E3 Conferences

Well E3 has come and gone and I for one watched the press conferences of the big three. That would be Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Looking over their presentations I realize that this was a much more low key E3 than previous years. There were no major hardware announcements, no company shifting deal breakers and most importantly no new big game announcements. Those all seemed to happen in the ride up to E3 as opposed during the actual event. The PS3 trophies, the X-box 360 price cut and so on. The convention was focused on the software, which is a good thing, after all that is what we’ll be using these machines for. My Chief Editor was rather disappointed in the week’s proceedings and honestly I myself was only half watching and only at two points was my attention fully glued and I refused to blink. Like anything here it is purely the commentary is purely subjection. Somehow people seem to forget that.

xbox 360 logo

Microsoft went first and had the whole day to themselves. They got out of the gates running by showing off demos to three great titles and had announcements to several others; conveniently forgetting to mention that only one of them was exclusive (Gears of War 2). It makes me wonder if they didn’t have enough exclusives to fill the time. After that they moved on to the business portion of the conference. They were showing off charts and taking the occasional pot shot at Sony. After that they went on to talk about the new network update for the 360. They’re giving it a new avatar system; a new dashboard look and they announced their partnership with NETFLIX, Universal and NBC for downloads.

netflix logo

An impressive and important deal to be sure. Microsoft also showed off their casual market plans with online game shows and their new IP In the Movies. The real stand up moment, however, was when they invited Square Enix to the stage for the big reveal that Final Fantasy XIII is no longer an exclusive. That is huge news. One of the franchises that Sony was banking on to sell systems can be gotten elsewhere. Then they added insult to injury with the line, “” Average, that pretty much sums up Microsoft’s conference.

Nintendo’s conference did not disappoint my expectations. I expected next to nothing from them and I got exactly that. Their conference last year wasn’t anything to get excited about overall. At least it had Metroid 3 and Super Mario Galaxy to show off. But now all five of Nintendo’s major franchises are out. (Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Super Smash, Mario Kart) What is left? Wii Sports Beach games and Wii Music looked to be the most interesting.

They will be big sellers and they looked fun and creative, but Nintendo spent most of their time bragging how successful the Wii is. Okay we get it; you will be sold out for probably the entire console life cycle. That’s not why I’m watching. They did the same thing last year. They’re becoming like 80s music, self-indulgent and the consumer is the one suffering. Last year they were declared the ‘winner of E3’ by the mainstream media, which only knows enough to yell fire in a crowded theater every time a console is switched on. While everyone who actually knows something about E3 majority agreed they came in third. Nothing has changed. They will continue to sell, but now that they’re moneymakers are already out and most likely bought by anyone that cares they will have no triple A titles coming.

playstation logo
playstation logo

Sony was the last conference and like last year they seemed to take advantage of everybody wanting more. I must admit I was most interested in this conference, due to the fact I own a PS3, so I decided to watch it again a few days later to get a less biased perspective. The result was a resounding meh, with a big hell yeah at the end. They began with a demo of an exclusive, like Microsoft. Then they went on to their power point presentation, but were completely original in how they pulled it off. It doubled as a way to show off Little Big Planet because the power point presentation was a level in the game.

little big planet
little big planet

A few trailers to show off other upcoming titles, all of which were previously known. They also showed us their own TV/Movie download plan. With agreements with all but one major studio, that agreed with Microsoft. Of course the difference with Sony’s conference, is that they have three platforms to talk about instead of one or two. Which may explain the six montages. An intro, one to show off games coming out for each platform, (PSP, PS2, PS3), one to show off coming online content, and one for developers to talk about designing with the PS3 architecture. It was a good way for us to get a quick list of what is coming out and what it will look like, but the developers talking about how they know what their doing with the console is a real relief. It gives credence to Jack Trenton’s opening remarks in quoting C-Net, that “this year, 2008, is the year of the Playstation 3.” They wrapped up the conference with three trailers, which was the best way to go out. Each trailer had my jaw on the floor and me checking my wallet. It may have biased the opinions as they went out with a bang compared to the other two companies.

I will admit after seeing that I was willing to call it for Sony, but I waited a few days to let it all sink in. My opinion hold that Nintendo came in third place and will still make ridiculous amounts of money regardless of whether or not they came out with superior games or any worth playing at all. Microsoft and Sony were very close this year, much closer than last year where Sony blew them out of the water. Microsoft showed off some triple A titles, but most were cross-platform and they showed us nothing new. Sony was in a similar boat, showed off some great games, but nothing new.

However, I would give a slight edge to Sony for the virtue of a better presentation strategy. Microsoft showed the equivalent in content, but their presenters felt very awkward on stage, which didn’t help bring excitement for the games. If I had one word to describe the E3 conferences it would be safe. There were no new game announcements at an event specifically made for new title announcements. They seemed to be worried more about how they looked in comparison to the others than about what they showed. Oh and a word to the wise, video game consumers, especially ones who would watch this, are more intelligent about their products than the average Joe. We can sense fear and lack of confidence. It was a solid E3, but not a spectacular one.

This was about the conferences. The next post will be about the games.

Eric Swain

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Eric Swain

A graduate of Boston University, majoring in English and Creative Writing and has spent significant time studying story structure and theory in the mediums of books, film and video games. His articles offer unique perspective on deep game development and design through his eclectic prose. you can find his critical analysis on www.thegamecritique.com.

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