Last week saw what has become the biggest event of the year for the gaming industry – the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3. It’s the time where the big-name developers traditionally flaunt their biggest titles, reveal their biggest surprises, and give journalists some hands-on time with the latest and greatest tech.
At least,that’s usually how it goes. This year, E3 was a little… let’s call it “strange.” There was a definite mixed reception to this year’s expo from the gaming community. With that in mind, we asked our writers what their take-away moment from E3 2012 will be – whether it was a game reveal, bewildering moment, or some other stand-out event.
Hit the break to check out what we’ll remember about the show this year.
Let me set the stage for you. You’re a huge Xbox fan and you’re hyped for reveals before Microsoft’s conference even begins! They start out with a bang with a gameplay reveal for Halo 4 and you couldn’t be more excited! They move on to a cinematic trailer for the new Gears of War and, holy shit, it’s Baird and Cole! At this point, you’re probably about to explode from hype overload. Even the new sports games look nifty with the added Kinect voice controls. After all this, you’re thinking to yourself, “just how can Microsoft top this?!”
The stage darkens, silence fills the large theater, and then…Dance Central 3 appears on the screen! Wait, Dance Central 3? Well, okay, they need to appeal to a broader audience and the Dance Central series has always been great for parties. Now, let’s see some gameplay since it will take a lot of persuading to make me buy this new version! After a brief video montage that ends with Usher, the famous dancer appears on stage for a concert! I guess the concert is okay, but do I see gameplay in the back? I can’t tell because all of the stage effects are blocking the ginormous screen.
This was probably the biggest bomb of the entire conference for me because it failed on every level. It’s fine to get celebrities to come promote your games – every sports game followed that pattern. The major difference is that the sports game actually showed significant gameplay! Now if Usher had followed up on the concert with some explanations on the game, I would be far more forgiving. After all, he had a hand in creating many of the dance moves you’ll be performing in the game. Instead, we were “treated” to a horrible dance routine with no game explanation.
During their press conference, Nintendo seemed particularly hooked on the fact that ZombiU was everything a hardcore gamer would want out of the Wii U. It has guns, it has zombies, what more could this insidious horde of rabid enthusiasts want out of their poor, poor console at launch?
I don’t know, maybe something that differentiates the Wii U from every other console? For instance, a game that isn’t single player Left 4 Dead with a light gun and a social network?
Honestly, Ubisoft’s stage demo for Rayman spoke volumes more about what Wii U could provide than Nintendo’s actual press conference did. Showing how iPad-trained casual players can use the Wii U gamepad to help a more experienced player on traditional controls explained the beauty of asymmetry clearly, succinctly, and without having to show any terrible “simulated families.”
I recently had a go at playing Rayman Origins with my younger sister, who I don’t normally play with because she prefers markedly more casual games. Origins encourages pairings like this – if she took a hit, there was no penalty as long as I could stay alive to revive her. With this mechanic, we were both able to play the game without the division of my preference for Super Meat Boy and her preference for Transformice. Origins nailed what it meant to be fun for all skill levels.
Rayman Legends, and simultaneously the Wii U, could expand this inclusiveness further. My mom is surgically bound to her iPad. While refusing to acknowledge her new status as a “gamer,” she blurs her screen with Draw Something and Angry Birds. With Rayman Legends, I could be heading up the pack, my sister could tag along easily enough, and even my mom could finally get involved on the gamepad using familiar and friendly controls. And, best of all, it’s in game that appeals to everyone, not some terrible shovelware NintendoLand mini-game pitched squarely at those with developing motor skills.
My takeaway is this: Nintendo does not seem to know what they have on their hands. They undersold the ability of the Wii U to allow inexperienced gamers and hardcore gamers to play in synergy, choosing instead to show their new console as a child’s plaything which parents will be roped into using as a favor to their children the day after Christmas. The Wii U could be the first console your parents might actually ask you to play on with them. And that’s fucking amazing.
Watch_Dogs was my game of the show. It was one of the few real surprises of E3 2012 and the demo that Ubisoft showed off was absolutely incredible to watch. The story-line felt relevant, the hacking and surveillance mechanics could lead to some very cool gameplay ideas, and we’ll be able to use them to cause havoc on an entire open-world Chicago – possibly with some form of co-op too! I’m sold.
Along with Star Wars 1313, the game looked like it belonged on the next generation of consoles, although it was later confirmed for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It will be interesting (or possibly very disappointing) to see how those versions can compare to what we’ve seen already.
Trystan Perry – Pikmin 3
It has been 7 years since I last picked up a Pikmin game. That’s all about to change now that Nintendo has announced the brand new addition to the franchise, Pikmin 3.
It’s a little known fact that I absolutely adore Pikmin. Those little brightly colored carrot people bring a special light to my day and spring to my step. My only concern with this new addition is that it’s on the Wii U, which means I have to dip into my wallet to get a new console when it comes out. But, with elements like playing with four friends, rock pikmin, and rumors of flying pikmin, I can’t wait to see what Shigeru Miyamoto has up his sleeve for this installment.
Zach Martin – The Cave
While many of the games at this year’s E3 were somewhat samey, big budget first or third person shooters that all kind of blended together, there were a few hidden gems to be found if you knew where to look. Perhaps the most intriguing of them was The Cave, developed by Ron Gilbert and Double Fine Studios. Gilbert’s work on classic point and click adventure games like Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island clearly influenced The Cave’s development, because even though it’s a sidescrolling platformer, its puzzles adopt a delightfully strange point and click logic.
It’s a shame, however, that The Cave didn’t muster a larger presence at the show. Instead of being prominently displayed, it was tucked behind closed doors in the Sega booth, with screenings available only to members of the press. While I’d normally feel privileged to be part of something so exclusive, I really just want everyone to know about this game. I’m not completely selfish, after all.
This year was perhaps the most underwhelming E3 ever. Even worse than the “scaled down” one from 2007 and nowhere near as good as the ones that first announced the new gen or the years that followed. Microsoft disappointed everyone but themselves for the third year in a row, Nintendo gave us all the biggest case of blue balls, and Sony’s had an air of stagnancy even if they showed off a few good titles.
People are asking if E3 is still relevant. I don’t think those people know what “relevance” is. What E3 is is disappointing and not for consumers anymore. It’s for the big three to flex their muscles and show off to investors while the people they generate revenue off of smack their heads on their table and wonder why they’re even bothering to watch this again. The real draw of E3 anymore is to find new embarrassing situations that will forever remain remembered.
It seems like PAX has become the new conference and convention and yearly gathering place for the real heart of the games industry. Money has hijacked E3 and made it pander to an audience who does not care about anything except increasing their own return while avoiding taxes. PAX? By gamers, for gamers, and with increasing support every year.