Quick Notes: E3 2013 Edition


E3 2013 is over! This was the most exciting E3 in years. GAMES ARE BACK! Sony and Microsoft are putting up a vigorous defense against the cow clickers and hamster wheels that have taken over gaming in the mobile and social era. It was so refreshing to see such a variety of new IPs that are actual games–games based on fun, mechanics, and experience instead of pure compulsion. I’m psyched for the PlayStation 4 and XBOX One. I pre-ordered both during their respective press conferences. A few notes:

Microsoft needs to fire their entire marketing department. Everyone was talking about Microsoft’s DRM strategy and not the games. Microsoft has completely lost control of the narrative and it’s hurting their ability to promote the XBOX One as an actual games platform.

Microsoft’s strategy of promoting the XBOX One as some kind of media center hub is the wrong one this early in the cycle. They need to engage early adopters for a console launch–people such as myself. All we want to hear about are games. Sony smartly focused on games–even if most of them were multi-platform.

The new Sony is poised for victory. Roles seem to have switched this generation, with Microsoft’s XBOX 360 success creating an attitude of arrogance that has led them to a tone-deaf press conference and hostility to so-called “indie” developers. This is the same attitude Sony had when the PS3 launched that caused a huge decline in market share.

Sony has learned from their mistakes and have radically changed their publishing model. They have embraced indie developers and flexible business models as evidenced by two prominent f2p PS4 titles on the show floor. I talked to many talented developers who had PS4 kits but were refused by Microsoft for XBOX One developer access.

Where was mobile? Compared to last year, mobile had a much reduced presence. Many publishers showed mobile titles along with their console slate, but gone were huge booths from GREE and other Asian mobile powerhouses. It was interesting to see tablet and mobile elements blended in to console games, such as in Ubisoft’s awesome demo for The Division. As discussed here before, companion apps have a long way to go–but this was probably the best example to date.

Hardware on the fringe. Lots of niche hardware made noise at E3. Not the least of which was Oculus Rift. With the show floor abuzz with news of the HD version, it seems at least Sony may be investigating supporting it. Microconsoles such as NVidia’s Project Shield (not so micro at $349) and the Oyua made big splashes too. I’m skeptical of the long-term viability of these platforms–although TowerFall convinced me to pre-order my Ouya.

Nintendo? Where was Nintendo? Their decision to broadcast their press conference on Nintendo Direct may have been an error–but perhaps a good strategy since they really had nothing to show that could counteract the massive PS4 and XBOX One announcements. Their booth was heavily attended, but Nintendo was seemingly out of the running. Luckily, they have enough cash to hunker down and weather the storm this generation.

Favorite games at the show. I never really spend much time waiting in line to watch demos or play games at E3, but I did have a few favorites upon cursory examination. Killer is Dead is a spiritual successor to Killer 7 from Grasshopper Manufacture, and looks fantastic. Dragon’s Crown is a gorgeous 2D side scrolling RPG by Vanillaware in the same vein as Capcom’s old D&D coin-ops. Keep your eye on The Order: 1886 for the PlayStation 4. This will be one of THE exclusive PS4 titles to watch.

Anyway, this was a GREAT show. I’m really excited for the next generation consoles. GAMEPLAY IS BACK.

Can’t Miss Email Bulletins

My last post focused on the evilness of email notifications and how they are destroying email once again. I figured I’d drop quick note with a brief list of newsletters delivered via email notifications I read religiously instead of filtering to oblivion:

Appside Bulletin

I was a religious reader of the previous incarnation of Apps Bulletin, Stuart Dredge’s iPhone Games Bulletin. Stuart has since expanded it to cover books, music, and other sectors of the increasingly vast world of apps. This is a great way to keep up to date on how apps are transforming all industries–from print journalism to games. I never miss an update.

This Week in Social Games

Dubit is a British developer of social games and virtual worlds, including their own middleware solution. However, it is their weekly newsletter on social games I never miss. It consists links to 3 or 4 of the absolute best articles about the design and development of social games in a convenient list. I can’t recommend this bulletin enough.

CTIA SmartBrief

CTIA SmartBrief is a somewhat stuffy daily newsletter about the mobile industry. It’s slightly less interesting now that phones have become ubiquitous computing devices. You can get mobile news almost anywhere. Still, this newsletter is a great way to keep up to date on mobile industry minutiae such as carrier financials, spectrum auctions, and other details. It’s still annoying how they capitalizes the ‘I’ in iPhone if it’s the first word in a headline.

Be Slightly Evil

Venkatesh Rao is one of my blogging heroes due to his creation of the absolutely genius Gervais Principle. His email newsletter furthers his study into the social mechanics of sociopathic success. There’s occasional nuggets of wisdom here although I must say I’ve been merely skimming most of his later posts.

More Quick Notes

I don’t have enough material for an entire blog post, so I figured I’d hit a few minor points before they are too stale to use as an excuse to blog about.

One Month with the Sony Vita

George Broussard famously stated the Vita seems like the last dinosaur at a mammal convention, and sales figures may be confirming this. Still–as a die-hard gamer from the monochrome era, I got one at launch. I’m the earliest adopter there is.

Regardless of the market reality, there is one game that proves the Vita is a serious piece of gaming hardware–Uncharted: Golden Abyss. This is a PS3-sized game of AAA amazingness that you hold in your hand. It’s doubtful the Vita ecosystem can support many games of Uncharted’s scope, but it really is an incredible experience for a handheld.

Oh, and the Near network is cool. It’s strikingly similar to a location-based mobile games ad network I built in 2010. So, yeah–this kind of tech is dear to my heart. What’s up with only being able to refresh every hour?

Adobe Cries For Help

Is Adobe trying to kill itself, or is hurting Flash just a cry for help? Maybe Adobe is just a cutter. Anyway, adding a 9% tax on all content built using Flash’s new Alchemy opcodes is another desperate attempt to create a Flash ecosystem.

This is obviously a move to make UDK and Unity3D’s Flash exporters prohibitively expensive. If you develop Stage3D apps in ActionScript using Adobe’s own tools (or deploy on AIR or mobile), you apparently can release content royalty-free. Too bad. I was really looking forward to using Flash as a low friction web platform for Unity3D content.

GDC 2012 Impressions

My GDC impressions are over a month old and pretty stale. So I’ll keep it quick. Facebook games = dead. Mobile social games = tail end of cokehead frenzy. Social gambling = the fuse has just been lit. The crab cioppino at Sotto Mare = greatest meal of all time.