This is a continuing SPOnG retrospective of the year’s events.
Hey, it’s June! What happens in June? Why, only the biggest games industry trade event of the year - the Electronic Entertainment Expo! E3 needed to be awesome in 2009 to make up for some radical changes that made 2008’s event almost unbearable to read, let alone cover. Some of the glitz and glamour had been re-introduced, but things weren’t too lax so that Blog #298,000 could get access on a bus pass.
SPOnG was there, of course, to cover the proceedings in full, and you can read our review of the first day’s events - including the Microsoft press conference - right here
. Speaking of which, the Xbox company threw a few surprise curveballs towards the arse-end of its show, presenting a motion controller named ‘Natal’.
Unlike the Wii’s solution however, you don’t need to be holding any peripherals for it to work - Natal is a camera-cum-sensor bar that tracks 3D space. Several tech demos were showcased, including a video featuring Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux presenting ‘Milo
’, an interactive virtual boy that seemed to respond to your every word and movement.
The video seemed too good to be true, and without a real-time demo on stage, many wondered whether the whole thing was staged or acted (“Lionhead’s Project Natal Video... Fakery?
”, 4th Jun 2009). Our analysis of the whole affair became the most read news story on SPOnG, but Peter maintains, “This is true technology that science fiction has not even written about... and this works... today... now.”
Either way, Microsoft’s new baby was big news for the company, and VP Strategy and Business Development, Shane Kim, said that the release of Natal would be as important as a bona fide console launch. Apparently, the plan was said to sell the peripheral both separately and as standard in new Xbox consoles starting next Autumn (“New ‘Xbox 720 Natal’ Not for the Hardcore
”, 14th Jun 2009).
But before you get too excited, know that this ‘new Xbox’ was said to be an incremental upgrade to the current model and manufactured to better suit Natal’s needs. It will also be part of a package that is aimed towards the casual market - a usergroup Microsoft is eager to chase after Nintendo opened the doors with the Wii.
Not so fast, Microsoft! Sony also had a motion controller to show off at their E3 press conference. Wand-esque in design and rather bulbous at the tip, one wouldn’t have been improper to titter at the moment the peripheral was brought on stage for the first time (“E3 ’09: Can Sony’s Magic Wand Abort Natal?
”, 2nd Jun 2009). But this wand controller works a lot like the Wii Remote, only it works with the PlayStation Eye to provide pinpoint accuracy.
Dr. Richard Marks presented the audience with a few demonstrations of the device, which worked like a pointer one moment, a calligraphy pen the next, and a set of bow and arrows (when two were used) in another. With all of the familiarity of the Wii Remote but lacking all of the lag and technical restrictions, people seemed very impressed with the Wand, and Sony courageously said that they had created the motion controller for “real games.”
With all the new features and capabilities the PlayStation 3 was gaining, it seemed that one thing was rather callously taken away in June - the console’s ability to access US TV streaming service, Hulu, on its web browser (“Microsoft’s New Ad Deal: Why Hulu Blocked PlayStation?
”, 29th Jun 2009). The PS3 was the only browser blocked from Hulu, and the latter’s latest partnership with Microsoft seemed a little bit too coincidental.
Turns out that it was simply that - coincidental - but we really wouldn’t have put it past Microsoft.