It’s unfair to judge the games businesses that effectively run E3 based on the presentation for its products.
But you can collectively judge the products themselves. And the broad theme across those pushed to the front was loud and clear.
Grunts, gunfire, and girl characters often getting short thrift; these games get pulses racing, adrenaline surging. It’s stuff for core gamers.
‘Core’ these days means the committed spender. And although E3 is a big, expensive trade show, it was these reliable players that the event went all out to please. This show was designed not for the waves of media or the retailers who went – it was for gamers watching via streams on console or PCs, ready to pre-order.
The message comes at the expense of some of the good work this industry has done to make its content more diverse. Games popular with families and the casual female audience took a backseat. Those areas of the market haven’t gone away, but format-holders and big publishers don’t want to talk about them as much.
As a result, talk of any company strategy was next to non-existant.
Just two or three years ago an Xbox, Sony or Nintendo press conference began by reminding you of market share gains and demographic cut through, with swishy CG graphs and charts. This is, after all, supposed to be a business event. Now the budget is spent on a funny Miyamoto intro. Or paying Usher to sing for his supper.
Yes, a market slump means there may be little to boast about. But a market slump means people want some solutions. The console companies kept their fans well-fed this week, but they underestimated how starved the industry is for some direction.
NO NEXT-GEN, BUT PLENTY OF GAMES FOR IT
Retailers and third-parties alike told me they were disappointed there was no talk of an Xbox successor or a new PlayStation alongside Nintendo’s bold vision for Wii U at E3.
But behind closed doors you could find plenty of technology and content for such machines, whether they exist or not.
Square Enix’s Final Fantasy real-time demo, Star Wars 1313, Watch Dogs from Ubisoft and Unreal Engine 4 all showed a desire by developers to make the Next Big Thing.
Kudos to them for pushing forward and filling the void here at a time when Microsoft and Sony are happy to wait – and may have handed an early victory to Nintendo.