5.50pm – Tues – Jon Jordan’s E3 Blog

5.50pm - Tues - Jon Jordan's E3 Blog

We round off with the aftermath from Nintendo and Microsoft, but before the real work begins as the show proper opens on Wednesday, it’s time for a ‘This Is What They Really Meant’ roundup

Oh the bittersweet pain of the attendees of Nintendo’s press conference – everyone laptopped out and ready to blog but no wi-fi. How to tell the world about the exciting breaking news that there will be another game in the Mario, Zelda,  Metroid Prime, WarioWare, Pokemon, Starfox, and Kirby franchises? They will be so surprised to find out…

So as soon as the press conference was over, everyone  who wasn’t going down the road to the Chinese Theater for the Microsoft press conference was desperate to find the nearest Starbucks and fill the gaping hole in their psyche that not having updated important breaking news to the Internet creates.

Hey, who I am trying to kid – this is a blog right. I was trying to do the same thing but then a sharp phone call reminded me I was supposed to be writing an article for the E3 Showdaily (45,000 copies hot off the press tomorrow morning folks!).

Actually, I can tell you finding out what Bill Gates and chums were up to online is a much more pleasurable experience  than having to be there.  In situ, it’s all about queuing to join the next queue and finally sitting at the back of a room and watching a TV screen. Frankly you may as well do that from the comfort of your own office. You’ll also avoid listening to 45 minutes of some vice president of etcera reading business&culturese off an autocue before you get the juice.

So with this in mind, here’s the official/unofficial Next-Gen roundup of what those pre-E3 conferences really meant.

Sony – PlayStation 2 made us a stack of cash. Here’s loads of PS3 game demos that aren’t Killzone 2. We copied the cool bit of our new controller from Nintendo. Oh and PS3 is going to be as expensive and as hard to get hold of as you imagined.

Nintendo – Stop laughing at our console’s name.  We can’t decide how low to price it because if we have to cut the price after 12 months like last time, we’ll be giving it away with a gallon of gas by 2008.  Thank goodness for DS.

Microsoft – Time wind up and roll out Bill again. It’s all about the PC this year, apart from Xbox 360 of course. Darn. Scott McNealy was right; the network is the computer. But if Peter Moore gets another tattoo, we’ll sell him to a travelling circus.

 

3.24pm, Tuesday: A funny thing happened on the way to the (Kodak) Theatre.  Everyone was still laughing about Wii

Did Nintendo really consider the impact of calling its console Wii (pronounced like and defined by the collective  ‘We’)?

At its E3 media briefing, big Reggie Fils-Aime – the closest thing the company gets Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in size and attitude  – tried to ham it up.

“I’d like to thank everyone who supported us when we announced the name. All two of you,” he joked.

Perhaps the most telling instance however was when one member of audience roared ‘Wii’ instead of the more usual ‘Woo’. Everyone laughed… nervously.

The fact remains, Nintendo could be spoiling a revolutionary console, with some marketing foot-in-mouth. Sure as Fils-Aime mentioned names like Google and Lexus didn’t mean much until they were co-opted by certain companies. But equally, they weren’t used by kids to describe bodily excrement.

A better comparison might be Coke’s decision to try to force New Coke on its drinking public. Heck even Microsoft screwed up with its original Xbox controller and had to admit it wasn’t infallible.

So the best thing to be would be to ‘fess up, admit they got it wrong and get on with doing something different. They could even call it Revolution…

 

So the sun was finally out and beating down as we all waited patiently in line for the Sony press conference. Held in the Sony Pictures Studio, where films are still made – Spider-Man 3 is in production round the corner – this was E3’s first big media feeding frenzy. With a couple of thousand journos and analysts in the audience, there seemed to be at least a hundred posting online directly as any words were uttered.

 
Sony’s trick was to leave the details everyone was waiting for until the end however. The pricing was almost presented as an afterthought. Personally I thought Ken Kutaragi would do the deed, but instead it was US president and CEO Kaz Hiral who uttered the magic words “$499/$599” and “the 17th November”.

 

No one seems too surprised by the relatively high pricing. After all we’ll still be getting a Blu-ray equipped piece of kit plus a game console with a hard drive and a free online gaming service. The trick, of course, will be availability. Unlike Microsoft, which could pretty much ignore Xbox 360’s Japanese launch (a favour the Japanese returned), Sony will have to split two million PlayStation 3s between three high demand markets. Even another two million in the six weeks after launch isn’t going to help much. Better get your pre-orders in quick if you want one.

Perhaps more interesting however was the new/old DualShock 2 controller for PS3 which features six degrees of freedom motion so you can tip, rotate and levitate game characters by just moving your controller. Sony reckons it’s been working on the tech for years and has patents pending but it clearly seems to take a leaf out of Nintendo’s book. Still, the controller feels okay, if extremely lightweight.

As for the games on display, the standout for me was the absence of Killzone 2, which after last year’s over-polished demo won’t be shown until it’s looking brilliant. Still Heavenly Sword’s animation was amazing, while Naughty Dog’s unnamed ‘Tomb Raider but with a bloke,’ showed promise.

Also interesting  in a conceptual sense was Konami’s video for Metal Gear Solid 4, which ended with Solid Snake sucking down the barrel of his own gun. A game character pondering suicide – now that’s something that should get people thinking.

But not just now. It’s time for some shut eye before the early start that is the Nintendo press conference.

4pm, Monday: It’s the time for the pre-show press conferences. First up Japanese RPG specialist Square Enix 

There’s an inelegant rhythm to E3’s press conferences. The big three – Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft somehow decide how to chop up the period from Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon without alienating the journalists who have to rush across LA to make all three. Somehow, the smaller players try to pick the gaps to make their own impact.

Activision was brave this year with a 10.30am  Monday morning start, but with E3’s press registration only opening at 10am, it was a hard call to make. I didn’t.

Instead, my first port of call was the worn-glamour of Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Palladium courtesy of Eugene the taxi driver, who was interested in the World Cup, why Civilisation IV doesn’t run so well on the laptop he has in his cab and various US scandals relating to companies re-accounting service charges as sales to reduce their tax obligations.

He didn’t seem too excited by quirky Japanese role playing games, so I didn’t go into detail about what I was expecting from Square Enix’s line-up.

And even after the event, a lot of journalists seem pretty confused too. But that’s not surprising. There were four different versions of Final Fantasy VII announced, two versions of Dragon Quest, three (I think) games in the Children of Mana series, two in the Valkyrie Profile and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series, and three games being made under the mantle of Final Fantasy XIII.

Two of these are for PlayStation 3 so there was so cool eyecandy for everyone to “Woo” at. Of course, most of it was FMV so it was hard to judge what the actual games will look like.

More fun was had watching the stewards who had to stop people taking photos of the games on-screen. One guy kept using his flash – kinda easy to see where he was sitting.

But besides all the cute girls with button noses, maverick spiky-haired guys with big swords that Square Enix’s games seem to involve, there was something you seldom see in game presentations – humour.

Rocket Slime doesn’t seem like the kind of thing to cause a chuckle, but the game for Nintendo’s DS handheld, was certainly angled that way. Rocket’s town has been ‘slimenapped’ by The Plob and only he can squeeze and bounce his way to victory.

“It’s payback Slime.”

No, it’s not. It’s time for the big one – the Sony press conference, from where I’m blogging now. Expect some juicy news in the next hour or so…

Noon, Monday: Jon Jordan is deep inside LACC, keeping you abreast of his wanderings among the booths. Here’s his first update…

You don’t expect it not to be sunny in LA, but despite my attempt to get into the Californian spirit with shorts, baseball caps and shades, the sun isn’t shining yet. Still for the workers setting up E3, it’s probably a good thing.

 
They’ve been hard at it since the early morning – cutting down trees, hanging huge advertising banners and building the million dollar stages that will be the focus for the 100,000+ attendees.

 

 

 

 

In terms of big hitters, the marketing outside the Conventional Center is all about Sony, Microsoft and Atari. The big news is Sony’s new tag for PlayStation 3 – Play Beyond. It’s all over the front of the West Hall, and the steps inside, and on the next door Staples Center and even the disused car lot on the other side of the street.

 

 
With Xbox 360 selling well, the focus for Microsoft is its killer app for the holiday season, Epic’s Gears of War. Microsoft also owns most of the inside lobby area on the South Hall, only this time it’s pushing PC games. Once again Atari has the big West Hall advertising slot with NeverWinter Nights 2 the deal.

But it’s not all about heavy marketing spend – there is art too. Check out Kurt Wenner. He’s the artist creating a beautiful floor mural for Gears of War. He reckons it’s going to take him until Thursday, and that’s working eight hours a day.

 

 

 

And there’s plenty of work for a blogger too – off now to Square Enix and then Sony’s press conference…