I watched all three press conferences live. My reactions:
Nintendo: By far the best of the three conferences. They managed to present a great sense of fun, starting the moment a grinning Miyamoto took the stage with a Wii remote (I guess I’m used to the name now) to conduct a virtual orchestra that was playing the Zelda theme. The only odd part of the conference was the fact that they didn’t announce a date or a price…even though both should be obvious. The Wii will ship in either October or (more likely) November, and will cost $250 at the most. Why not just go ahead and announce?
Nintendo is in a great position for this round of the console wars. First, they are at the bottom, so there’s nowhere to go but up. They will have the cheapest console by far, with the most interesting technology. And the Wii is basically just a souped-up GameCube, which means that GameCube games will run natively (no emulation or extra hardware required) and their third-party developers already know how to make Wii games.
Sony: Sony’s conference was literally “more of the same” – the same game types we already love to play, only with graphical improvements. The PS3 is going to look fantastic, and apparently every game made for it is going to be a dirty, grimy post-apocalyptic first-person or third-person shooter. The only innovation they actually have is the tilt control, which of course was added after they saw the Wii remote and doesn’t work as well as Nintendo’s version. Tilt control is one thing, but the Wii remote actually gives you what is effectively a mouse pointer – this was explicitly demonstrated in Nintendo’s demo of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
Microsoft: Boring, boring, boring. Halo 3 trailer was terrible. The crowd snickered at Viva Pinata, even though that’s just the type of game Microsoft needs to expand their audience. It’s telling that Microsoft is currently struggling to expand its audience out of the 18-34 male demographic while Nintendo, which already has a market across all demographics, is fighting to expand the entire gaming market. And in the end, I’ve got no sympathy for Microsoft here…they are simply reaping what they sowed with their “She kicks high” crap.
It wasn’t until near the end when they demonstrated how the Xbox 360, Windows Vista and cellphones could be integrated that I perked up. That type of close integration has been necessary for a long time, and it’s strange that a game studio is having to be the one that gives it to us. So at least Microsoft can say that it has truly innovative new technology, unlike Sony.
Microsoft has one big problem, though. They launched before Nintendo announced the Wii remote. Sure, they can still make a controller with tilt features, but it won’t be standard in the box and thus developers won’t be able to rely on it being there. Now, it’s possible that Microsoft will come out with a tilt controller and push it hard and it’ll effectively become the “standard” 360 controller. Sony was able to do this with the Dual Shock controller for the PS1. But it’s going to be tough.
Big winner: Nintendo, though if they had just announced date and price it would have been a Flawless Victory.
Second: Microsoft. They truly innovated with Live and now they are extending it even further.
Loser: Sony. “We’re afraid to try new things! We’re going to give you everything you already play with better graphics! And we’ll charge you six hundred freakin’ bucks to do it!”