Can you spot the key word uttered by David Yarnton on this week’s cover that pinpoints the exact industry gear-change this E3 represented?
Look again. It’s such a common word to most of us.
It’s ‘gamers’, a word Nintendo treated like the plague in its well-fought seven-year crusade to change the perception of games and embrace mainstream audiences. Every major player at E3 went to great efforts to prove their hardcore credentials.
Nintendo’s third-party Wii U sizzle vid was packed with more blood, gore and aggression than a Rockstar game. Its first-party 3DS line-up was a range of fan-pleasers, not granny-ticklers.
Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect range was also focused on the core, demoing how things like most talked about E3 game Mass Effect 3 is better with voice control, or how a camera controller can be added to Fable.
Same goes for Sony, EA, Ubisoft, Activision, Warner and THQ. None were too shy to ramp up the volume of their showfloor demos. That thunderous gunfire and explosion rumble – the punctuation to many an E3 conversation – was louder than ever.
In these austere times, the industry goes back to basics. Back to the super-passionate fans we can trust. Makes sense – they are the ones who stick with big budget games as well as give new IP a chance.
A few years ago, we were trying to kick that lot out of E3. Now they’re our heroes again. How things change.
FROM HARDCORE TO HARDWARE
The only thing you’d hear more often than gunfire and explosions on the showfloor was this: “What did you think of it?” (‘It’ being the new PS Vita or Wii U).
Superficially similar-looking, they’re wildly different (one a handheld, one tethered to the home) but do share intrinsic qualities. They are some of the most refined pieces of hardware the games industry has produced, with great proof-of-concept software.
They are a welcome games-focused riposte to the generalist iOS and other smartphone and tablet devices that are nibbling away at gaming’s fringe.
But is it too late? We’ve waited an age for ‘PSP2’ and that 2012 date for Wii U is a long, long way off. They have both, in some respects, been trumped by non-games devices from manufacturers that move quicker and don’t care about the Q4 hooplah quite like our industry does. However both have a lot going for them, and show gaming evolving in surprising ways.
It’s too early to call, and no matter what happens you can’t say that Sony and Nintendo didn’t put up a bloody good fight.