Another E3 has ended and so has the dust from the major conferences at the event. The staff at Gaming Bus has reported on the conferences of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo—both of them—soon after they happened, along with those of Electronic Arts and Namco Bandai.
Unfortunately, the general reaction to E3 2012 has been just lukewarm at best. Aside from a few slight eyebrow-raising moments, those watching the event weren’t wowed much over all for various reasons.
Let’s take a look at the specifics from a few members of the staff.
Connor Horn: Do you want to feel patronized? Do you want to see a long parade of uninteresting things for an hour and a half? Do you want to alternate between apathy and dull surprise at regular intervals? Then Microsoft it is. Let me tell you, when something as irrelevant and pointless as SmartGlass is the highlight of your show, then there is something very, very wrong. At least Usher was decent enough to give us all some comic relief in such a show devoid of joy.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little unfair. There was stuff for people to be excited about here. Some of the Halo 4 and new Call of Duty gameplay was cool enough, and you even got to see the Gears of War logo flash across the screen as some shapes that looked like people ran across the shadows. The problem is that, while there is a demographic for those things, I’m not part of it. It was that sense of feeling out of place that tempered my opinion of the Microsoft press conference. This is a company marketing games to people who aren’t me, and some of the stuff they had up could make the right person giddy, so in that sense I guess I can’t revile the show. So, if you just can’t wait to pick up where you left off with Master Chief or the generic army soldier who always takes point, then you would definitely enjoy watching the very first and last bits of the show. As for me? No thanks, Microsoft, but I’ll pass this year. Thanks for showing up, though.
Crystal Steltenpohl: Don’t care about Halo or Call of Duty. Don’t really care about Splinter Cell or Forza. New iterations of sports games don’t interest me either, even if I do like to play them every now and again. Not really too terribly excited about Lara Croft. Fable and Resident Evil might be interesting. And I really don’t care about extra apps and peripherals and all that crap. So. Yeah.
Nathan Wood: I know there’s a demographic that will be pleased with the news of a new Gears of War and Halo, which I can’t deny look really good in their own right, but I couldn’t help but feel unimpressed and a little dirty after Microsoft’s conference. Also, don’t get me started on Kinect.
Christopher Bowen: Microsoft’s performance at E3 was good for people who bought a video game console to not play video games on it and for brofists who really, really like Halo or Gears of War. If you were looking for something else… you weren’t going to find it.
Okay, there’s a third group of people who liked the Microsoft conference: people who like having every aspect of their life tied to one major company. Everything from their conference was about getting people into the Microsoft cloud. More television channels, more Kinect, more tie-ins to tablets via Smart Glass (read: another way to control games with a shitty touchscreen!), and more ties to Windows 8 which, in this IT guy’s opinion, is going to suck in a way that makes Vista jealous. What bugs me the most is that games were really the lower priority for Microsoft. Yes, they put Halo and Call of Duty in prominent positions, but the meat was for people who just can’t get enough Microsoft in their lives.
As someone who’s primary work computer runs Linux Mint specifically to get Microsoft out of his life—which won’t be possible on ARM-enabled Windows 8 computers—count me out of that group.
Connor Horn: I actually want to say hooray for Sony because, after many years of being an E3 afterthought, they finally took the gold, in my opinion. A new Quantic Dream game is always exciting, and a not-Super Smash Bros. with less interesting IPs is great news. There was, of course, some boring stuff like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry sequels, but Sony at least kept me awake, and for that I own them some gratitude.
Sony’s got a long year of redemption ahead of them, but if this conference was indicative of anything, then I guess there’s a reason to be optimistic after all.
Crystal Steltenpohl: Beyond: Two Souls and Assassin’s Creed: Liberation look like they’re going to be good titles, and I’m pretty excited about that for Sony despite not having a PS3 or a Vita. It’s also good to see the amount of downloadable content increase even further for the PS3. I still wonder what the hell they think they’re doing with the Vita, though. It’s kind of like Sony and Nintendo are on opposite sides here: Nintendo is putting a lot into the 3DS and everyone is going “What the hell?” with the Wii U, and Sony has done amazingly with the PS3 and… wait, what’s a Vita again? Seriously, though. It’s good to see an exclusive game for the system but shouldn’t something like that have happened maybe a few months ago? In any case, nothing else particularly excited me other than The Last of Us.
The Wonderbooks thing could be exciting for younger audiences, perhaps. However, I know some in the Harry Potter community are already pissed off because those without a PS3 are going to need to shell out around $300 if they want to experience the title and all the new information that’s supposedly coming out with it when previously, it seemed that J.K. Rowling had tried to make the Harry Potter experience accessible to everyone. To make it exclusive to the PS3 seems to have backfired in this case.
Nathan Wood: Although I’m a Sony console owner, I haven’t really been excited in the last few years for Sony’s E3 keynote, and for good reason. For the most part, they aren’t all that impressive or something to brag about. It’s because of this that I am glad to proclaim that Sony actually had a really good conference. Games that interest and appeal to me greatly were shown off to the audience, and whatever Sony and Ubisoft have got going on together is fine by me because it kept the conference rolling with exciting and eagerly anticipated titles. The Wonderbook thing, however, was utterly boring, to be blunt. Sure, it’s an interesting idea for children, but far too much time was spent on discussing it that I really didn’t think anything would engage my interest again. That was until, of course, The Last of Us was shown. It’s become my personal game of the show and a title that I can’t wait to get my hands on.
Of course, the conference wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Move, which I regard as a failure. It’s had more than enough time to become accepted by the public, and the sales numbers speak for themselves. There’s no point in having a more accurate motion device if the same shovelware that the Wii saw was going to be ported over. As for the Vita, outside of the announcement of PSOne classics still being a thing, Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, and some cross-play features with the PS3, not much was seen of the device during the keynote. I was kind of shocked unless I missed something. I really thought the Vita would be Sony’s focus, but that wasn’t the case.
Out of the three major companies, Nintendo and Sony performed far better. Who won E3 largely depends on what console you own or are loyal to. As a PlayStation 3 owner, you can see where I’m going with this.
Christopher Bowen: Nathan’s right about how The Last of Us looks outstanding. But other than that, Sony had an opportunity to sell me on the Vita, and they failed spectacularly. There was barely any notable mention of the system that is currently getting bombed by a company that desperately needs to move units for multiple reasons. I don’t care about God of War, and frankly, neither do prospective Vita customers. Sony needs to drop a bomb both to keep up with the 3DS, smartphones, and their own shareholders, who want answers.
The PlayStation 3 is on its last legs, and the Vita could be dead before it gets going. Sony’s focus is completely off. So while their press conference wasn’t as painful as anyone else’s, I’m dinging them because they failed in doing the one thing they had to do.
On the bright side, at least they kept their focus on video games. Microsoft could take a lesson from that.
Connor Horn: My opinion of the Nintendo press conference was, “Yeah, okay, sure.” The GamePad excites me about as much as the Wii motion controller excited me – which is to say, not at all. Also, most of the games seem like safe economic bets: Fitness? Yeah, that’ll sell. New Pikmin game? Never was my cup of tea, but it certainly has it’s audience. Finally, the Wii U seems to be just an updated Wii.
Over all, Nintendo’s press conference was safe and it was boring. It wasn’t actively bad and I didn’t leave with a bad taste in my mouth, but at the same time, I was kind of waiting for it to end as I watched it because so much of it was just more of Nintendo’s gimmicks at work. Man, wouldn’t you just love to take your Mii to NintendoLand? Or maybe you’d rather get great marks on your Fit Meter? Maybe if you could play the game using just a controller with no TV, you’d be happy! With all of these gadgets and whizzing, whirring doodads, why is it that I’m still so incredibly apathetic?
Maybe I’m just perpetually skeptical of Nintendo’s gimmicks, but this year’s E3 was a hard sell for me. Sometimes I wish they would focus on making interesting games—by which I mean not Wii Fit U or Sing—rather than focusing on all the silliness that comes with marketing the fun, lightweight console.
Crystal Steltenpohl: I thought Nintendo did okay, but most of the games they showed for the Wii U weren’t that interesting to me. Zombie U seems like it’ll be interesting, but that’s about it. Also, the 3DS conference gave us pretty much no new information. I like the lineup of games for the 3DS, but the fact that the only new information that came out of that conference was in a slip up in conversation after the fact is kind of telling (the news in question was that Fire Emblem: Awakening would be coming to the U.S).
Nathan Wood: Before heading into the event, my guess would’ve been that Nintendo would have the biggest and best showing at E3 because the Wii U was going to be flaunted for the public and that a number of games would be announced for it in addition to learning the actual details on the console. That was before I even go into the 3DS and the amount of games that would’ve been shown off to the public.
For the most part, looking at the entirety of Nintendo’s presence at E3, I would have to be of the opinion that they did pretty well. Sure, their conference bounced between engaging and utterly boring at times, but the games that were announced for the system have me cautiously optimistic. This is coming from someone who only a few months ago scoffed at the idea of the Wii U. There are only two things I’m particularly worried about with the Wii U: one, if Nintendo can get their shit together when offering an online service because, let’s be honest, they’re sorely lacking on that front out of the big three; and two, it appears that they’re trying to market the system to both casual and the more hardcore gamers, as seen in the library of upcoming games they brought with them. I’m not sure if this will do anything but confuse and alienate both parties, but the ball is ultimately in Nintendo’s court.
The 3DS will be seeing an influx of quality titles that users have been looking for, although one of the most anticipated titles being announced after the actual 3DS conference was a move that left me scratching my head. Either way, the new titles couldn’t have come at a better time with Sony wanting to pick up steam with their Vita offerings. In general, I came away fairly impressed by the company’s offerings.
Christopher Bowen: I’m going to rate Nintendo’s performance at the event over all. Lord knows they had enough press conferences, so it’s not fair to rate them solely on their keynote.
The keynote itself showed two things to me: 1) Nintendo doesn’t know how to run a show, and 2) Nintendo doesn’t know what it wants the Wii U to be. Simply put, nothing they showed me indicated to me that the Wii U isn’t going to be what the Wii was from a gaming perspective: a weaker system that heavily relies on Nintendo’s first-party games. That would be fine for Nintendo if the system also replicated the Wii’s success, but this is almost a different industry in 2012 than it was in 2006. The casual audience of Wii players that Nintendo is still aiming for—with some buckshot directed towards the hardcore crowd with the odd “core” title—isn’t buying a Wii to play Dance Central anymore. Instead, they’re buying Angry Birds and Cut the Rope for $1 on the phones and tablets they already own. Ubisoft’s announcement that their Wii U titles could be ported to smartphones and tablets was sold as a cost-cutting measure, but it reads to me like they’re hedging their bets: they want to make sure that their investment in Nintendo’s console isn’t a disaster that takes them down with the ship. I don’t see the casual gamer going for a Wii U, and I sure as hell don’t see the hardcore crowd digging into a system where its being in HD was touted as an accomplishment.
With that said, the presser on Wednesday, where they went over their system’s games, was more exciting for me. The Nintendo 3DS is going to kick so much ass, it’s not even funny. I’ve been waiting on the system until I saw enough software to justify the purchase. But Nintendo being Nintendo, they actually botched the one game seemingly everyone I knew, even people who didn’t come from FESS, cared about—Fire Emblem: Awakening. Nintendo couldn’t find time to put it in their horrifically boring video presentation and instead announced it to Stephen Totilo of Kotaku after the fact. The first 3DS game to support DLC—and support it heavily, I might add—was announced on Twitter. I didn’t think the last real video game company left could be so tone-deaf.
So, Mario and Fire Emblem are good, but the over all ambivalence of the Wii U is bad. I’ll call that a split down the middle.
Nathan Wood: I think the real winner of E3 would have to be Ubisoft, mainly due to Watch Dogs. The game looks absolutely fantastic with many themes that resonate with me and what future generations may face sooner rather than later. Throw in Assassin’s Creed III, which looks more awesome every time I see it in action, and Far Cry III, and it’s clear that Ubisoft won E3 2012.
Despite many exciting games being present—like Beyond by Quantic Dream and mech indie title Hawken, two titles I couldn’t leave out—I have never felt more of an end-of-a-generation vibe then I did during this year’s E3. Something about it made the event somewhat less exciting than previous years, and I think Sony and Microsoft realize this themselves. I would expect both or at least one of them to have a new console to bring to the next E3 if this year’s was any indication.
If this is the case, and Sony and Microsoft both bring new consoles to next year’s E3, Nintendo has a lot of work cut out for them if they don’t want the spotlight completely stolen from them. Either way, you know I’m already excited for what the next E3 will bring.
Christopher Bowen: It’s sad that everyone’s giving Ubisoft best-in-show because of one game. Call me crazy, but when I see Watch Dogs, all I see is Alpha Protocol. Normally, we would call it nice that they’re at least trying a new IP, but everyone treated this as if it were the savior of video gaming. Personally speaking, I think they had the right company, but the wrong game; Rayman Legends looks amazing.
That’s the problem both with the AAA industry and this event as a whole. So much of what we see is boring tripe: Microsoft’s biggest games at their conference were Halo 4, Gears of War 4, another Tomb Raider reboot, and the new Call of Duty. It’s to the point where, when something comes along that isn’t boring, we overreact. We’re looking for any nugget we can find despite the fact that we still buy these games we hate by the bushel. EA basically started their conference off with an interpretive dance called, “DLC, Subscription Packages, and You: Why You Should Like Them, Because if You Don’t Your $60 Annual-Release Games are Broken.”
Speaking of Ubisoft, it’s a good thing they did come out with an IP that everyone cared about, because outside of that and Dance Central, they spent their entire conference trying to out-shock themselves. Far Cry 3 showed boobs! We like boobs! And they said fuck a lot! We like the word fuck because we’re twelve—I mean, grown adults! I thought Gamasutra EIC Kris Graft nailed it, as did Luke Plunkett of Kotaku of all people.
Even the games that were shown that tried something new weren’t exciting. Normally, I would be excited for a Tomb Raider sequel because it would add some personality to a character that hasn’t had any. But the entire time I watched Lara get stabbed, broken, whine, and almost get raped, it dawned on me: haven’t I seen the pathetic female archetype a lot recently? It seems like the best way to “humanize” women is to subject them to the worst treatment imaginable. Forgive me if I feel pandered to.
Speaking of pandering, shame on the press members who were on the floor, hooting and hollering like masturbating monkeys. This is why no one takes us seriously. Imagine if Jake Tapper did the Arsenio Hall “WOOF WOOF WOOF” cheer whenever President Obama said something he liked. That’s what you dumb-ass idiots look like, and it’s why no one with any sort of power in this industry takes us seriously. We haven’t earned their respect.
Some journalists, such as Ben Kuchera of the Penny Arcade Report, made great pains to let everyone know that the “real” E3 was where the games actually were, and the real E3 was awesome. That’s actually the problem right there, though. The “real” E3 is hidden from the public in a storage closet where you have to know the secret password to get in. The “real” E3 is still afraid to show itself off to the unwashed “casual” masses. The “real” E3 doesn’t have Usher dancing to it. Yes, the games within the “real” E3 are great, but they’re not the ones the average person gets to see, and they’re not the ones the average person is going to mindlessly purchase. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Times like this make me appreciate PAX that much more.
CONCLUSION: Disappointment abounds among the staff regarding E3 2012 either because a given conference’s focus lay outside the staff member’s interest or because of the perception that the hosts were out of touch. A lack of new IPs certainly didn’t help matters in this case. Even with a greater range of opinions across the board, the general consensus was that E3 2012 was lacking. This is a stark contrast to the perception of last year’s E3, which left the staff in a more optimistic frame of mind. Regarding this E3, though, everyone seems bored.
Looks like a big swing and a miss for the companies that participated in E3 this year.