E3 2006 rattled the gaming industry


May 29, 2006, midnight | By Simon Kanter | 12 years, 4 months ago

This year's expo takes no prisoners and leaves no holds barred


Every year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo takes over the video gaming world for a week, setting the tone for the year to come. This year, the E3 expo took off with a bang and never looked back, leaving every gamer in a fever pitch.

This year saw the most explosive expo to date with the launch of the "next-generation" consoles, the Xbox 360, PS3 and Nintendo Wii (the Nintendo Formerly Known as Revolution). Not only were prices and release dates set for these new gaming behemoths, but this show saw the debut of some mind-blowing hardware and software for every system out there.

Microsoft

Since the tension built up around the Xbox 360 was already relieved with its 2005 release, Microsoft focused on showing off their upcoming games. So far, Microsoft has queued up a titanic lineup of games, ranging from the shooting games Gears of War and Mass Effect to the hot RPG BioShock to the oh-so-enticing Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball 2.

Gamers also got their first peek of Halo 3, which debuted with a 2-minute video clip made with the game's graphics engine. All the other games at the conference showed similarly stunning graphics which, 10 years ago, couldn't have been replicated with the most powerful computer available.

The elapsed year between the conferences saw almost a plateau in graphic capability. The sheer power of the next-gen processors leaves little room for improvement. But this break in the rabid pace of gaming graphics will actually benefit the industry in the long run, forcing the big names in game development to find other ways to attract gamers.

A great example of this phenomenon in Microsoft's corner is the game Gears of War, a first-person shooter that forces players to rely on teamwork and strategy rather than relying on running into a huge room with guns blazing.

Another stellar story of gameplay over graphics is Will Wright's new concept entitled Spore. In this game, the player starts out as a single cell, evolving through decisions up the biological scale until they rule the universe. This concept is downright exciting, but is far overshadowed by the sheer magnitude of the game; from a molecular level to a universal scope.

Sony

Sony, unfortunately, gave a disappointing performance this expo. Their next-gen console, the PS3, already months behind the Xbox 360, is going on the market at a price of $500 for the base model, with an extra $100 charge for the upgraded version with multi-media capabilities.

Sony is making a huge gamble on the PS3. They have poured millions into the research and development of their new processing chip and blu-ray DVD format. Granted, there are advantages to both the new chip and the blu-ray format — capable of holding 50 Gigabytes of data on a single disc — but is it really worth all that money? In a recent poll conducted in Japan, over 70% of gamers said that they envision the Nintendo Wii, which Nintendo reported will sell for $250 or less, beating out PS3 and Xbox 360 in the fight for the best next-gen system, listing cost as a major deciding factor.

Other problems have plagued Sony: copyright battles, production costs and declining market share in the handheld gaming department are a few of their woes. Their whole production has looked like a slapdash effort to one-up the other two systems. This is evidenced by their impromptu decisions to scrap the high-definition ports on the low-cost model and add a 6-axis motion sensor into the controller.

On the bright side, Sony has stacked up some killer release games such as a Medal of Honor sequel, a remake of Final Fantasy VII and God of War II among others. Not only are these games great, but the graphics are truly becoming of a next-gen system. Also, in an attempt to rival the wild popularity of Xbox Live, Sony is releasing an online gaming forum comparable to that of Microsoft. The only difference is that Sony is offering it for free.

For Sony, this generation is a huge gamble and, depending on how they play it, they could hit a jackpot or miss completely.

Nintendo

According to that same poll conducted in Japan, Nintendo made the biggest splash this year with its release of "Wii," a system named to "emphasize that this console is for everyone," according to its website. The Wii features a revolutionary new controller design called the "nunchuck" system, where the D-pad (which looks like a plus sign) and buttons are on one controller and the analog stick is a completely separate entity attached by a cord.

The great part about this system, which has full motion sensors and a laser pointer, is that actions you make with the controller translate into actions in the game. Drawing back one of the controllers like a bow makes Link pull out his bow and start firing in the upcoming Zelda: Twilight Princess. Crossing the controllers and holding them over your head makes your character parry a sword attack in Red Steel.

Additionally, to the virtually unlimited possibilities built in with this controller, the Wii boasts great graphics and a lineup of 27 games set to release with the console, and all for under $250.

If Nintendo came into the conference expecting to distance themselves from the other systems rather than compete with them, they have succeeded.

Final Analysis

While all three companies came out big this year, introducing new consoles and exciting new games, it seems that Nintendo and Microsoft made the biggest impression. But with an incredibly pleasing price tag (relative to the Xbox 360 and PS3), the Nintendo Wii could end up coming out on top. Regardless of company or console, it is going to be a downright fantastic generation of gaming.




Simon Kanter. Simon "The Food Guy" Kanter is the silliest person you will ever meet. Though his true joy in life is posting recipes, Simon finds time to spend patting himself on the back for his witty remarks, breeding Trogdors, stealing markers, staplers and other convenient appliances, ... More »

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