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Major conferences at E3 2016: what went wrong?

So, E3 is upon us. At the time of writing, the major conferences are over, and the Noshcast for E3 has been recorded. A lot of what I said there I’ll likely be reiterating here, but it bears repeating in the event that someone, anyone in charge of organizing any of the conferences reads this (fat goddamn chance, but a man can dream).

Whoever organized Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Nintendo’s E3 showings this year needs to have their hands slapped away from anything public facing for all time. Every single goddamn one of these was a snoozefest on par with a speech by Richard Stallman. Ordinarily, I’d say go listen to one of his speeches to verify my claim right now, but I’d rather you be able to continue reading this sometime this week and also spare you from developing narcolepsy.

It’s pretty hard to get me to turn away from your stream short of invoking overwhelming disgust. I mean something that’d invoke a physical response in this case. You know, standard shock video/picture stuff. But when you manage to bore me into something resembling a coma, there’s something wrong. This is coming from someone that finds traditionally boring movies and games interesting.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Electronic Arts Chief Executive Officer Andrew Wilson speaks during the Electronic Arts E3 press conference at the LA Sports Arena on June 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The EA press conference is held in conjunction with the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) which focuses on gaming systems and interactive entertainment, featuring introductions to new products and technologies.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

I’ve said this frequently enough that I’m sure everyone is getting sick of it, but it’s important and continues to bear repeating: SHOW, DON’T TELL. This is a standard rule in just about every visual medium, and there’s good reason for it. I don’t care about a series of talking heads flapping around about how exciting their upcoming games and/or hardware is. Show me. Let me get excited on the merits of what you have. An extra note to Nintendo: For the love of all that’s holy, don’t do the translators thing ever again. Every question and answer is punctuated by 3 seconds of silence while the translator reads what was said back to the other guy, he thinks up his response, the response is delivered in Japanese, and the translator reads that back to the English-speaking hosts. It makes for some unwatchable content.

Actually, let me spend some more time on why the people at Nintendo especially need to change-up their media crew. Their conference-that-totally-isn’t-a-conference went on for six full hours. They only had two games to show, on the first day at least (Pokemon and Zelda) and showed just those for the duration. Far too much of this was the aforementioned talking heads and translators.

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Microsoft is next on the chopping block, and their mistakes were potentially more damaging than Nintendo’s. For those that missed it, I’ll recap: Xbone S, no more exclusives (PC ports for everything!), lots and lots of talking, and “Project Scorpio”, a new console next year. Am I the only one that sees the problem here? You announced a new slim variant of your current console, said no more exclusive games were coming for it, and then announced the newer, more powerful console coming down the line. Were your marketing people high or am I just stupid? Why should I buy an Xbone S when “Project Scorpio” is inbound? This is the same kind of blunder that Sega did back with the 32X. They dropped the 32X in our lap and said “Oh, by the way, the Saturn is coming.” We all know what happened here. The 32x flopped.

Sony, we’re good. You guys held yourselves together. You did it right this time. Pat yourself on the back, and have a banana sticker. You showed us your games and kept the bullshit to an absolute minimum, my personal disdain for VR aside.

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Actually, let’s talk about that. A sizeable chunk of Sony’s conference was spent on VR “experiences” for their current lineup. Just about every game demonstrated has a VR component, or is VR-compatible. VR “experiences”, for those that don’t know what I’m referring to, are mostly stationary things, where you stand still in the game world and participate in a shooting gallery. Kinda like Space Pirate Trainer. This is… not exactly optimal use of VR. Matter of fact, it kind of misses the point. Speaking of missing the point, Devolver and Croteam announced Serious Sam VR. It’s also one of these “VR Experiences”. A stationary shooting gallery in a game about fast-paced movement and shooting. Can VR die already? It’s barely in its infancy and it’s being whored out like motion controls were during their death throes. VR has some real potential, but if it keeps going the way it is right now, they’ll end up strangling it in the crib the same way motion controls were. Chill out on it, guys. Think about some other ways to use VR. Don’t just flood the market with shovelware, unless you actually don’t want it to succeed.

And with that, I close my commentary on the major conferences of E3. In summary: Cut the talking heads, show us the games, and don’t obsolete your own hardware in the same conference you announce it.

About John Howard

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  • Umad?

    I thought Nintendo was alright. The people I mean. Especially the big breasted woman. And Krysta is always a plus. An besides, they showed more than Zelda and Pokemon the second day.

    • Jake Wilson

      I felt like those guys showing off Zelda and Pokemon were getting excited about features that have been pretty much standard in those kinds of games for years. I guess I’m biased though, because I think Pokemon and Zelda are boring as it is xD

      • Umad?

        Then you’re in the minority. Zelda was the game of the show. Twitter count and search data prove that. But if you ask me, the new Zelda has the potential to become the next Ocarina of Time. Or in other words, the next best game ever made. time will tell.

  • Mr0303

    Microsoft tried to mask the fact that they had no more exclusive games for the Bone as “options”. The whole spiel felt more like marketing for Windows 10 than showing off games. Also project Scorpio and the PlayStation 4 Neo are both horrible ideas – they will segregate the player bases and ultimately no one will win from their introduction to the market.

    Sony’s conference was the best since it was very focused on games and the only issue I had with it was that they didn’t have many release dates and some of the games shown will likely be released in 2018.

    Nintendo was meh. 6 hours to demonstrate a single game (that’s not even releasing this year) is not an optimal format.

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