Gameological At E3

Microsoft E3 2012 press conference

Pump And Smear

The Microsoft we saw at E3 2012 has abandoned its ambitions to advance the state of video game art.

By John Teti • June 5, 2012

The centerpieces of E3 week are the console makers’ press events, and each company brings its own personality type to the proceedings. Microsoft is the nerdy rich kid who doesn’t have much personality of his own, so he buys social standing by throwing a killer birthday party. No expense is spared to make sure that Junior’s day is extra special. A few years ago, Microsoft had The Beatles at its press conference! And the year after that, Microsoft gave away brand-new Xbox 360s as freaking party favors. Microsoft figures that if it wows the crowd with a big show, everyone will talk about the event, and nobody will talk about Microsoft’s pimples. It usually works. I don’t think it will work this year, despite the best efforts of Usher and the South Park guys.

Sony’s press conferences are overlong and feature a gradual crescendo of desperation. The company is, in essence, a possessive, insecure friend. He seems cool at first. You start to think, okay, this Sony fellow is a pretty good egg, and we’ve had some good times together, after all. Lots of nice memories. Then it’s hours later, and Sony won’t let you leave your seat because “No, wait, you have to hear about this Twisted Metal remake I’m working on. It’s going to be so great, and you’ll play it right? We’ll play it together, forever? And hold on, I just want to say one more thing—look at these PlayStation Network subscriber data pie charts, amazing, right? Please tell me you like me.

Nintendo is an aging child star who can’t resist leaning on his old shtick. For the majority of its press conference, Nintendo will talk about its forward-thinking ideas—how it’s a serious artist now, producing sophisticated work that appeals to new audiences. Then in the last half hour, as it feels the crowd’s interest flagging, Nintendo will be like, “Hey, guys, REMEMBER THAT TIME WE MADE A ZELDA GAME?” And the crowd will cheer, and theme music will play, and Link Meets Kid Icarus Meets Bowser Kong Jr. will be revealed, and Nintendo will attempt to convince everyone in the room—including itself—that childhood never has to end.

That’s how things have gone in the past, anyway. We’ll see what comes this year. As I write this, I’ve just emerged from Microsoft’s press conference, and I can tell you that at least one out of the three companies has remained true to form. Microsoft may not have had The Beatles, but it did have Joe Montana (reading candid lines like “Wow! This is actually pretty sweet!” off the teleprompter), South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Usher. The brilliance of those stars, though, was not enough to obscure a very thin showing by Microsoft.

The company trotted out a parade of sequels, many of them shooters—Halo 4, Splinter Cell Blacklist, Call Of Duty Something Something—and all of them predictable. The loud, extended Call Of Duty demo was grueling, but not as painful as the press conference’s middle stretch, during which Microsoft touted one inane home-entertainment boondoggle after another.

Microsoft E3 2012 press conference

The company really wants you to know that if you have an Xbox Kinect, you can talk to your TV and tell it what to watch; they don’t want you to know how frustrating and impractical it is to do so. As if people won’t immediately discover this on your own. The company announced new partnerships with “content providers” like Paramount and ESPN. You can now watch more things made by those companies on your Xbox. And then there was the endless demonstration of Microsoft’s “SmartGlass” technology, which augments your TV screen with software accessories on your smartphone and tablet.

The best demo case that Microsoft could muster for SmartGlass was a hypothetical situation in which you are watching Game Of Thrones and an interactive map pops up on your iPad (well, they showed it on a “Windows 8 tablet,” but c’mon). So you can look at the map while the show plays in the background. You know, instead of paying attention to Game Of Thrones. Nobody wants to do this.

Microsoft’s new strategy is to pump and smear, like someone squeezing ketchup onto a hamburger bun. They plan to pump the Xbox full of more television, more movies, more music—and then smear all of that content around, across multiple devices. Little care is given to the structure or purpose of these actions. An initiative called Xbox Music was announced at the event; it somehow transforms your music library by spraying it onto your TV, phone, and iPad, because don’t you hate how uncomplicated it is to listen to a song these days? None of my colleagues seemed to understand what Xbox Music does or why it needs to exist. But Microsoft isn’t thinking about “why.” It’s pumping and smearing, pumping and smearing, in the deranged hope that the result will be a delicious hamburger, rather than a soggy mess.

Microsoft E3 2012 press conference: Trey Parker and Matt Stone

As the Microsoft executive prattled on about how Smart your Glass will become in the future, the mood in the room grew very cold, as attendees’ boredom curdled into quiet rage. Parker and Stone, the South Park creators, provided an impromptu release valve by acknowledging the reality in the room: Parker went on a quick riff about how his South Park game would not communicate with your smartphone, or your refrigerator, or your oven. This got a big laugh, and so the most memorable moment of the event was one in which the on-stage guests mocked Microsoft’s multi-million-dollar marketing push.

The South Park game offered reason for hope, but mostly because—unlike the majority of the games on display today—you couldn’t tell exactly what it was the moment its logo appeared on screen. Madden NFL 13? Dance Central 3? Next verse, same as the first. The South Park promo offered little enough detail that we can still hold onto some notion that perhaps it will surprise us. And there were other tantalizing snippets, like LocoCycle—a motorcycle game of some sort by the makers of ’Splosion Man—and Matter, a game that involves a high-tech orb. These paltry descriptions, though, should give you an idea of how thin this event was.

It feels unfair to write that, to sit back and say “pish-posh, a little thin.” We critics pine and plead for creativity, and then we show up at this annual event and say, “Show me what you’ve got.” We ought to recognize that this isn’t quite right. Creativity and inspiration don’t happen on a schedule, and it’s folly to expect that every June, right on cue, Microsoft will be able to provide some epochal leap forward.

I would feel worse, though, if the titans of the game industry hadn’t set up this E3 boondoggle themselves, and if they didn’t bill it as a showcase of “innovation”—a word that once meant something special but now is used primarily a marketing term for forced obsolescence.

And Microsoft, more than anyone, has cast itself in the past as a purveyor of ideas. Three years ago, the technology that would become the Kinect was unveiled. It was sold to the audience—somewhat farcically but with a shred of credibility—as a major artistic moment rather than a mere technological innovation. The visionary developer Peter Molyneux showed us a boy named Milo, who not only spoke but listened, suggesting a broader consciousness than we had come to expect from video games. Milo would eventually meet an unkind fate, but at the time Microsoft promised that he was the avatar of a new ambition.

Microsoft E3 2012 press conference: Usher

That ambition, if it ever existed, was stunningly short-lived. Kinect is now used for pointless gimmicks, as with the Splinter Cell developer today who said “Hey, you!” into the Kinect microphone to distract a foe. There’s also Wreckateer, a game for those of you who have always wished you could play a version of Angry Birds that forced you to stand rigidly in front of your TV and make careful, intermittently detected arm movements to guide each bird. To be honest, Wreckateer still looks kind of fun, but it also looks utterly disposable. Is this what Microsoft was dreaming of in 2009?

The company has disproven its own thesis. The premise of those early Kinect presentations was that an advance in technology is, by itself, enough to spur something truly new in the video-game art form. Yet the industry has simply taken the new tool of Kinect and found ways to incorporate it into existing formulas. The Kinect proved not to be a creative force but merely an enhancing force, and those “enhancements” are dubious. The big-budget game industry right now is built to create only a few types of games, and no “breakthrough” technology can jar it out of that rut. It’s the overall development system that needs fixing, not the gadgetry.

Is this cause for distress? When you’re sitting in a huge auditorium and Microsoft’s vision of gaming feels like the whole world, yes it is. In the light of day, you realize there is still a community of independent developers who are doing the hard, risky work of experimenting with new forms and ideas. They are the wellspring of fresh perspective. E3 presents a distorted view of the games world—it’s the domain of the big studios, and it doesn’t give these smaller-scale creators their due. So while the show can at times make it seem like games are doomed to repeat themselves, I don’t think it’s cause for panic.

Cause for disappointment, though? Certainly. It’s not so much that Microsoft has failed in its ambitions. Trying and failing would still be admirable. The distressing thing is that the Microsoft we saw at E3 2012 has altogether abandoned its ambition to rejuvenate the games its customers play. The art form and the larger cultural conversation benefit—even those plucky indies benefit—when the bigger players make an effort to move the needle. Microsoft is no longer trying to move anything; it just wants more of what it has. My hope and belief is that Microsoft can’t will an art form to stand still.

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777 Responses to “Pump And Smear”

  1. Cloks says:

    This is the best E3 coverage I’ve seen. Looking forward to more of these as the week goes on.
    How about that Watch_Dogs, then? It looks like it combines the best parts of AssCreed and Deus Ex HR into what could be pretty good.

    • Merve says:

      Watch Dogs didn’t absolutely blow me away, but it did impress me. Hopefully, they find a way to make the entire game as seamless as the demo. I’d also like for the game to feature several ways of completing an objective. I could imagine for instance, that instead of causing a pile-up by switching traffic lights, the player could have simply sniped at the artist as he drove by.

      It was a pretty gutsy move of Ubisoft to end their presentation with a brand new IP, and one that was thought-provoking and featured lots of non-shooty, non-explodey bits at that. They must really have had faith in the material’s ability to wow the audience, and it’s nice to see that taking a creative risk can pay dividends, at least in the short term. We can only hope that the game turns out as good as it looks in the end.

      And man, this game is really taking its stylistic cues from DE:HR, isn’t it, right down to the colour scheme: brown filter with white-and-cyan menus. Well, the filter used in DE:HR was more golden, and the menus also featured lots of yellow, but it’s hard not to see the resemblance.

      • Destroy Him My Robots says:

        I thought Watch Dogs looked pretty cool, but then they had to put a serious damper on that when they revealed that in the end, the main mechanic is cover-based third person shooting, because of course it is.

        But anyway, kudos to Ubisoft for showing a staggering two new IPs while EA took ten minutes or so to remind us that BF3 and TOR are still things. On the other hand, Ubi had that “Female president taking our rights to ‘enhanced interrogation’ resulting in a terrorist takeover” thing going on with Splinter Cell, prompting the presenter to remark “Sam Fisher truly is a hero of our time!” Yuck. But even that didn’t manage to outdo Medal of Honor: Warfighter — and I still can’t believe this is an actual title — with its “Fight in real-world hotspots” selling point. Pretend to be part of actual operations where actual lives are lost, but for fun, from your living room, and set to Linkin Park! Sorry if I come across like a video game-centric Jesse Ventura, but God, that bothers me.

        • Swadian Knight says:

          Nothing compares to Microsoft ending their presentation about how they want their technology to be involved in every part of your everyday routine with the trailer of CoD: Black Ops 2, a game with the premise that hostile forces would take control of everyday technology as a means of war.

          I can just picture the enemy general/big bad screaming “Kinect: Kill The President Of The U.S.A. !” in his living room.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          @SwadianKnight:disqus “I killed Jenna Elfman. Was that right?”

          …and all of that neatly brings us back to Watch Dogs’ premise of a computer net that analyzes your behaviour and subtly influences your world view. Try the online multiplayer!

          I already nodded in agreement when you said that in the live chat, so have a free like. I won’t be able to make it to Nintendo, but keep fighting the good fight, everyone. I’ll definitely check the replay.

        • Merve says:

          @DestroyHimMyRobots:disqus: I don’t know if third-person shooting will be the “main mechanic” of the game. If it’s anything like DE:HR, it’ll be one of the many mechanics, and one that you might not have to use all that often. But I’ll agree that there was quite a lot of shooting in this particular demo.

        • A_N_K says:

          Medal of Honor: Warfighter?!? I missed this and refuse to believe it is an actual thing.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          @Merve2:disqus You’re right, that wasn’t the best way to put it. But shooting was what got the job done in the end, and the game seemed set up to handle it this way, since the curse-y guy gave us the gun in the cutscene. Just having him killed in the car crash and wandering off would’ve really made me happy. We’ll know more in a couple of weeks though.

        • unknowncast says:

          Well, nobody else was depicting their games with real-life terrorist factions (and still aren’t) and since Medal of Honor started the WW2 trend, I’d guess they felt that had the credentials to use real-life events and bad guys to base their reboot on. I’m still peeved that the multiplayer will be just international special forces against each other instead of also real-life terrorist and militia groups.

          “On the other hand, Ubi had that “Female president taking our rights to
          ‘enhanced interrogation’ resulting in a terrorist takeover” thing going
          on with Splinter Cell, prompting the presenter to remark “Sam Fisher
          truly is a hero of our time!” Yuck.”

          The Fifth Freedom: The right to kill, steal, spy, interrogate, etc, to ensure that the freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear are protected. Sam Fisher did save Maryland from a nuclear bomb, saved Los Angelos (and perhaps the entire world) from a weaponized smallpox virus, prevented North and South Korea from reigniting the Korean War, stopped American terrorists from blowing up New York City, and saved the Executive Branch from a coup d’etat.

          Then again, the concept of the Fifth Freedom sounded cooler in the year 2002 and as a 14 year old boy…

      • unknowncast says:

        I’d more argue the HUD is more reminisce of Assassin’s Creed or even any of the recent Tom Clancy games. Also, depicting Chicago in brown has been becoming a bit of trend since Batman Begins or longer.

  2. RidleyFGJ says:

    It says a lot about their presentation when the best moment was a surprisingly well-timed barb from South Park co-creator Trey Parker:

    “How many times have you been watching
    an episode of ‘South Park’ and thought; ‘I’d like to be able to watch
    this on my television, while hooked into my mobile device, which is
    being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven all
    while sitting in the refrigerator?!’ ”

    I imagine that everyone present in that conference that laughed at that joke (and I imagine that was everyone) was also bitterly reminded of how painful the build-up was to that moment.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      This obsession with inter-connectivity between a slew of devices that have no business talking to each other is such a lame premise. It’s been tried before, if I remember correctly, such as with the idea of using the GameBoy as a controller for the GameCube (or the Nin64?), which didn’t pan out.
      And in general, aren’t there more pressing matters? Making the limited amount of content shared over streaming services show up on multiple screens at the same time isn’t going to plaster over the fact that streaming services themselves are still flawed and about as all-encompassing as a 1995 Verizon cover map.
      Why can’t these show-off extravaganzas remain true to their form? Comic-Con hasn’t seen an actual comic in years, E3 is turning into the Multimedia Con (which I am sure already exists) and the last Roleplay convention I went to (years ago, mind you) was a 6,000 squarefoot flea market.

      It’s like Sten says: “No one has a place here. Your farmers wish to be merchants. The merchants dream of being nobles, and the nobles become warriors. No one is content to be who they are.”

      • Swadian Knight says:

        You make an excellent point – none of this “innovative” technology is particularly new, and the entire gimmick has never worked before. 

        Honestly, though, my biggest problem with it is that I just don’t see any potential for it, and can’t imagine a situation where this service would be necessary. If I’m watching a movie or tv show and have to do something else, I would much rather just pause it and return when I can focus than stream it into my iPod to watch from the corner of my eye while I concentrate on making a sandwich or whatever.

        And the other ‘functionality’ they showcased – added content to be streamed along with the tv show – is not exactly something I’d need Smartglass for. If I want to look at a map of Westeros while I watch Game of Thrones, I can just pull up the smartphone I already own (something MS made a big deal of) and fucking google it without talking to myself like a fool.

        • The_Misanthrope says:

           I think Sony and Microsoft are pretty much  trying to keep people brand-loyal until they can get the next console generation into stores.  And since I’m not sure that there will be a big tech leap forward (correct me if I’m wrong) in the next generation, Microsoft is probably testing out features (and getting people used to them) for their next-gen Multimedia Swiss Army Knife.

          Every time the end of a console generation nears, I almost always feel like the old-gen system still has potential if they’d only keep developing for it.  So it’s no surprise that, despite my rant about the 360 video interface I posted elsewhere on this article, I am not looking forward to the eventual journey to obsolescence, as the games and services all migrate to the next-gen system.

        •  The_Misanthrope gets it. MS doesn’t seem to care about 360 right now because, well, they don’t. We’re close enough to the next generation of consoles that there’s undoubtedly a half-dozen AAA titles being secretly prepped for that still-unannounced console, which we’ll hear about it in at least some detail in less than a year.

          So of course they’re not going to bring their A-game or take bold new directions on a product they’re going to flat-out abandon in, likely, less than two years.

      • gaugebozo says:

         Hasn’t two screens (one with touch sensitivity) worked with the Nintendo DS?

      • Fiero1987 says:

         When I hear about how this or that device will connect to this or that other device I always just assume that it’ll either work for a little while then inexplicably stop, that, or just not work at all. Because that seems to be my experience with this sort of thing so far.

      •  It’s sort of different now though. Back when the GBA had connectivity with the Game Cube, consoles were consoles. Now they’re set top boxes where you can stream things and go on the internet and stuff. To be honest I am more likely on any given night to watch something on Netflix than play a video game, and I’m willing to be that a lot of people are in the same boat.

        Console manufacturers aren’t content to stay in the same box because things are changing.

        Also Dragon Age was a really dumb game.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           “Also Dragon Age was a really dumb game.”

          We’re not going to be friends, are we?

      •  Thing won’t let me reply to your reply, so I’m gonna reply to this post.

        Sorry man, Dragon Age was really dumbed down even compared to NWN. The tactical gameplay was shallow and the magic system was full of elemental palette swaps. The weakness of the combat put the onus on the writing and quest design to deliver and those have always been real weaknesses of Bioware’s. Quest Design especially took a big step down in Dragon Age because they used MMO Style quests as filler.

  3. caspiancomic says:

    Man, I wasn’t expecting earth-shattering innovation from Microsoft, but I didn’t think the diagnosis would be this grim, either. Of all the motion control dead ends the industry has jumped on, I think Kinect had the most promise, and you see a lot of people doing really cool, really unofficial stuff with that device. It’s pretty upsetting to see something that could so easily change everything we know about the medium, or at least open up totally unexplored avenues of it, sitting around collecting dust between rounds of Kinect Adventures.

    I also wasn’t expecting to read the phrase “pump and smear” so many times today.

    • Girard says:

      “I also wasn’t expecting to read the phrase “pump and smear” so many times today.”

      Well, I was, but in a totally different tab of my browser…

      • Merve says:

        The ketchup enthusiasts’ tab?

        • Girard says:

          I’ve overshared!

          I mean…Uh…What are you talking about? Of course not!

          ::Hastily closes several tabs of saucy ketchup sites, clears browsing history::

        • Dikachu says:

          @bakana42:disqus I bet you were the only guy in America to vote for Kerry in 2004 because of his wife, not in spite of her.

        • Girard says:

           @Dikachu:disqus  Actually, at that time I was in school in Pittsburgh, where the Heinz name looms large.

          But of course, like half the country, I voted Kerry for exactly one reason: he was not George W. Bush.

        • gaugebozo says:

           “saucy” ketchup sites! Ha-HA!

      • Effigy_Power says:

         With that title, it’s too fitting that the link was improved by Daenerys sticking out her chest. Not sure how “pump and smear” translates to women, but well… I am willing to be flexible here.

        • X_the_Anonymous_Man_or_Woman says:

           I can think of some things but they aren’t for polite conversation.

    • evanwaters says:

      I think a major problem is the Kinect isn’t good at registering actual locomotion- actually moving your on-screen dude from one place to another- so most of its stuff is on rails. The Wii (and Motion Plus) and the Move have ways to input directional controls at least.

  4. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    So, basically, the Big Three haven’t changed much from two years ago:

    I remember the first glimpses of Kinect’s “amazing” innovations, like that stupid racing game where you held your hands out like you were holding a steering wheel to turn…but couldn’t accelerate or brake.  Or the “raft” game where you had to jump once in a while…

    And oh boy…stupid Star Wars pop songs that you can dance to and embarrass yourself and anyone within 2.3 miles of you!

    The only people using Kinect for anything COOL are the ones who repurpose it in hover drones.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Physical therapy is getting a lot of great things out of the hardware, so are psychotherapists and psychoanalysts. The ability to record movement so intricately (when it works) without holding a controller is a godsend for a lot of people in the field of disability and mental retardation.

      Analrapists however are still waiting.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         There are two kind of people in the world:  people who got the referenced joke in the last line of  @Effigy_Power:disqus ‘s comment and stupid people with no taste.

    • Dikachu says:

      I’ve stuck with Sony’s PS line mostly because they work to improve on the core of what makes games great (faster system, better graphics, best controller ever made) rather than trying to “branch out” with gizmos and gimmicks that only serve to complicate games rather than enhance them.  The only real gimmick to the PS3 (other than that wand-controller accessory thing that I’ll never buy) was the Blu-ray drive which wasn’t really even a gimmick as it allowed them to increase the size of textures and content to make their games look even better.

      I’ll still never forgive Nintendo for releasing awesome Zelda games on such an overwhelmingly underpowered system (Wii) with such a shitty gimmicky controller.

      • Mike Ferraro says:

        Whoa whoa whoa best controller?  With convex triggers  and sticks that your fingers slide across?  Accidental PS button presses slipping off the stick?  Short cord so you can’t play while charging, and the controller won’t charge when the system is off?
        And Blu-Ray doesn’t enlarge textures, available RAM does — the PS3 has the same total RAM as the XBox but splits it into two zones to annoy developers, functionally making the default behaviour “half res textures”. When you use all the memory effectively, your loads are longer than XBox because PS3’s Blue-Ray has slower throughput than the XBox’s 12x DVD.

        I have all the systems and am a game developer, I don’t have a dog in the “fight”, but it’s interesting to see the system’s weaknesses touted as its strengths.

        • Dikachu says:

          I made the simple assumption that with a 25GB disc you could hold more textures than a 4.7/8.5GB DVD… am I wrong?

          As for the controller, there’s a good reason it hasn’t changed substantially over three iterations, and why USB game pads for PCs tend to look exactly like it.  I can’t say I’ve ever accidentally hit the PS button in many years of playing.

          Sony’s never been easy to develop for, though, I’ll give you that.  I worked for a studio that was porting a PC game to the PS1 and it was a goddamn nightmare for the programming team.

        • JoshJ says:

           Agreed. I get sore spots on my thumb pushing on the edges of the xBox controller, and wish they had the convex, textured sticks of the PS.

        • gaugebozo says:

          I was under the impression that throughput was great on the PS3, but if Mike is right, amount of textures on the disc don’t matter if you can’t display them. The Xbox just would have you use 2 DVD’s, which is not really that big of a problem.

        • Mike Ferraro says:

          Yes, I forgot to say the pro of the big disc is you can hold more space-eating content, like video, without needing to have/change multiple discs.
          For example, games like LA Noire or Max Payne need 3 or 2 DVDs to hold all the content that fit on one Blu-Ray.  It’s only total content that increases, not the fidelity of content on a single frame.
          Except there’s the chance that your game is so giant that you end up compressing textures more than necessary to fit on one disc, compressing more than they need to fit in memory.  But nobody has really done that since we moved past CDs.  Textures are not the limiting factor for game size.  When you only have memory for a few hundred megs of textures and models, your game just can’t eat through 10s of gigs of textures.  Compression and re-use is already cranked to keep the memory footprint down; the idea that disc space makes the screen shots higher fidelity is kind of absurd.

          If you want to hear a half-hour dissection of the history of controller development, there’s the back half of this audio podcast  1:23 is where he starts ranting against it.  You don’t have to agree with him, and he does go overboard, but I think he’s right.  You like it if you’re used to it and grew up with it, not because it’s actually good.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Hey, sony were the first to jump on the motion control bandwagon; It’s easy to forget about it now that nearly no game uses it, but sixaxis controllers have motion tracking. Remember when every other game was saddled with lousy motion control minigames?

         The image I have of Sony, at least post-PS2, is that of a bunch of extremely talented engineers without a gamer bone in their body throwing raw power and features together and hoping it somehow takes off.
         Oh, and the douchiest business people in gaming. Man, I never thought I’d hate another company more than Microsoft. How wrong I was…

  5. Enkidum says:

    The trouble with Kinect is that right now it’s got reasonable face recognition, pretty good limb recognition, and fairly shitty voice recognition. In order to actually be the kind of magic box they want it to be, I think it would need at the very least hand tracking, and if not finger tracking, then at least the ability to distinguish between, say, 10-20 standard hand configurations (index pointing, waving, palm down to accept something, palm out to push something away, etc). If you could get it to do that, then you really could start doing cool things with it, I think.

    Unfortunately Microsoft just doesn’t seem to have anyone working for them who is able to actually innovate, or their process seems to suck all the innovation away. So they just created the hardware, some mediocre games, and left the rest up to the industry, who are rightfully wary of doing much with it since it’s a huge investment with no payoff for them.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       I think the Kinect could be helped massively by making the player wear a multicolored glove, which paints the fronts and backs of fingers differently as well as separate the digits.
      The problem is that Microsoft is so obsessed with the whole “You are the controller and nothing else is needed” slogan that introducing any sort of gadget would spawn schadenfreude from the other two equally stuck companies.
      Mind you, I’d still prefer wearing two thin gloves to waving around Sony’s butt-plug controller.


        I’ve always thought Sony’s controller looks more like the magic wand to me

        hey guys, the Playstation will both enhance your gaming experience AND make your girlfriend cum! 

        • Dikachu says:

          They probably market it like that in Japan.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           It looks more like the Acuvibe, a Magic Wand knockoff that doesn’t even try to market itself as a back massager.


    • Shain Eighmey says:

      Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head there. Maybe I’m just very late, but I’m still not sold on the whole “motion gaming” thing because I haven’t seen any title that has been made vastly more enjoyable because of that method of control. Actually, I’m mostly seeing the exact opposite, great looking games that are ruined by limitations posed by motion controls. 

      I’m keeping an eye on things at E3 for something that finally brings an innovation that makes me feel like I’m missing something with motion gaming, but so far I haven’t seen it. 

      Has anyone spied anything from E3 that could be a contender?

      • Merve says:

        Motion control always reminds me of the silly motion games they used to have at kids’ museums when I was growing up. (Be an NHL goalie!) That’s why I can’t take the Kinect seriously.

        • Mike Ferraro says:

          Too many people saw Minority Report and forgot that pressing a button or flipping a switch is inherently fun and rewarding: tactile response creates light/sound — your brain connects your physical action to the result directly.  Not “I wave my hand in this specific way and it asks an agent to carry out my request a short time later”

  6. The_Misanthrope says:

    Dear Microsoft,
    I don’t give a damn about all this new stuff you’re rolling out because you still have to fix the damn video player interface.  I understand when you conceived of it you thought people would want to have half their screen obscured with a black bar anytime you access the menu and that those same people were definitely sick of being able to sift through all the episodes of a show on Netflix and choose exactly which one I want to watch without first having to load up the last episode they watched.  If this was your impression, you need to hire a better market tester, because those are horrible ideas.  Also, why we’re at it, nobody wants to spend 150 bucks on the ability to replace a few button presses with their voice instead. 


    gee, remember in the old days when E3 used to actually get people excited?

  8. X_the_Anonymous_Man_or_Woman says:

     I’m still annoyed with the latest dashboard myself. Mostly the part where I have to waste a button press to get to the games tab because the stupid video tab is in the way.

    That and it’s menu system is crap.

  9. Adam Johnson says:

    Microsoft: Based on sales, we know you like Halo, CoD, and sports. Consume.

  10. Josh Drimmer says:

    Nice piece, but seriously, no release date for Link Meets Kid Icarus Meets Bowser Kong Jr.? And what about the Waluigi rumors? We need to know now!

    • Dikachu says:

      I’d be happy if they’d put out a solid iteration of the basic Super Mario Bros/World/Galaxy formula every 1-2 years, rather than cluttering their shit up and wasting everyone’s time with crossover gimmick games.

  11. Eager to see your criticism of Ubisoft’s presentation, if ever there were a presentation crying out for criticism, it was theirs. 

    •  Did they brought back that fucking Mr.Caffeine guy from E3 2010?

      Because fuck him.

      • Merve says:

        Nope. But they did have a lot of banter between co-hosts Aisha Tyler and Toby Turner that some may have considered cringeworthy, which might be what @twitter-467458488:disqus was referencing.

        • kateburning says:

          I actually think Ubi has done the best job actually showing games of anyone. Toby Turner was terrible, but I didn’t mind Aisha Tyler (LANA!) 

  12. I wasted 90 minutes with “POWER OF KINECT!”

    Come on Microsoft, you’re a competitor to Google and Apple outside of gaming for God’s sake. Bring that professional edge to E3 instead of “POWER OF KINECT” for 2/3ds of the event. You don’t need to make gaming “more mainstream”. it’s already mainstream enough.

    Atleast Black Ops II looks cool. And props to Parker & Stone for pointing out how fucking stupid Microsoft’s Marketing is.

  13. Afghamistam says:

    Today I’m mostly wondering if I would have any interest in gaming at all if at the back of my mind there was a tiny little voice whispering “Maybe Square will remake Final Fantasy 7 THIS year? I know they’ve always said it was impossible and it would never happen, and even if it did I know you’d be disappointed… but what if?”

    •  Hopefully, but it all depends on the Japanese market when it comes to JRPGs like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.

      Alot of the changes in the FF series happens due to the trends in Japanese pop culture. FFVII was based on anime, whereas FFVIII and FFX was based on high school J-doramas where every main character looks like Jun Matsumoto. And the reason why FFVII moved from N64 to Playstation was because of bigger anticipation for the Playstation than the N64 in Japan. And of course, FFXI and FFXIV happens due to the popularity of MMORPGs. And FF Type Zero was made with popular Japanese voice actors like Kana Hanazawa and Tomokazu Sugita in mind which explains its success compared to other recent FF games.

      So, a FFVII remake will happen if the Japanese public wants it. If there’s a popular demand for remakes or reboots in Japanese pop culture, then there’s a likely chance for a FFVII remake.

    • Dikachu says:

      Ugh, fuck that… they remade FFIV for the Nintendo DS and it looks AWFUL.  Especially since the original was so great and needed no real improvement.  I was so goddamn disappointed that I could only play a few hours in and gave up… and fired up my ZSNES emulator to play the original.

      Any FF remake at this point will serve only to turn the game into a glorified J-rock fashion show.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I know a lot of people are clamouring for a VII remake, but honestly I don’t understand it. I feel like if Squeenix remade FFVII they would try to shoehorn all the crappy overblown Compilation mythologies in to the main game, and include the dozens of characters that are about a third as memorable as the cast of the original. Plus, due to simple hardware limitations, Tetsuya Nomura had to actually demonstrate a bit of restraint and taste in his character designs, which he would be free to ignore on the PS3. We’ve already seen him put cloud in a half-dress buckled to his sleeveless turtleneck with a door knocker shaped like a wolf in Advent Children, does anyone really want to see where it goes from there?

      Plus, FFVII just doesn’t need much in the way of updates. I mean sure, the graphics haven’t aged perfectly, and almost every time they’ve remixed a VII tune for a new game the end result is better than the original track, so the music would be amazing, but besides that? The mechanics are great, if a bit buggy, the story is wonderful, although crying out for a copy editor, the characters were fun and memorable (and way different than most people remember them: Cloud spends something like 80% of the game being nowhere near “emo”), what more do you want from a game?

      The only angle I really understand is the money angle. If Square remade VII it would sell approximately three copies for every living organism on the planet. I actually commend Square for realizing that more VII would probably make them all billionaires and going the “new games and stories to flesh out the world” route, rather than their usual straight “four re-releases and a remake within two years” route. The way I see it, Square should be trying to forcefeed us a Final Fantasy VII remake and the fans should be turning their noses up at it, not the other way around.

      • Dikachu says:

        I agree with pretty much everything you said… If they had someone with some semi-human aesthetics do the redesign of the characters, I might be down with it, but I can’t take another retina-destroying Goodwill reject-bin explosion like FFX/FFX2/FFXIII/FFXIII-2.

      • Afghamistam says:

        I’m under no illusions: Any interest in a remake from me would be due to the shallowest, crudest nostalgia: They could make the game exactly as is but for some graphical sheen, or they could redo it entirely with a bloated nonsensical Expanded Universe version of the story – I don’t care, just take my money!

        As for the art style – personally I didn’t really have time to find the Advent Children aesthetic objectionable because I was too busy saying to myself “What exactly is going on?” and “Are those three Jenova clones the most retarded characters I’ve ever seen in any media ever, or just anime?”

        On consideration however, a Zelda/Ghibli-style cel-shaded look is obviously what any update would demand if I had anything to do with it.

        Also: NO voice acting. There’s a reason FFX was the last game of this franchise I played…

        • caspiancomic says:

           For what it’s worth, I actually quite like some of the Compilation stuff. It’s just that as far as I’m concerned, at the end of the day the good and the bad all get thrown into a big burlap sack labelled “non-canon” and thrown down a garbage disposal. Advent Children is pretty to look at, but as far as I’m concerned, humanity went extinct at the end of Final Fantasy VII.

          Idea: Want a remake of FFVII? How about an Evangelion style “Rebuild of Final Fantasy VII”? Same characters, same world, same basic plot, but with a story that streamlines in some places, embellished in others, and totally rewrites elsewhere. Might not stick, really, but it could be an interesting experiment, maybe for the Vita if not a full console release, and has a bit more artistic clout than a straight up spit-shine remake.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Incidentally, try the new Quiz show called “Most retarded X ever seen in any media ever, or just anime?”, Mondays on ABC.

        • Afghamistam says:

          How about an Evangelion style “Rebuild of Final Fantasy VII”? Same characters, same world, same basic plot, but with a story that streamlines in some places, embellished in others, and totally rewrites elsewhere.”

          Approved. No way they go about it going to satisfy everybody – might as well go for what has the biggest artistic merit.

  14. JokersNuts says:

    “…that childhood never has to end”

    And since there are always new young people who want to play video games, and older gamers who are turned off by most of todays market, it never has to. 

  15. JokersNuts says:

    “you are watching Game Of Thrones and an interactive map pops up on your iPad” — This annoys me so much, because not only is a map printed in every edition of the book, but you can easily GOOGLE SEARCH a Map of Westeros in about 5 seconds!

  16. Thomas Crane says:

    There was nothing in the Microsoft press conference that made me want to plug my Xbox 360 back in and buy a Kinect. Xbox Live still remains the biggest rip off in the history of ever. It’s still just a paywall for me to use my Xbox for services I already pay for, and can use for free on other devices.

    • LetoII says:

      Amen to this. Sixty bucks a year to use Netflix streaming and YouTube? And occasionally play online games with other people? Cut it down to twenty and we can talk.

  17. Kevan says:

    I hope you plan on doing write-ups for Nintendo and Sony. This was fantastic.

  18. MSUSteve says:

    Nice article, Mr. Teti.  The only thing that springs to mind that MS showed at its press conference that was both good and entirely its own was Halo 4.  Yeah, I know we’re all supposed hate sequels and decry the end of creativity in video games, but I really like what I’m seeing out of 343.  And I’m not usually a big Halo fan.

    That said, the other first party stuff that MS showed was pretty underwhelming if not downright dumb.  Who asked for this SmartGlass stuff?  I physically cannot watch two screens at once.  Am I supposed to pause Game of Thrones while I consult the map on my iPad?  If you watch GoT via HBOGo on your PC you can get extra features and content, but it displays on the same screen and any little doodads or mini-docs you look at causes the player to pause the episode while you do so.  I cannot believe SmartGlass got so far down the line without anyone (apparently) asking, “Does anyone want this?” or even “Does this make any sense at all?”

  19. themanwecalldave says:

    This article does a great job balancing snark/sarcasm with real information. Well done.

  20. TuxedoMonkey says:

    They’re right, I’m tired of being able to instantly control my television by moving my finger an inch to the side on the remote. I want to be required to wave my arms around and yell until the voice recognition understands me.

    This is the difference between features that solve existing problems and features that create new problems.

    • Effigy_Power says:

       It does sort of tamper with the enjoyment of sloth I greatly seek when sitting in front of my screen.

  21. A_N_K says:

    I wasn’t paying strict attention during the Xbox Music presentation–too busy thinking up not-so-clever Zune jokes–but I didn’t see all that much added functionality.  If you want to, you can already stream music stored on your computer to your TV via your xbox, provided you have Windows 7, a feature I’ve taken advantage of exactly zero times. 

  22. kateburning says:

    I wonder if reception to SmartGlass would be different if they had been announced at a different event – say CES. I think MS could have benefitted greatly by focusing on games and not music and TV. It just wasn’t what the audience was expecting/wanted. (Although if there is something Kinect is great for it is yelling at Netflix when you can’t find the remote.)

  23. I’ve found myself underwhelmed by E3 2012, but I’m also struggling to think of what I wanted to get out of it. Maybe some reassurance that the new Tomb Raider game wasn’t going to be as obsessed with brutally torturing a young cowering Lara as the advertising has led us to believe? To be fair to it, the gameplay we saw was interesting but who wanted a gritty emotional back-story to Lara Croft? Microsoft just didn’t seem to care about its game output, which is a shame. They’ll use Halo as a crutch for the next few years. Nintendo may rely on its big names a little too heavily but they’ve treated their big name franchises well and offered some creative variations in the products. When Metroid starts trending on twitter because people have automatically been comparing Halo 4 to it, that’s a problem (also, I want another Metroid 2D game. And Earthbound re-release. And news on the Schafer Kickstarter product.)

    • Shain Eighmey says:

      I find myself in the same position. I think what I really wanted from E3 this year was to see new ideas in gaming, even just big ideas that aren’t really games yet. Instead it’s just product after product, most of them being so similar that I can’t properly recollect them from each other a day later.  

    • unknowncast says:

      I’m a Kickstarter for Adventure yet I haven’t even checked out what info they’ve been showing for us yet. =S

  24. Saint Stryfe says:

    MS has to be pretty conservative when it comes to Xbox – they don’t have a successor lined up for the near future, and the Games division is the only thing keeping MS from floundering under its own weight. 

  25. frogandbanjo says:

    The thing that has always confused me about Microsoft – and confuses me progressively more every year – is why they’re not pushing to simply merge console and PC gaming explicitly through both hardware and software simultaneously.

    Why not introduce the concept of the “home server” (with a fancy-ass name of course) to the public, and advertise it as an all-in-one, multitasking beast that can let junior play video games on the TV in one room while it also does the grunt-work for Mom’s spreadsheets that she’s drafting on her touchscreen or phone, while it also lets creepy Uncle Rick search for horse porn while locked in the attic, etc.? 

    Computer, internet, TV, video games, tablets, phones: one central monolith, all wires into one box, all other devices subservient and connected via either wires or wireless.

    Microsoft Home.

    If they could sell that, Nintendo and Sony would piss themselves.

    • Merve says:

      I have three possible explanations for why we haven’t seen this yet:

      1) It’s in development and will be unveiled alongside or as part of the next-gen XBox.

      2) It’s a logistical nightmare to set up, not only from a technical perspective, but also from a commercial one. Getting smartphones, tablets, TV, and Internet to all communicate with the same device will probably require partnerships and software development deals with a whole lot of different companies, many of which may be unwilling to take a risk on unproven technology.

      3) Microsoft would rather charge you separately for a tablet, a smartphone, a video game console, and a copy of its operating system for each of your PCs because they’d make more money that way.

      I think 2) is the most likely out of the three options.

    • The Tuck Pendleton Machine says:

      It’s a logical evolution of technology and use-cases, absolutely.

      And it does fit with the entire trend of cloud computing-perhaps we’re moving more toward terminal interfaces rather than each of us using true, independent (and powerful and expensive) computers.  I think that’s inevitable, with everyone’s content and data stored on virtual drives and accessible/editable/playable by a range of different devices, both for work and entertainment.

      But that’ll take time, not least because companies are pushed for all-important Growth, and selling a single box wouldn’t allow them to Grow revenue in their different departments and verticals.
      After all, the Kinect has turned into a glorified speech-recognition machine; why not just install the software onto XBox and allow people to use their existing multiplayer headsets to use the voice control? (hint: there’s too much capital and ego on the line to drop the Kinect hardware package like that).

    • CrookedPaul says:

      So your question is, Why doesn’t Microsoft make a system that can do EVERYTHING and connect to EVERY other type of device? Well, because any basic cost/benefit analysis says it’s a very bad idea:

      It would take a LOT of time and money to solve all the technical hurdles involved, not to mention legal rights and licensing. The final product would be very expensive to consumers — you can’t build an “all-in-one, multitasking beast” on the cheap. 

      So they’d be spending a lot more to develop the system, and people would have to spend a lot more to buy it, but there isn’t a big payoff. Why is it better to use one central device to accomplish all these things (games, computing, interwebz) rather than multiple devices specifically designed for their tasks?

      • frogandbanjo says:

        I guess my counterargument to that would be… doesn’t the PC already fit this mold, only more limited? You can play video games, browse the web, do spreadsheets/word/powerpoint, all that jazz. Phone OS’s are very similar to that now too. So I can appreciate your licensing/legal rights argument (though these companies are constantly suing each other already anyway, so what changes?) but I’m not sure your technical/investment argument makes much sense, especially if we’re focusing on video games. Why does Microsoft have a console? Why not just push the PC, where they have zero competition from Nintendo and Sony in terms of a baseline OS?

        I suppose my more video-game-specific question is that, while maybe the console/PC distinction was a big deal when the first XBox came out, is it, and/or should it still be?

        • CrookedPaul says:

          Microsoft has a console because it’s a closed system that they control. They make money by selling hardware (especially peripherals), charging for the Xbox Live service, and of course from the licensing fees that gamemakers pay in order to publish titles for the proprietary system. DRM in the console discourages piracy.

          Microsoft makes very little money from PC gaming unless some Microsoft-published PC game sells very well. They don’t get licensing money from other PC game developers, nor subscription money from Games for Windows Live, nor proceeds from overpriced proprietary hardware. Also, piracy is absolutely rampant for PC games. (Piracy of Windows itself is widespread, too.)

          To answer your question, the console/PC distinction might not seem significant if you’re just looking at the games. But consoles and PC gaming run on completely different business models. It should be no surprise that PC gaming doesn’t have a corporate champion, because there’s no moneymaking advantage in it.

  26. Phillip Collector says:

    You want to know why Microsoft didn’t focus on games more? Short answer: because they don’t have to. See despite their lousy showing at some press conference that the average Joe doesn’t even know exists, more people will still buy third party games for the 360 than any other console. In other words, it doesn’t really matter how bad Microsoft’s E3 conference was because they’ve already got the gamer audience.

    Complain as the core audience might Microsoft is still going to buy a shit ton of video games for the 360 this holiday season.

    What’s the other reason they didn’t show that many games? Because it’s the end of a console cycle and they’re killing time before the next cycle starts. This is an obvious one and probably way I wasn’t as disappointed with Microsofts as others were. Yeah it was a total snooze, but it was completely expected to be a snooze. At least it was for me.

    And lastly this has noting to do with anything but I just wanted to say:

    Video Games! Put ’em on the glass!

  27. wshandling says:

    I’m curious what your preferred alternative to a bloated show that’s long on over-promising and short on content would be, and whether you genuinely believe that show is in Microsoft’s best interests?

    As you admit, it’s not reasonable to expect that every June, there will be a groundbreaking technology, idea or innovation to unveil. But by the very nature of the event, they’re pretty much committed to putting on a big spectacle no matter what. A major part of this business is perception, and they probably feel (rightly so) that they can’t afford to be perceived as weak or disappointed in their own output.

    I can fully see how the show may have been just a big shit show, but am not sure there’s any way around that. If nothing else, by virtue of the fact that they’re pot-committed just by showing up to do something big, even if the content it represents is small.