For Michael Rousseau's latest writing challenge, Pressing Issue, he took the guise of a magazine editor and tasked me with summarizing the big three E3 2010 press conferences with some commentary of my own. Because this was to simulate a real assignment, he set a deadline of July 28. As an extra hurdle, he suggested that I give Microsoft more positive coverage due to extra advertising in the fake magazine. Undeterred and still ethically sound, I give you my completed assignment.
Now that the hype and pageantry of E3 has quieted down, you don’t see a lot of coverage on it anymore. The news cycle has moved on, as it tends to do, to the next hot stories. But does the content of the conferences live on in people’s memories one month later? What games from them continue to gain hype? What announcements still have people talking? We take a look and find out.
Microsoft: Kinect and Shooters
When you think of Microsoft, you naturally think of shooters, so it was no surprise that they trotted out a couple of their biggest ones, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Dead Space 2, and Gears of War 3. The gameplay demos showed off the strengths of both titles with some impressive moments, but in the long-term they didn’t make much difference. The conference didn’t spark newly-invigorated interested in the titles, though they never needed it in the first place given that they will do huge numbers when they are finally released. Gears of War 3, however, provided a meaty slice of gameplay with news of a compelling-sounding new mode, creating new hype for fans. Unfortunately, trailers for Fable 3 and Metal Gear Solid: Rising failed to make an impact simply because they lacked new revelations, hinted at or not.
Which brings us to the one thing that people are still talking about: Kinect. It didn’t matter that the presentation itself wasn’t very good, because people are still talking about Kinect. Unfortunately, not everything we remember is in a good way, as many scoff at the device because of what they saw at the conference, including many industry outlets. On the other hand, mainstream outlets were praising it and salivate at the potential. Given that Microsoft is courting exactly this audience, they might have accomplished exactly what they set out to do. But the hobbyists? They’ll need to see more convincing games.
Nintendo: Nostalgia and Hardware
Nintendo hit all the right notes with industry journalists. New games from no less than four classic series were announced. But just how much hype did their debuts provide? Donkey Kong Country Returns was welcomed with open arms once it was announced that Retro was developing, but it’s not something that maintains mindshare until release. You know what you’re getting, so there’s not a lot to hype other than smaller improvements. Skyward Sword is exciting for Zelda fans, but until they talk about the structure of the game it’s going to be treated as yet another Zelda with motion controls grafted on. Kid Icarus: Uprising brings with it mixed feelings for fans, as it is a continuation of the series that plays nothing like the original games. However, one game still captivates: Kirby’s Epic Yarn. The anticipation for this title is still climbing based merely on the footage shown at the conference. Not only did this title surprise people, but it did so in a way that captured imagination thanks to its unique gameplay, which people are still raving about even now.
Finally, the 3DS was unveiled with the usual amount of excitement that accompanies new hardware. That alone was enough for people to still care about it even now, but then it unveiled games by key designers, later releasing an entire list of titles for the platform. Nintendo sealed the deal through both new hardware glow and a plethora of games in the pipeline.
Sony: Montages and Metal
Much of Sony’s conference targeted investors by showing endless montages and plans for a new marketing campaign, obscuring what little content the show had. Actual games were in short supply, replaced instead by technology. 3D games was one of their biggest attractions, but it’s hard to get excited for something only the people wearing the glasses could experience. Playstation Move, their other big showpiece, was a more tangible demonstration. While the game, Sorcery, was a surprisingly effective demo, it was not a compelling view of an amazing game. Much like Kinect, Move lacked any software that inspires continued excitement. The lack of any PSP news, besides a new monster-catching game that utilizes a camera, ensured that the system would languish during the summer months.
However, a couple of things did make a significant and lasting impact. Gran Turismo 5’s release date was announced, piquing the interest of the millions of fans of the franchise who were left wanting all these years. Also, Gabe Newell, who once slammed the PS3 every chance he got, announced that Portal 2 was coming to the platform as along with Steamworks enhancements. It was pitched as the best version of the game, so a lot of gamers have adjusted their purchasing plans by now. Finally, the surprise announcement at the end was none other than a new Twisted Metal game. Some may scoff that this is an exciting announcement, but the fan base seems to still be rabid for more even now.
These conferences aren’t for us. They’re ultimately for the mainstream media and investors, which is what they plan them around. However, they can still contain a good surprise or two that will keep gamers talking for months afterwards outside of the hype machine that is E3. So what’s the secret? It must be compelling in a way that we haven’t experienced before. It must be forthcoming with lots of tantalizing information. And finally, it must give the people what they want.