The Future of Gaming – E3 2012

matrix has entered into gaming in a big way in the last 2 years, so we are very interested in what is going to happen in the future for gaming. It promised to be another very interesting upcoming 2 years from what was announced at E3 this year.

E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo held in Los Angeles. It is the conference that outlines the future of gaming for the next year of gaming and beyond. Almost every console since the Nintendo 64 to the Sony PS3 has been announced at E3; in the last few years, innovations on the previous consoles like the Xbox Kinnect and Playstation Move have been announced at E3. The game appetite is hungry for the next generation of games, so anticipation was high for this year.

Here are the highlights:

No new consoles from Sony and Microsoft

Before their press conferences, both Sony and Microsoft managed expectations and announced that they will not be revealing new game consoles at this E3. A collective disappointed sigh was heard from the industry because there is real pent up demand for new consoles. Typically, computer games start selling better because of nicer looking game graphics that take advantage of today’s technology. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (PS3) were released in 2006, and the spec needs to stay the same over their life cycles so games are running on 6 year old technology right now. The computer only game Diablo III topped the sales charts signalling that people are tired of their old consoles. Speculatively (some what confirmed by a Microsoft leak) Microsoft and Sony will announce consoles at E3 2013, and will probably go on sale Q4 2014.

Nintendo Wii-U refined and ready for market

Last year at E3, Nintendo introduced the Wii U to us and this year they refined it to show what is going on sale this fall. The Wii U is and increase in computer power from the Wii allowing it to play games previously only capable on the PS3 and Xbox. But the real differentiator is a tablet like game controller. Games are displayed on both the TV and up to 2 of these touchscreen game controllers. This is used in a variety of ways, from flying a remote control “Bat-arang” in Batman Arkham City to showing the golf ball you need to hit in Tiger Woods golf. Nintendo announced the Pro Controller at this year E3 which is a game controller that looks similar to the Xbox 360 and PS3 controller. This is because Nintendo will be able to compete with the Microsoft and Sony on hardcore games like Assassin’s Creed or Batman: Arkham City, and hardcore gamers need a controller they are familiar with.

Microsoft Smartglass

Alot of companies are trying to understand the “second screen” of the living room: the tablet. Microsoft announced a application called Smartglass that will link content played on the Xbox with iPad, Android tablets, and Windows 8 tablets. Information and way to interact are displayed on the tablet. For example, if you are watching Game of Thrones on HBO Go using your Xbox, then a map of the world displays on your tablet and shows you where the scene is taking place and some extra background content. Or, if you are playing Madden 2013 on your Xbox then you can draw out plays on your tablet before playing them. Nintendo has a second screen coming with their Wii U and Sony has some interactivity between their PC Vita handheld and the PS3, but Microsoft’s Smartglass being cross platform and a robust platform for content creators to use will make Microsoft a leader in the “second screen.”

Sony exclusive titles

Sony’s biggest problem with the PS3 is that the exclusive titles (games not on the Xbox or Wii) have been few, far between and not compelling. It was the primary reason it had a slow start relative to the Xbox. That is changing in a big way with some of the most compelling games coming exclusively to Sony: Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception, Resistance 3, The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls. Sony also has exclusive titles for it’s high powered portable player, the PS Vita, with games like Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. If Sony carries this exclusive momentum into 2013 and launch their new console, they will have a real advantage that will translate to sales.

Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs”

So everyone was disappointed that there wasn’t new game consoles from Sony and Microsoft, but Ubisoft gave us a glimpse into a game that could be destined for those systems: Watch Dogs. The game looked so good that pundits speculated that this was meant for next generation game consoles, and Ubisoft didn’t tell them no when asked. The game was developed in secret for 2 years at Ubisoft Montreal and is an open world / action adventure (like Grand Theft Auto.) But that open world is the star of the show; all people in the world have a back story and you can hack any electronic device connected to the internet. After Aiden Pierce (main character) lost his family in a mob cross fire in Chicago, he became obsessed with surveilance and crime. He found ways to hack into the CTOS (Central Operating System) that all electronics rely on giving him the power to listen to people’s calls, hack into Facebook accounts to know their secrets, or mess with traffic lights to cause accidents. He uses this all for the good of Chicago of course!

Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed III and Liberation for Vita

We are used to seeing renaissance era Italy from Assanin’s Creed, but Assassin’s Creed III takes us to the American War of Independence. Etsio’s retractable daggers are exchanged for Connor’s fronteir hatchet. With the ability to hide and move through the trees, Connor has to deal with bad weather generated by the games new weather system. Like Watch Dogs, people cant believe that it can run on this generation of hardware, but it does. Assassin’s Creed III is to be released for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC on October 30, 2012, in North America and October 31, 2012, in the UK. A version for the Wii U is also in development. Assassin’s Creed: Liberation is a companion game being released on the same day for the PS Vita.

Beyond: Two Souls

Games have become more than just fun, they are a new and compelling story telling medium. No game showed that more than Beyond: Two Souls. The game is made by story telling mastermind David Cage, and stars Ellen Page. The public was treated to game video and some game play, but pundits saw more game play in behind-closed-doors sessions. People are saying if a game could win academy awards, this one would. Ellen Page’s character, Jodie Holmes, has had a phantom spirit around her for her entire life that help her see and interact with the world in a paranormal way. Beyond: Two Souls is being released exclusively for Sony PS3.

The Last of Us

Another game that shows the art of story telling is Naughty Dog’s “The Last of Us.” The game is a post apocalyptic game where most humans have fallen victim to a fungus – nothing new for video games. Where this game has made waves is by making that scenario feel realistic. Resources are slim, survivors are hostile, and it feels like a piece of humanity dies every time someone is killed. A ruthless black market merchant, Joel, has promised his dieing friend to protect Ellie, a 14 year old girl wise beyond her years who doesn’t remember the world as it was. Their struggles we go through with them are visceral and feel real. The Last of Us is being released exclusively for Sony PS3.

South Park: The Stick of Truth

THQ is working on South Park: The Stick of Truth, which oddly made it’s way on to alot of Best of E3 lists from journalists. South Park creators Matt Stone and Tray Parker said that it actually takes alot of computing power to make gameplay that looks as crappy as the animation of the show. They wrote the script, are overseeing the development and providing voices for the project. This surprise was welcome news to the struggling THQ, who fell on hard times after a string of dud games a year ago. South Park: The Stick of Truth will be released for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

Next generation game engines

There wasn’t next generation game hardware, but there was next generation game software at this years E3. Square Enix showed off their new real time game engine that will run the next Final Fantasy. It is unlike anything we have experienced with elements like realistic sparks, blurs from heat, and the ability for many elements to be rendered on screen at once. Epic showed their Unreal Engine 4 engine which was behind closed doors, but since has had images released. That combined with Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs is giving us a glimpse into the games we may play on the PS4 and Xbox 720. But for now, they are limited to developers and shortly for people with $2000+ gaming computers.




What does this mean for retail?

The lack of new game consoles from Sony and Microsoft means that the holiday ground swell of sales surrounding them will have to wait for another year. But games for the current console games will continue to sell well, and this holiday season will surround Nintendo with the Wii U being released.

Microsoft’s Smartglass, the Xbox’s ability to search the internet for media, and the deals they have signed with content networks means entertainment is moving more digital than ever. Both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 are being marketed as “media devices” to appeal to other people than the already saturated gamer market.

There are alot of titles that will cater to the hardcore gamer market. A lot of these titles will be exclusive to the PS3, a first for the console. This should push PS3 sales up, but the Xbox Smartglass is a compelling reason to buy an Xbox as well. Prices may come down for this generation of game consoles to urge gamers to buy a second system if they don’t already have one.

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