rough spots(the summer was particularly brutal), early September to early December more than made up for them by featuring possibly the largest onslaught of quality releases in gaming history.. making the year end awards the biggest toss up I've had in quite a while. There were several legitimate contenders in many of the major categories resulting in extremely tight races with wuite a few quality titles unfortunately being left out.

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2007

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My Game of the Year - [spoiler] *tie* Bioshock (multi) & Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) [/spoiler]

Platform Awards

Multi-Platform Game of the Year - Bioshock

(Only exclusives are eligible)

Best PS3 Game - Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction

Best XBOX360 Game - Mass Effect

Best Wii Game - Super Mario Galaxy

Best PC Game - Crysis

Best PS2 Game - God of War II *Probably the last year for this award, but the PS2 sure would be going out with a bang

Best PSP Game - Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters

Best DS Game - Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Genre Awards

Best Platformer - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Best Shooter - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (multi)

Best Action/Adventure Game - God of War II (PS2)

Best RPG - Mass Effect (X360)

Best Rythm/Music Game - Rock Band (multi)

Best Puzzle Game - Portal, The Orange Box (multi)

Best Driving Game - Forza Motorsport 2 (X360)

Best Fighting Game - Virtua Fighter 5 Online (X360)

Best Strategy Game - World In Conflict (PC)

Best Sports Game - NHL 08 (multi)

Best Expansion Pack - Shivering Isles, The Elder Scolls IV: Oblivion (multi)

Best Compilation - The Orange Box (multi) *One of the best ever values in gaming

Special Achievement Awards

Best Story - Bioshock (multi)

Best Atmosphere - Bioshock (multi)

Best Graphics, Artistic - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Best Graphics, Technical - Crysis (PC)

Best Competitive Multiplayer - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (multi)

Best Cooperative Multiplayer - Rock Band (multi)

Best Voice Acting - Heavenly Sword (PS3)

Best Sound Design - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (multi)

Best Original Music - Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Best Licensed Music - Bioshock (multi)

Best Use of Control Scheme - Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)

Most Improved Sequel - Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (multi)

Best Downloadable Console Game - Pac-Man Championship Edition (X360)

Best Original Game Mechanic - Portal Gun, Portal (multi)

Biggest News - $2.63 Billion in November Sales for Game Industry

*I truly believe many modern gamers completely take numbers like these for granted.. it's amazing to see how far the industry has come.

Best New Characters - Bioshock (multi)

Best Use of a Creative License - The Darkness (multi)

Most Suprisingly Good Game - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (PC)

Best New Gaming Hardware - nVidia Geforce 8800GT video card

Dubious Honors

Most Disappointing Delay - Grand Theft Auto IV (multi)

Best Game No One Played - Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS)

Worst Game Everybody Played - Sonic the Hedgehog 2007 (multi)

Flat-Out Worst Game - Deal or No Deal (DS)

Most Disappointing Game - Lair (PS3)

*I had very high hopes for this game, it was frustrating to see terrible controls destroy it.

Worst Trend - Lousy Wii ports

Most Despicable In-Game Advertiser - Guitar Hero III (multi)

On a side not related to my previous post, Warner Bros. finally made their Blu-Ray exclusivity official Details of their press release state they will gradually phase out HD-DVD support by May 2008. The fallout of this announcement has already forced the HD-DVD group to cancel various news conferences at CES.

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