E3’s come and gone once again. We’re left with some things to be really excited about. Others, not so much. It’s interesting to see how people’s perspectives change from the week leading up to E3 to the week after the event. Going in, Playstation 3 was at the top of most people’s lists and with the backlash following the announcement of the official name of Nintendo’s next console, they were pretty close to the bottom. Since the Xbox 360 is already on the market, Microsoft certainly didn’t have the hype train running full force as they did last year. But that’s not to say people weren’t excited to see what they had to offer. So, how did they all fare and what do we have to look forward to in the coming months? Let’s a have a look, shall we?

Perhaps the most anticipated events at E3 are the pre-show press conferences. This is where all of the big guns come out and and for the most part, where the announcements are made. Being a GameSpot member, I was able to “tune in” live for the big three conferences and find what’s in store the moment it’s announcement – with the exception of the Microsoft conference at least, which was delayed by about an hour. First up was Sony…

Playstation 3

Going into E3, I was super excited to hear when I could get my hands on a PS3, for how much, and to catch a glimpse of the final controller – since last year’s unveiling of the “batwing” controller was less than stellar. Let me tell you, I was one disappointed and down-right angry dude at the end of that conference.

After boring us with stats and sales figures (actually, they only ever mentioned units shipped, not sold), the subject changed to the PSP – where they continued to boast how well the portable console has done. One point in particular, set me off instantly. “…in the US alone, more than 670 non-game UMD titles have been produced. And more than 18 million units shipped to market. And 23 UMD video titles have sold more than 100,000 copies.” He failed to mention that as of February of this year, Paramount Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video and even Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have scaled back UMD production and even cancelled previously announced titles due to poor sales. It might also have something to do with the fact that UMD movies are anywhere from $6-$12 more than their DVD counterparts. I cannot wrap my head around the idea of paying that much more for the same product and having to watch it on a 4 inch screen with headphones. On the flip-side, there were some cool new enhancements announced that will be rolled in the coming months. A camera, GPS and Voiceover IP phone service were among those mentioned.

When it came time to talk about the PS3, one of the first things mentioned was backwards compatibility. It’s been promised that the PS3 will be able to play all PS2 and even PS1 games. This is hard to believe as it’s been mentioned that the PS3 is using software emulation for the older titles, similar to how the Xbox 360 handles Xbox titles. Hopefully they’ve found a better solution for backwards compatibility via software emulation than Microsoft and we will indeed be able to play every game from the PS2 and PS1 library, but I’m not holding my breath. The PS2 literally has parts from the PS1 built in, which is why it plays PS1 games flawlessly. This won’t be the case with the PS3 and it’s really hard to imagine emulation being that rock solid. But I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Next up, they brought the creator of the Gran Turismo series on stage to show off “Gran Turismo HD”, which was essentially GT4 with boosted visuals at a higher resolution. They showed a bunch of footage from a couple different tracks that looked like a replay video. Sure, it looked nice. But how do we know this isn’t a pre-rendered video like they the majority of the stuff they showed at last year’s E3? Not impressed at all, and that’s not to mention this is the 5th game in the series. Nothing like promoting something new with something old.

After the GTHD demo, they went over to an eye-toy demo of a PS3 game where they basically dropped cards on a table and characters popped out of them and battled in a turn-based fashion. They moved the cards around under the characters and it was cool to see their hands and the cards looking as though they were apart of the action, but it just seemed very gimmicky.

Playstation 3 Controller

They continued to show more pre-rendered trailers and announced a few more sequels, the same old sports titles and some more Japanese war games that feature massive battle sequences that we’ve seen so many times before on the PS2 and even the PS1. Overall, boooring! Finally, they get to the controller. It’s a fuckin’ silver DualShock. Are you kidding me? The same tired design that felt dated on the last console is back. I’m sorry if there’s fans of the controller out there and I know last year’s “batwing” controller was ridiculous – but this is beyond lame. Even now, picking up a PS2 controller after using an Xbox controller feels like a rinky-dink, cheap toy. Not to mention the primary control mechanism is still a d-pad. Playing a FPS or a third person action game where you control the camera with the right stick is no fun when you have average hands and you have to sit there with your thumbs positioned merely an inch and a half apart. Oh, but we haven’t gotten to the good part yet – what makes it unique. It has motion sensing capabilities. You can twist and turn the controller and whatever’s on screen will react accordingly. They went into a demo of Warhawk – a flying game unveiled at last year’s E3 where some dude flew a futuristic plane by moving the controller around. Needless to say, he looked ridiculous and by the way he was flipping the controller around, it looks like you’ll find yourself with some serious wrist problems in no time. To top it off, they mention that the PS3 controller will be lighter than that of the PS2. So it will feel even cheaper. Oh, and there won’t be any rumble. At least two out of the four shoulder buttons are analog. Yes! I found a positive! That was tough…

To wrap up the conference, they announced the price points and release dates for all markets. There will be two models of the PS3 – one with a 20 GB harddrive at $499 USD, the other with a 60GB harddrive at $599 USD. It will be released in Japan on November 11, 2006 and all other markets the following week, November 17. At this point, after so many disappointing moments, those numbers and the two models were like a slap in the face. It was and still is almost impossible to get a premium bundle of the Xbox 360. Think that, plus 3 colour variations. I can picture it now – I’d want the more expensive package in black and I end up having to settle for the cheap one in white. Not cool at all. But hey, Sony’s not Microsoft and maybe they’ll have their shit together for launch and actually have enough stock to go around. After all, the PS2’s launch was… oh, wait. I remember seeing a PS2 for sale behind the counter at a pizza shop for $900.

So, that was just the press conference. There was still the entire week to straighten out that mess with awesome, playable game demos and maybe some cool shit to announce that they purposely left out of the conference. But that didn’t exactly happen. Things just seemed to get worse for Sony. There were reports (GameSpot, Joystiq) that Sony had tacked-on the motion sensitivity aspect of the controller merely “a couple days” prior to the conference and in interviews when asked about controller, most developers stated that they weren’t aware of the motion sensitivity before the announcement at the conference. There was even a post on IGN which has since been removed, stating that one of the playable demos on display for the PS3, Assassin’s Creed was running on an Xbox 360. Ouch!

Needless to say, Sony dropped the ball big time. I was seriously thinking about picking up a PS3, but now I really don’t know. Maybe if a third party releases a better controller and there’s some awesome games released at launch. It’s gonna take a lot to sway me in that direction, though.

Still to come – my thoughts on what Nintendo and Microsoft brought to the table and a look at the games that have me right stoked.


Comments

lol damnit matt, i’m in the middle of writing my e3 wrap up article for a ps3 site and i check my feeds and i see you did one, and then you started your almost the same as i did. get outta my head!!! anyway good article, considering you’re a xboxer, i’ll links ya to my article once its done.

Even though I’m a Microsoft Fanboy I totally want PS3 to succeed. I love GTA, I love the final fantasy series and I love Metal Gear.

Why don’t they just stick to making a sick PS2+1? It seems like they are watering down something great to make it compete with two different things (xbox live + wii)

On the other hand, if the ps3 sucks too much — hopefully those titles will jump over to the WII or Xbox:)

Heres another fun fact about the PS3 core and premium pack differences, the core will NOT have a HDMI port. What does that mean?

Well with the next gen movie discs publishers can put a flag on it that says unless this disc is being played via a content protected port downsample to 480p which is normal SD DVD resolution.

It also lacks WiFi support.

There is also a rumour saying that it doesn’t have bluetooth so wont support the wireless pads, wether this is true or not I don’t know.

The price is just daft for the PS3 it really is, and Sony’s online service doesn’t look to be any different to the MS one.

Theres a video of the conference and when they discuss the online service and say it’s free they give a load of things included like voice chat, video chat, friendslist but no where on the slide does it mention online play/matchmaking.

And with regard to the controller, it is easily the worst controller I have ever played with, I never got on with the dual shock pads. I end up having to bend my thumbs and wrists at unrealistic angles and after about 30 minutes I have to stop. Sony not designing a new pad with a layout which promotes using the thumbsticks shows they are running out of ideas, like stealing the motion sensing technology which according to a number of reports coming out of E3 was only added in a few weeks before E3. Oh yeah and they took out the vibration feature completely.

On a sidenote, could do with a bigger box Matt 😛

Ditto on pretty much everything you have to say about the PS3. Even if the price was right, I’d still pass on purchasing one. And the "new" controller? Please. Like you said, that style felt outdated on the PS2 and now we’re going to have to use it again? As if adding motion sensors is really going to make up for the analog stick placement, lack of rumble and the need for a more comfortable grip.

Sony drops the ball on almost everything these days, so I’m not surprised. I own a PSP, and I’m happy with it, but I have and never will purchase a UMD when I can buy the same movie cheaper on DVD and rip it to an AVI for free.

Sign me up for a Wii and an Xbox 360, but the PS3 can stay on the shelf.

Either way, I’m still buying a PS3, and I will still like it. I really don’t mind sub-par graphics or controls (although this may be a problem if the controls are terrible) if the gameplay is good, and the PS3 still have some of my favourite titles like Ratchet and Clank and Final Fantasy XIII, as well as PSP connectivity.

(also, you have a typo: "At least two out of the four _soulder_ buttons are analog. Yes! I found a positive! That was tough…")

Needless to say, Sony dropped the ball big time.

Very well said Matt. I will be passing on a PS3 until either they drop the price or release Metal Gear Solid 4. This holiday season I’ll be picking up a Nintendo Wii and Gears of War for the 360.

I find it very odd that you left PC gaming for console gaming, and yet, consoles have become more-and-more PC-like. Maybe it’s time to return to the motherland of PC gaming? 😉

@eric: What PS3 site do you blog for? I may have an Xbox 360, but that doesn’t mean I’m a total fanboy or anything. It’s the only next-gen console out right now. Depending on the price point and game line-up at launch, I’ll most likely get a Wii.

@BPAndrew: Seeing how MS already snatched up GTA4 at launch, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some other Sony exclusives jumping ship.

@Stewart: Yeah, I purposely left most of what you said out because I couldn’t find solid sources. They were all full of "supposed" and "apparent". Guess we’ll have to wait until the official packages are released to find out what the differences are.

In regards to the online service – from what I’ve seen and heard, their free services doesn’t differ from Xbox Live’s Silver membership… which is free. And as you pointed out, no talk of online gaming just yet which would really separate them from MS if they include that for free.

@Patrick: Sounds like you’ve made up your mind! Sony really hit some people where it hurts this time around. Not good at all for them when there’s people saying they just won’t buy their console and it’s not even out yet.

@Devlin: Thanks for pointing out the typo.

@David: Oh shit, Gears of War – can’t wait! If MS can get Lost Planet out in Q4 as well, they’ll blow Sony out of the water.

@Matt: I abandonded PC gaming mostly because of the hardware headaches and cost associated with that. Man do I ever love simply turning on my console and playing a game. I don’t know how many times i’d sit down at my PC and 45 minutes would go by and I still haven’t played the game yet. Worst.

I only watched the Nintendo one, and to be honest it just blew me away. I’m a seasoned *sigh* fanboy, but still, they keep on coming up with stuff to topple even might HD.

I honestly think the Wii has a chance to get a foothold in the industry, especially with the DS proving people will buy abstract titles in their millions.

The only thing keeping the PS3 kicking around’ll be GTA and Final Fantasy (both of which I love, but that’s beside the point).

I totally forgot about Lost Planet! I was on the fence about this game UNTIL playing the demo. Once I got my hands on it and experienced the mechanics myself I was sold. If that comes out this year (which it’s supposed to) that along with GoW will make up most of my holiday gaming.

I was majorly dissapointed in the lack of playable demos. Everything I’ve seen I just yawn at because I know it’s just pre-rendered CG crap (like the Project 8 footage). In any case, it just feels like Sony is pushing the PS3 harder than their developers can keep up. I think they simply don’t have enough done to show anything… but they don’t want to feel like the kids with their pants down at E3 so they filled it all up with filler.

All in all dissapointing… but I’m still stoked for the PS3 release (given they give it enough time to work out the kinks).

Nice post Matt, I also was disappointed by Sony’s effort, I think the great show showed by Nintendo clearly affected them, especially since the PS3 was just more of the same,…literally the same, as we got the same old controller and an unimpressive HD demo from GT4.

Thanks

I can’t honestly think of a good reason to buy a PS3 at the moment… Blue Ray I suppose, but I couldn’t care less about that at the moment.

The only reason I never bought the original Xbox was because of Pro Evolution Soccer being (until recently) a PS2 exclusive, and that’s debuting first on the 360 too…

There is only Metal Gear left now, really, and Kojima has hinted about the 360 in the past anyway.

They still haven’t mentioned any sort of joined up Online gaming service yet either. I have a feeling it’s all going to be decentralised peer-to-peer crap like there is now. No match-making or central servers…

Ho Hum.

I was on the border line going into E3, the PS3 looked fantastic and It was on my "to buy" list. After seeing what they had to offer I was left feeling a bit dissapointed, sure the MGS4 trailer was amazing but they really had nothing.

It just seemed to be disappointment after disappointment, first it was the controller then the game demos were mediocre, gah then the price!

Unlike Microsoft who stole the show in my eyes, Gears of War was the highlight for me, it was simply amazing. I flipped out when I GTA4 was announced. Not to mention Xbox Live Everywhere, since my next computer will be a PC (still keeping my Mac) I can’t wait to play people cross platform.

Matt, even though I love the Playstation Dualshocks, I’m gonna have to agree with you about the lack of innovation… here’s my two cents:

I REALLY, REALLY want Metal Gear Solid 4 (especially after seeing the 15 minute trailer), but that would be the only exclusive I care about. I don’t want to spend 400-600 dollars on one franchise that I love dearly. ERRGGGHH!

Wii will win the console wars this generation, in my opinion.

This post is a magnet for comment spam, and while they never get published, they’re a huge pain in my ass to moderate.