Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vitriolic E3 rant #427: Everything still sucks except Mega Man in Smash

at 3:32 PM
The only thing that confuses me is that people are like really happy with Sony and think they're doing a fantastic job. 50% of voters in GameFAQs' daily poll said Sony's conference was "amazing". I won't lie, they're certainly upstaging Microsoft, but I haven't seen a single enticing thing about the PS4 either. I can't even tell how it's different from PS3. That's basically how they're "winning". They stand there and do nothing while MS completely implodes. And they still have a shitty uncomfortable controller with analog sticks in the wrong place. There's no arguing that it's top-notch PR work, but once I get a computer box in my house and plugged into my TV, I'm no longer actively comparing it to the other options on the market - I need to know what it does. It's funny how informed gamers think they are when they can't manage to process information outside of this fallacious "us vs. them" framework. Yes Sony looks a lot better than Microsoft... but take Microsoft out of the picture, then try to tell me what Sony is selling. It's not a fucking war! You don't have to buy any of them! Or you can buy all three! Can we stop acting like "better" == "good"? It's all derived from this must-buy consumerist/addict mentality that defines the "core" (dumb) gamer.
Sony nutshelled: a bland blue background, but at least it isn't Xbox One
I guess dumb-gamers are probably excited over the likes of Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3, but I have some pretty incisive questions about those. Like, when was the last FF game anyone liked? While opinions vary on XII, X was the last classic worth mentioning outside of the "which Final Fantasy doesn't suck" framework - and that came out over a decade ago. Same question for Kingdom Hearts. Since the first one - again, over a decade ago - the series has been treading water. And then there's the exciting thing where a bunch of the indie games I had just assumed were current gen are actually being shuffled to PS4, like Transistor (successor to Bastion) and Klei's Don't Starve. There's no hardware justification driving this, it's completely a marketing ploy. Luckily, they're all coming to PC too, so there's no apparent reason to get a PS4. And don't even get me started on how much I don't care about Elder Scrolls Online. Read lore books in real-time with your friends! "Online" sounds like a good excuse to make a much smaller game than Skyrim or Oblivion and then bank on iterative content delivery. And again, it's not like there's any point crediting it to PS4 - we all know it'll be on PC too.

As for the much-lampooned Xbox One Doritos Dew promotion, free giveaways with junk food have been part of the fabric of consumerism since 1993, so it feels silly to act disgusted. For instance, a quick Google search reveals a Fast Five PlayStation 3 giveaway from 2011. On the other hand, it's weird to see Microsoft advertising this kind of schlocky promotion at the biggest gaming conference of the year (instead of with a TV commercial). Normally such contests are meant to move Gushers or Coke Soda en masse by tying a lottery factor to an expensive and popular reward... this time it seems that MS is acknowledging that cheese-flavored snack chips have a stronger market position with gamers than their hardware, and thus they need to leverage junk food addiction to drive console enthusiasm.
Microsoft nutshelled: now with chips and tiny
Looking at things from an honest, game-oriented, non-competitive perspective, I have to say that Nintendo was the only one of the three to deliver a successful presentation. Maybe they aren't turning the most heads (being that Wii U is old hat), but they're the only company that has news, and any offering of a unique experience. Wii U is the only next-gen console that used E3 to increase the odds I'll buy it. If you were already sold on PS4 or had already damned One, their respective press conferences must've seemed thrilling, adding fuel to the fire of your pre-existing bias. But to a prospective customer who hasn't committed to buying a next gen console at all, they all have ground to gain, more than "we aren't destroying video games as you know it". Nintendo is the only company directly addressing their shortcomings: they need software. And they're showing software. Software that I want to buy. A new co-op Mario that lets us play as the long-dormant SMB2 lineup. Fucking Mega Man in Smash (come on, who wasn't pumping their fist when the Wily's Castle music kicked in - that's the kind of moment that makes me love games). Not a bunch of cross-platform already-on-PC junk. I don't want to sound too optimistic here: Wii U is still a long way from closing the gap. But it's making positive progress. By the same token, PS4 went from "couldn't care less" to "yeah I should get a PS3" and Xbox One went from "laughing stock" to "laughing stock with a few new jokes". Unless you feel morally obligated to buy one of these devices, there's no way to say that Nintendo didn't "win".
Nintendo nutshelled: you can't beat a surprise appearance by one of gaming's greatest heroes
I can't think of a less exciting time to be a gamer. Maybe it's because I'm 24 and I just don't have that youthful exuberance anymore, but I'm gonna be honest with you guys: I've always been a bit of a downer. I [would like to believe I] stopped being a naive fanboy around age 17, which didn't stop me from getting a kick from many E3s following. I had optimism. 2013 does not inspire a lot of it. Except I guess that if gaming goes back to a low-budget niche thing, that'll be pretty much exactly everything I could ever dream of. So in that sense maybe I am excited.

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