As workmen and janitors clear up the remains of abandoned booth babes and stranded GameStop managers, as journalists recline tiredly in their swivel chairs, having just posted the last of their interviews and impressions and top ten lists, as an Editor-in-Chief resigns, we call a close to the yearly circus that is E3.
It’s peculiar, but this year I really didn’t feel the same demand to follow every scrap of news like I usually do. Most years I download the press resources for even the lamest of third-party offerings, stuffing my storage full of gigs and gigs of promotional art of Carnival Shovelware and Barbie Horse Adventures DS. Maybe the conferences took their toll on me, maybe it was the lack of games with a more distinctly Japanese flair than we traditionally get, maybe it’s because I wrote three Tangents in a row, and writing angry words is haaard. But in all, despite some solid titles on display, something about this year’s event didn’t strike me as compelling as before. One of the biggest shockers was Nintendo’s reveal, which when you get right down to it, is a clever concept, but wouldn’t have been that shocking even if it hadn’t been leaked weeks before.
There was also the issue of genre and gimmick fatigue. One of the worst culprits was cited by many sources: shooter fatigue. It’s the game where no matter the situation, one of the first things your character does is pull a rifle up to eye level. A rifle that almost always looks and acts the same, no matter what game we’re talking about (Prey and Resistance excluded, Dust embarrassingly included). To a degree this is a fault of the setting attempting to staying grounded in reality, but few gun games were in any rush to break the current Modern Warfare mold.
There was also the case of useless QTEs, or Heavy Rain-like “flail” QTEs where you’re meant to hammer the buttons as if you’re struggling like the character is. Tomb Raider, NFS: The Run, and others all insisted you hammer LB and RB like a madman. And sequels, sequels, sequels. Finding an unannounced game newly on display without a trailing number or subtitle was a taxing trial this time. New IP was almost nowhere to be found, being too much of a risk for this financially-unstable time. And most notable of all were the amount of major developers not in attendance. Rockstar, Valve, and far too many Japanese developers were no-shows, or only put their American and European-developed works on display. One of Square Enix’s own executive officers openly expressed disappointment at his company’s showing, and their almost total crutch on Eidos-developed works. Even the usually-strong showings by Sega and Capcom seemed lacking this year, with Sega mostly focused on Sonic Generations and Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Capcom on offerings like Dragon’s Dogma, and a second revision of Street Fighter IV; a revision their recently-released 3DS version will not likely see.
My original plan was to compile and rewrite some of my conference reactions into a single article, but not a lot has changed for the big three since those major showings, and the smaller conferences were mostly dry or devoid of details, so I don’t think that’s necessary. You can find these fairly knee-jerk reactions here:
In fact, one of the big three’s reluctance to show any major details has left me concerned. In my original article about the Wii U, I expressed a lot of apprehension about the limitations of the tech they were using, the software available, and the aspects of their services they were quick to hype as excellent, without actually detailing them in the slightest. In an interview following their press conference, Reggie said to Geoff Keighley that the online “box” would be checked, that details were coming this week. But Nintendo refused for the rest of E3 to describe their online services past the weakest vagueries, with the few hints we did receive leading people to expect more of a third-party free-for-all than a standardized, focused online approach akin to Xbox Live. These are the same companies that have wanted us to sign up for Konami ID, uPlay, and EA Gun Club, jumping through all sorts of strange hoops and requiring us to agree to a constant bombardment of additional advertisement. So that has left the more jaded of us pundits less than enthused at Nintendo’s apparent hands-off approach. And if that’s not the approach they’re taking, they’ve done nothing to say otherwise.
In the meantime, too many people have rushed to defend the console as being extremely early in development, with release estimates exceeding even Nintendo’s somehow. And in all honesty, maybe it was too early to show, and that was a problem in itself. There was no software. They refused to promise us almost any new titles for the Wii, yet they weren’t prepared or confident enough to even give us names and basic mock-ups of planned first-party titles for the new platform; leaving nothing but 3DS titles mostly developed by or in conjunction with outside developers like Q-Games, Retro and Next Level, the mention of a DSi freebie for the anniversary of Zelda, and a single Wii title we saw a detailed presentation of at the last E3. A reel of planned third-party Wii U ports was aired, utilizing existing PS3/360 footage for all but one Tekken title barely starting development, but every first party showing was labeled an experiment, or an experience. The singular first-party game announced for Wii U was “a” Smash Bros. No direct title, and as we’ve come to learn, the game hasn’t even begun active development yet. This wouldn’t be an issue if they had announced Wii titles to fill the void, and while they did have a few small offerings buried in their press details and booth, they somehow managed to deny major titles already receiving English translation for other regions, most notably Xenoblade. As title-starved as the remaining Wii lineup is, and as far away as the Wii U obviously is, how can they afford to do this? It goes against any common sense.
You can tell where the bulk of my frustration is focused this year. I am a strong fan of Nintendo’s work, so it frustrates me to see them make a list of obvious mistakes, even in a post-Wii world where they proved critics wrong on so many things. The Wii U wasn’t ready to be the major focus of their E3 showing. In comparison, the Microsoft conference was mostly just boring and bogus. I thought Sony had a solid showing, although I’ve seen many disagreements with that assessment. Little changed as E3 rolled on, very few surprises were to be had. And while that’s sensible in an environment where a big surprise could turn out to be a big bomb, wrecking your future over a single poor showing, such a safe, homogeneous approach did little to excite consumers and investors like expos prior.
This post was originally written by the author for TSSZ News.