The Bright Side of E3

Was E3 really as bad as everyone says it was? Well, maybe, but it did have some redeeming factors as well...

If I were a gaming publisher, I would absolutely hate (hate!) E3. Sure, it's a high-profile chance to tout the latest breakthroughs in technology and the biggest splashes in software, but how in the world do you deal with the expectations?

Who wants to play pre-recorded songs via air guitar pantomime?

On one hand, if you simply go about your business as usual and simply treat E3 as a place to announce things that you've been working on with the general public, chances are all of your news is going to be old news by the time E3 comes around. Netflix integration in the Xbox 360, Wii Music, God of War III...these are all things that were all but common knowledge before E3 happened, so the "announcements" that happened at E3 were anticlimactic at best, and painfully awkward at worst (Wii Music, particularly, has yet to offer anything resembling an absorbing play experience, particularly in an age run rampant with music and rhythm games).

On the other hand, if you play your cards close to the vest in order to make a big splash at E3, as Nintendo tried to do with their Wii Motion Plus add-on, you risk alienating a large segment of rather important people as well; third-party developers are now upset at Nintendo for not offering their technology sooner, though doing so would very likely have resulted in a leak to an all-too-anxious gaming press.

Of course, the result of all of this negativity are countless articles yelling about how "dead" E3 is, how awful Nintendo and Sony did in their presentations (making a so-so presentation from Microsoft look like a standout), and how boring it is in its new, journos-only, two-years-and-running private party form.

What gets lost in all of this crying and gnashing of teeth is the fact that E3 2008 actually had a few moments that made us sit up and say "Wow!", or "whoa, cool!", or "WTF?!". As one to try to focus on the positive, I'd like to offer five moments that made E3 not quite as bad as everyone says it was. Of course, what better announcement to start with than...

5. Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars Announced for the Nintendo DS

Seriously, did anyone know this was coming? Prescient readers could have seen another Guitar Hero DS sequel on the way sooner than later, and the idea of a Prince of Persia DS game is awfully appealing, but really, GTA? I have to admit, if GTA was going to appear on a Nintendo system, I assumed the Wii would come first, but the possibilities of a DS GTA game are enticing. Me, I'm hoping, just a little bit, for a return to the birds-eye view roots of the series, though I doubt that such a dream will become a reality; still, Grand Theft Auto in any incarnation is bound to be a tremendous time killer for anyone who owns a DS.

4. Sony Unleashes Destined-to-Be-Classic PSN Downloads

For entirely different reasons, Fl0wer and Fat Princess look utterly fantastic. Were you one of the souls taken in by the hypnotic qualities of Fl0w? Did you just stare and stare at the patterns in the muted blue, entranced by the vaguely aquatic soundtrack? Oh, you're gonna love Fl0wer. Fl0wer looks like it takes the general game design of Fl0w and puts it in a sort of "real world" environment, with petals and pollen floating in the wind rather than abstract shapes in a watery setting. Whatever it turns into as far as game design is concerned, it looks gorgeous. Fat Princess is almost exactly the opposite, a crude little game with enough quirk to charm the hardest of hearts. Joystiq described it as something along the lines of a "capture the flag" style game where the flag is a princess that you can keep feeding to make her harder to carry back to an opposing base. Oh, did I mention that it's going to be a 32-player simultaneous slugfest? Things is gonna get ugly...

3. Stephen Fry Narrates LittleBigPlanet

The most recent voice of "The Guide" (from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) signs on for a video game. That Mr. Fry would be involved in this particular video game venture seems entirely natural and utterly perfect.

2. Music Game Peripheral Compatibility Reigns Supreme!

Rock Band 2 will be compatible with all of the current Rock Band instruments and Guitar Hero guitars. Guitar Hero: World Tour will be compatible with all of the current Rock Band instruments and Guitar Hero guitars. After all of the gnashing of teeth and veiled insults and general ill will that accompanied the past year's fight between Activision and EA over whose peripherals would be compatible with what games, it's almost impossible to express what a sigh of relief it is to see that both companies are getting a clue and not expecting us to buy even more silly plastic drums, guitars, and microphones. Those willing to shell out the big bucks might get extra features like a bonus cymbal or a better strum bar, but nobody's going to force us to upgrade, no matter which "instruments" we already have. Suddenly, it's a fantastic time to be a rhythm gamer.

On a somewhat related note, Guitar Hero: World Tour's "Hot for Teacher" may actually kill me:

1. Final Fantasy XIII Coming to Xbox 360

This, folks, is a headshot. A game long assumed to be one of Sony's last and most desirable exclusives (just below Metal Gear Solid 4 in the system-selling category) is going to the Xbox. Maybe I'm so thrilled about this because, well, I don't exactly have a PlayStation 3 (I'm saving my pennies!) and I've been an uncurable Final Fantasy addict since IV blew my mind so many years ago, but this is just huge news for anyone who picked Microsoft in the ongoing console wars. Of all the E3 announcements this year, nothing left my jaw on the floor longer than this.

See? E3 wasn't all bad.

What did you think? Was E3 as awful as the press and the message board hordes are making it out to be? Better? Worse?

Even more important - what did I miss? Let me have it in the comments below.





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