With the console wars over, the battle for the players began at E3

In contrast to last year, the big players are neck and neck in terms of titles so the big winners are the gamers

Ciara O' Brien is at E3 in Los Angeles where the battle for gamers has overtaken the consoles wars of recent years. Video: Ciara O' Brien

 

When the dust settles and the spoils are counted, who will emerge as the victor from this year’s E3? Last year, things were a lot more clear cut. Sony had sensed a weakness in Microsoft’ strategy for its new console and it had used it to its best advantage.

This year though, things were set to be a little less clear-cut from the start. With the console news out of the way, firms were supposed to be concentrating on beefing up their line of games, announcing enough new titles that would help them to win over gamers to their platforms.

There were predictions on what would appear, the usual leaks that teased at big things to come and a heap of exclusives for each of the major platforms.

Microsoft started the pre-event hype with ‘Sunset Overdrive’, racing game ‘Forza Horizons 2’ and plans for a package of re-released ‘Halo’ titles that would all go on sale later this year.

Meanwhile, Sony pulled ‘Little Big Planet 3’ from up its sleeve, showed off a trailer for ‘Uncharted 4’ and promised early access to ‘Destiny’.

“Sony wins on quantity of exclusives, but they both performed flawlessly,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “Seriously, gamers won.”

There was a lot at stake for Microsoft. The US giant has been trailing rival Sony in terms of console sales by about two million units. Although five million Xboxes is nothing to sniffed at, a strong line-up of upcoming games could have gone a long way in closing the gap.

So, at its press event, Microsoft churned out title after title, from the already promised ‘Halo 5 Guardians’ to a surprise appearance by Lara Croft in ‘The Rise of the Tomb Raider’.

It was a far cry from last year, when the company’s focus on making the Xbox One an entertainment platform went against the grain with hardcore gamers.

And the company was keen to make up for past mistakes too it seemed. Xbox chief Phil Spencer took to the stage and heaped praise on Xbox One owners, pointing out that their feedback was key in shaping the future of the platform.

“We will continue to listen to you, our community, and will continue to make Xbox for you,” he said.

But there were some games that were notable by their absence. There was no mention, for example, of ‘Quantum Break’. The game, which is part of a more ambitious project that involves a TV series to go along with it, was shown at last year’s E3, but this year, there was not even a hint of it. And despite unveiling a new ‘Dance Central’ title, ‘Spotlight’, there was little evidence of any of Microsoft’s fitness focused titles, with the tech firm appearing to leave that in the hands of third party developers, such as Ubisoft with ‘Shape Up’.

While Microsoft was trying to make up for last year by focusing exclusively on games, Sony had a few other tricks up its sleeve. Although widely expected, the confirmation of PlayStation TV was greeted warmly by the E3 crowd and the firm also revealed more about its Playstation Now streaming games service, which is currently only available in North America.

PlayStation TV, which will allow users to stream content from the PS4 and Vita consoles to another TV elsewhere in the house, will be available in Ireland later this year. A white PS4, part of a ‘Destiny’ bundle, is also due for release.

And that was before you even got to see the company’s acclaimed Project Morpheus, a virtual reality headset that may still be some time off a commercial release but has still generated a lot of excitement, if the queues to try it out at Sony’s booth were an indication. The device will be in competition with Oculus Rift, Facebook’s recent gaming acquisition, the latest iteration of which was also in attendance at this year’s E3.

But despite the new hardware, Sony was at pains to point out that games were its priority too. Singing from the same hymn sheet as Microsoft, it declared that it wanted players to know that the PS4 was the best place for gaming.

“We want you to share our vision for the future of gaming. PlayStation is the best place to play above all else,” said Sony Computer Entertainment chief Andrew House. “You are a member of an extensive community of rivals and friends.”

Any difference the platforms can distinguish could be crucial, with many of the third-party developers providing games across a variety of platforms. That includes ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ and ‘Far Cry 4’ from Ubisoft, ‘Fifa 15’ from EA and Warner Bros’ ‘Batman: Arkham Knight’, which will be available on the Xbox One and PS4.

You couldn’t miss Nintendo on the show floor, but on Monday at the pre-event media conferences, they were nowhere to be seen around downtown LA. That’s because Nintendo decided, for the second year in a row, to hold a digital event instead of a physical press conference.

The company’s Wii U has struggled to gain traction in the games market despite initial high hopes for the console that it would replicate the success of the Wii. But with both Microsoft and Sony encroaching on the motion controlled gaming sector, the Wii U’s unique selling point has been slowly eroded.

Still, there may be life in the family-friendly console yet, as Nintendo unveiled a few tried and tested favourites. There were few surprises at the streamed event which included news of a new instalment of ‘Zelda’, the predicted ‘Super Smash Bros’ for the Wii U and a host of titles aimed at 3DS players including a new ‘Professor Layton’ title.

But it was the proposal for a ‘Mario Bros’ game that allowed players to design their own levels that really caught the attention of gamers.

The company also seems keen to branch out, tapping into the figurine trend that ‘Skylanders’ has successfully kickstarted. ‘Super Smash Bros’ will be the first game to be compatible with the figurines, but there are plans to bring the feature to ‘Mario Kart 8’, ‘Mario Party 10’ and others before long.

One thing all the games companies appeared to have in common was a keenness to emphasise that the gamer was the all-important component. And rightly so, given that it is gamers who will be the ones investing in their products in the years to come.

To go along with the announcement of a new ‘Battlefield’ title, ‘Battlefield Hardline’, EA unveiled a limited multiplayer beta for the game that became available for applications almost immediately after the conference ended.

The multiplayer beta for ‘Halo 5’ was also flagged well in advance, its due to open in December, although the game itself will not be officially released until November 11th 2015.

And that was one of the biggest disappointments of this year’s show. Many of the most hotly anticipated games will require a little more patience from games fans. Many of them – including ‘Halo 5’ and ‘The Order’ – carry an expected release date of sometime next year, meaning gamers will have a long time to wait to get their hands on them.

It’s asking a lot, given the fickle nature of some elements of gaming, not to mention the danger of over-hyping a game that may disappoint in the long run.

It remains to be seen how gamers will adapt to this brave new world but the allure is powerful.

The downlow on the expo: Indies, add-ons and reboots INDIE DEVELOPERS The major games develoeprs recognise they may lose on the next generation of gamers if they don’t make titles that not only tap in to the what users want to play but can also be delivered quickly. Independent developers have been a target for Sony from the very beginning of it PS4 platform, and although Microsoft and Nintendo have also targeted the sector, this year’s E3 saw them drive that point home further.

MOBILE GAMES Although it may not have been as much in evidence at the show as expected, mobile games aren’t going away. In fact they are starting to shift on to consoles too, with hit game ‘Threes’ getting its console debut on the Xbox One. There were also accessories for the sector very much in evidence at the expo, with SteelSeries unveiling a new controller for mobile games.

ADD-ONS ‘Skylanders’ has a lot to answer for, at least in the eyes of parents. And Nintendo is about to follow suit with its figurines for ‘Super Smash Bros’ and other other games. That means an additional source of revenue for the company and wallet-ache for whoever is bankrolling its target market.

SECOND CHANCES Rebooting old games seems to be a bit of a theme at the moment. The ‘Halo’ series is getting another anniversary makeover, with ‘Halo 2’ the lucky recipient this time. Other games are set to make a return as well, including ‘Crackdown’ and ‘Phantom Dust’.

VIRTUAL REALITY It seems like only a short time ago Facebook was shelling out a few billion to buy Oculus, and now everyone wants a piece of the action. From the original Oculus Rift to Sony’s Project Morpheus headset, the future tehnnoloy was very much in evidence at the event. Watch this space.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.