E3 2013: our top 10 moments from gaming's arms race
18th Jun 2013 | 00:30
All the latest E3 news for your perusing pleasure
E3 2013: our top ten moments
E3 2013 was the most controversial, competitive and downright crazy show we've seen in the recent history of gaming. The Xbox One went toe-to-toe with the PS4, and even though the two aren't even in stores yet, many are ready to declare a winner.
New gaming IPs were launched while familiar brands were confirmed for the next generation. We also saw a slew of indie titles take the stage, and Google's Android enjoyed a growing presence on the show floor.
Nintendo, leader of the pack turned underdog, opted out of a traditional press conference. It still revealed some great games from its core franchises, but now runs the risk of being trampled under all the new hardware announcements.
And as always, PC gaming marched forward. Eye-popping graphics, slick hardware and inventive new titles littered the show floor.
It was all at E3 this year, and we've rounded our top 10 moments. So go ahead, peruse our list, and tell us what you think was the best, or worst, moment of E3 2013.
1. Sony makes PS4 the Xbox alternative
If a great history book is ever written about console wars waged between video game hardware manufacturers, then E3 2013 will be regarded as the moment when the arms race reached its fever pitch. The vicious competition between Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One was the defining theme that ran through all of E3 2013, and Sony used its press conference to tell the world that it would be taking no prisoners.
The show started slowly, easing into gear with plugs for the PS Vita and current generation titles like The Last of Us. Then we got what we'd been waiting for, our first glimpse of the PS4.
It was sleek, black, and other than a slightly asymmetrical design, not far from PlayStations past. Then Sony showed us something we'd never seen from it before: a price tag that beat Microsoft's.
After saying that the PS4 would be $399/£349 ($100 cheaper than the Xbox One) Sony got really nasty. Up came slide after slide of touting the PS4's lack of online requirement and support for used games.
The crowd was practically on its feet and we could've sworn we saw a tear in the eye of Sony executive Jack Tretton. While this console war is only just beginning, the first battle has been won by the PS4.
2. Microsoft's press conference starts E3 with a bang
Sony and its PS4 may have "won" E3 with a point-by-point attack on the Xbox One, but that doesn't mean Microsoft was chopped liver. Far from it.
Microsoft stuck to its guns during its June 10 pre-E3 press conference, hammering out the game titles, including a curiously un-numbered Halo due out in 2014.
There was talk of "drivatars" and a Twitch partnership, and using mobile devices as to check in on and alter game play. Nothing revolutionary, but the rotating repertoire of executives and developers tried their darndest to give gamers what they wanted.
The press conference was bombastic and quick paced, and while it didn't have the satiating quality of a full meal, it served as a more than adequate appetizer that set the tone for E3 2013.
We give the company kudos for sticking to the script, throwing some eye candy up in the form of heart-racing demos and a mouthwatering McLaren, and getting the conversation rolling on which console will reign supreme come holiday time. Consumers got a release month and a price as well, the two biggest unknowns about the Xbox One until last Monday.
Microsoft may have stumbled on its "always on" and used game policy messaging, but at the end of the day gamers are going to have a mighty hard decision to make between the Xbox One and PS4.
3. Razer in the house
PS4, Xbox One. Xbox One, PS4. And what's up with Nintendo?
There were a few major themes running through E3, though one not to be ignored was the state of PC gaming, especially in the face of some serious console competition.
We got the chance to catch up with Min-Liang Tan, the always-affable co-founder and CEO of Razer, which focuses on gaming laptops yet also produces a gaming tablet called the Edge.
Tan's enthusiasm for gaming in general is infectious. Nevermind that the consoles shown at E3 come at a price that's less than half of most gaming computers. Tan sees the PS4 and Xbox One not as threats but as a boon for gamers and the industry as a whole.
He was honest about the screen deficiencies of the new 14-inch Blade laptop, and admitted that mobile will happen for Razer only if the gaming quality can come in a smaller package. Plus, he let us in on why he went from being a lawyer to running a tech company.
Talking with Tan was a breath of fresh air in what can become, after awhile, a stale console conversation. We look forward to catching up with him again.
4. Mad Catz brings Android Mojo to your TV
Every since the Ouya made its millions pledging openess and affordability on Kickstarter, it seems like you can't throw a rock without hitting some sort of Android gaming device. We've seen Nivdia's Shield, the Moga Android controller, and now peripheral maker Mad Catz has entered the fray with its Mojo "mini-console."
While we're not sure what's up with the Mojo moniker, min-console is certainly apt. It's console alright, plugging right into your TV with HDMI. And its certainly mini, small enough to fit right in your hand.
It's not a portable gaming system though. It's meant to hang out in your entertainment system and bring the same Google Play-powered experience you know on your Nexus 7 or Galaxy S4 to your big screen.
That means that any movie, album, game or app you've got on Google Play, the Mojo will be more than happy load up. Giving consumers another way to access content they're already purchasing could very well become the key to the Mojo's success, and that CTRLR peripheral it's being packaged with probably won't hurt either.
5. Nintendo says 'play the game,' but not on your phone
Your finger doesn't have to be on the pulse of the video game market to know that things have slowed down a bit for Nintendo. Whereas the affordable and intriguing Wii flew off the shelves, the Wii U seems to be at a standstill.
With no new hardware to be announced, Nintendo opted out of the pomp and circumstance of a giant E3 presser. Instead it went for smaller, more intimate meetings that place focused on the games.
Nintendo would tell you that this is what really counts, the games. It showed the lay of the land for the Wii U and the 3DS's coming year, with releases like Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, a new Super Smash Bros., Pikmin 3 and a new Donkey Kong.
The company also reminded gamers that the Wii U is still managing third-party support. Big action titles like Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag are still on there way.
Finally, if you've ever dreamed of grabbin' mushrooms with Mario on your HTC One, you should probably just let that dream die already. Nintendo Satoru Iwata said that would never happen, "not on [his] watch." Or tablet, for that matter.
6. The ESA picks a fight with Ouya
Android console and Kickstarter darling Ouya didn't have a booth at E3 2013. Instead, it rented out space across the street from the LA convention center. There it hosted hands-on time with games and even poured some free beers.
Apparently, this didn't sit well with the Entertainment Software Association, the folks who run E3. The ESA attempted to rain on Ouya's parade by moving big trailer trucks in front of the so-called Ouya Park.
It didn't last long though, as Ouya managed to get banners in front of the trucks, and continued to attract a steady flow of visitors. This must have burned the ESA, since it called the LAPD to come ruffle Ouya's paperwork.
Apparently everything was in order though, as the Ouya folks were not made to move. This kind of dirty maneuvering is surprising no matter where you see it, but we were really shocked to see the ESA do it to little old Ouya. Does it really consider this Android console this much of an annoyance, or even a threat?
7. Sony keeps indies top of mind
So that no 24-hour check in requirement and hand-it-directly-to-your-friend sharing policy may have caused a few cheers and chuckles at E3, but Sony's Adam Boyes had a mission slightly different than slamming the competition.
He was there to hoist up indies.
As Boyes told it during a roundtable discussion June 12, nine independent titles got stage time during the company's pre-show press conference, and Sony plans to keep games not developed by the big-name studios front and center moving forward.
Sure, the PS4 has great hardware, but what's a console if you don't have a myriad of game choices to pick from?
Hardware is only part of the equation, and Sony actually seems committed to keeping what Boyes' called a developer-friendly console just that.
There's a shift taking place at the company, Boyes said, one that won't just help Sony or game makers, but gamers as a whole. While we liked hearing the message straight from the executive's mouth, we're even more intrigued to see if Sony can fulfill its promise.
- Read more about what Adam Boyes, vice president of developer and publisher relations at Sony, had to say at E3.
8. Oculus Rift keeps on impressing
We tried the virtual reality headgear on prior to E3, but leave it to Oculus Rift to keep us interested with two major updates: a full HD 1080p prototype and (gasp) something that's actually close to a video game.
The 1080p visuals were extremely impressive: We were totally immersed, able to sense depth of field and causing us to thirst after what could have fooled us for real snowflakes. Consumers should expect the same HD we experienced at E3 when the console is ready for sale.
We also got to fiddle around with a demo developed by CCP Games, the same group behind EVE Online. While shooting lasers targeted by our VR glances was cool enough, the sense of space was so mind-boggling astounding, we tried to control our in-game avatar's arm movements with their real-world counterparts, though to no avail.
Oculus Rift truly impressed us (again) and we think that the tech on this product is only starting to scratch the surface. There is much, much more to look forward to in the virtual reality space.
9. Nvidia explains how new consoles bolster PC titles too
Hardcore PC gamers have probably been their rolling eyes and turning up their noses at all this new console nonsense. They've been experiencing the graphics we drooled over at E3 on their pricey gaming rigs ever since DirectX 11 launched.
However, if you can't see how newer, more powerful consoles are good for all of gaming, you're being short sighted, and Nvidia would like to explain why.
"Developers can now build really awesome content that can then scale to the PC," Nvidia Senior Vice President Tony Tamasi explained. "Consoles are great because they catch up from a features perspective."
Basically, the console, with its fixed set of specs, will always be the lowest common demonitor. And now that the lowest spec sheet out there is fresh and beefy again, developers can start busting out tricks that would've melted your PS3 or Xbox 360.
Of course, we'll see how long consoles can stay within striking distance of PCs, but at least a console port to PC won't feel like a total downgrade, for a while anyway.
10. Celebrity sightings
We try to stay objective as possible when bringing you the latest from the world of tech, but even we get a little star struck from time to time.
E3 was teeming with celebs, from TV host and funnyman Conan O'Brien to South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to director Guillermo Del Toro.
That's not even touching on the high-profile people trotted out on stage during company press conferences, like Drake and Aaron Paul at EA's get-together.
We spotted Conan riffing on Google Glass and caught a glimpse of America's Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry yapping about PlanetSide 2.
Sure the show is about games, the people that make them and the consoles that play them, but a little star power lends an extra layer of excitement that makes us just that much more excited to come back next year. You never know who you're gonna see, right?
E3 2013: all the latest news
We are here live in Los Angeles to bring you all the latest from the 2013 edition of this epic gaming show. E3 has already fired its opening salvo, with major announcements on the Xbox One, PS4, and EA showing us what's coming up.
And with more from Nintendo and a host of gaming giants to come, plus hands on reviews with the consoles and peripherals you need to know about, it's shaping up to be the best E3 for years.
We're pretty jazzed...you?
Here's all the latest from the conference:
Getting our hands on the PS4
To say that Sony has had a good E3 is an understatement. The consumer electronics maker has managed to take the wind out of the Xbox One's sails at every turn.
At Sony's press conference on the first night of the show, the company addressed many of the problems plaguing its rival - backwards compatibility, disc sharing and online check-in - and how the PS4 offers a solution to those issues.
Just as the second day of E3 was coming to a close, we were able to get a hands on with the much-talked about PS4.
Xbox One defines next-gen
Despite the controversy swirling around the XBox One, our hands on with Microsoft's gaming console found that Xbox is still a forward thinking device.
From the so-far-superior Kinect camera to the live TV integration, Microsoft's system feels as if it isn't beholden to the past.
No Nintendo games on smartphones
Nintendo President Satoru Iwata doesn't mince words when it comes to putting his company's games on the iOS or Android platform.
Iwata claims that including Nintendo games on mobile devices would provide a short-term revenue spike, but he's thinking more long-term than that.
Iwata added: "If I was only concerned about managing Nintendo for this year and next year - and not about what the company would be like in 10 or 20 years - then I'd probably say that my point of view is nonsense.
"But if we think 20 years down the line, we may look back at the decision not to supply Nintendo games to smartphones and think that is the reason why the company is still here."
No sour grapes for Nvidia
Nvidia graphics are no where to be found in any of the next generation gaming consoles, but the company id not holding a grudge.
In fact, Nvidia Senior Vice President Tony Tamasi is plucky about the whole thing. The reason: he's hoping that more powerful graphics will help cross-platform developers.
"Developers can now build really awesome content that can then scale to the PC," Tamasi elaborated, adding that "consoles are great because they catch up from a features perspective."
Tretton's deep dive into third-party DRM policies
Sony's president and CEO of their computer entertainment division, Jack Tretton, brought the crowd to their feet last night at a press conference when he announced that there will be no used game restrictions or 24-hour check-in requirements with the PS4.
Today, Tretton had more to say about the DRM policy.
"...We create the platform, we've certainly stated that our first-party games are not going to be doing that, but we welcome publishers and their business models to our platform."
Hands on with the Dualshock 4
Sony's new accessory was first introduced in February during the first PS4 announcement, and featured several enhancements.
The revamped accessory comes complete with a touchpad across its face, and a lightbar across the top. The start and select buttons are now on the sides to make room for the touchpad, and the DualShock 4 also features a "share" button next to the triggers and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
But that's only the tip of the iceberg. We got a chance to get our hands on the controller and found that there's so much more to like about it.
Nintendo makes a showing at E3... kind of
Even though Nintendo decided to skip this year's E3, they did manage to show off a few new titles via a livestream.
The Japanese manufacturer unveiled several new games for their Wii U console, including Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros.
'Play the game!'
Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo America, began Nintendo's software show case with this edict.
Since Nintendo has no new hardware to show off this year, Fils-Aime's statement - which could also be a plea - hopes to galvanize gamers to focus less on the "magic box" that plays the games, and focus more on "how you feel when you play the game."
PS4 price: Steep but still lower than Xbox One
The PS4 will cost $399 in the U.S.,(£349, €399) when it goes on sale later in 2013.
Gamers didn't seem to thrilled at the console's price point, but that price does include a Kinect along with the system and Gamepad.
PS4 finally shows itself
Well it's about time. Sony finally drew the curtain back on the PS4 console at a press event the day before E3. And the gaming community got a good gander at the device in the flesh.
Looking very sleek, angular, and a bit like the PS2, the new PlayStation 4 will feature services like Music Unlimited on the first day of the PS4's availability, while Verizon's Redbox Instant and Flixter are heading to PlayStation Network.
EA wheels out 11 next-gen titles
Waiting anxiously for news on Star Wars: Battlefront and Mirror's Edge 2? EA heard your calls and talked up both titles, along with nine others, during its pre-E3 press conference.
All the games are destined for the PS4 and Xbox One, and while we won't see either console for awhile, EA generated some buzz by enlisting some celebs to talk up the titles. It was interesting, to say the least.
The Xbox One is US$499, £429 and coming this November
It's not surprising that Microsoft's new console should arrive in time to be tucked under Christmas. It could be quite a retail battle if the PS4 arrives in the same month. Sony had previously announced a "holiday 2013" release date.
A new Xbox 360 and 13 exclusives for Xbox One
Its also shown a brand new, redesigned Xbox 360 that looks a lot like its sibling the Xbox One. Microsoft also has rewards on the way for Xbox Live Gold subscribers: free game downloads every month. Surely that was designed to give PlayStation Plus a run for its money.
The wait begins
We're waiting for the doors to open for Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference, and the whole new generation of console gaming that waits for us inside. We've heard all about the powerful hardware and features of the Xbox One, but what new games are going to be revealed?
What sort of exlcusives will Microsoft reveal Will there be an official price tag for the Xbox One? How about a release date? Say with us as we report from inside the conference.
E3 2013: what to expect from gaming's biggest show
Here's our list of what we were hoping to see at E3 before the show began:
1. Mad Catz gets into the console biz
Yeah, baby! Get ready for gaming accessory maker to introduce its very own gaming console at this year's E3.
You can be sure we'll go hands on with the "micro console" if it's available to check out, so stay tuned for our thoughts on the hardware as well as when and where you can get it.
2. Xbox One takes center stage June 10
Props to Microsoft for keeping its word on an Xbox-themed event for E3 - not that we ever doubted it would happen especially now that we know the new console is called the Xbox One.
The company sent out invites to a press briefing for June 10 in Los Angeles, one day before E3 officially gets underway. This is decidedly an Xbox event, and we hope to "continue the conversation" on the company's new Xbox One following its May 21 happening.
The company revealed in late May that the focus of its E3 keynote would, unlike its announcement event, would be games.
"I can confirm that we will have TV's (or similar) on stage to show the games," tweeted Larry Hryb, director of programming for Xbox Live. "That should be the extend [sic] of TV talk in your #E3."
Microsoft has even put a movie about it together:
That's not all: According to GTTV host Geoff Keighley, there are plenty of surprises in store for both Microsoft and Sony at E3.
"10 days until E3," Keighley tweeted in May. "Based on what I'm hearing both the Xbox and PS4 press confs will be the strongest in years. Lots of games and surprises.
We'll be there to cover the action live, so you'll be in on all the unexpected goodness if you check back in with TechRadar.
3. No Nintendo press conference
Nintendo has made the somewhat surprising decision to forgo its usual E3 press conference in favor of hosting a smaller, closed-doors events to focus primarily on software.
"We have decided not to host a large-scale presentation targeted at everyone in the international audience where we announce new information as we did in the past," said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata.
"Instead, at the E3 show this year, we are planning to host a few smaller events that are specifically focused on our software lineup for the U.S. market."
We must say we're a bit bothered by Nintendo's decision, if only in an altruistic way because it stands to loose some serious ground to competitors Sony and Microsoft.
To be sure, Nintendo won't be a complete E3 no-show in terms of a public presence. The company will broadcast a Nintendo Direct at 7 a.m. PT/ 3 p.m. BST on Tuesday, June 11. What's more, 100 Best Buy stores in the U.S. and Canada will have in store demos of unreleased Wii U games, bringing titles straight to the public.
We'll also be in attendance at a Wii U Software Showcase starting at 10:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday too, where we're going to get a look at games plus hear from Shigeru Miyamoto, game designer at the company, and Fils-Aim himself.
"This year we're making E3 for the people," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said in announcing the Best Buy partnership. "We want to make sure you get the chance to try our games as well."
Fils-Aime later followed up with a June 7 Facebook video outlining Nintendo's E3 strategy, saying that the company's approach to E3 is different this year, it's actually better.
We're not complete Nintendo naysayers, to be sure, and somewhat respect its grass-roots approach to E3. Its newest console is not next gen, but it's not bad either. We gave it a three and a half stars in our Wii U review. The GamePad is cool, and finally seeing Mario in HD is a welcome uptick.
However, most of the world is for PS4 and One, or just sticking with their Xbox, as the nearly eight-year-old Xbox 360 sold four times as many units as the Wii U did last month. In fact, even the old Wii is selling better.
We know Nintendo has some game titles on the way and we hope it can build enough excitement around these titles to carry it into its next big offering. Whenever that happens.
4. What awaits the Xbox 360?
Microsoft had a very big Xbox announcement on May 21, where the new Xbox was revealed as the Xbox One. The event went so far as to show us the full console (unlike the PS4 tease) including specs for the Kinect and even the new Gamepad.
While we've been told the conversation will continue at E3, there's also expectation that the older Xbox 360 is going to get some convention love in Los Angeles.
As the Xbox One moves to occupy the space of marquee console, those who still own the 8-year-old Xbox will be pleased to learn that there's news in store.
"We have a huge, I think it's huge, [Xbox 360] announcement for E3 that I keep wanting to talk about, but I can't," said Microsoft Game Studios Corporate Vice President Phil Spencer following the One's reveal.
"I think the [Xbox 360] is going to be very vibrant for many years," he effused.
Now that piques our interest.
5. We'll actually see the PS4
Despite not actually seeing the system, we liked Sony's PlayStation 4 launch event. We'd call it a mostly positive non-surprise. The focus on games and developers was admirable, as were the social functions of the system. And while not getting a peek at an actual PS4 console was frustrating, Sony has saved some magic for next time, and we're betting that next time will be E3 2013.
Despite Sony saying the reveal might come sooner than June, the smart money is on a PS4 reveal at E3 2013. Why? Because it needs a main attraction at the show where an appearance by its chief rival, the Xbox One, is guaranteed. Plus, E3 is mere days away, and why drop your eggs before your June 10 press conference?
Sony CEO Kaz Hirai talked up the PS4's primary role as a gaming device (unlike some other major machine we know...) and it will likely use it's time at E3 to talk about just what makes that so. There's still plenty of unanswered questions, including its own used game/DRM policies, plus how it will operate as more than a gaming console (we know, a bit hypocritical, but in this day and age you've got to have some mulch-functionality in your console).
We're also still waiting to hear more on pricing info, online subscription details and a hard release date, something more specific than "holiday 2013." Sony may not be ready to to talk hard facts just yet, and simply wheeling the system out before a whooping crowd will buy it some time.
6. The fate of the Vita
Vita, vita, vita. What is Sony going to do with you? The poor PS Vita is a lovely little system. It earned four tars in our PS Vita review. But subdued marketing and a lack of must-have have made it something of a non-start.
It's not completely Sony's fault. It's hard to sell a premium mobile gaming device these days. Most consumers are happy to play cheap games on the smartphone they already own, and who can blame them?
So how can Sony move units? Well, a price break worked in Japan, but Sony seems rather dead set against dropping the price in other markets. Still, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see the asking price get lowered at E3, because it seems that Sony will treat the Vita as a PS4 accessory.
Using the streaming service Gaikai, the PS4 will let you stream PS4 titles to your Vita, using an airplay like feature. Now this doesn't mean you can walk down the street playing Killzone Shadow Fall. As we understand it, it'll be more like the Wii U's second screen feature, which lets you move your game to the tablet if someone wants to use the TV for something besides watching you play Mario.
Still, Sony can't bet it all on the PS4 to save the Vita. It's asking a lot to expect consumers to pick up two pricey pieces of hardware. We're curious to see what else it may have in store to kick start its good but underloved handheld.
7. WWCBD? (What will Cliff Bleszinski do?)
If you're much of an Xbox fan, or you've played more than a few rounds of horde mode in Gears of War, you've probably heard the name Cliff Bleszinski. Or maybe you know him by an easier to spell moniker, like Cliffy B, Dude Huge, or the ex-Design Director at Epic Games.
That's right, in October of last year, Bleszinski left the pillar of the industry that is Epic Games to do...well we're not sure what yet, and that's the exciting part.
He hasn't stayed on the sidelines, however, giving a talk on VR at this year's PAX East and waxing long on the web's reaction to the online lynching of a now-ex Microsoft employee's thoughts on an always on Xbox and an always connected future as a whole.
Now, Bleszinski hasn't announced any plans to...announce any plans. So far he's not on the roster for any E3 presentations, and that makes him the perfect the surprise guest. Remember when Gabe Newell stepped on stage at Sony's 2010 E3 show? Well, imagine Bleszinski doing the same, acting as a consultant for Ubisoft, Volition or another developer on the cusp of breaking into the next level.
Or imagine him striking out on his own, announcing a new development house. Dude Huge Studios, Cliffy B Industries, or a some name that's far less terrible. No matter what, we're excited to see what the man does next, and E3 2013 is the perfect place to get the ball rolling.
8. The biggest titles of E3
E3 is known for surprises. Unexpected sequels and brand new IP's all step out of the shadows and into the spotlight at this celebration of the video game industry. So what will the biggest games of the show be? Surprises aside, we're prepared to make a few educated guesses as to what will have the fans clamoring come June.
First off, even though its been at E3 before, Watch Dogs is a game to watch. It blew audiences away with its detailed open world and insane techno-chaos. Sharp observers rightly guessed that it was next-gen title, and Ubisoft has confirmed that it will on both PS3 and PS4, as well the Xbox 360, and its successor, we presume.
Super Smash Bros. Wii U is highly anticipated title bound to create buzz. Nintendo has confirmed that the next installment of its character brawler franchise will have some presence at the show. Even if its just screens and a demo, fans will want to get their hand on it, and as entry in beloved Nintendo series, it's exactly the show.
You'll find all our pre-E3 speculation in the video below: