The Missing Link
So it’s the weekend! E3 is officially over, and thus begins the onerous wait for the next Zelda games as well as the Wii. It’s going to be a good haul as well; a quick look to the counter on the main page says that we have a really long way to go until they’re released. (Yes I know we don’t know the release date; that’s why the question mark is there. But if you’re wondering, my current guesstimate is November 11, but I’m thinking Nintendo may jump the gun and go a few weeks earlier. Only time will tell.)
With the excitement of the past week slowing to a crawl once again, it’s time to ruminate on the past week, dig into the content of the conference, and then look into our crystal balls to see what the next year will bring.
You might remember that, before this all began, I had made a list of predictions about what we were going to see. Let’s see how I did:
This all proves, obviously, that TML would make a horrible member of the Bomber’s Gang. But more importantly, while I did get many things right on the list (over 50 percent… with odds like that, I could be a weatherman!), the things I missed perhaps take centre stage more than the things I got right.
Nintendo, by most accounts, had the most impressive show out of all three console companies. Of course, Nintendo had set up the pieces that way by using this E3 as a launch pad to promote the new control style for console gaming. Wii garnered most of the talk at the conference, and although there have been several reports at IGN and Joystiq (among others most likely) about slight hiccups in the software, people have been generally impressed. Games like Super Mario Galaxy, Twilight Princess, SSB:B, and Metroid Prime 3 were easy winners, but Red Steel and Madden NFL ‘07 were a little shaky. Nintendo and friends still have some time to tweak and tune both hardware and software, but they clearly demonstrated the killer app and won this round of E3 Deathmatch.
It was not, however, without some–what I believe to be–errors in judgment. I’m eternally mystified by the two versions of Twilight Princess, one for Wii and one for the ‘Cube; my hope is that these will be sold together in one package rather than separately because, in all honesty, that would make a lot of sense. If you sell them separately, you force existing ‘Cube owners into a difficult dilemma: (1) Be an early adopter of Wii just for Zelda, (2) buy the ‘Cube version and lose out on the enhanced functionality of the Wii version, (3) buy the ‘Cube version up front and then buy it again later on for Wii, or (4) not play Zelda until you’re comfortable enough with the Wii paradigm. While I think I will be in category one, not every gamer is comfortable with being an early adopter of a console, thus making it a choice between the least of the four evils.
I also think the decision not to give out a release date or a price point was a very odd decision. I think a lot of people went into this week thinking we’d have dates and prices, and we were left empty-handed. However, I remain humoured by an image in my mind from the movie Maverick (which every one of you should see, by the by). In it, Maverick in the final poker game refuses to look at the last card of his hand before betting; this, in turn, drives his opponent mad as he starts sweating bullets because he cannot possibly determine whether Maverick’s hand is any good or not. It’s funny to watch, but the stakes are still quite serious in the end. The stage is set, I think, for Nintendo to pull the royal flush out of the deck, but it is far from a guaranteed thing, and you and I have to admit that the announcement of a very inexpensive price point would have done nothing less than increase the salivation of most every gamer for Nintendo. I will say this about the price though: Nintendo, whatever you do, do not make it $250. I can see it coming that, when the PS3 launches in November, Microsoft will undercut the $200 difference between the 360 and PS3 now by another 50 greenbacks, and if Wii is $250, it’ll be the same price as the el cheapo 360, and I don’t think it can stand at that price. Wii either needs to sell for $200 (provided the virtual console downloads are free or extremely cheap) or $150 (with a little more leeway on download pricing).
Moving along, Microsoft is in standby mode. They’re now moving forward with their initial strategy, and that’s gaming. They didn’t have an overly impressive E3 this year, but they also didn’t need to. Xbox 360 is doing well with over five million units sold and many more on the way, so they’re exactly where they want to be, out first with a year ahead of everyone. Now while their Windows games and Vista strategy don’t play into the console war all that much, you can bet that they are going to be leveraging Windows to sell 360s, especially with Live Anywhere integrating PCs, 360s, and cell phones. Even more interesting, though, is that Peter Moore, VP of Microsoft Gaming Studios, is making an unwritten pact with Nintendo in order to beat Sony. This may sound good, but don’t be fooled; Microsoft isn’t doing this because they have love for Nintendo. Microsoft is afraid of getting their butts handed to them again by Sony, and Peter Moore is going to use Wii and the two-consoles-for-the-price-of-one argument solely to steal Sony types over to their console. Will it sell Wiis? Likely true, but just don’t get too lovey-dovey with Mr. Bill Gates just yet. (Not that I worry that anyone will be given how Windows operates! ) Microsoft is solidly in second place… but they’re still on the heels of Nintendo.
Last and certainly least, we have Sony. All I have to say about Sony is that it’s been the worst E3 showing I have seen from any console company ever… and this is their launch year for the PS3! The stars were aligned for them to slam dunk this show… yet all they have to show for it is a controller that tries to be Wii but comes up lacking. Seriously, if you compare the line at E3 to play the Wii versus what was reported to be just a 30-minute wait to play a PS3, that’s news that Sony should be concerned with. Yet that’s not the end of their bad karma either. The sticker shock of $600 (or the el cheapo at $500) has both gamers and industry folk leaving E3 with a bitter taste in their mouth. As Peter Moore said, Sony is facing being more expensive than the sum of their competitors’ products. If that weren’t bad enough, try this on for size: Sony’s big cheese is on record for saying that “[The PS3]’s probably too cheap.” Wait until the Sony fanboys start passing that communiqué around…
Now, be that as it may, do not count Sony out just yet. As a good friend has mentioned, iPods are still the most successful MP3 player out there despite it costing hundreds of dollars more than other brands. At the same time, however, you also don’t see everyone driving down Any Street, U.S.A. in a Porche or Lamborghini. PS2, despite its high price, easily won the sixth generation of video game history. However, its price then was still rather comparable to the other consoles, not to mention that it was helped out by being one of the first “cheap” DVD players as well as being the first console out to market that generation (aside from the Dreamcast). Sony’s got an uphill battle coming their way, but they can still win if they add enough positive PR spin up through November. However, considering that nary a word was heard from Sony last year (nearly every Internet rumour or executive statement was completely disavowed) and considering that Sony is fanning the flames about their pricing even more when they say $600 is too cheap, Sony seriously needs to
All in all, this puts Nintendo in a relatively good position for the next year… at least until November.
Looking at Zelda, well… Phantom Hourglass is still not much more than a phantom at this juncture, but Twilight Princess is beginning to step out into its own. With the Wii functionality at its beck and call, well, this will be exciting to see what happens. The only question now will be to see whether or not the Wii control style is better than the traditional control style; it seems so far that most people indeed like what they’re seeing, but as Nintendo says, “playing is believing.” I think we’ll see that most people will indeed be sceptics until they play the game, but I think trying it out is just want gamers will need to let go of their inhibitions and fully embrace a Wii Zelda. After all, that is the direction that Mr. Miyamoto believes that the series is head towards in the future.
So in all, we should have an exciting and interesting year ahead of us. We will finally (we hope!) have Zelda, the next round of the console wars will begin, and Miyamoto will be conducting symphonies in a tuxedo. With our stomaches finally full from all the news and speculation that’s been spread to all corners of the known cyber-world, it’s time to settle back and wait, but even though we may still have six or so months to go, I think they’ll go much quicker than you expect.Follow This Entry