GamesBeat

Microsoft’s E3 2012: Analysis of 16,000+ comments shows Halo 4, South Park impressed, rest did not (graph)

Gamers are passionate people, and none more so than the members of one of the Internet’s most popular video game message boards, NeoGAF. The forums are often vilified, sometimes celebrated, but one cannot argue their dedication to the medium. Each year during the game industry’s largest trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), NeoGAF members congregate to comment in real-time on the press conferences hosted by first-party publishers Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.

And they posted…a lot. During the four hours taken by the three conferences, NeoGAF members submitted 16,214 posts — the equivalent of two full novels. You’ll find no better source of information detailing how hardcore gamers felt. Now that E3 is over, one can take the time to mine this valuable data. After analyzing every single response to the three stage shows, we have a powerful set of conclusions.

What did they think of the Big Three’s announcements this year? Here, you can see the number of positive and negative responses to the Microsoft press conference as the news poured out:

NeoGAF reactions to Microsoft at E3

Above: Click for a full-size version. For a more detailed explanation of how we analyzed this data, please see the explanation at the end of this article.

Image Credit: Andrew Hiscock

What NeoGAF liked about the Microsoft press conference

The press conference started strong with Halo 4. After this, the response was largely negative, with positive reactions occurring when Tomb Raider and Resident Evil appeared. (For more stories on any of these games or products, click on the tags below.)

NeoGAF also liked South Park: The Stick of Truth. The high point of the conference followed its trailer when South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone appeared on stage. This was largely due to Parker’s joke about modern consumer electronics, reflecting the frustrations of the NeoGAF community, which we’ll explore below.

What NeoGAF didn’t like

They disliked just about everything else. It is no surprise that a community of hardcore gamers didn’t enjoy anything that wasn’t a game, including Nike+, Xbox Music, and Internet Explorer. Interestingly enough, while responses remained largely negative, an upswing occurred when Microsoft introduced SmartGlass. Another drop to low scores followed.

Many games also received negative reactions, particularly titles for casual audiences or those that would use the Kinect sensor. These included FIFA 13, Madden 13, Wreckateer, and Dance Central 3.

Two games for the hardcore audience also received largely negative reactions: Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. In the case of the former, members cited a departure from stealth gameplay and the Middle Eastern environment as reasons for displeasure. In the case of the latter, many cited that it wasn’t enough of a departure from previous games in the Call of Duty franchise and that its developer had already announced and presented the game to journalists at an earlier event.

NeoGAF also strongly disliked long demos. This pattern presented itself in the reactions that became steadily more negative the longer a game stayed on stage. You can easily see this in the cases of Splinter Cell: Black List, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil 6.

What wasn’t recorded

Unfortunately, due to NeoGAF’s popularity during press conferences, its servers went down for an extended period. During this time, data was unavailable for Fable: The Journey, Gears of War: Judgment, Forza Horizon, and for a significant part of non-game services.

Two other down periods occurred; although, they were much shorter, which resulted in some posts. These happened during the South Park: The Stick of Truth trailer and Usher’s live performance.

For more on how NeoGAF reacted to the E3 press conferences, check out the Sony and Nintendo studies.

How the scoring works

NeoGAF hosts a single message board thread for each press conference, where dozens of members comment throughout each show. I graded each comment as positive or negative, giving them scores of 1 or -1 respectively. Then I totaled the sum of these reactions for each discrete minute and plotted in the above chart. A high score means that the NeoGAF community liked what they saw; a score close to zero represents mixed reactions; and a low score means that they were not enjoying the show at that moment.

Some notes on how I scored each response:

  • I made no distinction between really positive or somewhat positive comments — likewise for negative comments. Each was given either a score of 1 or -1.
  • While I made every effort to understand the various memes and inside jokes that make up a large part of the responses, if I could not understand a response, I would not score it.
  • In the event that a comment employed obvious sarcasm, I scored it to reflect the original intent of the commentator. If the sarcasm was not clear, I relied on the literal meaning of the comment. Fortunately, the very expressive NeoGAF community rarely employed subtle sarcasm.
  • When comments included positive and negative observations, I accounted for the more immediate reaction to preserve a more real-time response. An example: “I liked the game that was shown at the beginning of the show, but this game now is bad” would have a negative score.
  • Many comments weren’t scored as they offered no opinion. These included clarifications, questions, discussions between members unrelated to the press conference, and inquiries into whether one game or another would be shown at a later time.

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