12 Jun 2011

Top 10 Revelations That Rocked E3 2011

Microsoft Doubles Up on Halo

LOS ANGELES — Nintendo's Wii U and Sony's PlayStation Vita made headlines at this year's E3 Expo. But aside from those big hardware reveals, surprisingly few unexpected videogames were unveiled.

Instead, publishers mostly opted to take attendees at the annual videogame industry trade show on a deeper dive into previously announced games and their features. That's where some serious revelations were made. Here are Wired.com's takes on the big announcements that made E3 2011 surprising, momentous and just plain fun.

Microsoft Doubles Down on Halo

Having previously said it would have surprising announcements timed to the 10th anniversary of its first-person shooter, Microsoft didn't shock anyone when it said Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary would be released Nov. 15. A remastered, retouched version of the killer app that revolutionized FPS games on consoles, Anniversary lets users swap between classic graphics and brand-new ones at any point during their playthroughs.
What people didn't expect at E3 was that 343 Industries, the Microsoft internal dev studio that took over the franchise from Bungie, would officially announce Halo 4 for Christmas 2012. Not the most surprising of announcements — it would be nice if the Xbox 360 maker would announce something besides this and Gears of War — but the first big release in the post-Bungie era is going to be scrutinized carefully.—Chris Kohler

ii U Attracts 
Hard-Core Games

Wii U Attracts Hard-Core Games

Nintendo has often been known for its strong lineup of self-published software. But its third-party support has recently become ... less than strong. That's why it came as a surprise when Nintendo demonstrated a reel to show off the hefty number of partnering publishers on its upcoming Wii U console. Franchises that will make appearances on Wii U include Ninja Gaiden, Assassin's Creed, Darksiders, Ghost Recon and Batman: Arkham City.—Jason Schreier

Insomniac Goes 

Insomniac Goes Multiplatform With Overstrike

Developer Insomniac Games was one of the most resplendent feathers in Sony's cap, with PlayStation exclusive franchises like Resistance and Ratchet & Clank. At Electronic Arts' press conference, it announced Insomniac's first game for both PS3 and Xbox 360, a spy shooter called Overstrike. It stands out for being an original franchise in a sea of sequels and ports. We don't know much about the game's features, but the trailer appears quite lovely, showing off the diverse cast of spies and their bizarre personality traits (and telekinetic abilities).—Jason Schreier

Nintendo Reads 
Wii's Obituary

Nintendo Reads Wii's Obituary

Let's see, Sega had Mario and Sonic Go Back to the Olympics Again, Ubisoft had Just Dance 3 and I think that's pretty much the complete list of third-party Wii titles on the E3 show floor. Practically the only games that software makers are producing on Nintendo's aging platform are B-team licensed titles; the days of arthouse motion games like Okami and MadWorld are well and over.
Nintendo itself showcased a handful of high-quality games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Kirby and the truly fantastic Rhythm Heaven, but three games can't carry Wii until the launch of Wii U sometime in 2012. We hope Nintendo of America at least will not pass on releasing the excellent Japanese RPGs Xenoblade and The Last Story in America, but with the U.S. branch's spotty release record, who can say?—Chris Kohler

Mass Effect 3 Kinect

Kinect Gives Voice to Mass Effect 3

While a large chunk of Microsoft's E3 press conference focused solely on Kinect, many of the publisher's hands-free titles seemed like shovelware. Mass Effect 3 is a different story — the sci-fi action role-playing game, out next March, will feature some intriguing Kinect functionality. Players can shout commands at teammates in order to boss them around the battlefield. More interestingly, they can speak Sheperd's lines out loud to move the characters through the dialog sequences. It's optional, but it's impressive, and the crowd at Microsoft's presser seemed to love it.—Jason Schreier

Enters the Vita Chamber

BioShock Enters the Vita Chamber

Ken Levine, creator of BioShock, has a lot of street cred in the games industry. When he speaks, you know it's not marketing BS. So when he stepped up at the Sony press conference to say that BioShock Infinite will support PlayStation Move motion controls, it took the crowd by surprise. But the big shocker came immediately afterward, when Levine took a PlayStation Vita out of his pocket and said that he would create a BioShock side story for Sony's new portable. Just like that, one of the most intriguing new projects of E3 was announced with nary a screenshot or trailer in sight.—Chris Kohler

Live TV on Xbox

Live TV on Xbox

Microsoft makes no bones about its desire to own your entire living room, and Netflix on Xbox 360 is a big part of that. But what about TV? Though the company was skimpy on details about how it'll all work or when it'll happen, Microsoft said at E3 that it would work with major cable providers to bring live television to Xbox. Ditch that clunky Comcast DVR and use your Kinect to control television, recording your favorite shows to the same hard drive that has all your downloaded Halo levels. If Microsoft has its way, pretty soon there won't be any reason to switch your TV off the Xbox setting (well, except to play PlayStation 3).—Chris Kohler

Partners With AT&T for Vita 3G

Sony Partners With AT&T for Vita 3G

E3 press conferences are usually punctuated with applause, ranging from the polite to the full-on fanboygasm. What you rarely hear are boos, which Sony got in abundance when it said that AT&T would be its exclusive provider of 3G data service for its next-gen Vita portable gaming system. For good or ill, it may prove to be one of the most momentous announcements of the show.
Apple device owners know that being saddled with AT&T service is a double-edged sword; great in some areas and nonexistent in others. Just as Apple eventually gave iPhone owners a choice, Sony is stepping up to lock Vita owners in with a single carrier, and the appearance of the wireless company's logo on screen at Sony's E3 press conference caused audible groans and jeers from the packed stadium crowd. Sony hasn't yet said how much 3G service on the device will cost per month, although the fully featured Vita will cost $300, while the Wi-Fi-only version will be $250.—Chris Kohler

Sony Prices Vita Way

Sony Prices Vita Way Low

When Sony announced PlayStation Vita, its successor to the PlayStation Portable, customers were impressed by the hardware but understandably cautious about how much all that power would cost. Sony took everyone by surprise at its press conference when it said that Vita would start at $250, the same price as Nintendo's less technically proficient 3DS. (The model with 3G will cost $300.) Sony said it will take a financial loss on every unit, but the affordable price tag could spur a critical mass of early adopters.—Jason Schreier

Nintendo Unveils Wii 

Nintendo Unveils Wii U

Nintendo had two colossal hits with DS and Wii, each of which featured a revolutionary new way to play games. With Wii U, the company is hoping that combining the two systems will keep Nintendo games at the top of players' wish lists. The Wii U controller features a large touchscreen that will essentially turn your living room into a giant Nintendo DS: Games can be played across the two screens, giving players two different views of the action.
Has Nintendo hit another home run? Nobody's willing to say that yet. The tech demos it showed at E3 didn't seem fully baked; Nintendo usually isn't in the business of showing off anything that's not polished to perfection at its trade show booths. Without stronger software to lead the way, Nintendo will have a tough time convincing the public they want to play games on the WIi U. Whichever way it goes, Nintendo has planted its stake in the ground at this year's E3 and charted a bold new direction for its home game business.—Chris Kohler

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