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The First E3: What Did Next Generation Think of E3 in 1995?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on June 11, 2014   |   Episode 33 (Show Archive)  

   

As everybody travels to sunny southern California, Defunct Games wants to take you on a completely different journey. Let us guide you on a trip back to the very first Electronic Entertainment Expo, held in Los Angeles in 1995. Experience the grandeur of E3 through the eyes of old school magazines, including GamePro, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Die Hard Game Fan, Next Generation and Nintendo Power. It's a week of generational differences as Defunct Games takes you back to the very first E3.


With only a few issues to their name, Next Generation magazine went into the first Electronic Entertainment Expo as the new kid on the block. But despite their inexperience, Neil West and his crew had already made a name for themselves with hard-hitting interviews and a focus on the big players in the industry. While other magazines were content publishing 25 pages of wall-to-wall pictures, Next Generation chose to spend their time challenging the status quo and asking real questions. This was a magazine with something to prove.

At first glance, you might not even realize that E3 had taken place. The July 1995 cover makes no mention of the industry event, instead choosing to focus on the 3DO and the impending 32-bit war. The cover also teases an
exclusive interview with Atari's Sam Tramiel, as well as "the world's first test drive" of Daytona USA on Sega Saturn. E3 is nowhere to be seen.

Inside the magazine is a different story. Calling it "The Greatest Show on Earth," Next Generation devoted seven text-heavy pages to the Electronic Entertainment Expo. "It was the largest videogame show ever," the magazine begins. "Every major player on the world videogame stage met to cement deals, scout out the competition, and show off."

True to form, Next Gen chose to focus more on the technology than the games. Over six pages, the magazine assessed the pros and cons of the Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation, 3DO, Ultra 64, Atari Jaguar and personal computers. Each page not only featured a detailed write-up about the systems, but also showed us what the booths looked like on the show floor. Here are some examples of what Next Generation thought of the console war at the time.

SEGA SATURN

"Sega had little exciting new Saturn software on display -- and proud new Saturn owners shouldn't expect too many new games in the near future. Instead Sega relied on Sega Rally, an eight-player arcade Daytona USA link-up, and the shock factor of Saturn's launch to make an impression. The 32X, gasping for a life-giving injection of decent software, was left to suffocate while the Genesis looks set to benefit from a sharp Earthworm Jim-inspired platformer called Vector Man arriving at stores closer to the holiday season."

SONY PLAYSTATION

"It's ironic that Sony -- the company most expected at E3 to be relying on corporate hype to mask concrete plans, and smoke and mirrors to disguise a lack of software -- was perhaps the most upfront and honest of the "big three." While Nintendo insisted that the conspicuous absence of Ultra 64 didn't detract (and almost succeeded) from its show lineup and Sega rode the wave of E3's hottest news ,SCE quietly got on with the business of rolling out its plans and showing off its games."

3DO/M2

"But with no concrete announcement of either price or release date (not even ballpark estimates), 3DO's promises for the future have to be seen as little but a spoiling tactic to place a drag on PlayStation and Saturn sales. Ironically, the perennial "Just-wait-until-next-year" whispers would seem to have switched from being 3DO's enemy in 1994 to ally in 1995."

ATARI JAGUAR

"Although the steady flow of conference delegates who "had a go" at an "early working demonstration" of Jaguar VR came away exceedingly impressed, NEXT Generation has learned the system being demonstrated was nothing other than Virtuality's own arcade system disguised as Jaguar VR. A wolf in sheep's clothing, indeed, and reminiscent of 3DO's early attempts to fool CES into believing that a Macintosh demo was in fact he REAL 3DO."

ULTRA 64

"The official line? "We've decided to give our software developers additional time to maximize the power of the system in their game creation," said Nintendo of America's chairman Howard Lincoln. The real reason? No one's entirely sure. Software delays could well account for the lag, but with Killer Instinct and Cruis'n' USA presumably completed months ago, and a brace of "dream team" third party products in the pipeline, a 1995 launch should at least be possible -- if not ideal."

VIRTUAL BOY

"Virtual Boy was there, of course, and seemed to thoroughly impress everybody who's never actually played a videogame before (everyone else was playing SNES Killer Instinct and Donkey Kong Country 2). Virtual Boy will be released on August 14, priced at $179.95. "Virtual Boy is unlike anything currently available at the home," says Nintendo's Peter Main. And we have to agree with him."
Game Informer (October 2010)
Beyond this seven page feature, Next Generation also found ways of working E3 into other articles. For example, the magazine chose to publish a series of in-depth interviews conducted at the video game convention. The interviews that didn't make it into the July 1995 issue were featured in subsequent months, giving readers a reason to keep coming back issue after issue.

These E3 interviews were among the most contentious, featuring the biggest industry players taking their gloves off. Atari's Sam Tramiel threatened that "if Sony comes in at $299 or $249 then we'll have the International Trade Commission of the United States go after them. That's what's called dumping, and it's against the law."

One month later, Nintendo chairman Howard Lincoln defended everything from the Ultra 64's delays to choosing cartridges over CD. "I think it would have been a mistake to rush this product to market. In this business you only get one cut at it, and I think gameplayers are very conscious of the quality of software."

In that same issue, Next Generation spent seven pages breaking down the biggest news of E3 -- Sega's surprise Saturn launch. Even though the video game event only lasted three days, months later its impact was still being felt. Next Generation was the one magazine perfectly equipped to parse the many levels of what happened at the first Electronic Entertainment Expo.

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