E3 Day Two: Nintendo Press Conference

Closing the press conferences is Nintendo, who held their Media Briefing this morning at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Though expectations were high after Sunday’s Wii U announcements, the conference was underwhelming.

Opening with a short clip of Miyamoto leaving a dressing room with Pikmin in tow, as the gaming icon makes his way to the stage he discussed that since he’s been working on the new Pikmin title, he’s been seeing the multi-colored minis everywhere. He explained that Nintendo aims to be central to the living room, even if it’s small. Miyamato then announced Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, after 10 years since the last game on the Nintendo Game Cube. In the game demo, it was apparent that graphics are improved on Wii U, which beautifully showed how Pikmin can build bridges with new materials, as well as a new type of Pikmin: Rock Pikmin. Wii U hasn’t completely let go of motion control, however, as the Wii Mote and Nunchuk allows players to aim at specific targets.
Afterwards, Reggie Fils-Aime of Nintendo of America, made his way to the stage to talk more Wii U news. He confirmed that streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, YouTube will all be available on the system. He also went into the detail about the Wii U itself, explaining how it will be able to handle having two players using the Wii U gamepads, as well as how the newly announced Miiverse will be the social hub of the console. The stream will show player’s game friends and those they’ve met from playing games online. The console will gather tiles that represent personal tastes and trending entertainment that may target the player.

With entertainment in mind, Fils-Aime introduced a new Wii U title, New Super Mario Bros. U. The five-player game allows four on WiiMotes and one on the WiiPad and featured Mario in a flying squirrel suit and Yoshi floating through levels. The game looks very pretty in HD, and included a Boost mode which allows players to run through levels quickly with use the gamepad to place blocks to help other players.

Third party support was briefly touched upon, but it was nothing anyone hasn’t seen before, though the announcement of Mass Effect 3 coming to Wii U raised a few eyebrows. Another Wii U original title announced was Scribblenauts Unlimited, from as confirmed by Jeremiah Slaczka of 5th Cell. The game allows for players to not only use their dictionary skills to use objects for puzzles, but to combine words and create all new objects – like an Auto Mutt, a dog on wheels.

The 3DS was not a big focus of the show, with very few software even mentioned for the handheld. Fils-Aime reassured that there will be a webcast later tonight for just 3DS games, but touched on Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Paper Mario: Sticker Star and gave us a release date for New Super Mario Brothers 2, which will hit stores on August 19.

Even the Wii Fit U announcement couldn’t save the conference, as the use of both the Wii U gamepad with the Wii Fit balance board wasn’t as innovative as it appeared to be. The conference ended on a strange note, as he announced Nintendo Land, a game aimed to be the “Wii Sports” of the Wii U by showing off the innovative functionality of the system. The mini-games shown were all based on Nintendo franchises: Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Donkey Kong: Crash Course. While Fils-Aime explained that players would have to play Nintendo Land to understand it, it was still confusing as to what made the game anything more than a collection of Nintendo-themed mini-games.

Though the social stream and HD upgrade allow the Wii U to compete with current gen consoles, it’s still missing key aspects like usernames, an achievement system, or cross-game chat that has made modern connectivity so successful. And with this most likely being the last year before the announcement of next gen, the Wii U risks being not only a step behind Microsoft and SONY, but an entire generation. Nintendo lucked out this gen, as the Wii became a best selling console among the newly tapped casual gamer, but it’s unlikely that the same market will be willing to buy another console that appears to be so similar.

E3 Day One: Ubisoft Media Briefing

The second of the two publisher to present, Ubisoft’s conference was filled with new gameplay from franchise favorites as well as new announcements for their upcoming partnership with Nintendo for Wii U titles as well as a brand new game.

Opening up with a dance number featuring a musical number from performer Flo Rida, Just Dance 4 was announced. Afterward, hostess Aisha Tyler introduced one of Ubisoft’s four major games this conference: Far Cry 3.

Making its return for the second E3 in a row, Far Cry 3 is a first person shooter that stars Jason Brody as he is forced to fight for survival on a chain of tropical islands filled with deadly creatures, insane gangs of pirates, and a lot of hallucinogenic mushrooms. While hard to watch at times, the game is pushing the envelope with its risk factor and still has that gritty, high-pressure atmosphere. The game’s producer Dan Hay explained that in the gameplay in Far Cry 3 is exspansive. “Exploration, hallucinations, open world, and a cast of insane characters,” he said onstage. “And that’s only the beginning.” The game is scheduled to ship on September 7, 2012.

Next up was the official trailer for the freshly announced Splinter Cell: Blacklist. As the gameplay demo was shown during Microsoft’s presentation this morning, during Ubisoft’s presentation fans were excited to see a brand new trailer where protagonist Sam Fisher stealthily fought through enemies and grappled to buildings with new gadgets. All while wearing his trademark green night-vision goggles.

Ubisoft also announced a slew of games that would be making their way to Nintendo’s brand new console, the Wii U. The titles YourShape, Sports Connection, Just Dance 4, Assassins Creed 3 Rabbids Land, all coming to Wii U. Along with these titles include ZombiU, a first-person survival horror zombie game as well as the beautifully fun 2D platformer Rayman Legends that perfectly showed the innovation of the Wii U’s new gamepad.

Assassin’s Creed 3 was shown off with a new gameplay demo, where the new protagonist Conner Kenway fights wolves, scales mountains, and stabs Redcoats with a musket. The latest installment in the Assassin’s Creed series is scheduled to hit American shores on October 30, 2012.

Last but not least, Ubisoft showcased a brand new game IP, which has become a rarity for the last few years. Titled Watch Dogs, the game takes place in an open-world city, where players have the power to control an entire city’s infrastructure via powerful computers that run everything from data records to power lines. Using futuristic hacking, players can find out target’s names, occupations, salaries, as well as listening into phone conversations. Combat-wise, players can also use the computers to chance a target’s violence probability.

Though Watch Dogs looks interesting, as a well as franchise favorites it appears that for the upcoming year Ubisoft is focused on padding the Wii U launch with third party titles aim for a wide variety of audiences. Whether or not the Wii U can compete with Microsoft and yet-to-present SONY is still a mystery until Nintendo’s conference tomorrow morning.

E3 Day One: Electronic Arts Media Briefing

Second up during today’s E3 conferences is the Electronic Arts (EA) briefing. The third party publisher is the parent company of well known developers such as DiCE, Respawn, and BioWare. Unlike Microsoft this morning, EA was far more game focused with many of its announcements being sequels.

The conference began with CEO John Riccitiello taking the stage to talk about EA as a company saying, “[Today] 10 great developers will come out here to show you 10 spectacular games.” The first of these ten games being the much anticipated Dead Space 3.

Vice President and General Manager at Visceral Games, Steve Papoutsis then took the stage to not only confirm the game, but to begin the gameplay demo on stage. Papoutsis promised vast new environments for Isaac to explore, as well as many new kinds of new necromorphs. The level played took place in what appeared to be a mining facility with Issac fighting some sort of drill monster, thought he was not alone.

There will be a new character alongside Isaac named John Carver, confirming drop-in/drop-out co-op. However, playing survival horror games in co-op takes away the sense of isolation that made the series so scary, however there are rumors that if the second player were to drop-out, the computer will not take control, but instead disappear – playing with the ongoing theme of Isaac’s fragile sanity. The release date for Dead Space 3 is slated for February 2013.

Next, EA Sports took the stage to talk about the new updates coming to the upcoming Madden 2013. Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin took the stage to discuss career mode with Riccitiello. Career Mode in Madden 2013 is very much modeled after traditional RPGs, as player progress is tracked through a career checklist, with goals for each season. Meeting them earns Experience Points, which is used for upgrades. Like most EA games now, players manage their teams from applications on their computers, tablets, or smartphones. There will also be a Facebook game that will connect with the game. Madden’s launch date is currently August 28th.

On the same note of Facebook tie-ins, Lucy Bradshaw the Senior Vice President of Maxis stepped on stage to properly reveal the beloved SimCity reboot. Along with the reboot is social game titled SimCity Social, which will go live on Facebook in a few short weeks. As for SimCity proper, Bradshaw explained that the game “will revolutionize simulation with our new Glassbox engine.” She also revealed the integration of multiplayer for the game promising, “Your gameplay choices affect not only the Sims of your city, but also the cities surrounding you as well.”

Other games discussed were FIFA 2013, Battlefield 3’s new Battlefield Premium services for $50 that includes exclusive DLC and other bonuses, as well as Bioware’s  Co-Founder Dr. Ray Muzyka announcing new version of Nightmare difficulty for Star Wars: The Old Republic as new companion characters, playable species, and that starting July the game will be free-to-play up until level 15.

Though what might have been the most shocking news of the briefing was the annoucement that EA had bought the rights of the UFC license from THQ. In a press release sent out moments after the announcement THQ explaining that the agreement resulted in an “undisclosed cash payment to THQ.” Additionally, THQ claimed that it “will continue to publish its existing console and mobile titles through March 31, 2013.” Not only is that a heavy blow to another one THQ’s high-selling titles, but Dana White’s ego as he has been a longtime trash talker of the publisher. Though, it seems the two have worked out their differences and are ready to work together as the deal is multi-year contract.

The second publisher to make their way to the stage tonight is Ubisoft, whose Press Conference last year turned a lot of heads with the announcement of Far Cry 3 and the very memorable Mr. Caffeine. This year there’s still eyes out for Far Cry 3, but with Assassin’s Creed 3 finally in development and a freshly announced Splinter Cell: Blacklist Ubisoft could have more up their sleeve than originally thought.

E3 Day One: Microsoft Press Conference

E3 kicked off today with the Microsoft Media Briefing, where gaming fans and hopefuls alike filled the LA Galen Center to hear about the gaming juggernaut’s next big thing.

The conference opened with a bombastic Halo 4 trailer, showing stunning gameplay of Master Chief as well as new weapons and enemies revealed. During the demo, it appeared that players used what appeared to be a kind of Detective Mode (similar to the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games) to identify enemies and use during combat. Developer 343 appears to have been able to take the beloved Bungie series and put their own interesting spin on this latest installment.

The next major game announced was the Gears of War: Judgement trailer, a new game in the series by developer People Can Fly. Though the trailer was short, it was able to impress as it showed Damon Baird, one of the characters from the original game’s Delta Squad, in shackles amid images of Locusts and COG soldiers fighting in a burning city. The game takes place 15-years before the original trilogy and opens with Baird in shackles while being tried for treason. Though details are scarce, it appears to be more of what Gears fans love about the series.

Another highpoint of the conference was the reveal of a new Splinter Cell title, Splinter Cell: Blacklist. The game takes place on the Iraq/Iran border, and gameplay-wise is reminiscent of an Assassin’s Creed game without the crowd hiding mechanic and more guns. Way more guns. After the reveal of the game demo, Ubisoft was a floodgate of information, promoting trailers and screenshots mere moments after the reveal. It’s easy to assume that more will be shown on this game during Ubisoft’s own Press Conference later today.

Other notable game demos were Tomb Raider, which featured Laura battling her way through a muddy environment, in cinematic gameplay that was very similar to the Uncharted franchise. As well as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which wrapped up the conference with an extensive demo centering on a squad trying to evacuate the President from downtown Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, this is Call of Duty game with prominent ladies, incidentally. Female president and Anderson, the jump jet pilot.

However, games were not the main focus of the briefing, as a good chunk of it was spent on updates to Xbox Live and how Microsoft is hoping to create the console into a means of converging media. Microsoft announces new media sharing app SmartGlass for Xbox 360, which is a tablet that the company hopes will immerse the way people view their media, by bringing cross-platform functionality. To be blunt, it appears to be Microsoft’s reaction to Nintendo’s Wii U tablet, but promises that the app will work with “all the devices [users] already own.” Kinect was also showcased, but now mostly for its voice commands in EA Sports games like Fifa 2013 and Madden 2013. Again, seeing is believing and it appears that the more peripherals Microsoft tries to tack on to the console, the more clunky the console feels.

They also Internet Explorer coming to Xbox Live, as well as NBA and NHL game packages. More channels are heading to console as well including Nickelodeon, Paramount, Machinima, Univision and a lot of ESPN integration.

All in all, the conference didn’t announce anything that was particularly exciting. It’s not surprising that Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 were received well, but when the bulk of a company’s announcements are forgotten the moment Trey Parker and Matt Stone step on stage to talk for a minute on the newest South Park title, it’s obvious you have a snore fest. Not even the sudden Usher Concert brought upon by the Dance Central 3 announcement was enough to bring the energy of the conference up.

The next of the Big Three to have their conference is SONY, who will be presenting tonight after Electronic Arts and Ubisoft and will (hopefully) have more games to discuss during their game conference.