E3: Twitch Draws Huge Audience Streaming E3 Announcements

A lot of trends are popping up at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo – plenty of nostalgia in the air with the return of such franchises as StarFox and Shenmue, and new games like For Honor and Battleborn getting plenty of attention – but there’s one that’s clearly evident. Twitch has no problem garnering a huge viewing audience for its streaming activities.

The channel, which has more than 100 monthly million viewers, has managed to draw some big numbers when it comes to streaming press conferences. In fact, all six major conferences were viewable live on the site this week, including Bethesda, Electronic Arts, Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft and Nintendo’s Digital Event.

According to numbers provided by the company, Twitch averaged at least 500,000 concurrent viewers for each of the conferences, with a couple of them even managing to get at least 700,000 and 800,000 viewers. Although specific company numbers weren’t given (publishers usually provide detail on audience numbers from its respective press conferences), it points out that when it comes to the E3 Expo, the world is watching.

Twitch has also provided a full streaming schedule from the event, with a number of publishers, streaming celebrities and others discussing the E3 Expo to some capacity. Although numbers weren’t provided with these individual segments, the variety has no doubt kept fans pleased, whether they were checking out a game that was on the way, or hearing about an upcoming favorite from one of their admired streamers.

It just goes to show that the company has come a long way in covering the event over the past few years, providing a more in-depth look at what happens on the show floor, as well as what titles are making an impact. It’s not alone either, as YouTube has attempted to enter the gaming arena with its own live coverage at E3 – something that Twitch was quick to playfully acknowledge.

Of course, the event is still worth attending live, but the fact that streaming has all the bases covered – and to a great extent – is a sigh of relief for those who aren’t able to attend, mainly due to monetary or time reasons.

Twitch continues its live streaming from the event today, and all the action can be caught here.

E3: Harmonix Brings Music To Virtual Reality

Harmonix is having a wild time at Electronic Entertainment Expo this week, with hundreds of attendees checking out its forthcoming sequel Rock Band 4, sitting behind a number of plastic instruments and strumming, drumming or singing along to favorites. However, an even bigger innovation is coming from the company very soon, as a new program called Music VR could change the way users listen to music – by helping them visualize it.

Of course, Harmonix is no stranger to utilizing a spectacular visual style surrounding a musical experience, as evidenced by previous releases in the Rock Band series (namely the artistic The Beatles Rock Band) and the forthcoming Amplitude for PlayStation 4. But Music VR takes a step into an even more virtual experience, utilizing Sony’s Project Morpheus to create worlds on the fly based on music.

Jon Carter, designer for Harmonix, recently detailed the project in a recent post on PlayStation Blog, explaining just how much it innovates utilizing a virtual headset. “It takes any song you give it and generates a unique, musically-driven event sequence,” he explained. “The resulting experiences range from subtly magical to outright psychedelic, depending on the world you select. Sometimes fireflies show up to compliment a relaxing melody, and sometimes stars descend to engulf you in synesthetic spirals of color. It’s definitely weird. And as the title’s creative lead, I couldn’t be happier about that.

“We have a long history of making music games, but how much would we have to relearn to make quality VR ” he continued. “Additionally, we recognized that with Morpheus, Sony was about to provide one of the most thoroughly immersive platforms in the history of technology, and we couldn’t wait to use that immersion as an aid for musical appreciation. I mean, when was the last time you sat down and just listened to a record I’ve heard that people did that back in the 70’s, but if you’re like me and most people I know, you most often consume music as an activity enhancer – livening up your commute, making exercise less horrible, etc. Just sitting still and listening tends to make us 21st century multi-taskers kind of restless and distractible. But music provides so much worth focusing on and appreciating!”

The game was previously demoed with a different virtual headset at the company’s booth at PAX East in Boston a couple of months prior, with outstanding results – even with the surrounding hype of the then-announced Rock Band 4.

“Traditional, old-school music visualizers are many and varied, but all of them were limited to a 2D screen and the use of real-time audio spectrum analysis,” said Carter. “With Harmonix Music VR, we have control over every aspect of your surroundings, using our internally-developed, amazingly effective song analysis voodoo. We still use real-time data, but we can also look at the entire song, break it into sections, identify specific drum hits, and even categorize the feel of song sections to drive the visual and environmental transformations.”

A release date hasn’t been given on the project, but it could arrive when Sony’s Morpheus hits retail – and that’s good news for anyone who’s tried to recreate “Margaritaville” in a virtual world.

The trailer can be found below.


E3: A Classic Returns With ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’

For years, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was a financial success for Activision, starting with the original game’s launch in 1999 for Sony PlayStation, and followed by subsequent sequels that expanded on the formula. The series, developed by then-thriving studio Neversoft, became a big hit with fans, as they could build together tremendous point-based combos by chaining together tricks based on real skater activities, like grinds, grabs and manuals.

However, in an effort to get in on the motion gaming craze that shuffled in with Nintendo’s Wii console, Activision changed the series around with the debut of Tony Hawk Ride in 2009, featuring a board that players could use to mimic in-game actions. Unfortunately, the game was a bust, selling only 114,000 copies in its first month, and receiving some of the worst reviews for a Tony Hawk game yet. Activision tried again with Tony Hawk: Shred a year later, but similar results came, mainly due to high pricing and low game quality.

This proved one thing – you shouldn’t mess with a successful formula. And it appears Activision learned its lesson from that, as the company has returned to form with the upcoming Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, which will debut this fall for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and later in the year for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

As with other successful games in the series, Pro Skater 5 “gets it right,” going back to the combo-building trick-based style of earlier releases – something the fans have been greatly clamoring for. The developers at Robomodo are following the old style that Neversoft introduced long ago, putting tricks in the hands of fans while introducing some interesting new components that they’re sure to grasp onto.

These including community-based features like online multiplayer, where friends can take part in competitions to see who’s the best skater around, as well as customization tools, like creating their own skateboarder to stand alongside Hawk and company. In addition, a “Create-a-Park” feature enables the building of a dream skate territory, then sharing it online for others to try, and experimenting with new creations that are made by others. Activision already intends to back this feature with plenty of support.

But, most importantly, the gameplay is vintage Tony Hawk. During a hands-on session with the game, we discovered the ease of executing the moves of old, although a couple of new features do make things a bit more interesting this time around. A “special” meter can once again be filled up, enabling players to execute special tricks (like Tony’s signature 900 spin) with the press of a button. In addition, a new “slam” feature makes it easy to land a trick, even when a skater is coming off a ramp and headed for what appears to be a “bail” (or a crash, in this case).

Activision appears to have learned its lesson from the ride-based Tony Hawk games, instead sticking with something that’s sure to be grasped in the community with ease. And it’s not the only franchise that’s going back to basics. Transformers, Hasbro’s popular toy line, will also return to games, but this time reverting back to the classic 80’s series with the action-packed Devastation. That game, shying away from Michael Bay’s cinematic style that Activision had been using in games for years, will release later this year for multiple consoles.

And in case you missed it, Guitar Hero Live is due for a comeback this October as well.

With the publisher, it appears what’s old is new again – and sure to lead to big sales.

Gameplay for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 can be found below.


E3: Mobile Mayhem Emerges With ‘Minions Paradise’

Electronic Arts had no problem showing its might on the Electronic Entertainment Expo show floor this week, with a variety of titles set for release over the next year, including the incredibly popular Star Wars Battlefront and upcoming sequels like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.

However, tucked away in a small corner of the company’s booth was its mobile division, where it showcased upcoming sports games like Madden Mobile and FIFA. The real highlight, though, came with the debut of a new free-to-play game that’s sure to be a hit with kids and casual audiences alike – Minions Paradise.

This release ties in with the forthcoming animated film Minions from Universal, which will make its debut in theaters next month. The prequel follows the adventures of the gibberish-talking assistants who find themselves supporting a new client, a female villain voiced by Sandra Bullock.

For their game debut, Minions Paradise introduces an open-world dynamic where players can unlock new activities on a tropical island, bringing in new minions to help out with menial tasks, such as resourcing materials like bamboo and breeding piranha (with the help of a turkey on a fishing lure, of course).

The game is set up on a very fair structure, with the option to buy secondary items with real money, but also opens up a number of fun activities, such as taking part in a water skiing mini-game or watching the minions react to any given task, such as one causing an accident with another when he accidentally harvests one of his bamboo walking stilts.

Mike Rasmussen, the general manager on the project, explained to us how Minions Paradise came into fruition. “This is a really close partnership with Universal and Illumination Entertainment, and what we did is we just came to them and said what we think our players want to do is have close interactions with the Minions,” he said. “We think they want to have the ability to see the Minions’ animations in almost everything that they do. So they really liked that idea and worked very closely with us to see all the animations in the game. They were very involved.”

“It’s a very close partnership, for sure,” he added.

Rasmussen also touched upon the open world, which gets even larger depending on what progress players put into the game. “That was part of the game from the very beginning,” he said. “It was about immersion. In fact, we talked about how one of our core points was Minions, Minions, Minions. They are coming to this game to play with their Minions, so we must deliver on that, or we fail. It’s about immersion into this amazing universe that Universal and Illumination have created.

The Minions have already begun taking over the world, as Paradise is already out in some foreign markets. It will release in other markets soon, which gives fans plenty of time to finish up that tiki bar before they take over.


E3: A Virtual Return To The ‘Battlezone’

Seeing older games resurface at E3 is nothing new, especially when it comes to this year’s show. Nintendo brought back an old favorite in a new light with StarFox Zero for the Wii U, and Microsoft announced a celebration of older releases from Rare Ltd. with the forthcoming Rare Legacy, which will release for Xbox One this August.

However, the developers at Rebellion may have the most attention-getting revival at Sony’s booth this week, as the developer has announced that it’s bringing back Atari’s classic tank arcade game Battlezone for the Project Morpheus.

It’s a curious announcement, mainly because many didn’t believe that a new virtual reality-based game could be inspired by an 80’s classic like Battlezone. Alas, it seems virtually perfect for the headset, as players can immerse themselves in a futuristic landscape, blasting away at foes using the sheer firepower of an armored tank.

“Project Morpheus and virtual reality gaming marks a new and exciting shift in gaming tech. E3 is a celebration of incredible artistry and creativity so it’s only natural that VR plays an important part at this year’s show,” said creative director and co-founder Jason Kingsley in a PlayStation Blog post. “But E3 is also mainly about the future of games, and sometimes we just need to take stock and look at gaming’s past. The industry may not be as old as film, theatre, and other arts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect our cultural heritage!”

He went on to explain how the original Battlezone created an ideal playfield for virtual reality, since it created a 3D space that, at the time, was unheard of for most arcade games. (After all, it comes from an era where the likes of Pac-Man and Asteroids managed to dominate on a clear 2D level.)

“Players looked into the game world from the perspective of a tank commander by using a periscope viewfinder built into the unit. Combined with the game’s pseudo 3D graphics, Battlezone is now considered by many as the first ever virtual reality game,” said Kingsley. “It was both rudimentary and revolutionary. The isolation from the world around you, the perception of depth and “being” in that world — even a simple one — was like nothing else at the time. And without Battlezone and that sense of wonder and unlimited possibility, Chris and I might never have started making our own games, or formed Rebellion.”

The game will feature plenty of unique battle tactics, while at the same time paying tribute to the arcade classic that started it all. “If we can capture the same revolutionary thrill of the original Battlezone for a whole new generation of gamers, then we’ll have done gaming history proud,” added Kingsley.

For those in attendance at E3, the game is available for a “heads on” test drive. As for everyone else, it should make its debut at the same time as the Project Morpheus headset, although a release date hasn’t been given just yet.

E3: ‘Shenmue III’ Is Quickly Becoming KickStarter’s Latest Success Story

It seems that if the fans want a sequel to a popular series badly enough, they’ll certainly pay for it. That’s certainly been the case when it comes to projects that appear on the KickStarter crowdfunding site, as projects like Mighty No. 9 (the spiritual successor to Keiji Inafune’s Mega Man series) and the recently funded Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (producer Koji Igarashi’s follow-up to Konami’s now-dormant Castlevania series) were able to rack up millions in funding to assure their development.

Now the latest success story has arrived, in the form of Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue III. The series first got its start in the early 2000’s on the Sega Dreamcast game console, where young hero Ryo Hazuki went on a quest to find a mysterious foe who killed his father. Along the way, Ryo faces encounters with foes, while interacting with the world on a much different level than other games offered at the time.

Both Shenmue and its follow-up, Shenmue II (which came out for the original Xbox) were fan favorites at the time, but over the past few years, Sega, the series publisher, balked at releasing a sequel, mainly due to developmental reasons. The company has fallen on financial hardship as of late, forced to stick with mobile development rather than console. So the idea of a sequel ever arriving seemed very unlikely.

Until this week at E3, that is. During Sony’s press conference Monday night, Suzuki came out with a unique pitch for Shenmue III using a KickStarter campaign. While the pitch was met with a certain amount of criticism from some fans (who felt that Sony should’ve just backed the game as a PlayStation 4 exclusive outright, instead of relying on crowdfunding), there’s no doubt it’s on its way to being the site’s next success story, as it’s already reached nearly $3 million in funding, securing its success and guaranteeing, in a way, that the story will continue onward.

Now the main question is where it will continue. Suzuki didn’t mention a specific platform that the final game would arrive on, leaving fans wondering which consoles it will appear on. However, according to this story from GamesIndustry International, Sony may lend a hand after all to assure some form of PlayStation exclusivity.

The publisher’s director of third-party development, Gio Corsi, explained that “if the fans come in and back it, then absolutely, we’re going to make this a reality,” he said, stopping just short of calling it a PS4 exclusive.

However, it’d be quite a catch for the company, especially considering the hits it announced at the show, including a long-awaited remake of fan favorite Final Fantasy VII and the revived The Last Guardian project, as well as more upcoming hits like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Dreams.

With funding in place, Shenmue III is the latest title to show just how effectively KickStarter can work with the right campaign – though a legacy to back it up, along with avid fans, certainly doesn’t hurt either. More details about the game can be found here.

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E3: Nintendo’s Direct Approach To E3 Marketing

The press events traditionally held by major game companies at E3 are an important opportunity for multiple reasons. The event generates plenty of attention for your brand among consumers and in the industry, and hopefully creates anticipation for upcoming products and in the end increases sales. Of course, with all the attention comes endless analyses, declarations of who “won” E3, and opinions all over the place about how well each company or game did or didn’t do.

Into this charged atmosphere Nintendo is taking a different approach than other console-makers Sony and Microsoft. Rather than a large live, well-attended event that’s streamed to the audience all over the world, Nintendo delivers Nintendo Direct as a video presentation. The advantage to Nintendo is not only a much lower cost (staging a large event in Los Angeles costs millions), but more precise control over the presentation. Embarrassing glitches can be edited out, special effects can be added, and everything optimized for maximum effect.

Regardless of the choice of presentation method, what’s important is the content. From a practical viewpoint, evaluating these events should first be done on how well they set the company up to have a successful holiday season, and only secondarily how much longer term (2016 and beyond) excitement the company generated. Nintendo succeeded well on both criteria.

Nintendo’s in an odd position for the company, where it’s already announced that it’s working on new console hardware, yet trying to keep people interested in — and purchasing — it’s existing hardware. Nintendo did mention that it is working on mobile games, and new hardware called NX — then moved on to what’s exciting right now. The company certainly has a good lineup of software for the rest of the year for both the Wii U and the 3DS line, with Super Mario Maker coming out soon to let players create and share Mario levels, to the return of the smash IP Star Fox in Star Fox Zero. That one is well-timed for the holidays, and should help generate some Wii U sales.

Interestingly, Nintendo announced a partnership with Activision to bring some iconic Amiibo into Skylanders. It seems the toy/game hybrid market is big enough to include cooperation, and certainly kids will get a big kick out of mixing and matching some of their favorite IPs. It’s a smart way for Nintendo to get some more brand impressions out there, and for Activision to bring some of the Nintendo brand luster to its Skylanders line. Might we see a Disney Infinity connection in the future

Nintendo also provided plenty to look forward to in the future, with Metroid Prime returning next year along with a new Legend of Zelda title. In the meantime, though, there will be plenty of 3DS and Wii U titles to capture some holiday dollars

The interesting thing is to compare Nintendo’s presentation to Sony and Microsoft. Microsoft had some significant announcements, including backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games, the new Minecraft title for the HoloLens, a new customizable controller for both Xbox One and Windows 10, as well as a slew of upcoming titles both for this year and next. Microsoft seems to be much more intent on using its success as the PC gaming platform to boost the Xbox, and to bring some of the best of the Xbox to the PC. It’s some smart marketing

Sony generated tremendous excitement at its event, but that was most evident for the titles furthest away (in 2016 and even beyond). Closer to this holiday, Sony offered some exclusive content for the PS4, but on titles that you’ll be able to get on other platforms as well. They did not have as strong a lineup of exclusive titles for the holiday as either Nintendo or Microsoft, but then again Sony still has the lead in next-gen console sales.

Overall, Nintendo’s event stood out for its family-friendly focus. If you were looking to get something for the kids, or to get the kids excited, Nintendo had much more of that than either Sony or Microsoft. Nintendo offered some familiar IP in exciting new configurations, with a lot of it coming in the near future. That should help the company do very well this holiday, despite a rough competitive environment expected at retail.

E3: Sony Wins With ‘Uncharted 4’ And Older Favorites

With Microsoft already delivering a powerhouse presentation during its press conference earlier in the day, the pressure was on Sony to match or exceed expectations with its own presentation, which took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Although it didn’t address the company’s intentions to make the Xbox One backwards compatible, it delivered in a completely different area – it brought plenty of games.

The first thing that took the crowd by surprise was the return of The Last Guardian, a game that was announced years ago, but then quietly went into obscurity for some time. This announcement, however, assured that it would finally arrive in 2016 for PlayStation 4. The game focuses on a heroic young boy, teaming up with a large, majestic creature as they attempt to make their way through a troubled world.

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The fighting game Street Fighter V, which is exclusive to PC and PlayStation 4, also returned, bringing with it a pair of new fighter announcements – Birdie and Cammy, both veterans of the popular series.

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Square Enix took huge precedence at the Sony event, taking the opportunity to announce the return of the Hitman franchise to consoles. The self-titled Hitman continues the journey of Agent 47, a seemingly unstoppable killer who’s got new targets in his sights.

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Square wasn’t done, however. It also introduced an entirely new Final Fantasy game to the PS4, World of Final Fantasy, which features a unique, kid-friendly visual approach, combined with plenty of action and role-playing tactics. The game should make its debut next year.


The original Final Fantasy VII, a popular hit in the 90’s, also made a return, as Square Enix finally confirmed that it would be remade with the PlayStation 4 in mind.

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Sony then debuted the latest game from Media Molecule, the developers of favorites like LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. In Dreams, players can actually build their own scenarios using a number of paint styles and techniques, with the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller working as their paintbrush. An example of this work can be seen in the trailer below.

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Campo Santo’s Firewatch also got a debut trailer, with Sony confirming that it will release for PlayStation 4, as well as PC, when it’s finished sometime next year. The game tells the story of a firefighter in the mountains, and the various adventures he faces.

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In rather unusual fashion, the show was also home to a special KickStarter project announcement, as legendary producer Yu Suzuki came out and confirmed that he wants to make the long-awaited adventure sequel Shenmue III. The move has been a bit of a success, as the project has already earned $2.5 million – thus guaranteeing that it will be produced.

Third-party companies also teamed with Sony for a variety of exclusives on PlayStation 4. The forthcoming add-on for the science fiction shooter Destiny, The Taken King, will feature new missions exclusive to PS3 and PS4 when it arrives this fall.

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Disney Interactive also scored an exclusive deal with Sony, with one of Disney Infinity 3.0’s playsets making its debut on PlayStation 3 and 4 a month early. In addition, a special Boba Fett toy will be introduced exclusively with this version of the game, as you can see in the trailer below.

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Finally, after spending years in an exclusive partnership with Microsoft that saw Call of Duty content hit Xbox consoles first, Activision announced that, starting with Call of Duty: Black Ops III, content will now be exclusive to PlayStation systems for a few weeks, before becoming available for Xbox and PC. Multiplayer footage can be seen below. 

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Last – but certainly not least – Sony debuted some brand new footage from next year’s forthcoming blockbuster, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. In this final go-around for Nathan Drake, the adventurer and his allies find themselves in deep trouble in a remote village, where an exciting car chase ensues.

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There’s no question that Sony brought an energetic presentation during its E3 showcase, and its show floor should have no shortage of great games to play. Keep an eye open for more reports over the week.