June 11, 2012, 8:30 AM — So before we fold up the E3 banners and tuck them in the back of the closet for another year, I wanted to squeeze in one more post about this year's show. I had a unique, delayed view of the coverage of E3 2012 thanks to an unexpected 3-day hospital visit (which is also why I never did a recap of the Nintendo Press Conference, in case anyone missed that).
When I got home Thursday evening I started catching up on everything I'd missed via recorded shows from Spike and G4 TV as well as archived streaming content. But at the same time I was consuming this content for the first time I was also listening to the buzz from people who'd already experienced it, and what I was hearing was mostly disappointment in this year's show.
I wasn't actually disappointed but perhaps my expectations were colored by what I was hearing. Still, E3 is one of my favorite times of the year and I can't help but go a little fanboy and defend the show.
So what was wrong with E3 2012? My sense is that people were disappointed by a lack of surprises and new IPs, and that's a fair criticism. I'm not sure why companies pre-announce their E3 titles these days; I suspect it's either to build excitement going into the show or because they're afraid of leaks (which have become a huge problem in the gaming industry). Whatever the reason, I think the days of lots of surprises are behind us.
On the other hand, knowing a title and genre are one thing, but getting an in-depth look at how a game will play and what kinds of systems it'll offer is another, and E3 is still a good place to find this more in-depth information about new titles.
An example of this would be Assassin's Creed 3. Ubisoft announced the game back in March but I didn't feel like we knew a lot about it before E3. We'd certainly never seen the naval combat (first shown at the Sony Press Conference) and we hadn't seen any real missions being played. So even though I knew AC3 existed going into E3, I still feel like I learned a lot about the game and what I learned really amped my excitement for the title.
But let's talk about new IPs. I think the big problem with E3 2012 is that both Microsoft and Sony have new consoles in the works, and there's already a lot of work being done on games for those new consoles. Obviously since both companies chose not to announce new hardware, they couldn't really talk about software for the new machines. Did you notice that almost every game we saw at the show was scheduled for release by Q1 2013? The few exceptions were mostly PC-only games, and most pundits assume at least some of these will actually be PC/Xbox 720/PS4 games by the time they launch. A good example is the new Star Wars 1313 title. There's no way that will be PC-only and there's no way they came get a game to look that good on current-gen console hardware.
Anyway my point is, what was brought to E3 was software almost ready to ship for current systems. If you think about it, it doesn't make a lot of sense to launch a new IP for a console in its twilight years — better to hold them back for the next generation to really drive home the excitement of a new system. So while I don't disagree that the lack of new IPs was disappointing, I didn't really expect to see any anyway.
Moving on, every year gamers argue over who 'won' E3. Here's my recap of the press conferences:
Microsoft played it very safe on the gaming front this year, showing off shooter after shooter until they all started to blend together. Of course these games will almost certainly each sell boatloads of copies, so you can't really criticize Microsoft on their choices. And SmartGlass got people talking, both for and against. I thought it was a safe, solid showing.
Sony spent a bit too much time on their Wonderbooks section but otherwise I thought they did a good job of playing to their strength, which (in my opinion at least) is their wide diversity of titles. The conference was bookended by must-play titles Beyond:Two Souls and The Last of Us and as I mentioned, Sony got to spill the beans on naval combat in Assassin's Creed 3. Where Sony really missed an opportunity was with the Vita, which got almost no love during the press conference. Sony was my favorite of the 'big 3' conferences though. I'll admit I'm always biased by Jack Tretton's slightly self-deprecating delivery. At least he comes across as a human being.
Nintendo completely dropped the ball this year. They were the one company with new hardware to showcase but they did a poor job of it. Nintendo seemed to spend more time talking about how they didn't have enough time to show us everything they wanted to show us than they did actually showing us games. Nintendo also has a real challenge now. My girlfriend, a Nintendo Wii fan, watched the conference with me and I watched her go from delight at seeing Pikmin 3 and Super Mario Brothers Wii U to complete disinterest as Nintendo started showing off titles like Batman Arkham City for the Wii U. How Nintendo is going to market to both their casual, family-friendly audience and the violence-craving 'core gamer' I just don't know. I do know that I want to play ZombiU though. Still, I wanted to see a lot more games and hear a lot less talking during the Nintendo conference.
Electronic Arts opted to focus on 10 tent-pole titles for their conference and, for me at least, failed to make any kind of impression. Lots of gamers are excited about Dead Space 3 and I'll probably play and enjoy the rebooted Need For Speed: Most Wanted, but why they devoted a section to SW:TOR I just don't know. We already own SW:TOR, EA! I personally can't get that excited about the UFC license either, and the new Madden just looks like a new Madden. Medal of Honor: Warfighter and Battlefield 3 updates were there for shooter fans but again, I just didn't feel really excited during EA conference.
Last up, Ubisoft. Last year I declared Ubisoft "Winner of E3 2011" and guess what? I'm declaring them winner again, and for the same reason: they came out and showed a ton of games catering to all kinds of players on all kinds of systems. Their emcee this year was Aisha Tyler which meant you had someone on stage who wasn't stiff or nervous, although maybe she was a tad too comfortable at times. Ubisoft, of course, showed us Assassin's Creed 3, as well as Splinter Cell: Blacklisted and Far Cry 3. But they also showed us a new Rayman game for the Wii U and Just Dance 4 for the casual gamers. And of course they came with the one real secret of E3, Watch Dogs, a near future spy/assassin kind of game that no one had heard an inkling about, to the best of my knowledge. So congrats, Ubisoft, for winning E3 two years in a row (at least, according to me).
So that's it for E3 for another year. There seems to be some question as to where the show will be next year; apparently there's going to be some construction happening to the LA Convention Center around the time the show usually happens. And of course some people just don't think there should be an E3 2013 at all; they think E3 is no longer relevant. I disagree; I think the gaming industry still needs a lightning rod event to generate a bit of a spectacle for the hobby. And next year we'll almost definitely get our first taste of Xbox 720 & PS4!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.