E3 2014 lacked the drama of the year before. And, let’s be honest, we expected pretty much every ‘surprise’ announcement.
Yet overall it was a good show. There were well over 250 products on display, and Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo can all feel happy as they head home from Los Angeles.
However, as usual, there were a few ‘trends’ at E3 worth moaning about. From an obsession with one genre to an excess of violence, there were a number of things about E3 that the industry should consider avoiding when the annual event rolls around next year.
1. Free extra hat if you buy the PS4 version
The Xbox and PlayStation press conferences were rammed with announcements, and the vast majority of these were content exclusivity deals.
PlayStation and Xbox are both paying over the odds in an effort to secure exclusive beta access, or downloadable content (or early access to goodies) for third-party games.
In Xbox’s corner, there’s Call of Duty, The Division, Evolve and Dragon Age: Inquisition, while over at camp PlayStation we have Destiny, Batman, Far Cry, Battlefield and so on.
But who is actually winning this phony war?
Both Xbox and PlayStation told us this week that gamers like exclusive stuff. That’s true. They do. But equally they hate not getting exclusive stuff. And if the gamers are left disappointed, then surely this is one practice worth leaving behind? After all, did anyone really pick the PS4 version of Watch Dogs because of that ’60 minutes’ of extra gameplay?
2. Games shown too early
These days developers are opening their games up to consumers before they’re finished. Steam Early Access and Kickstarter are two big examples of studios getting fans involved from Day One.
According to EA, this inspired the firm to show developer diaries at E3, which gave us a peak at Mirror’s Edge, Star Wars: Battlefront, Mass Effect 4 and a Criterion game that doesn’t even have a name.
I’m not opposed to teasers, but Mirror’s Edge, Star Wars: Battlefront and Uncharted 4 were already teased last year, so you have to wonder what everyone been doing for 12 months.
The new Zelda game doesn’t have a name, either. And there are many other examples of CGI teasers of titles that have clearly just entered development.
Exactly how much of what we saw was real, tangiable products?
3. No love for the trade
E3 has always been a bit of a consumer show, really. No business professional would be seen whooping at a new Halo. Yet this year felt like an even larger move away from the ‘trade show’ E3 still insists it is.
It was most notable with the press conferences. Now that they’re livestreamed over Twitch and other channels, platform holders have increasingly moved away from talking about anything that might not instantly appeal to core fans. This was most noticable during the Xbox conference, where talk of Kinect and games for families were sidelined for an endless stream of fan-pleasing products.
And long gone are the days when PlayStation updated the trade about its sales figures at these events.
When you consider the millions of gamers watching at home, it makes sense to focus on products that are likely to appeal to them.
But there are also thousands sitting in the stadium, many of them retailers, and all of them wondering what else is coming to market outside of blockbuster shooters? This year at the Xbox conference the audience were nothing more than glorified billboard-wearing light-up wristbands.
Surely it’s not a big ask for these companies to spend 15 minutes before the livestream officially starts to update partners on strategy, sales and broadening its userbase?
Because if E3 is now entirely an event for the gamers, then perhaps Nintendo has got it right to forgo the press conference entirely, and instead update fans via a pre-recorded online video.
4. Lots and lots of violence
This is an age-old complaint about these gaming extravaganzas.
Every year heavily violent acts are displayed on screen for the whooping masses to cheer over as if they’re watching some Gladiator fight in a coliseum. This year was no better, perhaps even worse.
Some non-gaming executives that attended told us they were aghast at some of the content on show. On the Monday we went from mass dismemberment, to aggressive neck stabbing to ripping out human hearts. As a business trying to expand its horizons, it did a jolly good job of not doing that.
But at least Microsoft protected us from the word ‘fucking’ during its Sunset Overdrive trailer. Er.
5. Online Co-op shooters and more co-op shooters
I am not sure who to blame for the sudden onset of co-operative games at this year’s E3.
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Evolve. Assassin’s Creed Unity. Rainbow Six: Siege. The Hunt. Destiny. Fable Legends. The Division. Even Nintendo has an online co-op shooter in Splatoon.
Online multiplayer and co-operative play are clearly popular with consumers, but the sheer quantity of these titles at E3 suggests the market will shortly be over-saturated.