Monday, January 22, 2018
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Somehow, Microsoft manages to top Sony, Nintendo at E3

Let's get one thing straight here: Microsoft stole the show at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo — even if it is only petty larceny.

Accuse me of being a fanboy if you like, but while Sony was trying to shore up the flagging Vita handheld and Nintendo tried to convince the masses that the WiiU was a true upgrade, Bill Gates' baby was growing up and choosing prom dresses, already.

Software was the star of this year's Los Angeles gathering, but Bellevue, Wash., apparently was the only city producing anything remotely interesting in the innovation department. The unveiling of SmartGlass technology brings the Xbox 360 one step closer to the all-encompassing entertainment center Microsoft always wanted it to be.

SmartGlass, which will allow users to share cross-content from the 360 and tablets and smartphones, may not necessarily be revolutionary, but it is the latest evolution in a strategy that began with the Media Center PC concept. It will allow users to synchronize information between Windows 8 and Windows phone devices, as well as Android-enabled gadgets and even iPads, according to the announcement on Monday.

It will also allow consumers to pause content from one device to later be picked up on another, although details were murky concerning whether this would be accomplished by synchronizing content or flinging the media via wi-fi, bringing concepts from movies like Minority Report and, most recently, The Avengers to life.

Throw in compatibility with the Xbox Music service and a new Kinect-enabled Web browser (even if it is Internet Explorer), and the 360 is close now to taking over the living room for good. Plus, it distracts people from realizing the 360 is cruising into its seventh year, en route to an expected life span through 2015, by far the longest planned tenure of any console generation.

Sony, meanwhile, tried to pimp cross-compatibility, too, announcing platform sharing between the PS3 and the Vita, which has been slow-selling, to say the least. It also announced it is bringing Playstation Suite games to Android tablets and other smartphones, and some augmented reality titles for the Eye Toy — a concept Nintendo's 3DS pushed hard at first and has stumbled over.

It's bad news if you're emulating Nintendo, because this was their year to shine. The WiiU was supposed to be the belle of the ball, but ended up being quite the wallflower. The most exciting things mentioned about it were an ability to play offline on the new controller's full-color display and utility as a "fully independent infrared TV remote." Truly, yesterday's technology tomorrow, and still no price or firm release date.

Even the announcement of new title Nintendoland, a host of minigames featuring characters from tried-and-true titles like Donkey Kong and The Legend of Zelda seemed like a bust, despite appearing more interactive than Microsoft's second-screen attempts. Nintendo may simply not have the fight in them anymore.

What does have some fight left are the numerous titles coming out for the consoles, like Sony's four-player co-op Far Cry 3, the Vita's Assassin's Creed III: Liberation — featuring the series' first female protagonist — multiplayer-friendly God of War: Ascension and the Ellen Page-voiced Beyond. Microsoft also touted Gears of War: Judgment (a prequel starring Damon Baird), a voice-activiated Madden NFL 13, the satirical South Park: The Stick of Truth and this fall's sure-fire blockbuster, Halo 4.

Throw in reveals for treats like zombie shooter Resident Evil 6 (!), the futuristic Call of Duty: Black Ops II and end-of-the world affairs like The Last of Us, and I don't really mind the lack of any compelling new hardware.

I do, however, mind the lack of effort from two of the Big Three game companies. It's a sad day when Microsoft feels like the innovator, isn't it?

— Joshua Gillin writes about video games and entertainment news for tbt*. Feel free to challenge his opinions at [email protected]

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