Recap of the 2011 E3

Article  by  Romain GOULOUMES  •  Published 04.08.2011  •  Updated 04.08.2011
The Convention Center of Los Angeles
The video games industry is currently the biggest of the creative industries – even larger than the music and cinema industries – and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, open exclusively to journalists and industry professionals, is the most important of the video game trade shows.
Every year, video game publishers and creators reunite at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, more commonly called the E3, to sketch out the trends of the next two years. The 2011 edition of the expo, held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 7-9, welcomed a total of 46,800 visitors (compared to 45,600 in 2010).
 
The three biggest video game console manufacturers, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft), held their press conferences in a lead-up to the expo’s opening day. The Nintendo press conference was the most highly anticipated, as the Japanese manufacturer was to reveal its next console, the Wii U. Up until now, the Wii U, which will replace the Wii before the end of 2012, was only discussed under the name “Project café”. Specifications such as the price and launch date of the new console are still being kept under wraps, though, and only the system’s design has been made public: we now know that it will be high definition and what its controller looks like. Proceeding as it did for the Wii, Nintendo has, sensibly, chosen to base its communications on the system’s controller. Halfway between an iPad and the Wiimote (the Wii’s accelerometric controller), the new controller/tablet combines a tactile screen and traditional buttons on the same device. The screen acts as a complement to the television screen and can replace it if there is no television on hand.

La Wii U a moins convaincu les investisseurs que les professionnels du jeu vidéo.
The Nintendo console presented at the E3 / Nintendo

The evening of the announcement and the following day, the exchange rate for Nintendo stocks fell by 5.7%, and later by 5.2%. The group’s president, Satoru Iwata, admitted that the press conference did not go well; at a time when competition is doubly fierce as gaming adapts to new uses driven by smartphones and social networks, the financial markets were not convinced. The presentation of the Wii in 2006 had the inverse effect.

At its press conference, Sony unveiled the PSVita, which is set to replace the PSP within a few months. With a €250 price tag, the new portable console will be endowed with a tactile screen, two cameras, and, depending on the version, an Internet connection, WiFi or 3G. The first games accompanying the system’s launch – notably the game Uncharted Golden Abyss – display the console’s power: the quality of its graphics comes close to matching the PS3. The conference also provided an opportunity for the manufacturer to publicly apologize for what had occurred earlier in the year with the PSNetwork, its online game and downloading network, which was deactivated for several weeks following a computer hacking incident.


The PSVita console / Sony

For its part, Microsoft dedicated its press conference to the Kinect. Since its introduction on the market last year, Microsoft has sold over 10 million of its motion-detection devices. Before the 2011 E3, only family-friendly games were available for the Kinect, but it now appears this trend is changing. The American manufacturer gave a sneak peek at games being developed around the motion-detecting camera, including popular product licenses such as Mass Effect, Ghost Recon, Gears of Wars and Star Wars. The high definition compilation of the Halo trilogy, as well as its next chapter, Halo 4, also had their moment of glory. Microsoft also announced that YouTube and Bing, the search engine they developed in response to Google, would play a part in reinforcing the multimedia aspect of the Xbox Live’s online gaming service. The American company hopes to make its console the best-selling console of 2011, and in so doing to confirm its place among the “historic” console manufacturers, Nintendo and Sony.
 

The expo itself most prominently featured flagship licenses, some of which are available for more than one console. Zelda: Skyward Sword and Mario Kart both made a splash on Wii and 3DS. Battlefield 3 and Bioshock Infinite – the former for its construction and the latter for its artistic direction – were the standard-bearers of First-Person Shooters (FPS) for high definition consoles. The latest iteration of Michel Ancel’s mascot, Rayman Origins, developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, also garnered a good deal of praise. But the greatest surprise of the expo came from Square Enix, which is reviving the long dormant Lara Croft franchise. Despite the excitement involved in the announcements of new consoles and anticipated follow-ups, there was a bit of creativity missing from the aisles of stands, no doubt due to a noticeable absence of new licenses. Though the system manufacturers confirmed their determination to be true presences on the market by introducing consoles with innovative interactive possibilities, the marked disappearance of Japanese developers is distressing.

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Photo credits: photomontage created from Andrew Gorden’s (Flickr) photography of the Los Angeles Convention Center and the company logos of Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.
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