The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 10 through June 13, 2013. For the fourth year in a row, I had the pleasure of providing coverage of this massive trade show event for Home Theater Forum. I’ve included hyperlinks to game trailers and complete press conferences, where available. Also, as in previous years, I’ve produced a wrap-up video of what I got to see at the show.
The big news at this years show was the unveiling of next generation consoles by both Microsoft, with the Xbox One, and Sony, with the PlayStation 4.
As we learned last month, the Xbox One will feature an advanced motion and voice detection Kinect controller, a built-in DVR for recording game play, a Blu-ray optical drive, and function as both a game console and media center. At Monday's press briefing, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will be available in November for $499, and can be pre-ordered starting today. Sony countered with a $399 pricetag for the PS4, with a November street date.
Getting a first glimpse at the new consoles, the Xbox One seems bulky in comparison to the more sleek design of the PS4, and the Xbox One´s grills look like a perfect landing place for dust.
Of course, one of the big controversies surrounding the new consoles was their rumored approach to used games, with many fearing they would make game rentals, trades, and reselling extinct by only allowing a game disc to be installed on one system. Microsoft is standing firm on its policy, and didn't even bring up the issue on Monday. But Sony’s COO Jack Tretton’s announcement that nothing is changing on the PS4 was, quite possibly, what tipped the scales in Sony’s favor at this year’s E3.
Forza Motorsport 5 features a replica of the prototype McLaren P1, and a feature called a “Drivatar,” which uses a player’s driving skills and creates computer-controlled counterparts for use in other player’s races.
Fan Favorite Killer Instinct will be getting an Xbox One upgrade, and is expected in stores this November.
Project Spark has some potential as a surprise hit, featuring a game creation suite that allows users to generate and share their own original games. This is not an entirely new concept, since Little Big Planet on the PlayStation also had this feature, but hopefully game creation will be much easier and less limited.
Microsoft announced that they are still very much behind the Xbox 360, saying that hundreds of games are in development for the current console, set to be released over the next several years. They also unveiled a newly-designed Xbox 360 that has a similar look to the new Xbox One, and is available now.
The press briefing closed with the announcement of three more Xbox One exclusives:
A new HALO installment, which will run at 60 frames per second, will be out in 2014.
And finally, Respawn and Electronic Arts gave us a detailed look their new franchise, Titanfall, a multi-player first person shooter being developed for both Xbox One and Windows 8.
Electronic Arts was up next, just down the street at the Shrine Auditorium, and highlighted eleven new games for the next-generation consoles. EA kicked off their showcase with a look at Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, combining the tongue-in-cheek humor fans of the franchise have become familiar with the battle intensity of Battlefield or Call of Duty.
EA’s racing franchise returns with Need For Speed: Rivals, introduced by Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, who also introduced a quick behind-the-scenes look at his upcoming feature for DreamWorks, Need For Speed. The new game features AutoDrive, allowing seamless transitions between single- and multi-player modes.
Luckily for EA, the game demo shown for Dragon Age III: Inquisition did not suffer the same technical issues it did at the Xbox briefing. The game promises a deep and thoroughly gorgeous fantasy experience when it debuts in Fall 2014.
EA then showed off many of their upcoming EA Sports titles for Xbox One and PS4, utilizing their new EA Sports Ignite engine, promising more naturalistic player movement in games such as NBA Live 14, Madden NFL 25, FIFA 14, and EA Sports UFC.
Battlefield 4 not only benefits from the latest incarnation of the Frostbite 3 engine, it also features a 64-player online multiplayer mode which was demoed live with banks of players at the back of the stage.
Aisha Tyler hosted the Ubisoft press conference at the Los Angeles Theater, with Alice In Chains’ lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell opening the show with a solo from Man In The Box. He then demoed many of the new features in Rocksmith 2014 Edition, including session mode (allowing players to add backup musicians to any track), as well as the game’s extensive voice controls. The game will be available for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and Mac.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist promises to be the largest to date, featuring a lengthy single-player campaign, a cooperative mode, and the return of a “Spies vs. Mercs” competitive multiplayer mode. The game is due on August 20, 2013.
Utilizing the many advancements in both Xbox One and PlayStation 4, The Crew is an intense multiplayer racing game in which players must customize their cars according to the regions of the United States.
Watch Dogs, the cyber-thriller set in Chicago that was the big excitement at Ubisoft’s conference last year, was demoed with live gameplay. Players assume the role of Aidan Pearce, a cyber vigilante seeking justice for himself and those around him by using his smartphone to hack into various systems.
Ubisoft also announced that their popular Rabbids series is coming to television, allowing viewers to interact with the action as it appears on-screen using their console’s motion-tracking capabilities. Rabbids Invasion can be viewed passively, or play the show as a game.
Assasin’s Creed IV: Black Flag focuses on naval life, allowing players to sail their own ship, discover hidden treasure, and explore a massive world. The game is due October 29 for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC, with next-gen versions due at a later date.
Sony’s PlayStation conference, held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, was the hottest ticket on Monday, with crowds waiting in line for the show as early as Friday. Jack Tretton announced that both Playstation 3 and Vita are still important consoles, with lots of games set to be released in the coming months. This included looks at The Last of Us, Puppeteer, Beyond: Two Souls, and Warner Bros Interactive’s Batman: Arkham Origins.
Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, announced that Sony Pictures is working on a PS4 exclusive access plan to provide users to the very best movies and television shows. Lynton did not mention if this included the heavily-rumored access to 4k, or ultra-HD, content.
Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, announced the upcoming addition of Redbox Instant, Flixster, and Sony’s Live Events viewer to all PlayStation devices.
Adam Boyes, vice president of third-party relations, emphasized Sony’s dedication and commitment to supporting independent game developers by announcing an almost endless list of upcoming titles, including The Witness, Transistor, Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Ray’s the Dead, and Galak-Z: The Dimensional to name but a few.
Sony then announced that Activision Blizzard’s Diablo III would be coming soon to PS3 and PS4, then introduced Square Enix’s Tetsuya Nomura in a special video appearance. Nomura announced that Final Fantasy XV would be coming to PS4, and that he is currently at work on Kingdom Hearts III.
Sony’s COO Jack Tretton announced that PlayStation Plus memberships will carry over to PlayStation 4, will receive free access to Driveclub Plus Edition, and one free game download per month. The show closed with a look at developer Bungie and publisher Activision Blizzard’s Destiny, coming to PS4 next year.
Even though Nintendo decided not to hold a formal press briefing at this year’s Expo, the company did release a 40-minute videotaped program on their Nintendo Direct press website announcing several new games for the Wii, Wii U, DS and 3DS platforms.
Coming to the Wii U later this year is Super Mario 3D World, a follow-up to the 3DS hit Super Mario 3D Land, featuring classic Super Mario gameplay and dynamic 3D camera effects. It also adds a 4-player simultaneous mode where players can either work together to complete the level, or battle it out for coins and power-ups.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a remastered high definition version of the popular GameCube release, featuring enhanced graphics (in 1080p) and new gameplay features, including interactions using the Wii U GamePad controller.
Also heading to the Wii U this year are Donky Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Pikmin 3, New Super Luigi U, The Wonderful 101, Wii Party U, and Wii Fit U. Coming in 2014 and beyond are Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, Bayonetta 2, and the tentatively titled X.
Super Smash Bros for Wii U and Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS are due out in 2014, bringing together Mario, Link, Samus Aran, Mega Man, and other favorite characters in four-player brawls. Also coming to the 3DS are Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Pokemon X, Pokemon Y, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Yoshi’s New Island.
Disney Interactive's big game at this year’s Expo is a Skylanders-inspired adventure open-world game entitled Disney Infinity, using Disney character action figures that players place on an Infinity Base to play as that character. The game is due this August on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, and PC.
Polk Audio announced a partnership with Microsoft to develop Xbox One branded audio devices, beginning with the N1 Surroundbar, available in both black and vanilla, and featuring Polk’s patented SDA Surround technology and Four Audio Immersion Modes tailored to specific applications. The sound bar includes two optical inputs, one analog input, and connection to a Bluetooth device.
Designed specifically for the Xbox One, Polk’s 4 Shot gaming headphones will be available in desert white, nova blue, and ink black, and feature an Xbox One Wireless Puck, retractable near-field microphone for chat, and includes connections to be used with your existing tablet, smart phone, or portable media player.
Hyperkin, which specializes in retro game accessories, retro game emulators, as well as existing gaming accessories, demonstrated their latest emulator, the Retron 5, featuring cartridge slots for NES, Super NES, Genesis, Famicom, and GameBoy Advance, HDMI output and upconversion, a Bluetooth wireless controller, two original controller ports for each platform, and is compatible with both PAL and NTSC cartridges.
Also on display was their new Comrad Gaming Audio Helmet, featuring wireless connectivity, a detachable and adjustable microphone, interchangeable helmet covers, and is compatible with Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac. It is also Oculus VR-ready.
DTS is the leading sound system used on Blu-ray movies, and they brought their new DTS Headphone:X technology to demo here at the show. DTS Headphone:X promises to faithfully reproduce the home theater sound experience using only a pair of headphones.
ASTRO Gaming and Skullcandy
ASTRO Gaming and Skullcandy showcased their lineup of gaming headsets. ASTRO announced that their products, such as the A30, A40, and wireless A50 can now be found in all Best Buy and GameStop locations. Gamers can also personalize their A30 or A40 headsets by ordering custom tags from their website that snap onto the ear cups. The A40 line is also available in a range of colors, including black, white, neon orange, neon pink, neon yellow and (coming soon) neon red.
When ASTRO Gaming was acquired by Skullcandy in 2011, they were tasked with developing a line of headsets for casual gamers to be sold under the Skullcandy Gaming line for $200 and under. The top of the line PLYR1 is available in white or black, and features 2.4GHz wireless connectivity, Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound, three EQ modes, and retails for $179.99. The PLYR2 is available in black/yellow, white, or teal/navy, and features 2.4GHz wireless connectivity, stereo sound, three EQ modes, and retails for $129.95. The SLYR comes in black, white, or blue, and is a wired stereo headset retailing for $79.95. An Army of Two carbon fiber edition of the SLYR is also available for $89.95. Expect game-branded headsets in the near future, including Assasin’s Creed and Battlefield 4. Home Theater Forum received a review sample of the Skullcandy PLYR1 headset, and a review is forthcoming.
Innex is another company specializing in retro gaming consoles and accessories, and they had their latest Retrobit console, the Super Retro Trio3 on display in their booth. The console plays NES, SNES and Genesis game cartridges, six controller ports compatible with original or third party controllers, and connects to your television with either an S-video or composite AV cable. The Super Retro Advance Adapter allows you to also play GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, and GameBoy Color game cartridges on your SNES or SNES emulator.
Also on display were prototypes of their Wireless Hypermode Series of controllers for Nintendo64, NES/SNES, and Genesis systems. All three are based on the look and feel of the original controllers, and feature 2.4GHz wireless connectivity using the included wireless adapter.
Saints Row IV
Deep Silver was holding closed door gameplay of their upcoming Saints Row IV, in which the leader of the Third Street Saints is elected President of the United States, and then must do battle with a race of aliens that are attacking Earth.
Many readers here on Home Theater Forum are familiar with Monoprice, an e-commerce leader in quality cables and accessories for computer and consumer electronics at affordable prices, and the company made their E3 debut with their new line of gaming accessories including the unveiling for four new monitors at the show.
The 27” IPS-ZERO-G is an LED backlit IPS monitor featuring an ultra-thin bezel, 6ms response time, DVI-D Dual Link and VGA inputs, a glass laminate glossy panel with anti-glare coating, and a maximum resolution of 2560x1440 resolution at 60Hz.
The 27” IPS-Glass Panel Pro is an upgrade to the Zero-G by adding a Grade A-1 panel with zero defects; DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI, and DVI-D Dual Link inputs; and built-in stereo speakers with 2-watt amplifier.
The 30” IPS CrystalPro is an LCD monitor featuring a resolution of 2560x1600, 6ms response time, built-in stereo speakers with a 7-watt amplifier, and VGA, DVI-D DualLink, DisplayPort, HDMI (limited to a maximum 1920x1080p), and Component inputs.
The 30” IPS Pro has many of the same features of the IPS Crystal Pro, but only includes a DVI-D DualLink input and is not MAC compatible.
Activision Blizzard was offering a “public” gameplay demo of Destiny, an open-world, first-person multi-player shooter from developer Bungie, the creators of the popular Halo franchise. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, humans are just beginning to repopulate the planet, but must do battle with alien races who are threatening the last remaining city. The game is due out for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One in 2014.
Members of the press were permitted to see a behind-closed-doors preview of the upcoming Call of Duty: Ghosts, utilizing the new NextGen engine, allowing the developers to render backgrounds, characters, and gameplay at a level only seen previously in motion pictures. The game is set in the near future, where the US is no longer a major power, and a band of soldiers known as the “Ghosts” battling against an unknown enemy, trying to save what is left of America. Call of Duty: Ghosts is due out on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC in November, with PS4 and Xbox One versions to follow at a later date.
Skylanders: Swap Force brings some advancements in both gameplay and collectible action figures. Each Swap Force figure can be disassembled with the tops and bottoms interchangeable, allowing players to combine the elemental powers of the two characters. Also, characters now have the ability to jump within the game. While all previous Skylanders action pieces are compatible with the new game, Swap Force does require the use of a new portal which will be included with the starter kit. Skylanders: Swap Force will hit store shelves for PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, and Wii U in October, with PS4 and Xbox One versions arriving at a later date.
Majesco Entertainment offered up two new games at E3. Zumba® Fitness World Party gets a complete reworking, doing away with on-screen animation (as seen in previous entries) and replacing it with real backgrounds and real Zumba instructors (including Beto, Gina Grant, Kass Martin, Melissa Chiz, Heidy Torres and Loretta Bates) for a more realistic experience. Available for Xbox 360 Kinect, Xbox One, Wii U, and Wii, with a release date planned for this October.
Based on the hit Disney Channel animated series, Phineas and Ferb: Quest For Cool Stuff will have players navigating their favorite characters around the world in an A.T.T. (All-Terrain Transformatron) looking for treasure. But watch out for the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz as he unleashes his obscurinator in an attempt to take over the Tri-State area. But have no fear, as players can also play as Perry and transform into Agent P to save the day. Phineas and Ferb: Quest For Cool Stuff is due to hit store shelves for Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS platforms this August.
Watch out, Rocksmith, because you have some serious competition coming later this year with Bandfuse: Rock Legends from Realta Entertainment Group. Utilizing real instruments and special guitar cables to connect to your PS3 or Xbox 360 console, Bandfuse actually teaches you to play guitar and read music (in the real world) at the same time. It’s big advantages to Rocksmith are lower latency, better audio processing, original artists (no covers), sit in on “one on one” sessions with real guitar legends, and uses real tablature layouts. Realta promises the game will be available this holiday shopping season.
Please check out our E3 Wrap-Up video, featuring highlights from the Microsoft and Sony press conferences along with tours and interviews from the showroom floor.