It has been nearly a month since the end of E3 2013, and the consensus seems to be that this year’s was a great show. Even before it began, E3 2013 was guaranteed to be exciting, with the impending launch of a new console generation and a cornucopia of new, next generation titles heading our way. And while I agree that we saw a lot of cool stuff at this year’s E3 – my holiday shopping list just keeps getting longer – I can’t shake this feeling that a lot of the “new” games that were unveiled felt like more of the same. It’s as if the video game industry is suffering from a serious case of déjà vu.
As always, Nintendo was one of the worst offenders. I will always consider Nintendo to be my favourite gaming company, but their continuing trend of recycling old games to help move new systems is getting really old, really fast. Super Mario 3D Land, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Mario Kart 8 are all direct sequels to years old Wii and 3DS games. They even appear to reuse their predecessor’s art assets and 3D models with some extra polygons thrown in for good measure, with the only real difference being re-mapped levels and additional power-ups. Then there is The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, which is simply an HD remake of the hit 2003 Gamecube title (though don’t get me wrong, it looks beautiful and I’m excited to play it). Finally we got a new Super Smash Bros. game, which although coming to a handheld for the first time, is in general starting to look a little long in the tooth, as any franchise is given to after three sequels.
It is clear that Nintendo is grasping at straws a little bit, pulling out their Triple A franchises and rushing them to market in order to help revive the flailing Wii U. And to be fair, gamers (and press) demand these franchises and characters, so we can’t complain that the Big N isn’t giving us what we want. However, I feel as though Nintendo is doing these characters a disservice by putting out these simple sequels and ports. What’s more, it feels like Nintendo is turning their back on the promise of the Wii U GamePad, which was to introduce fun, new ways of play with a dedicated second screen. Where are those unique uses of the GamePad? Where is the next real 3D Mario game, the follow-up to the massively popular and amazing Super Mario Galaxy series? Where are our favourite Nintendo characters in beautiful HD? Unfortunately, it looks like we’re not getting any of that this year.
Much of the focus of this year’s show was placed on Sony and Microsoft, both of whom are preparing to launch their new home consoles – the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, respectively – this holiday season. While I normally pay less attention to these two, this year I am preparing to take my first leap into the “hardcore” gaming world with a new console, and as such, I watched both Microsoft and Sony’s E3 press conferences closely. I don’t have much time to play games these days, and I definitely don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer, so I was hoping at least one of these companies would show me something to justify my spending upwards of $500 on a new console. What did we get?
Guns. Guns. Guns. Zombies. Guns. Explosions. Guns. Shiny Cars. Guns. Master Chief.
Now I’m not really an FPS guy, but even the most hardcore Call of Duty player has to admit that each new entry in the series isn’t that different from the one before. Likewise for all the new racing games we saw, despite the high fidelity leather textures and blindingly shiny metal. To me it felt like I had seen all of these games before, yet I was meant to be excited about them all over again. “Look at those shiny cars! You can drive ’em!” “You get to blow up the trees this time ’round!” “Did someone say MORE GUNS?!?”
I was hoping to see something newer, not just shinier and bloodier. Games that leverage the power of these new consoles to provide different, compelling, and innovative experiences and not just prettier experiences. I was hoping to see more games like Watch_Dogs that blend deep and enthralling storytelling with real-time, internet connected gameplay and beautiful graphics as a bonus. More games like Project Spark that allow you to be the creator and craft a unique experience all your own. Those games look great, and they will certainly be a blast to play, but at E3 2013, they were few and far between.
As a casual gamer at best, I know I am hardly qualified to complain about the state of the gaming industry. But I do believe that if Nintendo hopes to continue attracting new gamers, and if Sony and Microsoft hope to convert some of those casual gamers and excite existing hardcore gamers, they should be worried. I’m sure as time progresses, developers will figure out how to make new and unique gaming experiences, but for right now, I haven’t seen a truly compelling reason for anyone to buy in to the next generation of gaming at launch.