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E3 Recap–Disney and Beyond

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Last week was perhaps the year’s most popular gaming convention.  The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 for short) is where the gaming industry shows off its newest and greatest, from new games to brand new consoles.  This past year was no different.

Here, I’ll wrap up the Disney news that came out of E3 (there was some pretty interesting items).  I’ll also talk about some of the new consoles that were unveiled, as they also offer some unique opportunities for Disney Interactive.  The wrap-up starts after the jump, so click below to get started!

Kinect Disneyland Adventures (Xbox 360).

Kinect Disneyland Adventures gameplay demo from Microsoft’s Press Conference.

Our first piece of Disney news actually came from the Expo’s first press conference.  Microsoft unveiled a game for Kinect (the motion-control system for Xbox 360) that takes you on a virtual trip to Disneyland.  The game, creatively titled Kinect Disneyland Adventures, is the first part of what Corporate VP of Microsoft Game Studios Phil Spencer calls a collaboration with Disney.  Hopefully, this is corporate speak for there’s more of this coming later.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Basically, this game allows you to walk through a virtual Disneyland, interact with characters, and play minigames based on Disneyland attractions.  It honestly sounds like a current version of Adventures in the Magic Kingdom for the NES.  You can see in the video above what to expect from the minigames: motion-controlled games in which you collect coins scattered along a path.

I’m kind of lukewarm on Kinect Disneyland Adventures.  From the limited video available, it doesn’t look like there’s much to this game.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea and a virtual Disneyland is pretty cool.  It just seems like a game that won’t keep audiences engaged very long.  I can only give Snow White so many virtual hugs before I’m ready to move on.  Kinect Disneyland Adventures is scheduled for a Q4 2011 release.

Disney Universe (PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360)

Disney Universe official trailer.

Disney Universe actually looks far more intriguing to me.  This is an action adventure game that will play very similarly to the LEGO series of games and Sony’s LittleBigPlanet.  In fact, the characters remind me a little of LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy (Google him if you need a frame of reference).

What’s the game about?  Glad you asked.  Players control Beta testers in a Disney-themed virtual world.  When a hacker breaks into the world and causes havoc in said virtual world, you have to suit up in a character costume and stop the attacks.  Disney says there will be over 40 playable characters spanning several Disney and Pixar films, including Alice in Wonderland (2010), Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Tron, Lilo & Stitch, and The Lion King.

This game looks somewhat promising.  It’s quirky, and it takes its inspiration in some successful games (the LEGO series and LittleBigPlanet).  The one major drawback so far is the apparent lack of online play.  If this game is going to draw comparisons to LittleBigPlanet, it really needs online co-op play.  There’s still time for this to change, as the game is slated to hit shelves in Q3 2011.  Let’s hope for the best.

Other Noteworthy Items

These are the two biggest items coming from Disney this year.  Other companies made a big splash, too – namely Nintendo and Sony.  Both unveiled new systems, and both offer interesting possibilities for Disney.  Let’s take a look at what’s coming!

Sony’s PSVita demo video.

I think we’ll take a look at the PSVita first.  This is Sony’s successor to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld system.  It will be substantially more powerful than the PSP, will feature an OLED touchscreen (which should provide crisp, vibrant colors), a rear touch panel, front and rear cameras, and Wi-Fi, At&T 3G (good luck), and GPS.  Quite the laundry list of features.  It is scheduled to launch toward the end of this year at $249.99 for the Wi-Fi version and $299.99 for the 3G model.

The PSVita offers a lot of interesting opportunities for mobile gaming.  There’s plenty Disney could offer with this.  A new Kingdom Hearts game comes to mind.  The front and rear touch panels will be excellent for puzzle-solving.  I think Disney Universe could be a hit on the PSVita.  Its already quirky style could really benefit from the touch control and cameras.

Nintendo Wii U trailer.

Not to be outdone, Nintendo also had a big announcement to make.  Ever since the Wii’s initial release, its lack of HD output has spurred rumors of an HD-capable Wii.  Last weeks, those rumors came true…with a twist.  Nintendo showed off the Wii U, a new version of the Wii that’s more powerful, plays games in HD, and has a brand new controller.

While the new system’s horsepower is nothing to ignore, the real story is the controller.  It features a 6.2 inch touchscreen and is capable of streaming content from the system to the screen.  In other words, you can play games on the TV or on the controller.  The Wii U can interact with the current Wii remotes, which means motion gaming still works on this device (check out the video above to get a better idea of how this will work).

While this console is unquestionably unconventional, it offers unique gameplay possibilities.  Disney could do a number of different things with this.  A sequel to Epic Mickey, perhaps?  You could have access to your sketches on the touch screen, instead of having to cycle through with the Wii Remote (which was rather clumsy).  Perhaps we could see a Wii U version of Kinect Disneyland Adventures in which the Wii U controller becomes your park map.  We’ll have to wait and see what Disney can do with the Wii U.  The new console is scheduled to launch around the middle of 2012.

These are just four of the many announcements that came out of E3 this past year.  If you want to seek out more information, gaming sites like IGN.com posted plenty of E3 updates through the course of the convention.  If you have any thoughts about any of the items discussed above, be sure to leave a comment below or post your thoughts on the Facebook page!

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