My Ridiculous E3 2014 Wishlist

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is next week, and we are all bracing for the dog and pony shows, the buzzword-laden marketing promises, and CGI glimpses of games that will be arriving two years from now.

For gamers, E3 is both exciting and frustrating at the same time, as there will inevitably be some pleasant surprises, but they’ll be wrapped in a whole lotta nonsense.

We all have our hopes and dreams though, and each of us has an E3 wish list for the big three (Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony) that we would love to see become a reality. I know that my E3 wishlist is pretty far-fetched, but it’s fun to think about anyway. So without further ado, here is something I would love to see from each of the big three at E3 this year.

Microsoft–Crackdown MMO
I’ll start with Microsoft, as my wish for them is the least far-fetched of the three. I want an new Crackdown. I love the Crackdown series. The original is still one of my top five Xbox 360 games, and I was one of the few that also loved the sequel. And we all saw the Crackdown orb symbol in a pic of the Xbox One dash during the new console’s reveal. So it’s safe to say there is a new Crackdown being worked on. and there are rumors of Crackdown 3 arriving in 2016.

Here’s where I get far-fetched, though–I want a Crackdown MMO. Drawing on Crackdown 1 and 2, there could be various factions battling over control of Pacific City (The Agency, Los Muertos, Volk, Shai Gen, Cell). You could also keep the Freaks as a grunt-level threat that all factions would have to deal with. In many ways, it could be similar to what Realtime Worlds tried to do with APB. But, it would be developed by Ruffian (Crackdown 2 devs who are still around, having worked with 343 on Halo: Spartan Assault and Rare on Kinect Sports Rivals as well as their own Game of Glens).

Since this is my wish list, I would also make the game a one-time purchase, then free to play MMO for Xbox Live Gold subscribers.

Nintendo–3DS as a WiiU GamePad Replacement
I’ve talked about this before, but I feel like Nintendo is missing a great opportunity by not having more interoperability between the 3DS and the WiiU. Sony is smartly trying to bolster Vta sales by giving PS3 and PS4 owners reasons to own one, but Nintendo has not leveraged the huge install base of the 3DS (43 million worldwide and approximately 12 million in the US alone) to bolster WiiU sales. Combine that with the fact that the GamePad is what keeps the price point of the WiiU where it is, and Nintendo has even more reasons to bring the 3DS into the WiiU ecosystem.

My proposal is this: Any 3DS (regular or XL) that has a Circle Pad Pro attachment should be able to function as a WiiU GamePad. With the Circle Pad Pro attached to the 3DS, you’ve got the touchscreen, the triggers and the shoulder buttons.

Not only would this open us cross-save, cross-buy, Virtual Console library sharing and more, but it would allow Nintendo to cut the price of the WiiU by putting out a version without a GamePad. And they wouldn’t have to screw developers by removing features or upset existing owners.

There could be a $199 WiiU SKU, with a Circle Pad Pro included, or a voucher that could be used to order a free Circle Pad Pro from Nintendo’s website. They could do a 3DS XL/WiiU bundle for $399, giving consumers a compelling reason to go with Nintendo over Microsoft and Sony this holiday season. Not to mention, there are a ton of great games for both consoles right now.

While this may be the most far-fetched thing on my wish list, it makes so much sense that it hurts my brain. Just do it, Nintendo.

Sony–Free PS Now Rentals for PS+ Subscribers
I’ll preface this by saying that of the three bigs, Sony is doing a lot of things right. PlayStation Plus is fantastic. The PS4 is offering experiences that the Xbox One and WiiU aren’t. I can play a pretty darn good free MMO (DC Universe Online) on PS3 and PS4 right now, Sony is doing everything they can to bolster the Vita and they have a next-gen only exclusive in Infamous: Second Son. Of the big three, they are the only one that could strategically stay the course and be okay. (And yes, I know about Sony’s financial troubles, but those losses aren’t coming from the PlayStation division, which posted a profit this year).

The game streaming service PlayStation Now is currently in beats on both the PS3 and the PS4. From what we’ve seen and heard so far, when the service fully launches, users will be able to rent PS1, PS2 and PS3 games for one, seven or thirty days. Whether or not there will be a subscription option to access the entire library isn’t clear yet, and it seems these options will not be part of the PlayStation Plus subscription service as it is right now.

What I would love to see is for PS Plus subscribers to essentially get rental vouchers for PS Now games every month. Similar to the lending library on the Amazon Kindle, I’d like to see PS Plus subscribers get at least one free rental credit a month. Each month brings a new voucher, and the old one expires. Sony could also offer a discount to PS Plus members for additional rentals, similar to the discounts that Plus subscribers enjoy on games purchase through the PlayStation Store.

I don’t see this happening, as PS Plus users already enjoy some pretty big discounts, as well as great games every month. Even if Sony never added value to the PS Plus subscription again, what I’m getting now is more than worth it. But, if I was getting a game or two to stream from PS Now every month, I’d be more like to try out others on the service.

So, those are my E3 wishes for the big three. Here’s hoping the game genie will come along and grant at least one of them.


Let the Summer of Vita Commence!

Despite its ongoing lackluster sales, the PlayStation Vita has quite a stable of solid games now, with more on the way in the near future. Borderlands 2 just dropped (I am enjoying it so far), the Ratchet & Clank HD Trilogy was just announced for July, as was Ubisoft’s new RPG Child of Light. Dragon’s Crown will be free in June to PS Plus subscribers, and there’s a steady flow of indie titles coming to the handheld for the rest of 2014.

For me, Borderlands 2 and the announcement that Child of Light is coming has given me a renewed interest in my Vita. With summer right around the corner, I know I’ll be spending less time in front of my TV, which means more of my gaming will be taking place on a portable platform. I’m looking forward to this, to the point that I’ve kind of planned out my “Summer of Vita.”

June will be dedicated to immersing myself in Borderlands 2. I only played about five hours of the console version, but the first hour or so I spent with the Vita version was pretty impressive. I look forward to delving deeper and perhaps even some online co-op.

July will be an RPG month, as I will definitely be playing Child of Light on Vita and would love to get through Dragon’s Crown as well. Coming off of Dark Souls 2, I’m looking for a different flavor of RPG, and both of these fit the bill.

For August, I’m leaning toward the Ratchet & Clank HD Trilogy, but I also want to dig into the Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, which I got free when I bought the Vita.

So, three months and at least four games will see my Vita getting more use than it has since I bought it. I may even have a PS4 by the end of the summer, in which case I will definitely be taking advantage of some remote play.

So without further ado, let the summer of Vita begin!


Curse of the Early Adopter, Or: Why I Just Bought a PS Vita Again

Games, people. Games. That’s what it really comes down to.

That’s why I’m sitting here staring my new PS Vita, the second one I’ve bought in the past two years.

Yup, I was one of the early adopters that bought a PS Vita back in early 2012 when it debuted in the U.S. And by January of 2013, I had traded my Vita in when I purchased a WiiU. The main reason I got rid of the Vita (other than needing cash for the WiiU), was because of the lack of good Vita games. The irony is that I traded in the Vita and bought a console that had the exact same problem as the Vita. But that’s a sob story for another time.

Fast forward to 2014, and I grabbed one of the Walking Dead bundles off of Amazon, which netted me the Vita, a 4GB memory card, and download vouchers for The Walking Dead, Retro City Rampage, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Those four games right there are better than any four games I had at one time for the Vita the first time around.

Add to that the fact that with PlayStation Plus, I have access to the aforementioned Uncharted, Wipeout 2048, Gravity Rush, and more. The icing on the cake is the ridiculous Steam-like sale Sony just had, where I picked up Soul Sacrifice, Thomas was Alone, Spelunky, Stealth, Inc., Killzone: Mercenary and Lone Survivor.

For the same price I bought my original Vita, a game and memory card for, I now have a library of over a dozen of the best games to come out for the Vita.

The lesson here is the same one I learned with the WiiU, and the same one that PS4 and Xbox One owners are learning right now–new consoles rarely launch with a lineup of great games. For many consoles, the first year is filled with mediocre ports and a lack of titles altogether. So if you can just wait, if you can just hold off for that one year, you can usually get a better deal for the console overall, and have plenty of great games to play on it.

I did not heed that lesson when it came to the WiiU, and the first several months of that console were pretty rough, which is one of the reasons it’s struggling so badly. Had I waited until this holiday season, I could have grabbed a great WiiU bundle and would have had a bevy of great games waiting for me.

The good news is that so far, I’ve been able to hold off on getting either a PS4 or an Xbox One. With my current consoles and the Vita, I have more games than I can possible play right now. I may finally be learning my lesson when it comes to early adopting.

But probably not.


Vita TV is an Interesting Addition to the Micro Console Space

This past week, Sony made a couple of very interesting Vita announcements. First off, after dropping the price of the Vita to $199 in August, Sony announced that a redesign of the handheld will be arriving in Japan in October (with other regions assumed to follow). The new Vita is lighter and will allegedly have a slightly improved battery life.

The bigger new though was the announcement of the PS Vita TV, a mini console that not only aims to take on Apple TV, but could also throw a monkey wrench into Amazon’s rumored console plans.

The PS Vita TV will retail for $100, plugs into your TV and works with the DualShock 3 controller (which most of us PS3 owners already have). It can play downloaded PSOne and PSP games, as well as downloaded physical Vita games. The console also runs apps like Hulu and Netflix, and will have some cross-functionality features for PS4 owners.

Right now, the PS Vita TV has only been announced for Japan, but there’s obviously a very good chance it will be coming to the US as well.

Last month I wrote about the potential of Amazon’s rumored Android console, and I think it’s still a good bet we’ll see that this year. BUT, Sony could really disrupt this space with the PS Vita TV in the US. Instead of a so-so library of Android games, this $100 console would provide a proven library of PS classics, as well as a taste of new games from the Vita library. And if the Vita TV plays well with the PS4, there will always be that temptation to upgrade for those that start with the Vita TV.

So, while the main focus of the gaming industry continues to be on the major console releases this holiday season, I find this budget console race to be getting more and more fascinating. We as gamers will continue to benefit from there being more choices at multiple price points out there.

Who will be next to jump into the ring?


Celebrate Valentine’s Day With an Extra-Large Episode of Co-Op Critics!

In this marathon episode of Co-Op Critics, Brian and Dan are joined by Christina Grenhart and Erik Haltson to talk about the current culture of gaming, from online interactions to how games are covered by the enthusiast press.

You can either listen to the episode here on the enbedded player to the right, or download it here.

You can follow Brian on Twitter @BrianLeTendre and check out his blog at www.seebrianwrite.com.

Dan Evans can be found on Twitter @Sk8j

You can find Christina’s amazing blog “Bioware According to Mom” at biowareaccordingtomom.tumblr.com, and you can follow her on twitter at @clgrenhart

You can find Erik Haltson on Twitter @Erik_Haltson, and he will also be posting on Co-Op Critics blog in the future.

For more gaming discussion, head over to www.co-opcritics.com!


This Holiday Gaming Season, It’s All About the Handhelds for Me

As I was scouring the internet looking at Black Friday game deals, a thought occurred to me–this is the first year I can remember where there are more handheld games I want to play than console/PC ones.

For the purposes of this post, let’s call the holiday gaming season September 2012 to February 2013.

Just off the top of my head, here’s the list of current and upcoming (in the next month or two) console/PC games I’m playing/interested in right now (as well as my preferred platform):

Halo 4 (XBox 360)
CoD: Black Ops 2 (XBox 360)
Borderlands 2 (XBox 360)
Dishonored (PS3)
Hawken (PC)
ZombiU (even though I don’t have a WiiU yet)
Black Mesa Source (PC)
Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)
Crysis 3 (Xbox 360)
Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut (PS3)
Dead Space 3 (PS3)
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3)

Here’s the handheld list:

Pokemon Black/White Version 2 (3DS)
Silent Hill: Book of Memories (PS Vita)
LEGO Lord of the Rings (3DS)
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (3DS)
Little Big Planet Vita (PS Vita)
Kingdom Hearts 3D (3DS)
Adventure Time: Hey Ice King, Why’d You Steal Our Garbage? (3DS)
Assassin’s Creed: Liberation (PS Vita)
Paper Mario: Sticker Star (3DS)
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (3DS)
Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale (PS Vita)
Persona 4 Golden (PS Vita)
Retro City Rampage (PS Vita)
Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (PS Vita)
Uncharted: Fight for Fortune (PS Vita)
Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon (3DS)
Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (3DS)
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS Vita)

What’s more interesting to me as I look over that list is that there are games I would rather play on handheld than on console/PC. Retro City Rampage, Sly Cooper, Assassin’s Creed, Ratchet & Clank and the LEGO games are all ones that I would prefer on either the 3DS or Vita instead of on the larger platforms. In fact, the only games I can definitively say i’d rather not play on a handheld are first-person shooters and larger RPGs that just could not be done on a handheld.

I’m not exactly sure why I feel this way, but I suspect it’s because I no longer have time in my life for the marathon gaming sessions of even a few years ago. I get 1-2 hour increments at the most, and I squeeze them in wherever I can. So, I tend to want my games in a format that is easily accessible and consumable in bite-size chunks. But I also still want a meatier experience than most iOS and Android games can provide at this point. when it comes to console and PC now, I reserve that precious time for experiences that I can’t get on a handheld.

I think a lot of my friends are still finding the time to play console and PC games on a more regular basis than me, and their preferences are now the opposite of mine. They have little interest in either the 3DS or the Vita, whereas I find myself gravitating toward them more and more.


PlayStation Plus Could Turn the Vita’s Fortunes Around

As one of the early adopters of the PlayStation Vita, I’ve experienced a good amount of buyer’s remorse since picking it up in February. The Vita had a pretty great launch lineup, including Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, Wipeout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, ModNation Racers: Road Trip and Super StarDust Delta. A few weeks later, MLB 12: The Show launched, which was the first game where you could share a season between the PS3 and Vita versions of the game, one of the highly touted features of the Vita leading up to its launch.

After the launch however, things pretty much dropped off cliff. After The Show in the beginning of March, there was pretty much nothing until the end of May, when Resistance: Burning Skies was released, and it wasn’t good. The next solid Vita release was Gravity Rush in June, and that was the last really good game until the amazing Sound Shapes came along in August. So far this Fall, Little Big Planet Vita is the only thing resembling a top-tier game that has come out for the console. Almost everything else released for the Vita since its launch has been a port, a remastered collection or a stripped down version of a console franchise.

For me, the biggest gripe I had about the Vita was the lack of PlayStation One support at launch. This was something that Sony has talked about over and over before launch, and we didn’t get the feature until late August, over six months after the North American launch.

Sales of the Vita have been unimpressive so far, and by refusing to cut the price of the Vita, Sony wasn’t doing anything to help themselves. Media outlets and many gamers have been talking about the Vita as if its already dead, and they may be right. But I think Sony finally understands just how bad of a position they are in with the Vita, because they have finally stepped up and provided one very compelling reason to own a Vita–PlayStation Plus.

I’ve raved about how great PlayStation Plus has become over the past year and a half. On the PS3, it’s essentially become a Netflix for games, as each month subscribers are getting access to great games for free. In the past several months I’ve downloaded InFamous 2, Just Cause 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 OneSaints Row 2, Resident Evil 5 and a bunch of PSN games. There are also tons of discounts on newer games–this month is Portal 2 for $13.99, for example. Bottom line is, for $50 a year, I’m getting a huge amount of value out of the service, and now it’s coming to Vita.

On November 19th, the PS Plus service will be available on the Vita, and six games will be available at launch–Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Wipeout 2048, Gravity Rush, Jet Set Radio, Mutant Blobs Attack and the PSP game Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. That’s an amazing group of games. And since I’m already a PS Plus subscriber on PS3, that subscription transfers over to my Vita as well.

PlayStation Plus reinvigorated the PS3 when Sony started giving away free games through the service. A couple weeks ago, Sony reported that the past two quarters have been the most profitable in the six-year history of the PlayStation Network. Sony has fine tuned the PS Plus Service on the PS3, and now the Vita will benefit from what they’ve learned.

So let’s say you go out and buy the PS Vita Assassin’s Creed: Liberation bundle. For $250, you get the new white PS Vita , AC: Liberation (a $40 game) and a 4GB memory card. If you grab a 3-month PS Plus membership for $18, you get immediate access to $150 worth of other games that will provide you with months of gaming. Not a bad deal.

I’ve no doubt that this move could turn around the fortunes of the Vita, but it all depends on how well Sony does in getting the word out about it. I’d like to see a holiday bundle that comes with a year subscription to PS Plus and a decent size memory card (at least 8GB). There are rumors of $200 Black Friday bundles featuring some of the current big titles, so that’s a step in the right direction for the short-term. Of course, Sony will need to keep the games coming each month to PS Plus on Vita, as they have with the PS3 service.

It’s about to be a great time to be a Vita owner. Kind of makes me wish I’d waited to get mine.