With E3 looming over the gaming world in a few short hours, I thought I would endow all you faithful, passionate readers with a personal stream-of-consciousness look at E3.
Well, when I was thinking about Sony, the first thing that popped in my mind was “price-drop.” As most of you dear readers probably have heard, Sony announced a $100 price-drop for the 60GB version of the PlayStation 3 console, dropping it down to a “bargain” of $499 here stateside. Also announced was an 80GB version of the beleaguered console, which will also include a copy of Motorstorm for $599. Before I commend Sony for the price-drop—what the hell is up with the 80GB SKU? Sure, you can say what you want about the price proposition…it’s not too terrible of Sony to ask for $599 for the 80GB package. (Microsoft expects people to pay $100 for 20GB, for Christ’s sake) But at the same time, why sell a slightly upgraded box for the same $599 that has seen your console consistently place last in NPD sales charts? Instead of creating a new SKU, just pack in Motorstorm with the 60GB, (hell, make a Resistance box while you’re at it) and sell it at $499.
At the end of the day, it kind of seems like it boils down to how Sony plans on marketing the box itself. When Microsoft announced the Elite way back when, I figured that consumers would naturally gravitate towards the “best” box available. However, they haven’t, which is in no small part to how Microsoft is stocking each of their three SKUs in store shelves. Sony would be smart to push the 80GB version to satiate the hardcore niche early on, then reign things and push forward with their 60GB SKU.
As for the conference itself, I still think that Sony has a lot more convincing to do in terms of their software lineup. While their 2007 lineup interests me the most out of the three console manufacturers, none of their existing titles are franchises that have mainstream visibility outside of Ratchet and Clank: Futures and possibly SingStar. While new IP is definitely cool (and the main reason I’m so interested in Sony’s software this year) it doesn’t sell systems when you’re in dire need of blockbuster hits like Super Smash Brothers and Halo 3.
Even though MGS4 and FFXIII will more than likely not be seeing a release in 2007, Sony has to pimp those two games really hard at this year’s E3. These are going to be the reasons to pick of Sony’s console; they’re going to need Konami and Square to make them at least playable at the show, and to let current PlayStation owners get their mitts on the game in demo form sometime this year. That also brings up the question of how well Sony is going to “bring E3 home” through PSN. Microsoft did a great job giving people all the latest demos, trailers and the like through Marketplace last year, so it’ll be interesting if Sony can at least match Microsoft in that department.
Lastly, two big question marks for me are LittleBigPlanet and Home. Both were featured prominently at GDC, with Home getting a public beta (but I’m not in it, so it doesn’t count), but I think everyone wants to see more from these titles. I’m not convinced that Home will be the place where you want to go to set up online games with your friends, or that gamers will be interested in testing their interior decorating skills. And while LittleBigPlanet has gotten some hype from the press, I really question the long-term value of the title.
Microsoft comes into E3 kind of sandwiched in between the meteoric success of the Wii and the lowly PlayStation 3—they’re doing fine—just not great. With their 2007 fall line-up, they’re looking like the consensus “best line-up” of games. They’ve got Halo 3, BioShock, Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, Mass Effect, and some other strong exclusive offerings to boot.
We should expect that Bungie comes into the press conference on Tuesday night with Halo 3 single-player level in hand to show doubters that Halo 3 is going to be a graphical powerhouse. Aside from that, though, I’m not sure there are very huge question marks for Microsoft at this point. They seem to have most of their ducks in a row with their fall lineup, and with Marketplace and Live.
Though, one thing that some people are looking at Microsoft to do now is a price drop. With Sony’s 60GB box $100 away from they’re premium console, analyst Michael Pachter is predicting a $50-70 drop on all three Xbox 360 SKUs. Personally, though, I’m not quite sold that Microsoft will drop the price that quickly after Sony, and I don’t see the need to just yet. Why not hold X07 in mid-September and whack off $100 to each SKU—just in time for Halo 3! I’m not a marketing guy, but I think it makes a lot of sense.
Nintendo will probably use a good chunk of their E3 press conference to tell everybody “I told ya so!” In all seriousness, the Wii has been amazing success up to this point, but for those of you out there don’t fall into the “casual” category—you’re feeling a bit left in the dark. However, if Nintendo does ship their big three titles this year (Mario, Metroid and Smash Brothers) that should be enough to please all you hardcore Nintendo geeks for this year.
One thing that a lot of people will be interested in is the recently announced “Wii Ware” downloadable game service. When you factor in all of the tremendous titles that Nintendo can pull out through their history, and then have all new IP at the same time, they just might have the best downloadable games service this generation. I want to see them show off games that will debuting on their service in 2008, just to give us a feel on what to expect.
While they might have the best downloadable game service out of the three console makers, how about talking a bit more on your online strategy, Nintendo? They have been clearly lagging behind Sony and Microsoft in this respect, and with online gaming becoming an increasingly integral part of the gaming experience, why are they ignoring online? Every Wii has WiFi capabilities, so why are they not exploiting the possibilities that that entails? It is mind boggling that they’re still using the lame friend-codes from the DS, but only having two online enabled games (Mario Strikers and Pokemon Battle Revolution) up to this point is egregious.
I think I speak for everyone else when I say, “show me ’08!” Because the entire 2007 lineup is pretty much set in stone at this point, one of the most exciting parts of E3 is the new game announcements. With Nintendo, I have to wonder what they have in store for ’08. They’ve already exhausted Zelda, Mario, Metroid and Smash Brothers for 2007 (we hope, anyways)—so what is the game that is going to sell Wiis in 2008? Does it really matter? What new IP will Sony and Microsoft unveil, for that matter?
Either way, E3 might not be the spectacle that it once was, but it sure is still damn exciting to talk about.