Well, it’s that time of year again. With the heady excess of E3 about to get into full-swing, and the flirtatious booth vixens (with more than a subtle hint of UNDERBOOB) are about paint themselves up and don ill-fitting costumes in the thin pretence that they are one of us, this should be a time of great excitement. But I’m just not feeling it this year. Perhaps it is the fact that my favourite studios no longer seem capable of making good games, or that there are already too many good looking games pending for me to free up mindshare for anything new. Then again, perhaps it is just that the lion’s share of top tier games featured this year are more likely to resemble expansion packs than original titles. I am sure to be among the first to pick up Mass Effect 3, Gears of War 3, Dragon Age 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, but the prospect of new footage from these very familiar franchises just is not doing it for me. I am predicting more of the same from this E3, but I digress …
What is a Project Babby?!
Well might I ask this question if I were one of the 79% of people identifying themselves as gamers who did not know how Project Babby is formed. Or so said a recent Neilson poll, and the results were little better for Sony and their Move controller. A recent survey of gamers found that a mere 21% and 23% of gamers were even aware of Microsoft and Sony’s motion controls respectively. While among console owners only 39% of Xbots and 42% of Sony fans were aware of their existence. In a year when E3 is widely tipped to be dominated obnoxious motion control technology, less than half of either console’s existing clientele even know that the technology exists, much less care. Also amusing is the fact that of the gamers who knew how Babby was formed; 31% believed that it would cost less than $50, and 56% believed that it would cost less than $75. It should be interesting to see what happens when these people realise that they are out by more than $100 if Edge is to be believed about the $189 price point, or $149 if you take Game Stop’s word for it.
And so, with E3 fast approaching the question for Microsoft and babby was always going to be how to rectify the deficit in brand awareness. Would an animatronic elephant be enough? How about making grown men wear fluorescent ponchos … with lasers? Not enough? Well how about renaming it Kinect so that even fewer people (and no credible dictionaries) identify with the name? Let’s go with that.
But then, how could tardcore casual gamers fail to warm to the hip and trendy way Microsoft have mangled ‘kinetic’ and ‘connect’ into a nonsensical amalgam of PR speak? That leik totally rox rite? Moreover Microsoft have created a full and robust suite of titles for gamers of all persuasions including; Wii Sports 360, Mario Kart 360 and Nintendogs 360 (cat edition). Not excited? Well consider this pearl of wisdom tweeted by xbox_pr “Hardcore gamers: You will be blown away by the interoperability between Kinectimals and your favorite shooters.”, now that is a company that knows their users!
All of Microsoft’s deft design and marketing expertise might have come to naught if they failed to deliver a gaudy and superficial lightshow to wow the game journalists, happily MS were well placed to oblige. By all accounts Microsoft’s Kinect presentation was a sight to behold, the like of which has not been seen since Nintendo’s wonderful Wii music presentation. NowGamer suggested that Sony had much to learn from the presentation, while xbox_pr tweeted that “Fergie says that “you gotta get that Boom Boom Pow” of this holiday and that is going to be Kinect”. Inspiring. Even Destructoid’s coverage of the event sounded a uniformly positive experience, provided you happened to be French-Canadian.
Throwing Babby out with the bathwater.
And with their Kinect introduction out of the way, Microsoft were free to address their hardcore demographic at their E3 press conference proper … by breifly showing footage of previously announced games CoD: Black Ops, MGS: Rising, Halo Reach, Fable III and GoW3 … before launching into a redux of the Kinect unveiling, recruiting from Nintendo’s overly cheery dead eyed menagerie of actors pretending to enjoy games that no gamer ever would, performing canned actions, and engaging in transparently scripted interactions. Perhaps the most astounding feature was how profoundly they managed to negate their identity as the hardcore shooter-box, effectively dropping their knuckle dragging bread and butter like yesterday’s garbage. Because, as we all know, casual gamers are lining up around the block to spend $450 in order to play games already available on the Wii, leaving one to wonder whether Microsoft have hired Michael Pachtor as their business strategist. Well at least bribing journalists with free slim 360s was a masterstroke (much better than fluorescent ponchos), leaving xbox_pr to conclude “Guess who just win won E3? (Hint: We did.)”
One piece of unambiguously good news did come out of the 360 E3 conference, Microsoft have comprehensively fixed the 360s Achilles heel, namely Microsoft has completely eradicated the Red Ring of Death which has plagued the console and its owners since launch! That’s right folks, Microsoft have completely removed red LED lights form their slim 360 console, making RRoD impossible! Glad they dodged that bullet.
But what of you NATE’s daring droogs? Do you have a favourite Microsoft E3 memory? Are you eagerly looking forward to this brave new era of the Wii60? Can you see many casual gamers paying the steep asking price for Babby? Where does this incredibly ill-considered casual push leave core gamers at this years E3? Do you feel like making any very funny Foster’s jokes?