E3 2013 – What Can We Expect From Next Gen?

E3 2013 has now come and gone. We were treated to the biggest E3 in close to a decade with plenty of surprises, three (technically two) solid, if not occasionally inspired, conferences, and tons of stuff for gamers to look forward to as we enter the next generation of home consoles. It has been over 8 years since the Xbox 360 launched and ushered in the current gen and much has changed. Online gaming, once completely non-existant on consoles has become such a necessity that the fact Bioshock Infinite had no multiplayer was a major problem for many gamers. Now it is hard to imagine a game that doesn’t have some internet connectivity. Last generation launched weakly with no real standout titles for either the PS3 or 360, and both consoles took almost a year to get the support that they needed to flourish. If this E3 is any indication, this console cycle could be very different, providing a major bang from the very beginning and continuing to innovate in strange and imaginative ways.

Just like the console wars with just as many fanboys fighting over every detail (Sisko > Kirk and Picard).
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Microsoft is trying to push innovation by utilizing its Kinect sensor. The main advantages to this seem to be near-instant game switching and the general utility of voice commands. Truthfully, I don’t think this particular innovation is going to bear much fruit. After all, Kinect is far from new, and it’s never made any real dent in the industry. Voice commands are tiresome compared to a simple button input (how many times will you shout Fus Roh Dah before you feel like an idiot?), and many people don’t switch between games and apps while they’re in the middle of a play session. All of Kinect’s advantages are great and should make the Xbox One fun for techies, but none of them seem to impact gaming in any meaningful way. Motion controls and voice commands in-game have never proven to be effective, and now Microsoft is the only company that is backing both of these with any real gusto. It is possible that they will prove me and all the other naysayers wrong, but I’m not expecting them to.

The amount of space needed for Kinect alone makes it impractical for most people.
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Cloud gaming on the other hand is something that seems like it will become increasingly important in the future. The ability to store information online and for developers to create persistent worlds looks like it has a real future; although, everything at this point is very speculative. Cloud gaming at this point means as much to me as “blast processing” and “the power of the cell,” meaning: it’s just a catch-phrase without anything behind it. When developers start using it, we’ll see how useful it truly is and I think it will be useful, but at this point it’s still very theoretical. Gaikai for Sony is essentially the same thing. Sony is promising the ability to stream all sorts of things from the internet, from full games to their entire back library. It isn’t hard to be skeptical at this point, but it all sounds very promising, and it’ll be interesting to see if these ideas soar, or end up in the bargain bin like the Sixaxis.

Yeah, I don’t know.
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Television. I don’t understand why, but television integration seems to be a theme running under certain E3 presentations. Microsoft will be pushing some sort of new streaming service on the Xbox One that has yet to be detailed in any real way. If it is free to Gold members, it might be interesting, but any cost and you’re looking at a competitor to Netflix and the other major streaming sites and I don’t think a Halo miniseries is going to make any difference there. The much anticipated Quantum Break from Remedy has caused me to pause because of its supposed interaction with a live-action television show, and the new Raving Rabbids television show will have a game tie-in. All of these are exclusive to Microsoft, and I’m baffled as to why they think that television integration is the future of gaming. They are two completely different mediums, and I for one have no interest stopping my gameplay to watch a television show, or vice-versa. Maybe I’m wrong, but this seems like a misstep.

Wii Fit isn’t going to help you, silly Rabbid.
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Social media and mobile phone integration on the other hand looks like something that will be integrated so heavily into video games that, by the next generation, we’ll hardly understand what games were like before it. Nintendo has already led the pack with the launch of Miiverse, where every game has its own dedicated space for help and fun that is easily accessed and available even for Virtual Console games. Sony and Microsoft’s consoles are both pushing mobile phone apps as part of their gaming experiences. In the Division, another player can use a tablet app in order to control a drone. In the Crew, you can build your cars while waiting on bus via a smartphone app. In Dead Rising 3, you could call down an airstrike. The applications are endless and it’s an exciting development. Nintendo and Sony don’t even need phone integration as they can use the Vita/Gamepad to achieve the same result.

I don’t care, Sam!
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There are downsides to mobile phone and social media integration. For one, it may force many who aren’t otherwise interested to sign up to a site such as Facebook. Already, the multiplayer in The Last of Us requires a Facebook account, something I’m particularly not comfortable with, as I don’t really like giving out such information. There is the worry that integration will run too deep and those without phones or certain accounts won’t be able to have a full experience with the game. Then there is the clutter that dozens of game related apps will cause on your smartphone, and the inconvenience of needing to download one for each game you buy. If used properly, this integration could be amazing, but this idea is still in its infancy and I would expect to see a lot of mistakes before developers really hit on the sweet spot.

Wait, Bob. My little brother is using the ipad for Angry Birds. He’ll cover us in a couple of minutes.
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Finally, it looks like the next generation won’t be as plagued at the start as most generations are. To be sure, Nintendo has suffered this fate, but Sony and Microsoft both seemed to have learned from this, and are launching strong. Microsoft has promised fifteen exclusive games in the first year, eight being new IPs and they are delivering after what we saw at E3. Sony has one upped them and has promised twenty exclusives in the first year and twelve new IPs. However, unlike Microsoft, Sony has yet to show all of these games off, which means either Gamescom/TGS will be very interesting or they’re bluffing. Either way, these exclusives along with the already confirmed multiplatform games should make this a very pleasurable generation turnover.

This is certainly a step up from Resistance: Fall of Man.
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The next generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles is exciting. Nintendo has already launched, but they are operating under different restrictions as they launched with last gen tech. They have some interesting tools though with the Gamepad and the Miiverse, but at this point everyone’s eyes are on Sony and Microsoft and their much stronger hardware is where the industry standard will be made. In the end, it seems to me that social media and smartphone integration is what is going to really push this generation as far as innovation goes; however, there is the possibility that several of the wilder ideas may creep up and become critical to the success of the video game industry. At this point I can’t tell. All I hope is that Microsoft’s restrictive DRM doesn’t become the standard.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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