I Don't Care About E3

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by Kyle Ackerman

I'm tired of E3. Unless something radically changes, I'm just not particularly interested in what goes on at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, anymore.

Go ahead and observe the old coot alert here. If it helps, just picture me typing this in a rocking chair on the porch, sipping lemonade, with my shotgun leaning against the three-legged mangy dog.

E3 stopped being interesting in 2007, when the ESA dumped the L.A. Convention center and became a "Media and Business Summit." Since then, E3 just hasn't been the hub for interestng announcements and reveals.

Sure, there's occasionally a big reveal (of something that was leaked or pre-announced long before). There are fancy new trailers for big games. But the industry has matured. Everything is part of a careful public relations strategy, trickled out according to someone's powerpoint plan.

E3 used to be interesting to me, because I might encounter a new developer doing something spectacular. Social media and specialist sites take care of that now. Once upon a time, I would bump into a junior developer hanging out near a display console, and in minutes absorb enough irrational optimism to be frothing at the mouth with enthusiasm for the upcoming title. Now, the message is so tightly controlled the conversation isn't interesting.

In 2006, discussions would wind and turn while developers launched spittle across the room and slugged passers-by as they wildly gesticulated. I'd learn that their upcoming game would let you upgrade to a gun that fired flying monkeys, and how they busted their asses to pin down the winged monkey physics in time for the E3 demo. In fact, another dev would chime in, we originally planned a whole slate of flying mammals you could fire from the monkey-o-matic, but we decided to refocus our efforts on the trading systems in the vast, open world we're working on. Of course, the game would still be two years out, and everything would change before release, but it was fascinating. And anyone with a few questions or a bottle of water to trade could learn something new.

Now, the games being shown aren't years away. They're coming out next week, or later this summer. Heck, lots of them are in open beta right now, so you didn't have to trek down to the convention center to try them out. No longer are there tons of games with little progress meter icons identifying them as 20% complete. They're much further along.

You can't find a mouthy developer, either. Everyone is eager to show off their game, but you could be staring at a screen where the protagonist is holding a hand cannon and wearing a bandolier of fez-wearing, winged primates. Then ask, "Does that gun shoot flying monkeys?" You'll get something like, "Uh... we're not talking about the game's weapons, yet." Or the answer might be, "Well, I can't say, but check out the video we're releasing on our website at 3PM." Or even, "I don't think the exclusive on that expires until next month." So you say, "What can you tell me about the game?" "Today we're showing off this exciting trailer a big console holder premiered, and highlighting the customizable decals you can stick on your character's parka."

You can watch those trailers as well as I can, and specialist decal fetish sites will cover the user decal customization better than anyone else. If that sounds grumpy, it is. I think E3 really did die in 2007. Slick PR has just built an even glitzier media opportunity on its corpse. There's plenty of important business and networking being done. But there's not the same opportunity to discover something new and cool about a much-anticipated game.

People are already getting excited that the Wii U controller design has been slightly tweaked and might even come in black. Nope. Don't care. Honestly, I think the Wii U is going to have a really tough time getting serious attention unless you desperately need to play the latest installment in Nintendo's long-running franchises. Otherwise, it looks like a not-particularly exciting fusion of a smartphone and console. Everyone else is doing that, anyway.

I had arranged to have the day clear tomorrow to check out the big conferences and write something meaningful about them. Instead, I'm going to take my kids to see a movie. Because I don't think anything is going to happen that I care about. If I don't care, I won't throw extra words out there to take up your valuable time during this event. That probably means this blog will be transitioning in some way in the coming weeks. Drop us a note if you want to help shape that.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 3, 2012 9:32 PM.

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