Today at E3 Sony unveiled a behind-the-scenes first look at David Ayer‘s WWII actioner Fury, the ensemble war film that Bill Block’s QED International paid a cool $1M for in last year’s pricey spec sale. Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Logan Lerman, and Jon Bernthal star in the story of the five-man crew of an American tank battling Germans, and the odds, behind enemy lines. Block is producing for QED with John Lesher and his Le Grisbi Productions banner alongside Ethan Smith. Fury will hit theaters November 14:
Welcoming the giant E3 video game conference back to Los Angeles today, Mayor Eric Garcetti said it may make sense to include the booming game industry in production incentives designed to get and keep film and television production in the state. “There’s a collision of content in Los Angeles,” said Garcetti, who has been heavily involved trying to persuade state officials to enhance the California incentive program to keep more entertainment production. “The line between video games software and film/TV is blurring. They all have stories, they all use (similar production tools and processes) in the same way. L.A. is poised to take off. But it’s why we need those tax incentives in place.” Gov. Jerry Brown has stayed mum on a proposed expansion of the current $100 million California system, despite aggressive efforts by some other states and countries to lure away film and TV work with substantial tax breaks.
Garcetti used a ribbon-cutting ceremony to tout the budding economic recovery in Los Angeles in the year he’s been in office, particularly for creative industries. “This is the most creative spot in the world,” he said. “E3 has long been at that intersection of the creative world. In L.A., a new tech company starts every 40 hours. But long before this new boom, E3 understood. We are on fire and E3 is part of that momentum.” The conference officially opened at noon today and runs through Thursday evening. Already, several of the big game-related companies have held their big pre-show media briefings.
Coming off three years of losses and facing two well-funded competitors with hot-selling new consoles, video game veteran Nintendo needed to do something at this year’s E3 convention to show it’s still relevant. Its solution this morning: Announce lots of sequels to some of its most beloved franchises (always a sure bet) and a foray into the emerging game sector that uses figurines with embedded computer chips to add functionality and characters to game play.
Amiibo, as it will be called (the name is a play on the Nintendo convention of Wii and its online avatars called Miis), is similar to the massively successful Skylanders series from Activision (which just announced a new set of characters as part of the Skylanders Trap Team) and Disney Infinity. Unveiling the company’s entry in what he called the “toys-to-life category,” Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime mentioned both Skylanders and Infinity. The computer chip in each figure can be activated by touching the toy to the Wii U console’s gamepad, importing character data into a game such as the next Super Smash Brothers title, which Fils-Aime also announced. Communication between chip and gamepad is two-way. “You can send information back to …
Sony’s PS4 videogame console will get a new game-playing cousin in the U.S. and Canada this fall, the PlayStation TV, a $99 video device that can play older PlayStation and PS Vita games on a TV set with a standard Sony game controller. A bundle including the device, a controller, an HDMI cable, a memory card and a voucher for the Lego Movie game will cost $139. It will also be able to play the next installment of Disney’s massively successful Infinity hybrid game, which uses physical figurines to unlock a variety of different kinds of game play, when that launches early next year. The PlayStation TV, under a slightly different name, has been available in Japan previously.
It was announced at Sony’s big pre-E3 presentation tonight to media and analysts, but it could lead to a much wider reach for Sony’s PlayStation platform in North America by giving access to many games from Sony’s PS Vita handheld platform, plus the upcoming PlayStation Now service that will provide access to hundreds of older games from previous PlayStation consoles. The device’s launch in the U.S. also thrusts Sony into the already crowded race with Apple, Roku, Google, Amazon and others selling inexpensive Net-enabled devices that can bring new kinds of content to a dumb traditional TV screen. The difference for Sony may be the access the new device will provide to a deep library of hundreds of older video games, which also will become available over the coming months on all of Sony’s existing game devices as well. You can watch just the part of the two-hour announcement focused on the PlayStation TV here:
For sheer Hollywood-worthy entertainment value, leave it to the French, or at least French videogame publisher Ubisoft among all the pre-E3 presentations so far. The company’s presentation to journalists and analysts at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles mixed stunning trailers and intense game play with distinctive music and the very entertaining emcee work of comedian/actress Aisha Tyler (in her third straight year in the gig). Hollywood types may find little new to mine for spinoff potential, but in truth, Ubisoft already has licensed several of its most film-worthy franchises to Hollywood and the cupboard may be a bit light for the moment. The biggest news today was the return of Rainbow Six, a long-beloved and long-missing franchise based on the books of the late techno-thriller writer Tom Clancy and focused on tactical small-group interactions. The company showed early-early-stage multiplayer gameplay of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, a gripping hostage-extraction title involving five-on-five play. It would be the first new Rainbox Six title in six years, a couple of lifetimes in the game universe. Afterward, Tyler exclaimed, “Have you ever been so excited you’re laughing and crying at the same time?”
Fading video game titan Electronic Arts used its pre-E3 media briefing today to launch Battlefield: Hardline, a cops vs. criminals spinoff of its big Battlefield military franchise that’s sure to court controversy every bit as much as Grand Theft Auto ever did. Wrapping up the hour-long presentation to media and analysts after mostly updating iterations to its many licensed sports franchises, EA executives showed off the Hardline title, which uses the Frostbite 3 graphics engine and other conventions from the namesake military franchise to set up an explosive face-off between cops and robbers.
“It’s much more like a great TV crime drama” than a typical first-person shooter, said Karl-Magnus Troedsson, general manager of DICE, the Swedish game designers behind the billion-dollar Battlefield franchise.
While the initial video game-play excerpts make the game look like a ton of fun, sort of like Michael Mann’s Heat in heat, even to the massive heist in downtown Los Angeles where seemingly every car commercial ever made is shot, it’s not hard to predict controversy ahead. That usually comes when you arm batches of wanna-be virtual bad guys with automatic weapons, rockets, grenades and helicopters, and charge them with figuring out how to get away with, say, an armored car heist in a more-or-less even, and wildly murderous, gun battle with …
It didn’t take Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox for Microsoft, long to tack back from last year’s entertainment focus to one purely about games, which is all he said he would talk about during this morning’s presentation to media and analysts ahead of the big E3 videogame conference in Los Angeles. “This generation (of game consoles) is off to the hottest start in history,” Spencer said. “This benefits everyone…especially gamers.”
That games-only focus is a far cry from last year, when the company spent much of its annual E3 pre-briefing touting the cross-media capabilities of its just-announced Xbox One console and interactive video programming to come from the Xbox Entertainment Studios. The interactive programming has been slow to arrive. More importantly, Xbox One sales have been good, but despite some extremely impressive technology, still lag well behind Sony’s competing PS4, which like the Xbox One launched in November and costs $100 less. The Xbox One’s stumbling launch, with controversies over policies some gamers called anti-consumer and the departure of Xbox chief Don Mattrick to Zynga, didn’t help either.