Thursday, 17 July 2008

E3 - What has changed?

For those attending E3 today marks the end of a week filled with announcements, press conferences and for many ambitious journalists - frantic live blogging. Those watching at home facilitated via the numerous live streams and gaming websites enjoy a luxury not available to journalists caught up in the weeklong news-storm and media-blitz; the time to absorb all the information, formulate their own opinions and then take to the internet and troll forums pledging their allegiance to a single company whilst attempting to quantify how much ‘win’ each press conference contained.

It’s been an interesting week despite the fact that E3 was largely uneventful with the exception of one bombshell dropped by Microsoft courtesy of Square-Enix president Yoichi Wada, like many UK based video game enthusiasts I’ve never had the pleasure of attending E3, neither as a fat guy collecting free schwag and adding to line congestion in the ‘glory days’ of E3 or as a journalist covering the E3 that some are now describing as a ‘shadow of its former self’, but I’ve always watched from the comfort of my home, so in my own way I’ve been there for all the important bits.

For someone watching a live stream of the event it’s near impossible to gauge excitement or to experience the general atmosphere around the convention hall but in the E3’s of yesteryear you could always rely on the Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft conferences to get the average gamers excited and work the fanboys up into a frenzy, but this year the big three conferences were a tamed affair, despite numerous high profile announcement and a number of great game demonstrations in comparison to the previous years they were pretty boring, but why?

It’s no secret that the video game industry is adversarial, whether the console manufacturers want it or not the fans will inevitably compare each console and claim their console of choice as the superior one. During the year the majority of these pissing contests we’ve lovingly coming to call ‘the console wars’ are confined to internet message boards but once a year it spills over into E3, whether people admit or not for some E3 serves as an opportunity to stock up on ammo as well as an opportunity for the big three to give the world a glimpse into the future of their console. This got me thinking, could the absence of the insanely dedicated fanboys and people using E3 as their own real life loot collecting playground be the reason that this E3 seemed lackluster?

We’ve come know E3 as the place where the proverbial ‘gaming bombshells’ are dropped and in past years E3 has lived up to its name, but since the exodus of the average Joe gamer its gone from the gaming event of the year to just another in a long line of gaming events, and it could be the loss of once reviled fanboys and loot gatherers that has caused this, in my opinion their presence served as a rationale for the big three to engage in their own little pissing contest by trying to one up each other through making the biggest announcements of the show which in turn generated buzz around the convention as well on the message boards, the winning company becomes the talk of the industry and the fanboys get their ammo – it was a win win situation.

Without them the big three have adapted their approach to aid the aims of the journalists who are being given more time with games and are therefore able to provide in-depth previews and impressions. While this is ultimately a huge benefit for consumers it shifts the approach away from attempting to surpass the competition in terms of announcements and moves it to announcements and further information being given on existing games and other services that are already in the general gaming consciousness, and we all know which one was more fun.

Even though many people are arguing the view that E3 is no longer necessary because the various gamers days and other events such as TGS and Comic-con have basically taken over the duties of E3 I still think the convention serves a purpose, but recently I’ve felt that there has been something missing – think of this as my attempt at figuring out what.

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