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E3 2010: Is new tech holding games back?

How much things have changed in one year. 2009's E3 saw a tangible leap forward for the industry in terms of game quality, along with some huge crowd-pleasing presentations. That image of Nathan Drake sliding down the tilting floor of a collapsing building is still emblazoned into my mind… which is exactly how E3 should be.

This year (in the non-Nintendo press conferences, that is), it was all a bit different. The sense of progression was gone. And I'll tell you why I believe it is: 3D and motion sensitive technology is holding games back.

The traditional lifecycle of a console before the next comes out is about five years. That means this year's E3 would have given us at least an announcement of a new machine, if not a full demonstration of its capabilities. But, perhaps due to the economic climate, instead we've been given pricey bolt-on augmentations for current-gen tech, which is supposedly going to keep the current crop going for another couple of years at least.

History (or more specifically, Sega) will tell you that add-ons for an existing console certainly does NOT automatically equal success. Sega CD and 32X were expensive, confused customers, diluted a winning brand and proved costly failures. And with loads of devs obediently supporting Kinect and Move, it's stunted the crop of big games that we would usually see at the show.


Above: Which is the better game to end a press conference on?

Just look at Metal Gear Solid Rising. This is a game that does not (so far) feature Kinect or Move support. It's a 'proper' videogame and looks absolutely stunning. In fact, they could have told us it's a launch game for a next-gen machine and we probably still would have cheered the step forward.

It was a trailer comparable to last year's Uncharted 2 demo. Visibly better than anything we've seen before and pushing the medium forward into new territory.


Above: Uncharted 2 (top) and MGS Rising each had an amazing moment

But can that be said of any of the new technologies that Sony and Microsoft focused so much time on? Let's have a look:

 

3D

General consensus is Sony's 3D games look superb. The effect is solid and convincing and everything it should be. That's great, but you only have to look at the game developers' comments to see how restrictive this actually is. With the machine effectively having to render everything twice, the processor load must be phenomenal. Compromises will have to be made. That extra power needed for 3D is power that could have been spent on other aspects of the game.

And what about when you get over the initial wow factor? Killzone 3 as a game looks like being yet another competent shooter. Take away the 3D (and the much-hyped brand name) and I bet you'd be looking at an 8/10 game that's not massively different from its predecessor.


Above: Or was it the other way round? No, definitely that way. Um...

It also costs extra for the consumer, with the price of a TV, the glasses (one expensive pair for everyone in the room) and the games themselves. EA reckon you ought to pay more for 3D games than regular games. Get real – there's no way gamers are going to accept another era of £60 'deluxe' games. PSone had it right - £30 for chart games is affordable, meaning people will buy more, play more and love their console more.

 

Motion sensitive gaming

Last year, the prospect of 1:1 movement was still relatively new. Nintendo had Wii Motion Plus, but Sony's new demos looked better and seemed to respond better. Then Project Natal (as it was then known) concluded the show and left us feeling like Nintendo was finished. The big N's most-prized unique selling point was going to be available on every console, in HD. Game Over.


Above: Natal looked great, didn't it? But where are the games like this?

A year later, if you were to look at Nintendo's press conference in isolation, you'd think they've the company had pretty much finished with motion control. The Zelda demo didn't work properly, other new games were more about gameplay than waggle and the 3DS announcement was 100% tilt-free. It's almost as though the motion control ship has sailed, leaving Sony and Microsoft stepping aboard a very shiny, HD Titanic.

The focus on motion from Sony and Microsoft this year is so intense, it seems to be at the cost of everything else. Sony's 'surprise' announcement to top the show was an underwhelming demo of a game that looks like it belongs on PSN. Microsoft left us downright disturbed by showing us a little girl playing with a make-believe tiger.


Above: Surely a copy of Nintendogs on DS would make her happier?

If the two gaming giants are just starting off on the same path that Nintendo began paving in 2006, we're looking at a potential four years of disillusion from hardcore gamers. If they're serious about 3D and motion control, they have to support it wholeheartedly. Nintendo fanboys may have given up on their love (or secretly held out on selling their Wiis in the hope of an E3 like this one)… and there's no reason to think the same can't happen to Xbots and PS fanboys.

If we get a successor to the Wii next year, I bet the focus will no longer be on motion control. Nintendo is looking to the future and appears to have read the market impeccably again. Everyone else is arriving at the end of the party, having spent an awful lot of money on their outfits and crates of booze. If they insist on cracking open a crate and getting drunk in the emptying room, we gamers might just suffer the hangover.

17 Jun, 2010

27 comments

  • Octoboy - June 19, 2010 8:10 a.m.

    Very good article, and very frightening indeed. They main problem nowadays is: when people say they don't need motion control and/or 3D, the usual response is, "well, nobody forces you to play these games!" Until now. I never was a fan of the Wii. And that was fine, because I could enjoy my PS3 and my 360. But now, both Microsoft and Sony openly admit that they'd like to lure in the casual gamers. They are more easily satisfied and at the same time the bring in lots of profit. I really fear that the casual gamer is a threat to quality gaming.
  • philipshaw - June 18, 2010 6:24 p.m.

    I have to agree but Dead Space 2 blew me away like UC2 did at last years E3
  • GoodGuyWithACrappyJob - June 18, 2010 5:24 a.m.

    Hopefully, all the hype around Nintendo is true. I am rather apprehensive because of the relatively same games, but I'll give them a chance. I figure that Nintendo at least avoided a reality-paradox, like Microsoft, and kept games rolling smoother than Sony. Then again, as Norman Cousins once said, the human body experiences a powerful gravitational pull in the direction of hope...so here goes nothing.
  • Stahlbrand - June 18, 2010 3:57 a.m.

    I think this motion controll BS will blow over soon. It won't go away, and every company, large and small, will creat Wii-style shovelware for it, but traditional core games will continue to be mainstays of the non-Nintendo market. 3D, on the other hand is something I don't feel confident in guessing about. I think they're rolling it without a killer app - its not self justifying, and I think Sony might have egg on their faces when it doesn't take. But I could be wrong on that.
  • Sabtos - June 17, 2010 11:26 p.m.

    "But, perhaps due to the economic climate, instead we've been given pricey bolt-on augmentations for current-gen tech, which is supposedly going to keep the current crop going for another couple of years at least." Why would you say this? Do you really support a new generation of consoles already? I'm still not getting any richer from the massive amount of money it takes to keep up with console gaming these days. I understand if you want to complain about 3D and motion controls, I do too because I don't think they're going to contribute much and will possibly hinder the advancement of quality games. However, I'm not going to complain that there should have been anouncements of new consoles instead.
  • JohnnyMaverik - June 17, 2010 11:15 p.m.

    @ Outlayer, Stick in mouse and keyboard controls and then the party really starts. The motion controlled FPS' haven't impressed me so far.
  • shyfonzie - June 17, 2010 10:46 p.m.

    I thought the whole point of Rising was that Raiden`s sword was motion controlled?
  • MrDuracraft - June 17, 2010 7:31 p.m.

    @outlyer That's really the only improvement, unless 1:1 works properly with things like games that involve swords. And the people at Nintendo are marketing geniuses. They got into the casual, motion-controlled market first, and got out near the "end of the party" while still putting out 20% of good games (admittedly 80% crap). Now I feel the numbers will switch, 80% good to great games, 20% crap casual been-done games. Have fun, Sony and Microsoft. Because with Kinect and Move, your consumers won't. (Move > Kinect for me atm).
  • outlyer - June 17, 2010 5:06 p.m.

    FPS aiming with PS Move. Am I the only one seeing this as a huge improvement over the dual-stick control?
  • tuomotaivainen - June 17, 2010 5:05 p.m.

    I do think that new technology is holding games back. But because it's new technology. If developers knew what to do with new technology AS SOON as it came out it wouldn't so awesome when someone goes and proves the technology later down the road. There are going to be growing pains with new technology. I mean, look at any of the major consoles this gen. When they were new (especially the Wii) we didn't get as many showstopping games as we're getting now (again, especially the Wii). Move and Kinect will have a lot of growing pains for sure. But if there are developers that are going to get serious with this new tech it's only a matter of time before they break the "new" barrier.
  • garnsr - June 17, 2010 4:24 p.m.

    I'm still not sure why you guys keep saying Nintendo is looking forward, making new iterations of very old games, or remaking old games, and saying that it's sad that Sony is bringing back Twisted Metal. And how long will Nintendo be able to keep it up, once they've gotten what they've shown out they won't have anything else to keep going with.
  • JohnnyMaverik - June 17, 2010 4:16 p.m.

    I disagree than the Nintendo conference was a giant leap forward, they're doing more of the same, to be fair they haven't done much of actual hardcore, properly bringing their first party franchises onto the Wii yet, but it wasn't a "leap forward" technically from what I saw, it's still just Nintendo slowly rolling out the titles, and some will be good, some will be ruined by motion control and an inability to evolve. > If we get a successor to the Wii next > year, I bet the focus will no longer > be on motion control. Also you seem to forget that Nintendo don't actually have to use motion control with they're games now, they just do, they could quite as easily make a new Zelda with a classic controller. Plus I already have an idea for a Zelda game that trumps what ever stagnating pile of same they put out next year... one day maybe... Also, I bet you 10 quid tilt control will be arbitrarily stuck in to all the big first part titles on the 3DS, regardless of whether or not it improves the experience. Expect to control the flight in Kid Icarus with tilt, expect it to not be all that great, and I expect GR to give it a 8-10/10 regardless cuz Nintendo are paying you off... lol no not really, I kid... xD
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  • OHMYGODIMONFIRE - June 17, 2010 3:26 p.m.

    Nintendo is full of geniuses. Now that Xbox and PS3 are going to motion control, Nintendo is going to make everyone who bought a wii, gave up on it and bought an Xbox/PS3 bring out the wii again and buy all of these new games. That or buy a new wii since they sold their old one. Also I totally agree with Pruman, buying a second motion control device (especially the dongle for original Xbox 360's) will be too confusing for senile old grannies.
  • oryandymackie - June 17, 2010 3:23 p.m.

    I love the idea of 3D. But if 3D means pushing prices up then I'm completely against it. New releases cost too much, even now. That's why I'm generally reduced to scouting the used original Xbox sections for good deals - I can't afford new games. P.S, if they're going to create 3D games then surely, please, they're going to enable 3D on old games. I want a 3D Suffering game so much.
  • Utawarerumono - June 17, 2010 3:17 p.m.

    I think that Nintendo will outsell the competition no matter what, they already HAVE the casual audience as long as they have the wii, it's cheap, only hardcore gamers would buy an expensive console, and now that Nintendo has the casual audience pretty much secured they're returnung to to their original audience. Sony and Microsoft just can't win.
  • yuelucia - June 17, 2010 2:50 p.m.

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  • IveGotNewSocks - June 17, 2010 2:40 p.m.

    Amen , Ive been really disappointed with the games so far. Apart from Metal Gear Rising and the 3DS stuff , 2009's games looked way better

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