Having not personally attended this year's E3 in Los Angeles (I followed conferences online, pored over countless press releases, and conducted phone interviews with company representatives), I'm a bit hesitant to rank the news and announcements the event generated.
However, it seems clear to me that one company managed to stand out from the competition: Nintendo.
One can't expect much in the way of major hardware announcements during a mid-generation year (the console industry is in the fifth of what seems to be a new ten year cycle). Still, Sony and Microsoft did their best with the PlayStation Move and the Xbox 360's Kinect. We've known about both for over a year now, but the two game giants revealed launch dates and software lineups for both and gave attendees plenty of hands-on time. (I'll have a chance to try the Kinect for myself at a Canadian event next week, and I'll be sure to report back on the experience here).
But while Kinect and Move have their own unique advantages-the former promises controller-free gaming, the latter unprecedented precision via a wand-style peripheral-one can't help but think that Microsoft and Sony are simply playing catch-up with Nintendo's Wii remote and nunchuk, which have a five-year head start in motion control gaming.
One also can't keep from wondering if Nintendo hasn't come close to saturating the market for this sort of gaming, and whether those who have yet to jump into motion control would rather spend $399 on a PlayStation 3-with-Move bundle (and likely a similar amount for an Xbox 360 with Kinect-pricing has yet to be revealed) or just $199 on a Wii.
Consequently, a door was left open for Nintendo to steal the show with a new hardware announcement of their own, and I think they did with when they revealed the stereoscopic Nintendo 3DS handheld system, which prior to the show had only been discussed at very high levels.
With a widescreen 3-D display that has the unique advantge of not requiring players to wear glasses to see the illusion of depth, graphics many critics are saying appear to be nearly on par with those of the Wii, the ability to take 3-D pictures and play 3-D Hollywood films, and-this is key-a massive list of upcoming titles geared for both kids and grownup gamers (the Nintendo DS, though wildly successful, has largely restricted itself to a younger demographic), the 3DS garnered instant praise.
My colleagues who were at the show filled my Twitter stream on Tuesday with quick hands-on reports of the following nature: "The #Nintendo #3DS is amazing. Super crisp screen with stunning depth effects. Colour me impressed" and "3DS is amazing, almost shockingly so."
Of course, there are also some concerns. Several people have noted that one needs to be positioned directly in front of the screen to avoid seeing double while the stereoscopic effect is engaged, and I'm concerned that the 3DS has only one analogue nub instead of two; Sony's PSP has been roundly criticized by gamers, critics, and analysts for the last five years for that very design flaw.
Still, I'm almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of getting my hands on one near the end of this month, which is when Nintendo plans to bring prototypes of its new handheld to Canada for journalists like me to play with.
Don't get me wrong; I'm wildly excited about software designed for bigger screens that made splashes at this years show. I can't wait for releases like Civilization V, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Rock Band 3, Halo: Reach, Journey, Killzone 3, Portal 2, Child of Eden, Crysis 2, XCOM, and the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
But in terms of sheer buzz and potential industry impact, Nintendo's new handheld won the show by a wide margin.
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