Secret Saturday: E3 2013 Press Conferences
This past week Los Angeles was home to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3. This trade show is the event for gamers, where all the major console and game developers show off what they’re working on. It used to actually be public, but after a few years of utter chaos it has been closed to anyone not directly associated with the industry. Now at home gamers get their sneak peek via live streams and coverage by the G4 and Spike networks. It’s not quite the same, but at least you get to see all the new stuff without dealing with throngs of people.
E3 has reached a level where the major developers host their press conferences before the start of the event just so they have more time to show everything they want to show. It started on Tuesday, but the Microsoft and Sony pressers were on Monday and were live streamed to the masses (there were others, buuuuut I’ll be honest when I say I wasn’t really interested in hearing anyone else’s so I didn’t really pay attention). Both are releasing new consoles this year, and both have already held pressers this spring to announce and reveal the consoles. E3 was supposed to be the stage for more details and then software reveals, effectively getting the Great Console War of 2013 into full swing.
And what a war it will be.
I grew up on Nintendo, never had any interest in PlayStation, and love now having constant Xbox access. I’ve started to fall off the Nintendo band wagon in recent years…Nintendo took a huge gamble with the Wii, trying to broaden their consumer base beyond traditional gamers and bring in families, and in the process successfully managed to lose both. They lost out on the families when the initial excitement of “it knows what I’m doing!” faded and couldn’t produce a game with enough replay value to keep them hooked, and it spent too much time trying to keep the families in that they produced far too few titles for their original fan base. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great titles there, but nothing to keep you hooked. So, I still visit my old favorites, but I’ve slowly moved more towards the Xbox camp.
Nintendo barely had a presence at E3 this year. They didn’t even hold an actual press event. Most of what they are showing off for the Wii U are rehashes of previous titles. I’ve given up hope on them for this year, and unless something magical happens I doubt anything they have in the works can compete with the release of the PS4 and Xbox One.
Sony and Microsoft have an all out war brewing, and with some of the traditionally console exclusive titles crossing boundaries to be released on both they’re going to have to bring their A-game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Microsoft got that message, and Sony gave them a pretty good trouncing.
Microsoft had the interesting position of being the first presser. It’s like being the first to go in a subjective scoring event like gymnastics. You can really set the tone for everyone else, but you have to tread carefully. While they showed some impressive gameplay footage (60 fps is nothing to laugh at), the event was shadowed by the technology limitations. The new console, the Xbox One, is going to be region-locked, require relatively constant internet access, require the Kinect (i.e. the gadget that is always on and listening even when it’s off) to be used, and launch a full assault on used games. I could go more into it, but people with more time on their hands have already done so and can easily be found by Google.
The interesting twist came with Sony’s presser later that evening. They went through the normal display of gameplay footage for the first chunk, but ended in a way that essentially told Microsoft they’re going down. The last 20 minutes or so were a direct attack on all the negative aspects of the Xbox One that have gamers in a tizzy. It literally looked like they had reserved that block of time to address whatever happened in Microsoft’s presser, and then filled it in following that event. As soon as the message “PS4 supports used games” popped up on their screen, it was on like Donkey Kong.
It only got worse from there, with direct comments on the pricing ($100 cheaper), required internet connectivity, etc. They were also the last presser of the night, leaving Microsoft no opportunity for rebuttal. It really was genius on Sony’s part. Gamers are an easily excitable bunch, so if you directly feed on their anger with one developer in favor of another, you’re going to gain quite the advantage.
It’s a good 5 months before the release of either system, so the war is far from over. Microsoft still has an opportunity to win gamers back, and Sony still has time to screw something up. It’s anybody’s game (HA, pun), but the obvious victor of the E3 battle was Sony. I’ll be interested to see how the next few months play out.