The dust is settling on what has been widely regarded as a somewhat unsatisfying E3. The next-gen console announcements stole the show, but the lack of real playable code on the show floor for any next-gen games has led to people coming away feeling empty. The focus on the next-gen despite the lack of solid content not only stole attention away from the current generation, it pre-maturely heralded the current generation's impending death.
Microsoft's marketing spiel was very slick, but given that they claim to be launching Xbox360 in November, it was disconcerting how little they had to show. Their demo pods were being driven by Mac G5-powered alpha devkits, not real Xbox360 hardware. Sony's scarcity of next-gen content was more understandable, as they're not expected to have the PS3 on the market for another 12 months. Nintendo aren't expected to debut Revolution until late next year, and their decision to show essentially nothing of their next-gen console was no surprise to anyone.
Some of the soon-to-be-released games shown for current-gen hardware proved there's still life in it. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
(Gamecube) was the standout game of E3 2005, with people waiting for up to four hours in queues just for the chance to get hands-on with a few demo levels. Okami
(PS2) from Capcom's Clover Studios wowed attendees with its traditional Japanese woodblock print and brush-art visuals. Burnout Revenge
(multi-platform) looks certain to be another massive hit for Criterion's series, and behind closed doors, Criterion showed VIPs more of their deliberately mysterious (and apparently extremely impressive) Black
FPS project for PS2. Nintendo's forthcoming game line-up for DS looked strong, while the PSP's showing was relatively weak.
What was shown at E3 itself may not have set the gaming world on fire, but it has signalled the official start of the next-gen war. Microsoft have been going to great lengths to play down PS3's apparent hardware supremacy over Xbox360, telling anyone who will listen that the two consoles' capabilities are essentially the same. Certain gaming news sites *coughIGNcough*
even went so far as to publish Microsoft's technical rebuttal pretty much verbatim, as if it were fact. Sony are taking the quietly confident approach for the most part. Nothing is cut and dried at this stage. While PS3 looks like the clear winner on paper, the difference in real world performance between Xbox360 and PS3 may well be much less distinct than the numbers suggest. Most people are basing their opinion on the much vaunted Teraflop figures alone - 360 can do one Teraflop, PS3 can do two. Here's a sobering thought: PS2's Emotion Engine CPU can do 6.2 Gflops, XBox's CPU can do 2.9 Gflops. Did PS2 turn out to be twice as powerful as XBox? You do the math.
Japanese newspaper Asahi Shinbun interviewed key players in the next-gen war last week. Allow me to steal a couple of good biting quotes:
Robert Bach (Microsoft Senior VP):
"The other two companies' presentations weren't surprising. Sony's capabilities are the same as ours. Nintendo is aiming for the niche market. [snip]
The next-generation disc standard hasn't been solidified yet. Sony is taking a risk [with Blu-ray]
. We will become the market leader with our next-generation console."
Ken Kutaragi (President of Sony Computer Entertainment):
"Microsoft is trailing behind us, they are not a threat. [snip]
Beating us for a short moment is like accidentally winning a point from a Shihan [Karate master]
, and Microsoft is still not a black belt. Just like with their operating systems, they might come out with something good around the third generation of their release."
Satoru Iwata (Nintendo President):
"It's questionable what the horsepower of the two other companies' consoles will be used for, such as fast calculations and high-definition resolution. Creating game software in high definition will require everything from the models to the background to be redone, and it will bloat up development costs. And yet, it has no use for people that aren't playing with a high-definition TV set. [snip]
Nintendo is a company that likes to see smiles on the faces of people that love entertainment. We're not about selling new kinds of TVs or taking control of the living room."