Coming off Reggie Fils-Aime's comments about gamers never being satisfied, it painted a picture as if E3, 2012 was some rocket-busting event that was chock full of new and interesting games. Based on the main press conferences, that was certainly not the case.
Gamers were already bracing themselves for a little bit of the "same old, same old" because earlier this year both Sony and Microsoft said they were not revealing any new hardware. Fair enough. Nintendo was going to be the only company showing off "next-gen" games for the Wii U. Most headlines preceding E3 centered around the idea that E3 was Nintendo's to lose. And somehow they did.
The thing is, if you aren't showing off any new hardware at least showcase some exciting new software. Remember, E3 is the biggest trade show of the year for the gaming industry. So if you do have new hardware to show off, everyone wants to know what it's capable of and why they should buy it. If you have new software everyone wants to know what you can do in the game and why they should buy it. On both accounts all the press conferences save for Ubisoft, and a little bit of Sony, gave us very little to be excited about for this year and next year.
Fanboys and hardcore gamers login each year to watch the major press conferences live. We joke, jeer, boo and cheer for various announcements, and at the end of it all we chat about what worked, what didn't and what we're excited for. Eventually, a "Winner" of E3 is picked and this year's winner went to Ubisoft not because they had some super-duper amazing press conference, but simply because they were the most focused on gaming and actually gave gamers a few reasons to be excited about the future.
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime's comments about core gamers not being satisfied wasn't something that just rang true for Nintendo, though. Gamers were generally dissatisfied with Microsoft's offerings as well. Other than Halo 4 and a little of Gears of War: Judgment it wasn't as if the Xbox 360 had noteworthy exclusives on display. Brief teasers seemed to shimmy out over the audience for games like LocoCycle, Matter and Ascend but very little was shown and almost zero info was released for these games, making it hard to get excited. Everything else was basically third-party sequels following trends and formulas we've been seeing since 2007, which definitely made it worse.
Electronic Arts decided to follow suit, unveiling sequel after sequel and talking up social networking, which was another big point of Microsoft's conference. Gamers expecting original or innovative games were left out in the field.
Sony's conference was generally streamlined with a mix of casual and core gaming, and while many Sony fanboys were disappointed with the lack of presence for the Vita -- and in all honesty they could have shaved off five minutes or so of Wonderbook: Book of Spells for some extra Vita games -- for the most part Sony at least had The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls as original flagship IPs to showcase to gamers. Could it have been a better conference? Of course, but it wasn't too terrible.
Nintendo was the most disappointing because they had the most to lose and the most to gain. Showing off new hardware is vital because it's not just about dropping new games it's about expressing why this new kind of hardware is actually worth buying. There were a few noteworthy games: Super Mario Bros. U, ZombiU and the surprise show stealer of Nintendo's conference, Lego City Undercover, but the rest were games we've generally been seeing and playing on the Wii for the past couple of years.
But in terms of showing off games, lots and lots of games and a variety of said games, that was hugely lacking at this year's E3 during main conferences. And like Warren Spector moaned about to GI.biz, we had one ultra-violent game after another, throwing originality to the wind and utilizing the exact same premise: hero trying to survive by killing everything in sight.
Yes, there was NFS: Most Wanted which was basically Burnout Paradise fused with Need for Speed World, but were we really supposed to get excited for a remake of a game that just came out in 2006?
But then we had the one game that actually dared to do something different, Watch Dogs. It was the only mature game that wasn't just another Blockbuster shoot-e'm-up, kill-e'm-down fest. Yes, it was violent but it was also unique, working with some interesting concepts of piracy breaching and security infrastructure manipulation, usually the kind of stuff we see in spy movies but rarely ever get to utilize in a game.
Outside of Watch Dogs and Beyond (which, I must confess we didn't really get to see any gameplay of) everything else was using tried and true methods. In other words, we've been there and we've done that.
AAA publishers and console manufacturers had a chance to really shine, showing us that even though today's generation of console hardware has aged, there is still room for playful ideas. There was an opportunity to show us unique and original titles that we haven't played before, games like Heist or Perspective. There was an opportunity to talk about and introduce games that weren't safe, AAA-Hollywood blockbusters.
There was also an opportunity to explore fascinating worlds and ideas, following suit on the popularity of titles like Limbo, Journey and Fez, to give the spotlight over to games like Unfinished Swan or Anarchy Reigns. But that wasn't what we seen at this year's top E3 press conferences. Instead we had the same old tried and true methods, lots of talk of "online connectivity" and then we were force-fed a lot of mainstream commercialization, including Usher and Flo Rida, which left a lot of people questioning, "What did we just watch?"
When the E3 press conferences wrapped this year, I don't think just core gamers were the ones walking away unimpressed, I think gamers in general left with the impression that the gaming industry left creativity and artistic ingenuity at the convention center doors.