E3 – that's Electronic Entertainment Expo for those of you not familiar with the acronym – has opened in Los Angeles. ABCNews.com checked in with Scott Steinberg , lead analyst for the video game consulting firm TechSavvy (www.toptechexpert.com) and host of online video series Game Theory (www.gametheoryonline.com), who's at the convention.
What do you think of Nintendo's new video game system, the sequel to the bestselling Wii?
It's a fascinating system in keeping with Nintendo's heritage of innovation, but it appears to be more of an evolutionary rather than revolutionary step.
Although it has some compelling applications and a new touchscreen controller – and adding HD video is certainly a smart upgrade -- it's going to be several months, if not years, before developers fully come to grips with the technology and new game-play possibilities it offers. And despite a number of key title announcements (Kid Icarus, for one), it still remains to be seen whether or not Nintendo can make a compelling case for hardcore as well as casual gamers. They've yet to trot out marquis, must-see titles.
I don't' think they're going to offend anyone with this one or lose the core base of casual fans that help make the Wii a bestseller, but I've yet to see anything that's blowing hardcore players' minds.
What is Microsoft trying to accomplish with the Xbox? Does it make Kinect more important than it was? And can their strategy work?
Microsoft hopes to make Xbox a larger home entertainment brand, as opposed to typecasting it to the gaming world. While it won't abandon blockbuster gaming (Halo 4, Gears of War 3 or Forza Motorsport 4), the company is placing growing importance on forming strategic partnerships with content providers such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Vudu and TV/film studios.
The ability to search for and call up thousands of videos through Bing clearly reflects this strategy. Coupled with new Kinect video and hands-free motion sensing controls and live streaming video programs with augmented reality features, it's a strategy that may pay off in spades.
The company is also smartly focusing on introducing Kinect gesture-tracking support and speech recognition features to more core gaming experiences, such as fantasy role-player Fable: The Journey, Mass Effect 3 and Kinect Star Wars. While this is largely a stopgap year, as designers come to grips with benefits the hardware offers, these titles paint a broader picture of the benefits Kinect offers longtime gaming enthusiasts.
What about Sony's plans to double down on 3D, and roll out the high-powered PlayStation Vita handheld – can they work?
It looks to be business as usual for the global electronics giant. Sony's trotting out a number of software titles that make a convincing case for the PlayStation 3's more powerful hardware and Blu-ray capabilities (Uncharted 3 and infamous 2). It's also reaffirming its commitment to 3D – not a surprising move, given the worldwide investment in 3DTV sets, video cameras and supporting multimedia content. Nevertheless, that seems a pricey gamble.
E3: Nintendo Wii U vs. PlayStation, Xbox
Most of what Sony is pushing looks to be more of the same. We're hearing little in terms of new key differentiators in terms of must-have multimedia content or PlayStation Network features. It's dubious whether a dedicated single-function device such as the Vita can compete in the era of multifunction devices such as smartphones, which offer endless selection, massive value and on-demand convenience from a gadget that already commands a premium place in your pocket.
Where do Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft each stand heading into E3?
While Nintendo enjoys a clear lead in the number of systems installed across homes throughout the world, its sales have been declining, while Microsoft and Sony's are on the rise.
Nintendo should be the first out of the game with a new system, while rivals are rumored to be holding back new launches until 2014. But with its rivals gaining traction at the Wii's expense and having the advantage of not being first to market, Nintendo may have the most to lose if it doesn't bring its A-game.
As for Microsoft and Sony, the onus is on both to prove there's sustainable life in the Kinect and PlayStation Move outside of casual and party game experiences. Their systems also must continue to deliver the biggest blockbusters, the best selection of hardware accessories and services – not to mention the most enjoyable and broadest range of everyday home entertainment and online multiplayer and shopping services possible.
Much of this battle will come down to exclusive software titles, strategic partnerships with consumer brands and the speed at which all can roll out new products and services, helping justify why – in what's become a war of content, not technical performance – you'd choose one system over the other.
Touching on something you mentioned earlier, what does Sony need to do to build buzz around its Vita portable?
Portable consoles are in an unenviable position. They're being squeezed on both ends by the thousands of smartphone apps (available from your pocket anytime, anywhere) and shifting play patterns, as fair-weather fans shift away from high-priced, full-scale gaming experiences while hardcore enthusiasts become ever choosier about how they spend their gaming dollars.
To truly wow with the Vita portable, Sony needs to trot out a top-tier range of platform-exclusive titles and attention-grabbing services that make the case for why customers should purchase and pack another gadget in their pocket, no matter how shiny its bells and whistles.
How big an impact will Kinect and Move have overall at E3? While PlayStation Move and Kinect are expected to enjoy a sizable presence, their role is expected to remain marginal, as compared with blockbuster new retail releases of all stripes and a growing emphasis on digitally downloadable titles. That's not to say you won't hear about each system – just that, while they'll continue to mature and expand their respective software libraries, they're not likely to steal the thunder from titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or RAGE just yet.