Adam B. Vary: So, John, it’s a day after the end of E3, i.e. the annual videogaming expo where companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, EA and Ubisoft show off their newest games, gadgets, and wave-of-the-future hooziewhatsits. And I have to say, between all the giant video screens, booming speakers, gaming pods and mobs of eager gamers with only a cursory appreciation for other people’s personal space, I’m still in recovery. How did you take to your very first E3 experience?
John Young: I still feel abused by it all. It’s a complete sensory overload that initially seemed really impressive in an oh-this-is-probably-what-the-future-will-feel-like-50-years-from-now way. But after eight hours of being exposed to the rattling bass and the retina-searing displays, it starts doing things to your brain. But I did get to check out some very promising games. The 12-year-old version of me would have had the best time of his life.
Adam B. Vary: No kidding! I think the 12-year-old me would have especially lost his friggin’ mind over what’s become the biggest story out of E3, Microsoft’s possibly-revolutionary Project Natal camera system, which you covered so well earlier this week. But let’s face it, the 12-year-old me is so often also the 29-year-old me, and both, um, me’s were stoked by the games, man: Nintendo announced a sequel to the crazy-fun Wii game Super Mario Galaxy and demo’d the long-awaited follow up to Wii Sports called Wii Sports Resort. EA presented Mass Effect 2, a sci-fi adventure that blurs even further the lines between playing a game and participating in a choose-your-own-adventure feature film. And Sony showcased the epically aggro God of War III, which had equally epic lines of people waiting to play it on the show floor.
John Young: You’re right, it is ultimately about the games, and boy did they look sweet. Unfortunately, most of the ones that totally knocked my socks off weren’t playable yet. I’m talking about Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that could genuinely compete with World of Warcraft; Avatar, based on James Cameron’s upcoming sci-fi movie, with its breathtakingly realized alien planet called Pandora (Jeff Jensen gushed about the game earlier this week); and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which made the audience at Sony’s press conference literally gasp when they saw just how beautiful it was. Speaking of press conferences, who do you think came out on top: Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony?
Adam B. Vary: I guess Microsoft, given all the ink spilled for Natal, although as you mentioned, Sony certainly brought the goods too. But it definitely was not Nintendo. Not only did they announce Wii Sports Resort and the Wiimote controller add-on Wii Motion Plus without ever acknowledging they first presented them at last year’s E3, but they trotted out maybe the strangest video-game controller I’ve ever seen: The Wii Vitality Sensor, which clips onto your finger and measures your pulse. (It looks exactly like the plastic pulse monitor used in hospital ICUs.) And they didn’t even explain how the thing could be applied to, you know, gaming. For me, it was easily the biggest turkey out of E3.
John Young: For me, the biggest disappointment was that Sony didn’t lower the PlayStation 3’s price. $399 is simply too much for a gaming system in the current economic atmosphere, and with the PS3 lagging behind the Wii and Xbox 360 in sales, Sony really needed to do something dramatic — and they didn’t.
Adam B. Vary: And Sony’s new PSP — the compact, WiFi ready PSP Go — is priced at $249, which is higher than the cheapest version of the Xbox 360! But judging from all the conspicuous prosperity on ample display this week, it seems like the videogame world isn’t so much worried about cutting back amid the Great Recession. Two more thoughts, and then you’ll get the last word: My favorite moment from the week came when one of the dudes presenting the umpteeth oddly titled, post-apocalyptic shoot-em-up — Army of Two: The 40th Day — said the game “is really all about destruction,” and his partner jumped in to make it clear that “destruction is more of a theme, really.” And, two, I may finally start joining my friends’ Rock Band parties now that The Beatles: Rock Band guarantees I may actually know most of the songs offered in the game.
John Young: The Beatles: Rock Band is going to be huge when it hit stores on Sept. 9, and MTV Games was so confident about it that they went to the expense of recreating the Abbey Road Studios building just to show off a demo (although being inside that room only emphasized how loud E3 is — it sounded like bombs were being dropped outside). But the sheer excess of everything is part of the E3 experience, I guess. I look forward to returning next year, prepared to attack the show with all of the things I learned this time around. For instance, if you’re offered a Star Wars Jedi t-shirt, don’t take it — that thing smelled so wretched that, for all I know, it could have actually been worn by a Jedi a long, long time ago. Hey, PopWatchers, do you have any E3 stories to share? And which games are you most excited about playing in the near future?