We're back from E3 and boy do we have a story to tell. But before we sit down and start writing out all of our important thoughts, perhaps we should address some issues we had with this year's brand new E3. Thanks to the news of the massive downsizing and relocating, most of us didn't have a clue what to expect from E3 2007. The good news is that a lot of it was the same, we still got to play a bunch of upcoming games, we witnessed some hardware news, and we made sure to give out as many business cards as humanly possible. But while some things remained the same, there were a few problems that troubled us. I'm not sure if any of these issues would keep us from going back next year, but we would be remiss if we didn't talk about all of the trends we could do without. In order to help the E3 organizers Defunct Games has decided to offer up a list of The 12 Disturbing Trends of E3 2007. These are twelve things we hope to see addressed next year ... assuming there is a next year.
Hands Off!! You Can't Play Our Games Yet!
In the years past the biggest complaint the media has had about E3 is that there are too many trailers and not enough actual games on the floor. Many believed that this was because of how many people were coming to the show and that not everybody would understand the difference between placeholder graphics/sounds and the finished product. However, with two extra
months and only "invited" industry types going this year, E3 2007 should have been an entirely different beast. The good news is that there were fewer videos on the show floor, E3's show floor (be it Barker Hanger or the various hotel rooms) was populated by plenty of games that were, for all intense and purposes, real playable game experiences. Unfortunately "WE" weren't the ones that got to play them.
This year the games journalists were almost entirely out of the loop, especially when it came to demoing some of the most anticipated games. We could watch people play Unreal Tournament III, but actually getting our hands on the product was a whole other issue. It wasn't because there was a line; it was just that these companies wanted to make sure that we saw what they wanted us to see and nothing more. This kind of demonstration was taken to an absurd level at the Activision booth, where journalists were forced watch almost all of their games being played for them. In fact, at the Barker Hanger location, three of the four Activision games on display were unplayable by the general media. Only Guitar Hero III was playable, perhaps because we already knew what to expect from the super-popular guitar franchise. While one could probably argue that it's better to have real demonstrations of videos, but we didn't fly a thousand miles to watch somebody play Call of Duty 4 ... we actually want to play it!
Everything Is So Spread Out!
This year the E3 organizers decided to do something a bit different. Instead of putting the event in one large convention center, the E3 Media & Business Summit was split up into a lot of smaller locations found at random spots on the map. Most of the companies had booths set up in various hotels in Santa Monica, so people could go in and out of these blocked off areas and see the new games, talk with the
designers, and even snag some free food and drinks. But don't get too comfortable, because five miles away, in an extremely remote part of the city, was Barker Hanger. Barker Hanger was more of a throwback to the E3 of old; it was a sizeable open area where most of the companies had enough room to show off five or six games. While Barker Hanger did an alright job showing off a few games at a time, there definitely wasn't enough room for any one company to demonstrate all of their upcoming games.
But wait, there's actually more to this E3 than just the hotels and Barker Hanger! That's right, there's also an area set up for all of the third party conferences. And you can't forget about the three first party conferences, each of which were held at completely different locations. Oh, and then there's the hotel that's a good 12 miles away next to the old E3 location, the Los Angeles Convention Center. All this meant that we had to do a lot of driving, which is a pain in the butt when traversing the crummy LA traffic. Worse yet, you're setting up interviews and booth tours long before you truly understand where everybody is, so many industry journalists were forced to show up late or not at all. All this could have been resolved had the organizers placed everything closer together. But that's not how this year's E3 worked, and this layout ended up feeling busted only because we had to do so much running from one out of the way location to another. I don't care what they do next year just as long as they figure out some sort of solution to this frustrating problem.
Press Conferences Lack Long-Term Vision!
I won't go as far as to say that the press conferences were bad, but almost all of them lacked any kind of long-term vision. We knew we were in for a long week as soon as Microsoft's Peter Moore came out and announced (much to our dismay) that they weren't going to show anything past their 2007 holiday line-up. So what did
they show? It was all the predictable stuff: Halo 3, Rock Band, Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon, Mass Effect, and other known quantities. In fact, the only two "new" announcements came in the form of Viva Pinata: Party Animals (a Mario Party-style mini-game collection) and Scene It? (based on the popular board game). Where was Alan Wake? Where was Halo Wars? Where was Fable 2?
Unfortunately the same went for Sony and Nintendo, two companies that spent a lot of time talking about their immediate future and almost no time on 2008. In fact, as far as I can tell the only real big 2008 announcement came in the form of Resident Evil 5, a trailer that was at both Sony and Microsoft's conferences. To be fair, some of these games may actually get pushed back to 2008, but these are all games we already knew about. Show us these amazing 2008 titles so that we can start explaining to our readers why these $400 - $500 systems are a long-term in investment. It's not enough that you have a great 2007 line-up, now was your chance to show us exactly what you have in store for 2008 and beyond. Hopefully this lack of vision is just a passing fad, especially given the high stakes nature of this current console war.
Tons and Tons and Tons of First-Person Shooters!
After four days of watching press conferences, playing games and watching other people play games for me, it wasn't until I was flying home that it hit me - damn there are a lot of first-person
shooters coming out this year. Practically every game I thought of fit neatly into some category, be it first-person shooter, role-playing game, sports, or platformer. I suppose that's not a bad thing, but it felt like there was a general lack of diversity from the games of E3, something that really makes me worry about the upcoming holiday season. Admittedly this is understandable, Western gamers love our first-person shooters, so why not spend as much time as possible giving gamers what they crave?
But herein lies the problem, there were so many first-person shooters that they all started to look the same to me. All three of the major console makers has at least one first-person shooter coming out, be it Halo 3, Killzone 2 or Metroid Prime: Corruption. But that's not it; we also had Haze, Call of Duty 4, Unreal Tournament III, Crysis, Bioshock, Blacksite: Area 51, Quake Wars, The Darkness, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, Hellgate: London, Turok, Fracture, F.E.A.R.: Perseus Mandate, Legendary: The Box, Half-Life 2: Orange Box, Medal of Honor: Airborne, Condemned 2: Bloodshot, and TimeShift. And while these games may not be the "traditional" first-person shooter, something like Time Crisis 4, Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Stranglehold, Ghost Squad, and SOCOM: Confrontation are close enough in my book. There's nothing wrong with these games, but how many first-person shooters do we really need at one show?
The Break-Away Conventions!
Did you know that the E3 Media & Business Summit was not the only games-related convention going on in Santa Monica last week? Just down the street from Sony, Nintendo, Electronic Arts and Activision was Gamecock's very own expo, EiEiO 2007. Held at the Hotel California right next to the Santa Monica pier, EiEiO 2007 was the official Gamecock convention. Instead of
taking part in the E3 madness, Gamecock decided to splinter off and attract E3 goers to their much smaller, much more intimate area. The plan seemed to work, when Defunct Games went through Gamecock's "booth" (which was really nothing more than eight hotel rooms) there were plenty of other people there reporting on these just-announced games that they were seeing for the first time.
For what it's worth, Gamecock had a much stronger showing than most of the companies actually attending E3 proper. Their eight companies had eight individual games that all looked spectacular for different reasons. Those brave enough to venture to the Hotel California were treated with Dementium: The Ward (Renegade Kid), Dungeon Hero (Firefly), Fury (Auran), Hail to the Chimp (Wideload), Insecticide (Crackpot), Legendary: The Box (Spark), Mushroom Men (Red Fly), Sabotage (Replay), and Section 8 (Timegate). These eight games look fantastic, but also illustrated just how little diversity there was in the real E3. I don't find it troubling that Gamecock had a separate convention going on at the same time as E3; I find it troubling that they didn't feel like they could take these highly entertaining games to the "real" event. After attending this mini-convention I felt somewhat bad for all parties involved, it makes more sense for everybody to be under the same tent. I would hate to think that there are companies out there that feel like they don't belong at the same event as Capcom, Konami and Microsoft. There should be room for everybody, and I worry that this industry might be losing some of what made it so great in the first place.
The Case of the Missing Video Game Companies!
Unfortunately Gamecock wasn't the only company not willing to live under E3's large tent, this year we saw a lot of companies completely uninterested in being part of one of our industry's greatest events. While most of the major publishers were represented, there were a number of
companies that were noticeably absent from the proceedings. Companies like Tecmo, SNK Playmore, and Koei were nowhere to be seen. Worse yet, none of the magazine companies were there to give out free issues of their periodicals (something I looked forward to each and every year).
But the real disappointment is that most of the small/lesser known companies were nowhere to be found. In past E3 events show goers were able to check out the best games from Korea, Scotland and even Australia, none of which had anything to do with this smaller convention. In fact, while last year's E3 offered more than 300 exhibitors, this year was downsized to a mere 30. That's not to say that the companies didn't deliver, but it's just not the same with so many companies opting not to come. I always looked forward to being introduced to smaller companies I would have never heard about, not just the major companies that have multi-million dollar games to hype. I miss these smaller companies, these bizarre foreign countries, and especially Kentia Hall. One can only hope that if there's an E3 next year it will have a wider selection of companies ready to convince us that they have the best games.