Are You Ready For E3?

What has or hasn’t been said and confirmed about the Xbox One’s online requirements? Is Nintendo going to be at E3? What does the PS4 look like? Why is it called the Xbox One?

If you have asked any of these questions, know that you are not alone. E3 is next week, and to most of us that is not news. It is no secret that people like you and I have been counting down the days until this year’s biggest gaming-centric event since late-June last year. For us, the year revolves around E3, and this year is no different. Even so, there has been so much confusion revolving around all three of the big console manufacturers, and it is time to clear the air.

-MICROSOFT-

The most controversial subject of 2013 has easily been Microsoft’s Xbox One. After almost 8 years, Microsoft has announced the successor to the Xbox 360. It was incredibly underwhelming. Many of the dreaded rumours about always-on connectivity were vaguely mentioned, leaving both fans and press confused. Microsoft’s lack of clarity (on many subjects) only indicate that they will have to readdress the controversial topics next week.

However, you may have not watched the Xbox Reveal. That is alright. Let me fill you in, as impartially as I possibly could.

Going into the event, there were a lot of questions. Rumours have been spinning out of control for the past 6 or so months, and the majority of gamers weren’t too happy about what they were hearing. These rumours included the requirement for always-on internet connectivity, required Kinect, Always-on Kinect, and the blocking of used games.

Keeping in mind that the PS4 was revealed months in advance, it was a no-brainer that Microsoft would show what their console looks like. And that they did. Along with that, they even gave us the controller and all-new Kinect.

The next 50 minutes of the 1 hour conference, however, left many people disappointed. Once again, I am trying to remain impartial. This is not my bias speaking, but the entire IGN community. Take a look for yourself.

It took about 40 minutes for Microsoft to present a single game. It has been said that they never promised any games at this event, but they still didn’t even try to appeal to their most important fan-base; the gamers who have helped make the Xbox a household name. Dismissing that, however, there was still a problem. The problem was that the rumours earlier stated turned out to be true. While they didn’t address them directly at the conference, multiple respectable members of Microsoft has confirmed most of this information shortly afterwards. Phil Harrison told Kotaku that the Xbox One needs to be connected online once every 24 hours in order to run both single-player and multiplayer games. Many are still confused, however, due to some terrible PR phrasing;

“The system does not have to be always connected, but Xbox One does require an internet connection”

Also, here.

Let me make something crystal clear. SimCity (2013) is somewhat infamous for a less-than-acceptable launch. Its always-on connectivity policies made the game unplayable for about 3 days. There is absolutely no debate that SimCity is an “always-on” game. However, you can play up to 20 minutes offline. After the 20 minutes are up, you must connect to a server in order to store the recent progress you have made offline. Whether the time is 20 minutes or 24 hours, it is still a requirement. Thus, the Xbox One requires internet. It prefers it to be always-on, but it must be connected at least once a day.

That wasn’t the only bombshell on May 21. Gamers were up in arms over the “used games issue”. Allow me to explain what all the hassle is about.

Remember online passes? Sure you do! They were those codes that came with almost every multiplayer game in the last 2 years. From Uncharted 3 to Battlefield 3 to Mass Effect 3, it felt like every game had one of those things bundled with it. The idea was that you needed an online pass in order to play online. If you bought the game used, however, you would need to purchase the pass for a small fee, which was on top of the price you paid for the game.

Online passes, which are thankfully on their way out, were used in order to prevent gamers from buying a used game. Used games are sold cheaper than their new counterparts, but the money goes solely to the distributor. The people who make the games get absolutely nothing from the purchase. It is almost understandable why publishers would start such a nasty trend like the online pass.

Microsoft is taking the debate, however, to a whole new level. Instead of taxing those who buy used games, they have come up with a new tactic. The Xbox One will not play used games. New games will come with a one-time-use code. The disc is installed onto the Xbox One, and then it can’t be used by anyone else.

There are a lot of problems with this, however. First of all, gamers can no longer buy used games. Microsoft is taking an almost anti-consumer approach to their war on Gamestop. Secondly, if you own multiple Xbox Ones, you can’t continuously swap them unless you are constantly signing in and out of your account. Furthermore, you cannot bring your games to your friends house, unless you want to sign in and out of your account again. This would make sense for a digital copy of the game, but physical copies don’t naturally have this constriction.

All of this, however, doesn’t even touch upon the biggest problem with blocking used games. The biggest problem is that you, the consumer, must instal the game completely onto your Xbox’s harddrive. The Xbox One will have an internal drive, meaning that it is not swappable, of course. What does all of this mean for us? It means that we will fill our harddrives relatively quickly, because of all the mandatory installs, and then have to carry around USB sticks to play our games. It sounds like an absolute disaster, to say the least.

This brings us to E3, the event focused on pleasing gamers. Microsoft has made just about everyone upset, and next week, they will have to make it up to us. Their policies and their box is not going to change, so hopefully the games that they show will outweigh all the nastiness we have had to put up with. Considering how little we know about Xbox One games, it hopefully goes without saying that they will have an onslaught of first and third-party games to show. However, if not, this wouldn’t be the first time they ruined E3.

-SONY-

I would like to think that Sony has put themselves in a good position going into E3. They have multiple exclusives already announced and in full force. The Last Of Us’ embargo was just lifted, and the game has been received admirably. Beyond: Two Souls has been welcomed with open arms at the Tribeca Film Festival, and a bunch of next-gen outings are already out in the wild, being led by new Killzone and Infamous titles. Already, it is easy to see that there is a lot that Sony can talk about. With that said, E3 is all about surprises. What has the second half of the Naughty Dog team been up to? What does the PS4 even look like? Will we hear pricing and launch date information? These questions, and many more, will surely be explored next monday.

-NINTENDO-

No, you have not been sleeping for the past two decades. Nintendo has just been operating like they are stuck in the 90s, according to EA’s senior engineer. Needless to say, this puts them in an awkward position come E3-time. Let me explain why.

This story starts quite a while ago. Anyone who is old enough to remember marketing in the 90’s will tell you that Nintendo used to have sharp teeth, figuratively speaking. They were once the king of the industry, and had impressive tech to hold off that position. While one might be perplexed by the business strategy, Nintendo decided, a little less than a decade ago, that they might be able to get a free ride solely with their brand name. The Nintendo Wii was grossly underpowered compared to its competition. While the system had an incredible launch period, it only lasted a few years. Eventually, everyone’s Wii started collecting dust, and Nintendo thought it would be wise to roll out a new console earlier than its competitors. The Wii U was born, and with it came a lot of headaches for Nintendo.

To begin with, it is not as powerful as current generation consoles, so it struggles to pick up notable third-party support. The bigger issue is that new consoles are being released this holiday season, which will leave the Wii U looking as technically impressive as the Wii did seven years ago. The most notable problem that Nintendo has faced, however, is its new console’s name. With perhaps the least marketable name in console history, the Nintendo Wii U has lost the casual market due to confusion in the family scene. People identify “Nintendo” as the manufacturer, and the “Wii” as the product. The Nintendo Wii U is just too similar to the Nintendo Wii. Without the core, and more educated, market bringing the console home in the first place, Nintendo is left with less-than-stellar sales, to say the least.

That leaves Nintendo desperate. It is getting harder for them, and their dated hardware, to impress the core market that they should have woo’d initially.

But that is not what all the buzz is about. If you have read any electronic media news outlet in the last few weeks, you have probably heard that Nintendo is not holding an E3 conference. This decision is an incredibly unwise move partly in tune with the philosophy behind Sony and Microsoft’s debut conferences. Let me explain the strategy.

There have been electronic media events for the past many decades, and they always generate a lot of talk. E3 is the most notable event revolving around video games. However, there are many other conventions and conferences for products such as televisions, phones and computers. Apple started a trend that broke away from this model. They thought that their products might be lost in the noise surrounding these conventions, so they held their own events. When Apple holds their events, only Apple products are discussed, obviously. Ever since, companies like Microsoft and Samsung have followed. The PS4 was announced at an exclusive event, so all the coverage revolved around Sony. The same applies for the Xbox One.

Nintendo has been conducting many “Nintendo Direct” videos for the last year and a half. Nintendo Direct is a video series that is meant to capture the same essence of these exclusive conferences, except they are held entirely online. The strategy is sound, and even a little safe. However, cancelling E3 in favour of this has presented a lot of problems.

Let’s gloss over these problems:

1) Holding a Nintendo Direct during E3 eliminates the purpose. The Nintendo Direct is a smaller production, thus it will get less coverage during a very busy week.

2) The only people that watch Nintendo Directs are dedicated fans and press. The series has not gain the reputation of an Apple Event, and are rarely reported on outside of the usual suspects (IGN, Kotaku, Destructoid, etc.).

3) Nintendo has caused a lot of confusion by saying that they will not be at E3. The few people who care may very well be under the impression that Nintendo will be silent this year.

4) Nintendo Direct is not marketed strongly outside of Nintendo-based networks.

Nintendo will be at E3. They will have their games on the show floor, as well as…..American Best Buys? They, however, will not have a traditional conference, but will instead be showing off their games via a Nintendo Direct early Monday morning. You can expect a new 3D Mario title for the Wii U, A Link to the Past 2, and Super Smash Bros. if Nintendo is to be believed.

***

There you go. Do you feel all caught up? Well, you shouldn’t. There is so much to be offered at this year’s E3, it is almost impossible to recap it all in one small blog post. For starters, Mirror’s Edge 2 is rumoured, and borderline confirmed at this point, to make an appearance from EA. Dragon Age 3: Inquisition is probably going to be demoed as well. Bioware’s new IP from the team that brought us Mass Effect is no longer speculation. Watch_Dogs will get its final E3 appearance, after last year’s strong unveiling. Bungie will be presenting a gameplay demo of Destiny. Will we hear some of EA’s plans for the Star Wars franchise? There is clearly a lot to be covered. This E3 is to be one of the strongest, most exciting conventions yet, and all that is left is one question; Are you ready?

And no, I don’t know why it is called the Xbox One, either.

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