Hello again everybody, and welcome to the most exciting time of the year for gamers. The annual E3 expo happened this week, and with it came all the big reveals and exciting announcements we’ve come to expect from the world’s biggest gaming showcase. This week I’ll be talking almost exclusively about E3; taking you through the PR nightmares, disappointments and highlights of the next-gen console war, all the new games you can look forward to playing on aforementioned next-gen hardware, and more videos than you can possibly watch in one sitting (unless you’re Wesley Fick). It’s a lengthy one this week folks, so find a comfy chair, stay hydrated and hit the jump.
The biggest thing to come out of E3 was of course Sony and Microsoft going head-to-head with their next-gen consoles. Most of the relevant information has now been revealed, and the general consensus is that Sony came out looking a lot better.
Just to summarise: the Xbox One requires an internet-connection every 24 hours, the games are region-locked and while they can be loaned to friends, there are a number of requirements which need to be met and this feature won’t be available at launch. DRM restrictions are being placed in the hands of the publishers, but Microsoft have put measures in to facilitate this. This applies to used games as well – fees are in the hands of the publishers, and the exact workings of the system are not fully understood yet. A price-tag of $499 has been set for the console.
The PS4 on the other hand has no online requirements, no region-locking, no DRM restrictions (including on used games) and games can be freely lent to friends. A price-tag of $399 is attached to Sony’s console, with the Playstation Eye being available separately for $60. One disappointing announcement for PS fans is that they would now have to pay a subscription for online multiplayer, via Playstation Plus. Sony defended this change, saying that they have big plans for the multiplayer experience, but that those plans “come at a cost”. If it helps ease the pain, you’ll also get free games, discounts and early access to betas.
Despite this, Playstation 4 was received so well at E3 that Sony have warned consumers that demand may actually be greater than supply, particularly at launch. So if you’re the kind of person that needs to have the newest, shiniest thing on day one, I’d start thinking about pre-orders.
The lower price-tag and lack of restrictions have people looking at Sony’s device as being a step ahead at the moment. More worrying for us down here at the bottom of Africa is that Microsoft will not be offering support for their console here upon launch. Support for this region will only be happening in Q2/Q3 next year, so if you were hoping to pick one of these up in November you’re going to be disappointed. Essentially, until that happens, Xbox One games cannot be activated here – and it seems that making an account in a different region won’t help either.
If you’re wondering if this is all a bad dream and Microsoft will hear the pained cries of the internet, exec Phil Spencer has confirmed that these policies are fixed, at least in the short term. While the company does acknowledge that long term anything can change, we shouldn’t expect any retractions in the near future.
Another Microsoft executive, Yusuf Mehdi, defended the Xbox One’s controversial policies, saying that they were done in an effort to balance the needs of consumers, publishers, retailers and Microsoft itself. This is something Yusuf thinks they’ve achieved beautifully.
Mehdi admitted that the public backlash was expected, and acknowledged that tradeoffs had to be made. He added that Microsoft is “trying to move the industry forward”. They would have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling Playstations.
In spite of all the negativity surrounding Microsoft’s reveal, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Don Mattrick insists that they made a “good choice” with the always online requirements. According to Don, “it’s hard to understand it until you’ve used it”.
Let me climb on my soapbox here: we have used it. I’d say most of the people reading this article have experienced the “benefits” of always-online requirements, and have gone through all the hassles that come with that. Microsoft PR has a real knack for alienating their consumers, and this patronising attitude is a really good way to do just that. He goes on to say, “We have a product for people without internet – it’s called the Xbox 360”. Honestly, you’re just not sure whether this is sincerity, or sincere trolling. Sometimes it’s better not to say anything at all.
Meanwhile, back at Nintendo it’s more bad news for the Wii U, as one of their bigger third-party supporters, Ubisoft, have said they won’t be making any more Wii U exclusives.
This comes from big cheese Yves Guillemot, who says exclusive games will be put on hold until Nintendo manages to ship more consoles. That being said, he remained positive about things, highlighting the influx of big first-party titles coming to the Wii U soon.
It may not be much of a surprise, but the long-awaited announcement of a Mirror’s Edge sequel has got the internet buzzing. According to EA, this time around the game will be more of an “action adventure”, with yet-to-be-unveiled innovations and gameplay that are only possible with the next-gen hardware – pretty exciting stuff.
Exec Patrick Soderland goes on to say that DICE feels that the first one was “a great attempt, but didn’t really deliver on the true vision of the IP”. The game had its flaws, but it’s developed somewhat of a cult following, and with the next-gen potential and lessons learned this sequel is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Another game in the pipeline over at DICE is Star Wars: Battlefront, which the studio has said has “veteran Battlefield developers” working on it. According to Soderland, everyone at the studio was fighting for a chance to get in on the project. I hope this doesn’t mean Battlefield 4 was coded by the B-team, but from what we’ve seen of it so far, that seems unlikely.
While we’re on the topic of EA, there’s been a nasty rumour circulating that EA lobbied Sony and Microsoft to put DRM into their consoles which would prevent the sale of used games. This is hardly surprising, considering that EA is gaming enemy #1.
CEO Peter Moore has stepped forward to squash these rumours, insisting that he “supports” the pre-owned games industry. That last bit seems unlikely, but if the internet was going to spread a vicious rumour about a corporation, EA is an easy target.
The company did however go on record at E3 saying that when it comes to DRM policies, they’ll be looking at it from a “gamer-first standpoint”. How do all these assurances sit with you? Tell me about it in the comments.
Nintendo has a different take – they’re not exactly fans of used games, but legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto said in an interview that their primary concern is piracy, not re-sale. Their approach to lost profit on used games? Make a game people will want to keep playing for a long time. Now that’s an attitude I can get behind, and you have to admit it’s something Nintendo does well.
One person who is in support of the Xbox One’s strict DRM measures is outspoken Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski, who said, “You cannot have game and marketing budgets this high while also having used and rental games existing. The numbers do NOT work people.”
There’s certainly something to be said about gamer expectations and the enormous budgets required to meet those expectations, but first one needs to collect some very meaningful and real data on how much money is actually lost through game lending and re-selling. This is of course near-impossible to track, as someone who buys a used game may never have bothered paying for an original. Do you think Cliff’s argument has merit?
Moving onto some actual games, Hideo Kojima is pretty pumped about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, and has said in an interview that fans are in for “a big surprise”, a next-gen feature that is “something that movies can’t do”. Any guesses?
He also talks about the ability for players to “create user-generated missions within the world”. That’s a pretty exciting feature; we’ve seen in the past the kind of amazing things passionate communities can create with the freedom to do so. This is made possible by the fact that Metal Gear will be going open-world and multi-platform, with even tablets and smartphones getting in on the action. Kojima obviously has big plans for the next installment in the series, let’s hope he doesn’t try to squeeze in too much.
Need for Speed: Rivals has already been confirmed as coming to all major platforms on November 19th this year, but fans of the franchise may want to hang on for the next-gen release, which EA says they’re hoping will be at launch for both major consoles.
Rivals allows players to take on the role of either racer or police officer, Hot Pursuit style, with each role coming with its own unique challenges and rewards.
Oh man I have a lot of videos for you this week; I’ll be honest, I spoiled you.
First up we have Quantic Dream’s tech demo from E3, showing off what’s possible with the PS4. It’s a full 12 minutes, so settle in for this one.
Next up we have some actual gameplay footage, coming from InFamous: Second Son for the PS4. It shows protagonist Delsin Rowe dispatching some soldiers and destroying the environment. Check it out:
Take a break from those lengthy videos with a more digestible 90 second highlight of upcoming RTS Company of Heroes 2’s multiplayer. The game is currently in beta if you’d like to explore it further, but watch this recap to see if it’s something you might be interested in.
Some of the most fun you can ever have with a game, and a damned good reason to own a Wii U, is Smash Bros. If you’ve never played one of these games, you’re seriously missing out. Below is a Japanese man in a hideous shirt talking you through the 3DS and Wii U versions, with plenty of gameplay footage thrown in.
One of the most anticipated games of the year is the fourth Assassin’s Creed title, where players can hunt for treasure and slay scurvy dogs with thar cutlass as black-hearted pirates. CVG got a behind-closed-doors look at the game running on the PS4, and share their thoughts and some gameplay footage in this video.
Sony released a trailer for “The Playroom”, a tech demo aimed at getting you to buy a Playstation Eye. The video shows off some of the things it and the new controller are capable of.
This video I was really excited about – the first gameplay footage of The Evil Within, a new survival horror game from the creator of Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami. Mikami returned to the genre because he felt that it had become too action-oriented, and wanted to get it back to its roots. Personally, I can’t wait. Check it out:
If you’re watching these back-to-back, you may want to take a break, as this next video is a full 30 minutes. Warner Bros. was given a big slot to show off the new Batman: Arkham Origins game and discuss it, so there’s tons of gameplay footage and insight in the video below. If it’s a game you’re looking forward to, don’t skip this clip.
Horror is certainly the flavour of the week, and we’re getting a whole heap of really interesting looking titles for the genre. One of the big unknowns is Daylight, developed by Zombie studios. It’s a very unique game in that the world is procedurally generated and you’re trying to avoid conflict rather than look for it. Check out the latest trailer below.
Best of NAG
NAG is not immune to E3 fever, which you may have noticed from all the red and yellow E3 tags occupying the front page.
The Thief series is getting a new game, along with a new trailer and screenshots. If you’re not video’d out, head on over here for a look.
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m trying to murder you with media. Now that that’s out in the open, you just have to see this 64-man bloodbath of a Battlefield 4 game. It’s pretty awesome.
Mario Kart 8 got a big reveal at E3, and I’ve got to say it looks awesome. We knew Nintendo would deliver with the first-party games, let’s just hope it’s enough to boost sales and get third-party back on board. Check out the insane gameplay here.
You may have noticed, despite my wholly unbiased reporting, that I think Sony handily won the console war. For my full opinion on the subject and a lengthy discussion in the comments, check out my column for the week here.
Okay, let’s end off with something non-E3, shall we? Controversial game Remember Me was released recently, controversial in that publishers are morons and think female protagonists are controversial. Anyways, Matthew Vice took it for a spin, and you can see what he thought of it here.