E3 2011: Monday’s Non-Stories

MONDAY AT E3 might have been more notable for the lack of overall headlines, for stories we were hoping would appear but didn’t, or things publishers wanted us to pay attention to, regardless of how little we cared.

Hey, What’s This Kinect Thing? By far, the least interesting story of the day was how Microsoft tried to beat everyone over the head with Kinect during its briefing. Yes, Microsoft, we know it exists, that it sold well, that you probably have a lot of partners who have invested a lot of development time into it and you’re not going to abandon it after a year. That said, there aren’t exactly many Kinect titles on gamers’ “most wanted” lists, and I don’t recall many people saying “you know, I liked Mass Effect, but I wish it had Kinect support.” It was just overkill.

Similarly, how excited did Microsoft think we were going to get about YouTube and Bing integration on Xbox Live? Heck, I get YouTube on my phone and on Directv. Microsoft’s made some big strides with turning the 360 and Xbox Live into a media center – almost all my friends who have it use it for Netflix as much as anything else – but these were not particularly exciting advancements.

Star Wars: The Lost Republic? It’s been in development for so long, but even at EA’s presser today, there was still only a CGI trailer – no actual gameplay video and no release date. Granted, it will be playable this week at E3, and live footage and commentary will ultimately surface from that, but it’s disappointing that the game doesn’t seem like it’s ramping up for release anytime soon.

In a perfect world, The Old Republic would release right now. Interest in the WoW: Cataclysm expansion has died way down, and it’s a perfect time to capture MMO players looking for something new. Even if it was just an open beta, and the game released in September, it would still have a nice window to steal some WoW players. But if it slips to 2012, you run the risk of releasing alongside a fast-tracked WoW expansion, and you’ve also got Diablo III lurking in the wings. At this point, time’s running out on SWToR, and fast.

Tomb Raider: Octogenarian? At the Microsoft press conference, the first game up was predictable enough: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. And then Microsoft followed that up with… a new Tomb Raider?

You could argue that the Uncharted series, which has enjoyed massive success on the PS3, was inspired in great part by the Tomb Raider franchise. So maybe it makes sense that Microsoft would be excited to have a new Tomb Raider game to counter it with, even if it’s not quite the Lara Croft of old. But the demo wasn’t particularly exciting, and felt oddly placed at the front of the demo.

And in the same vein, Ubisoft opening up with 10 minutes of Rayman: Origins felt almost as weird. Would this have cracked the top 100 games anyone wanted to see at E3 this year?

Where Are The Price Drops? Traditionally, E3 is where the console makers have announced price drops for their consoles. There were no such savings in sight today, however. Maybe it’s another sign that this generation of consoles is going to last a lot longer than the last, but it looks like the Xbox and PS3 will be staying put at their current price points for a while.

Brothers In Arms: Inglorious Basterds. For years, the Brothers in Arms franchise has maintained a reverent approach to WWII games, both with an eye to historical detail and offering tactical gaming a step above the usual WWII thrill-ride games. So it was kind of sad to see Randy Pitchford announce Gearbox would be making Brothers in Arms: Furious 4, which was unanimously declared some sort of homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. If you read between the lines, you could almost hear Pitchford saying, “this isn’t a game I would have pitched, but it’s what Ubisoft wants and I need to keep my studio in business.”

Need For Speed: Driving’s For Chumps. Hey, you know what the NFS series needed? Quick-time events and the ability to get out and run around. Wait, what?

The Sims Social. I’m sure the Sims guys look at Farmville and think, man, that game sucks and we can make a Facebook game 100x better than that. That may be true, and it might even be a story the big media outlets – the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc – will latch on to. For 99.9% of E3, however, it’s a non-story.

$500 for 3D is Cheap, Right? It’s hard to give Sony much grief on pricing, as they did a good job keeping its new portable Vita system between $250-300. But you couldn’t help but shake your head at the way the pricing was announced on the 24” PlayStation-branded 3D monitor they’ll be rolling out later this year. When you talk about “lowering the barrier to entry” and then announce a price of $500, it just doesn’t compute. 3D is going to be a hard sell for a lot of people, who don’t want to wear special glasses to watch TV or play games; the more expensive it is, the less interested people will be.

No Beyond Good & Evil 2. One of the games people were hoping to see at the Ubisoft press conference was Beyond Good & Evil 2, but sadly, it wasn’t to be. In fact, creator Michael Ancel stated that development is happening on it, but it’s slated for the next generation of consoles, whenever that might be.