Editor’s note: Dawdle founder Sachin Agarwal covered the E3 gaming expo for us last week. Here’s his wrap-up of the show’s biggest hits and biggest duds.
Biggest Winner: Sony (SNE)
Even without a price cut on the flagship PlayStation 3, Sony won E3. The PSP Go was a hit even after its leak in advance of the show. Most sceptics came around after holding it in their hands, and the 16 GB of onboard storage can hold up to 18 full PSP games.
New PlayStation 3 games God of War III and MAG had the longest wait lines for public demo stations at the entire show (outside of Beatles: Rock Band, which was appointment only). A number of PSN games, such as Fat Princess and ModNation Racers, had the crowd as excited as they were for the larger disc-based titles. And unlike Microsoft, Sony announced a timeframe for its motion control offering, Spring 2010, which builds on Sony’s experience with its EyeToy camera peripherals for the PS2 and PS3.
Biggest Loser: Nintendo (NTDOY)
It’s a wonder why Nintendo even bothered showing up at all. The long-rumoured new Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, looks like a port of the 2006 DS game of the same title, and adds four player cooperative gameplay. However, Sony’s own 2D sidescroller LittleBigPlanet had four player cooperative gameplay last year, and Mario lacks the online capabilities for co-op and level creation and sharing that made LBP so beloved. Super Mario Galaxy 2 and a new Wii Zelda game were announced, but not displayed. Nintendo’s biggest line was for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, a DS game previously announced. The demo stations for Wii Sports Resort had long lines, but not a lot of big smiles. Nintendo’s biggest surprise was the announcement of Metroid: Other M, a game not developed by Nintendo itself, but by Tecmo’s Team Ninja development team. At least gamers are getting a Wii-make of the Metroid Prime trilogy later this year. (Yeah, that wasn’t on the floor, either.)
Biggest Enigma: Microsoft (MSFT)
Microsoft’s biggest news was its new motion control system, dubbed Project Natal. The private previews have been exceptionally favourable, and if Johnny Lee (the CMU prof who blew minds using the Wii Remote at TED) is working on Project Natal, it can’t possibly suck. But there’s no pricing or release date for it yet – could be 2010, or 2011. Microsoft’s Shane Kim says that Natal extends the 360 platform’s life until 2015, so it’s clear that Microsoft is in no particular hurry to rush it out.
In addition to Project Natal, Microsoft rolled out a few exclusives, such as Alan Wake and Splinter Cell Convictions, and they did have Ringo and Paul on stage for their press conference (even though Beatles: Rock Band is a multi-platform title). Also, Zune gaming was not to be, even though the rumours were so wide that it seemed like a fait accompli.
Biggest Sigh of Relief: EA (ERTS)
Electronic Arts had the biggest booth at E3, packed to the gills with sports sequels (Fight Night Round 4, Madden NFL 10) and shooting sequels (Dead Space Extraction, Army of Two: The 40th Day). EA had a good balance of PS3/360 and Wii games, and finally seems to have a strategy for Wii-specific development, with an exaggerated animation style for the Wii version of Madden that marks both a control and artistic break from the simulation-style PS3 and 360 versions. The Brutal Legend demo kiosks were packed, a good sign as long as Activision’s lawsuit against game developer Double Fine doesn’t derail its release.
Biggest WTF: Disney (DIS)
Disney had an absolutely massive booth, a bizarre sight since most of Disney’s games are online MMOs, such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Club Penguin. But of the massive space, a full half was closed to the public, reserved for meetings. They also had a perfectly respectable racing game, Split/Second, which seemed entirely out of place at the cutesy Disney booth. All in all, a head-scratching experience.
Biggest Letdown: Activision (ATVI)
Only two games were publicly playable on the show floor: the Tony Hawk reboot, Tony Hawk Ride, and Blur, a new racing game IP. DJ Hero and Guitar Hero 5 were not playable on the floor. The only new Guitar Hero game that was playable was Guitar Hero: Van Halen, and that was in *Sony’s* E3 booth. Modern Warfare 2, likewise, was not playable on the floor, but was available to select press in private meetings.
Biggest Fuzzies: Pluff
An experience more than a game, Pluff uses a fuzzy controller and gives off good vibes. Essentially a pet simulator, the user can make the Pluff happy by stroking the controller and rewarding the Pluff for doing tricks. It’s really, really cute and nothing at E3 made me smile more.
Sachin Agarwal is the President and CEO of Dawdle.com, an online marketplace for gamers to buy and sell new and used video games, systems, and accessories with other gamers online. Sachin is covering E3 Expo 2009 for The Business Insider.
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