E3, just like any kind of entertainment industry expo, is a fairly simple beast to understand. Developers and publishers show up to razzle dazzle the audience, talk about the great things to come, and excite people with promises that may or may not be kept. In many ways it's like an election campaign, where people eventually vote on the winner with their wallets somewhere between eight and twelve months later. So it makes sense that as a major company it would be your sole focus to showcase a few first party/exclusive games as possible, or highlight the exact kind of gaming experience that everyone has been trying to avoid as of late, right? No it doesn't. Welcome to E3 2012.
I can understand that those looking for new consoles probably had their expectations set a little high, particularly from Microsoft who at least made it very clear that they would be focusing heavily on Xbox Live features and general home integration, but that doesn't mean gamers aren't going to expect more. We knew that you were going to make us sit down and mess with touch screen technology, the Kinect, and all the fantastic ways it's going to make listening to Usher so fantastic. We knew that there was going to be another Halo game, another Forza, another Splinter Cell, another Black Ops with Xbox 360 timed launch maps, and tolerate having to sit through those trailers because we're understanding that you as a company need to let us know that your existing franchises are still getting some semblance of support. What we don't know, and the reason we spend so much time invested in these conferences, is what unexpected features lie beyond the range of our imagination that the industry is going to make happen.
An entire conference of games we already knew were coming is absolutely unacceptable. Even if you take into consideration that the customer base for Call of Duty and Halo is massive, most of those gamers already knew when those titles were to be expected. Yearly releases are something that publishers have worked hard to drill into us, so why would we get hyped at a product we expect to see no matter what? Announcing that there would be no Halo 4, or that there are product delays for quality purposes would be a real shocker, and even taking that into consideration there's no excuse to come to E3 without showing any new IPs.
Nintendo is another fantastic example of stumbling your way through an expo. An entire conference dedicated to showcasing features on a console that have been primary functions of the 360 and PS3 is as disappointing as it is depressing, particularly when you consider that Nintendo is a company known for almost nothing but brilliant first party titles. Not having a single major game to showcase outside of Pikmin 3 for the Wii-U after a year of silence is more than unsettling, and the promises of third party support are all things we've heard before. No release date, few third party showings and quite a few promises, a pre-conference detailer that highlights features that should have really been a part of the Wii in the first place, the list just goes on and on. Even the blind Nintendo faithfuls have to admit that there really isn't much to do with their console over the next few months, and E3 only confirmed it.
It doesn't take a lot to impress fans, and make a 'good' conference seem like a 'great' conference, as proved by Sony. Looking back at it, they didn't really stray far from the safety net either, but what they brought to the table was the best of both worlds. Part exclusive games, part hardware focus, Sony's conference showed that while there's nothing game changing come up for 2013 what we do have to look forward to is consistency. Consumers want to know that amongst a wave of third party titles we still have something to justify owning one (or more) systems versus the other options on the market. Forget the fact that gamers absolutely love to brag about exclusives, not providing something outside of DLC to look forward to is like a slap to the face and a kick in the wallet.
I guess in a way we should be thanking these two mega companies. From one perspective we could consider their expo showcase to be a major waste of time, but on another hand they may have saved me a lot of time. Knowing that there's nothing to really to look forward to from either Nintendo or Microsoft means i can spend more time watching the developer/publishers that genuinely seem to care about concepts like innovation, creativity, and sales. It's no wonder most people walked away from E3 feeling like Sony trumped the big three. At least they had the smarts to hide behind The Last of Us.