It’s Just Like Being There
Here, let me save you some time.
No doubt the proprietors of Ladies’ Home Journal were breathless during Nintendo’s presentation, but those outside of that august body may derive less enjoyment. This is the deep-dish, delicious irony endured by the Nintendo stalwart: to see their platform of choice ascendant, even as their bright God turns his face away. Though it contained very little sustenance for our kind, the presentation was (as is typical) a confident, refined affair. The salvo was not a failure. It was simply aimed elsewhere.
As for Sony, well, let’s talk about Sony.
There is nothing I hate more than a foregone conclusion. Beneath every vicious (that is to say, factual) statement I have ever made regarding the company, there has existed the indubitable truth of their ultimate victory. This certainty extends, yea, deep inside the company itself, which is why they have done so little to earn your love. The rumble-free controller with built-in batteries, the one that turns off while you’re updating your console every other week, that one that inexplicably loses signal from time to time but everyone is too chivalrous to discuss it, the one that is now obsolete because two years ago they tried to save money on something they knew they would have to pay anyway - this “six axis” is the icon of a system coasting on global brand inertia. Announcing features that your competitors have had for coming up on two years does not a riveting presentation make. Exclusive PSN content (like a movie length Ratchet and Clank game, or thatgamecompany’s Flower) is still the company’s most compelling asset.
There are a total of two interesting, relevant announcements from these three presentations combined. The first is that Microsoft has decided, three years into the system’s lifespan, that they made the wrong console. Without warning, in the middle of a presentation jutting with skewers of sizzling beef for the faithful, the entire edifice devolved into a series of gruesome outtakes from the fucking Today Show. They have seen the future, and it is the past. To that end, they have committed to a radical alteration of the user experience. I have no idea what to make of it yet, and the product as shown is in turbulent flux: this single walkthrough clearly shows as many as three versions of the future Dashboard. Gabriel tells me that the Avatars are alright. I don’t know.
The second is that Square Enix has recognized it’s never going to make its money back only selling Final Fantasy XIII to the Playstation. I don’t think most Xbox owners really want Final Fantasy, but this is the kind of pro-consumer maneuver that we assumed would be the hallmark of this generation. You can take it as a compliment to the Xbox as a platform if you like, but it has more to do with the brutal, jungle law of the market. All it actually means is that SquareEnix has recognized the platform exists.
MAG - hilariously, “Massive Action Game” - would have made this list if Sony had shown even a frame of in-game footage. Zipper Interactive, these guys are local - I’ve got nothing but love for them. I firmly believe that the people who made SOCOM can deliver a multi-theater shooter on that hardware. Just like the God of War III “trailer,” though - another virtually content-free pirouette - pre-rendered footage has no effect on me. In this epic context, the value of such materials was substantially less than zero. They needed something incredible, yet tangible. What we received instead was a promise of a promise of a promise.