Death to E3!

By Shamus
on Jun 5, 2009
Filed under:
Video Games

My latest column is up at the Escapist, and it’s a zesty blend of hyperbole, common sense, and sour grapes.

For the record, I don’t really think that E3 should die. I just think that developers could use a little restraint and wisdom.

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1624 comments. (That's 10 in Hexadecimal.)

From the Archives:

  1. krellen says:

    Did you let Travis write your column this week, Shamus?

  2. Yar Kramer says:

    My reactions:

    Just before reading article: The developers, or just the publishers? I was going to make this big comment to the effect of “E3 is advertising, which seems more the realm of the publisher, i.e. the ones handling most of the advertising” …

    Upon starting to read the article: I lol’d at “FREE SIRIUS BLACK.” (Speaking of which, am I the only one who’s noticed that “LOL,” which originally meant “laugh out loud,” now appears from context to mean “a light chuckle better presented as ‘heh’?” Or is that just me?)

    Halfway through the article: Oh, I see, it’s referring to developers and publishers. My bad.

    Penultimate paragraph: “E3 is madness” … Madness!? — wait, no, I’m trying to give a sort of running commentary on my reactions, I’m not trying to get banned.

    Final thoughts after mentally digesting the article: I think I ought to file E3 away under “part of the gaming journalism industry,” in which, far from merely happening to other people, journalistic integrity is something that happens on other planets. Okay, it’s comparing apples to oranges if I lump it in with Jeff Gerstmann getting fired from Gamespot for his Kane & Lynch review, or with Eidos announcing they were trying to doctor Tomb Raider: Underworld‘s Metacritic score, but I still shouldn’t expect to find anything helpful.

  3. SteveDJ says:

    Perhaps E3 could be offered as incentive, a moral booster, or bonus, to the developers of a new game. They might work just that much harder to make a good product, and release it on time, if it meant a week away from their ‘slave pits’ :)

  4. Julian says:

    I quite agree with this article.
    I enjoy E3 passively, from the comfort of YouTube videos of the demos and trailers and whatnots. Sure, I loved seeing the Assassin’s Creed 2 gameplay demo and other demos, but I wish indie developers or small studios got a bit more attention.

  5. Nathan says:

    Most people forget that E3 is not really a show aimed at consumers. In theory, it is an industry tradeshow designed for designers to show off their stuff. It sometimes strays from that point, but that is still its real purpose.

    Everything Shamus just wrote about are old complaints that were significant factors in E3’s major downsizing a few years ago. And the result was that most of the small game developers were the people who complained the most.

    Most of the big game developers don’t care one whit about the existence of E3, but for many small companies it is really the only chance they have to show off product to publishers and the media. Big companies like Capcom or Blizzard can and have created their own events and shows in order to show off their latest creations and build buzz, but many smaller studios can’t afford that, and really need the attention that E3 brings.

  6. Magnus says:

    I always feel its all about various people in the industry giving each other a big pat on the back.

    It seems less about competition, and more about a big industry love-in.

    I’d still love to go one day though, because I am a colossal geek.

  7. rofltehcat says:

    Ha, the part about the gaming (print) media is kinda fitting.
    When I was younger I got a magazine called ‘PCGames’ every month and when it was E3 I also bought others like ‘Gamestar’.
    However, looking back, today their information looks extremely outdated. Even their latest news are outdated by a few weeks or so before they release their monthly magazine.

    When I was playing WoW I bought one of those magazines (Special edition, the latest inside tips and game secrets about WoW!) and found it to be quite useless because their top secret information was known to anyone since over a month, their tips and guides were aimed at complete noobs that obviously couldn’t figure out what happens when you click on a spell symbol (you start casting, duh!) and some of their information (the ‘what class to choose’) was either copied from the handbook or completely outdated by patches.

    Both gaming print media and E3 are obsolete today because of gaming websites.

    Watching all the pictures of booth babes in the print media was fun, though… (it was a time before you could get shit loads of porn from the internet, somehow those booth babe pictures are obsolete, too, now…)

  8. SatansBestBuddy says:

    I just want to chip in a say I wholeheartedly disagree with almost everything you wrote. :D

  9. Avatar says:

    The biggest names aren’t bothered by E3 because they’re the ones that get huge shows and universal attention for their presentations. Sony ain’t saying “get rid of E3”. Blizzard is able to generate their own buzz whenever they want, thanks.

    The tiniest ones aren’t bothered because it really is their only shot at the spotlight – that some passing journalist, moving from something he wanted to look at to something else he wanted to look at, might be piqued by their display and stop for a few minutes. This is doubly true if their product isn’t actually all that good, because then the other tiny indie game company promotion tactic (i.e. e-mail the game to Penny Arcade and hope they like it) won’t work either.

    It’s the mid-size publishers that E3 kills. They’re the ones that have to move heaven and earth to get those demos ready. They’re the ones who blow tons of budget on a big elaborate booth that nobody cares about. And, honestly, if there weren’t this huge inconvenient trade show right then, they’re the ones who would benefit most from holding on to their news until a couple of weeks after the show, when the glow has worn off everyone else’s announcements and the news sites are waking up hungry after their huge E3 binge.

    But realistically, it won’t happen, because E3 isn’t just about promoting the show; it’s about your company’s e-phallus. If a major developer showed up for the show with a tiny booth and said “no, we’re working on our new game and really happy with it, you ought to see the good stuff hit in about a month”, people would start assuming that they’re in some kind of creative death spiral. And that’s bad for the publishers, because if there’s doubt that their scheduled future hits will slip, so too will their stock price slip…

  10. Doug Sundseth says:

    The same thing happens to the real gaming industry* at Gencon.

    * Where “real gaming” means “has a budget at least an order of magnitude lower, but arrogates to itself some moral authority based on age.” Real “real gaming” is thus presumably historical miniatures, which has Historicon to fill the same niche.

  11. Vladius says:

    Does anybody notice the sheer amount of sequels there are? There’s hardly an original game in sight between Left 4 Dead 2, Crysis 2, Final Fantasy XIII(lol), Bioshock 2, the Wii remakes of games, the Halo prequels, a Castlevania sequel, a Metroid sequel, a Metal Gear Solid sequel, Assassin’s Creed 2, God of War III, etc. etc.

    I think one of the problems is originality; games have degenerated into franchise whores like with movies.

  12. Anonymoose says:

    Sequels are a “sure thing.” When you spend tens of millions of dollars, you don’t want a flop. Not many companies can afford more than a few such failures, if any. So they use past success in the hopes of attracting more money and attention. It works, to a large extent.

    If developers spent more time making games easier to create than they did on graphics and getting Patrick Stewart’s voice for five minutes, that might not be as big a problem. Budgets wouldn’t need to be so darn big.

  13. Nathan says:

    First off, I don’t agree that there is anything inherently wrong with sequels. I don’t even think the movie comparison is apt, simply because videogames are games, not pure stories. I would much rather play new Megaman games until the end of time rather than never see a new game with the classic Megaman gameplay again. Besides, there is no correlation whatsoever between long-running franchises and a lack of originality, or even a correlation between originality and quality.

    Regardless, whenever someone complains about an excess of sequels, I feel the need to point out the ridiculous numbers of games out there that are not sequels that most people flat out ignore. People tend to not care about a game unless it is part of a big franchise, and the media in particular does this often. If you actually look around, many companies are creating a lot of games that are completely original. However, most people are simply more interested in the sequels to beloved franchises, so new franchises tend to get overlooked.

    I mean, I often hear people complain about how Square-Enix is only capable of rehashing Final Fantasy games over and over, but that is only true if you completely forget the existence of gems like The World Ends With You, which is both very recent and probably the most novel and inventive RPG made in the last decade. Or how people complain that Nintendo only makes Mario and Zelda games, even though it has been making games like Wii Fit and Wii Music for the last couple years, and has created a few interesting new properties recently, especially due to its acquisition of Monolithsoft (that new Monado game announced at E3 has me interested).

  14. wererogue says:

    They tried to tone it down for the last couple of years, and it wasn’t such big news.

    I think possibly the industry just missed it. It’s not really a news vehicle, it’s the games industry social, where the cool kids hang out.

    You’re right, though – just like that holiday in Antigua, small developers should file it away as a whistful fantasy, and spend much less money on more effective advertising.

  15. Blackbird71 says:

    Shamus once again applies logic and rationality to a subject built on rampant emotional hype. Nicely done, but I fear few will recognize (or admit) the truth therein.

    So Shamus, in your vocabulary, J. K. Rowling qualifies as “culture”? Man, we’ve got to get you some better books!

  16. Robyrt says:

    On the recommendation that publishers time-shift their releases so they aren’t revealed at E3 for a holiday launch that gets lost in the noise both times:

    Capcom already does this. They release downloadable games during the Big Rush, and full versions in Q1. Quick, name a new game from this February or March! Street Fighter and Resident Evil are probably the first two names that come to mind.

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