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May 29, 2006

E3 2006 rattled the gaming industry

by Simon Kanter, Online Managing Editor
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.



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  • pratik on May 29, 2006 at 12:15 PM
    if they really are remaking FF7, i might get a ps3 just for that...best RPG game i've played yet...
  • Bick (View Email) on May 29, 2006 at 8:01 PM
    I'm really interested in seeing how well the Wii's controller performs. And as cool as an FFVII remake sounds, are gamers really going to pay $600 for one game, when The Wii also allows downloads of most of Nintendo's old games? Also, sorry to sound like a sony basher.
  • dont worry about my name on May 29, 2006 at 8:06 PM
    you should wait untill all the graphic potentials are reached for the systems that way youll know wich is better and the price will be lower
  • simon kanter (View Email) on May 29, 2006 at 11:09 PM
    to d.w.a.m.n.: Here's the graphics previews/overview so far. Xbox360 came out strong with some good demos but failed to show up front when the hardware outstripped the software because of time constraints on game development. The next gen of games, though, looks amazing and will begin to fully realize the potential of the 360. The PS3, which has been in development longer, may see a similar trend because they completely redesigned their chip (I don't know how or what that means, but it could result in programming wrinkles or roadblocks that need to be worked out over time). The Nintendo Wii will have substantially reduced graphics capabilities (relative to the other systems), amounting to what one IGN.com writer described in a roundtable discussion on the price of the Wii as about 1.5 times the graphic power of the GameCube. In other words, they won't be quite as good, but they'll be awesome none-the-less, and good enough at any rate.

    to Bick: Word on the street has it that the Wii's controller performs with stunning accuracy. If you have a good internet connection, check out some of the game trailers on the gaming websites (like gamespot or IGN). In all the games I've seen, the developers have programmed in an on-screen icon that represents where the controller is pointing (it's the fairy in Zelda, for example). The tracking looks amazing, and the amount of hardware and sheer potential packed into these controllers should offer gameplay that the other systems can't. However: let it be known that third party companies are currently working on similar types of technology for the other two major systems. It's not that the xbox and PS3 can't do what the Wii controller does, it's just they can't do it yet. And don't worry about Sony bashing. A lot of people have been complaining about them lately (although if you check out a list of their release titles, there are some pretty sweet ones besides the FFVII remake).

    to pratik: heck yeah.
  • Bick (View Email) on May 29, 2006 at 11:12 PM
    But graphics have very little to do with overall gameplay... they just look nice...
  • Druss (View Email) on May 30, 2006 at 7:11 AM
    PlayStation 3 Blu-Ray will give lots and lots of read errors. Forget playing PS2 or DVD media it will kill the drive.

    Forget using it to play movies - with a crappy 12 month limited warranty and the high possibility of it dying around that time, it's a very expensive way to watch a movie.

    I think Wii is cool - no doubrt that's the one to own. XBox 360 is OK - it will be a safer bet than Sony particularly with an external HD-DVD.
  • cat_inthehat on May 30, 2006 at 1:58 PM
    *coughnintendofancough*
  • ? on May 30, 2006 at 6:41 PM
    Hey, quick question... wew you acyually AT E3?
  • bob white (View Email) on May 30, 2006 at 8:05 PM
    the biggest dissapointment about sony, (and a misprint in your article) is that god of war 2 was by far the best looking game they were showing and it's for the ps2, not the ps3. it's pretty sad when you have a title for your old system that looks better and plays nicer than the ones for your new, high fangled one.

    bob.
  • bob on May 31, 2006 at 8:10 AM
    Since when does E3 NOT "rattle the gaming industry"?

    Spore was previewed last year, as was the Xbox360. The PS3 hardware was announced and shown.

    This year, we have Sony making more PS3 promises, and the Wii being previewed.

    Big stuff happens at E3 every year. There's nothing that makes E3 2006 special.
  • ihatenintendo on May 31, 2006 at 1:31 PM
    this is supposed to be the HD generation of video gaming, but Wii won't even support HD

    I don't see how the Wii will be any better than the gamecube

    why would you pay $250 for something when you get something else of the same quality (ps2, xbox) for a lot less?
  • Will Wright Fan on June 4, 2006 at 9:33 PM
    SPORE LOOKS AMAZING!!!!


    I cannot wait until March 2007-----SOO LONG TO WAIT!!!!

    ::cries::
  • ish (View Email) on June 5, 2006 at 3:53 PM
    Nintendo wii is the best as it's controller adds a whole new side to gaming which will attract millions. Also it can download sega mega driv, nes, snes , n 64 and turbi grafx games which means it's got looads of cool stuff and the potential of wii connect 24 is amazin..
  • stevo (View Email) on August 6, 2006 at 11:39 AM
    PS3 IS THE BEST
  • AJ on September 1, 2006 at 10:34 AM
    MAN i cant wait till the halo 3 comes out for xbox 360!! WOOT CANTT WAIT!!
  • What is sony thinking? on September 5, 2006 at 10:22 AM
    Sony is not doing well. ps2 was below xbox, in my opinion, due to the number of times it breaks down and the frequent "disk read error" problem. Now they put a 500$ price tag, a good 150$ more than the xbox360, and expect it to get pay off? I know that i would definitely get an xbox 360 over an overpriced successor to a system which broke down far too often.
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