Despite some recent attempts to rework the show, the annual circus of blaring music, glowing TVs, and bleary-eyed masses that is the Electronic Entertainment Expo continues unabated in its 15th year. Ever since its inception, E3 has been ground zero for major announcements. Whether it's new console hardware on display for the first time or the unveiling of a new game for a beloved franchise, there has been no shortage of amazing moments. But the show has also seen its fair share of duds, ranging from vaporware to strategically poor decisions. Here are some of the best, and some not-so-great, moments from E3's past, and don't forget to check out all of our coverage of E3 2009.
E3 1995 - Console Wars: The Next Generation
On March 9, 1995, Sega announced that the Sega Saturn--the formal successor to the Sega Genesis (sorry, 32X)--would launch on September 2, 1995, otherwise known as "Saturnday." All was right in the world of Sega until the company received word that Sony, Sega's looming rival, planned to launch the PlayStation in North America that following week at $300, which was $100 less than the Saturn's initial launch price. Apparently fearing a head-on collision with Sony (or having devised Saturnday as a diversionary tactic, depending on whom you talk to), Sega of America president and CEO Tom Kalinske announced during the inaugural E3 keynote address that the Saturn and a small handful of games were already available at retail and that 600,000 units would be sold by the end of the year. History would say otherwise, but regardless of its outcome, Sega's surprise set the bar early for big E3 announcements.
And the Saturn wasn't the only piece of hardware at E3 1995 that would be met with consumer trepidation down the line. Since the only news regarding the then-named Ultra 64 was that its chipset was complete, Nintendo took the opportunity to push the Virtual Boy (designed by Game & Watch and Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi), which featured a massive stereoscopic headset capable of producing 3D-like depth for 2D games. Nintendo had five games on display on the show floor, including Mario's Dream Tennis, Teleroboxer, and Galactic Pinball, and at the time, there seemed to be a lot of interest in the Mario-branded games, but on the whole, most people were perplexed by the system's bulky design and lack of portability even though it had not been marketed outright as a portable system.
On the upside, the show gave Sony a chance to tout the September launch of the PlayStation and showcase much of its lineup. Showgoers had the chance to check out games from the Japanese launch of the system, such as Ridge Racer, and learn more about the games coming out on or around the system's North American debut, including Warhawk and Twisted Metal.
Quote of the show:
"Our entry into the video game industry is a 'good news and bad news situation.' It's good news for anyone interested in video games that, for the first time, make the suspension of disbelief automatic--it will be a realistic dinosaur that attacks you, not a brown blob with feet. For people selling those other systems, PlayStation creates a bad news situation, period."
- Steve Race, then president of Sony Computer Entertainment America.
E3 1996 - The Price Is Right
After nearly two years, Nintendo was ready to unveil the Nintendo 64 to the North American market, having previously shown the Nintendo 64 hardware as well as early playable versions of Super Mario 64 and Kirby at its Space World show in November of 1995. But Nintendo had a greater display of force at E3, showcasing near-complete and playable versions of Super Mario 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Killer Instinct Gold, Wave Race 64, Pilot Wings 64, and Blast Corps, among others. But Mario 64 was easily the star of the lineup, leaving people aghast not only at Mario's seamless transition into a full 3D world, but also at all of the cool special effects on display--not the least of which was the Terminator 2-style liquid metal pool Mario jumps into, which produced audible sounds of amazement from the onlooking crowd. Meanwhile, the 64DD add-on (a read-write disk drive that attached to the bottom of the system) was still very much a part of the picture at the show. In fact, Peter Main, then executive vice president at Nintendo of America, sent a letter to the press a few months prior, playing up the system and the company's intent to launch the 64DD in North America.
Of course, Sega and Sony generated some attention on two major fronts. First, both companies announced price drops for their systems at the show, so both the Saturn and PlayStation were available for $200 (Nintendo also dropped the price of the Virtual Boy to $100 at the show, a foreboding sign of its future), marking the first time companies would use E3 as a means to announce relatively drastic price drops. Second, both companies introduced new franchises that would come to represent their respective consoles for years to come, but in the context of E3 1996, they held even greater significance as competitors to Mario's first foray into 3D.
The reaction to these new games--Crash Bandicoot for the PlayStation and Nights for the Saturn--was mostly positive, but because these were mascot-type characters and they were both in full 3D worlds (though neither could roam as freely as Mario), inevitable comparisons were made with Super Mario 64--though some attendees were left scratching their heads when it came to the entire premise behind Nights. These comparisons also left many wondering about a certain blue-haired Sega mascot--surely, a full 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game would be a better choice in a war of mascots against Mario? Sega's answer came in the form of a Sonic X-treme video playing at the its booth and while most were excited about the prospect of playing a full 3D Sonic game on the Saturn, what was shown looked like a ramped-up version of an earlier Saturn release called Bug. Unfortunately, Sonic X-treme was eventually canceled and Sega's mascot never had a proper 3D game on the Saturn.
All the hype around the Saturn, PlayStation, and Nintendo 64 left room for little else, but that didn't stop Bandai from formally introducing its joint console project with Apple, called the Pippin @World--a relatively low-priced Macintosh computer designed to play games and take advantage of Internet technologies available at the time. Initially, the Pippen wasn't primarily pushed as a game console, but the comparisons were inevitably made, making its $600 price tag seem a bit unreasonable.
Quote of the show:
"It's no different than Chevrolets and Cadillacs. If you've got a $5000 Chevrolet and somebody is coming in with a Cadillac, you better get your price down to what it's really worth. What they did was a tacit admission that their Chevrolet is overpriced."
- Former Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln brushes off the notion that the Nintendo 64 price needs to match the PlayStation and Saturn price drops. The Journal Record
E3 1997 - Metal Gear?!
Because of some failed backroom negotiations involving space at the Los Angeles Convention Center, E3 hightailed it to Atlanta, Georgia, for some Southern hospitality and scorching mid-June heat, and that wasn't the only change in store for the show. Whereas the two previous E3s dealt with three different system launches, E3 1997 was all about the games. Unfortunately, the Sega Saturn's dwindling third-party support became apparent, because its booth mostly contained first-party games--no doubt due in large part to rumors circulating around the development of Sega's next system.
Meanwhile, Nintendo and Rare created a one-two punch for the Nintendo 64. Nintendo showed off Star Fox 64, while Rare introduced GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker's Quest, which would eventually undergo some major changes before finally being released later as Conker's Bad Fur Day. Interestingly, both Banjo-Kazooie and Conker's Quest were praised for being similar to Super Mario 64, but GoldenEye 007 initially had a hard time shaking the "just another Doom clone" reactions that popped up in several show reports. Additionally, the world got its first glimpse of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in a very brief video of Link fighting a stalfos.
The PC also had a surprisingly strong E3 that year. It was an opportunity for all of the 3D graphics card manufacturers to show not only their own products, but also all of the games that supported them, such as Quake II and Hexen II. There were plenty of other shooters to check out as well, such as an early version of Half-Life (detailing some of the new animation and technical techniques Valve was integrating into its first-person shooter), as well as Prey, Jedi Knight, Unreal, and, of course, Daikatana. Blizzard also brought along a new and improved version of Starcraft that looked less like the "Warcraft in space" a year prior.
At any rate, it would have been difficult for any platform, PC or otherwise, to compete with the sheer number of PlayStation games on display. Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil 2, Parappa the Rapper, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Tomb Raider 2, Colony Wars, and G-Police were just a few of the major games on display in Sony's booth, but there was one game that stopped people in their tracks--a game that earned many "Game of the Show" statements from attendees despite the fact that it existed only in video form. The original Metal Gear Solid made a huge impact with a single trailer that highlighted now famous scenes from the game, including Snake's office space confrontation with Grey Fox, as well as part of Meryl and Snake's encounter with Psycho Mantis. This trailer was the start of a grand tradition involving Metal Gear and E3, but it would be some time before the event was replicated again.
Quote of the show:
"The Saturn is not our future."
-Bernie Stolar, former president of Sega of America.
E3 1998 - Sega Has a Dream
In 1998, E3 returned to Atlanta, and Sega returned to E3 with a pretty big announcement. After the relatively poor performance of the Saturn, many were left wondering how Sega could rebound, if at all, and if the company could produce hardware that would give developers and consumers a reason to support it. On May 21, 1998, Sega held two events to unveil the Dreamcast--the result of a partnership with Microsoft (Windows CE operating system), VideoLogic (Power VR hardware), and Hitachi (CPU). In Japan, Sega president Soichiro Iramajiri took to the stage to present a number of demos demonstrating the Dreamcast's technical capabilities, including one that featured a real-time rendering of his head. Bill Gates also appeared on video during the presentation to pledge his and Microsoft's support for the system and to help reinforce how groundbreaking the Dreamcast was. In Atlanta, Sega of America president Bernie Stolar gave a similar presentation with technical demos, specifically the Tower of Babel demo, and revealed the North American release date of September 9, 1999.
While most seemed genuinely impressed with Sega's new hardware and its approach, there was still plenty of skepticism, most notably from Electronic Arts, which would later announce that it would not support the Dreamcast.
Both Nintendo and Sony had some new pieces of hardware as well. Nintendo showed off the Game Boy Color as well as the Game Boy Camera and accompanying printer. Sony announced a "new" PlayStation package appearing at retail that included the new Dual Shock controller. Also, the notable absence of the Nintendo 64DD, or at least any sort of formal support from Nintendo of America, led most to think that Nintendo was second guessing the value of such a device.
From all indications, the next Zelda game was supposed to be on the Nintendo 64DD, but its appearance at E3 on a 32MB cartridge all but dashed hopes that the add-on would come to North America. In any case, the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Ocarina of Time at the show overshadowed just about everything except the Dreamcast announcement (and perhaps Final Fantasy VIII on the PlayStation and a near-complete version of Half-Life on the PC)--to the extent that members of the press continually asked Nintendo questions about whether or not the company would be able to make enough cartridges to meet the inevitable demand.
Quote of the show:
"We're smarter, wiser, and tougher than we've ever been. We know we'll win this."
- Bernie Stolar, former president of Sega of America in an interview with BusinessWeek.
E3 1999 - A Refreshed Rivalry
The fifth anniversary of E3 brought the show back to Los Angeles and seemingly reinvigorated a bitter rivalry between Sega and Sony, which had ignited a few months before the show. In March of that year, Sony officially announced the PlayStation 2 and presented a few technical demos to show off the power of its new system--and support from companies such as Namco and Square--and naturally, most thought Sega's Dreamcast had little chance of surviving the onslaught. "For the past few months, gaming news has been taken over by Dreamcast," said a GameSpot news report from March 2, 1999. "But that changed the minute Sony let the PlayStation 2 cat out of the bag in Tokyo on Tuesday."
Still, while the PlayStation 2 went on to generate plenty of buzz at E3 (thanks in large part to a playable demo of Gran Turismo 2000 and the real-time rendering of the Final Fantasy VIII ballroom scene), it wasn't enough to completely overwhelm Sega and its Dreamcast launch lineup. From the amazing port of Soul Calibur to surprise attractions like Ready 2 Rumble and NFL Football, which would later start the NFL 2K series, Sega gave ample ammunition to the Dreamcast and helped build it as a genuine competitor in the console market. But perhaps no single piece of information was more important than Sega's final confirmation at the show that not only would the Dreamcast have a 56K modem available (as opposed to the Japanese Dreamcast's 33K modem), but the modem would also be packed in with the system at launch.
Not to be completely outdone by its competitors, Nintendo tried squeezing more juice from the Nintendo 64 by putting Perfect Dark, Jet Force Gemini, and Donkey Kong 64--all Rare-developed games--on the show floor. But to the surprise of just about everyone at E3, Nintendo decided to subvert its own efforts with the Nintendo 64 by announcing the specs for its next console, code-named Dolphin, which would ultimately become the GameCube. Dreams of a next-generation Mario and Zelda permeated throughout the crowd.
Quote of the show:
"I just finished [Episode I: The Phantom Menace], which is kind of state-of-the-art, you know. Nobody's been able to do some of these things. We've created full 3D digital characters and 3D environments that are photo-realistic, and we were sitting there being extremely proud of ourselves--boy, we're way ahead of everybody. And then they put this toy on the desk that is more powerful than anything we're using. It can re-create what we're doing in a movie. I mean, it's like we struggled for four years to get there, and a year from now, it's going be available to everybody. It's not quite the same quality as what we're putting on film, but it's high enough quality for TV. It's astounding."
-George Lucas discusses the perceived similarities of the PlayStation 2 hardware and the hardware used to create the new Star Wars film in an interview with Roger Ebert during the week of E3.
E3 2000 - That Can't Be Real-Time
In some ways, E3 2000 was a replay of what happened in 1999. Once again, the Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2 battled it out for show supremacy, while Nintendo lingered with the surprisingly raunchy Conker's Bad Fur Day and Perfect Dark, opting to wait until its Space World show to reveal additional information on its Dolphin hardware. But there was one key difference between this show and the one five years before it--a fourth player. Microsoft entered the market with the announcement of a console that had more in common with a typical PC than its counterparts. As much excitement as it caused, the Xbox announcement took a bit of a backseat to the software at the show--partly because of Microsoft's untested reputation for hardware and partly because it was just too early to get any good sense of what kind of support the Xbox would receive.
To be more specific, the Xbox (along with nearly everything else at the show) was overshadowed by a trailer--one so popular that dozens, if not hundreds, of people camped out in front of the screen just to see it one more time. It was the trailer for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and while there were plenty of spectacular and playable PlayStation 2 games (Tekken Tag Tournament and Madden NFL 2001) out on the show floor, nothing seemed to grab crowds quite like Hideo Kojima's sequel to Metal Gear Solid. Most claimed that it was the first real demonstration of what separated the Dreamcast from the PlayStation 2 in terms of graphical capabilities. In fact, it looked so good that some even questioned whether it was even real-time, and after being poked and prodded at the show, Kojima revealed that the only portion of the trailer that wasn't real-time was the weather effect at the very beginning.
As much as the Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer and the PlayStation 2 lineup were emblazoned in everyone's minds at E3 that year, Sega still put on an impressive show with some of the best Dreamcast games to date, including Jet Grind Radio, Samba De Amigo, Phantasy Star Online, Ecco the Dolphin, Shenmue, and Seaman, which probably generated more buzz for being completely insane than anything else. Of course, the massive Space Channel 5 dance show--which had several costumed dancers performing on platforms attached to a massive wall near the back of the booth--didn't hurt either in terms of drawing some attention to Sega.
And then there was a trailer for a little game called Halo that gave early looks at the Covenant Elites as well as Master Chief himself, albeit with a much different voice. At the time, Halo was still a PC and Mac project, but Microsoft's purchase of Bungie a few months later led everyone to suspect that Halo would figure into the launch of Microsoft's Xbox, despite the company's reassurance that the game was still a PC and Mac project.
Quote of the show:
"PlayStation 2 is not the future of video game entertainment; it is the future of entertainment, period. It's an entirely different platform that will serve as the catalyst for the broadband revolution."
- Kaz Hirai, then president and COO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.
E3 2001 - Full House
The writing had been on the wall for a few months, and Sega's small, appointment-only booth provided the harsh reality--Sega was now a third-party developer and abandoning its focus on hardware. While it continued to support the Dreamcast with games like Sonic Adventure 2, much of Sega's attention was directed elsewhere, specifically to games like Jet Set Radio Future and Gunvalkyrie for the Xbox, as well as Phantasy Star Online for the GameCube--Nintendo's new hardware.
The fact that Nintendo decided not to show anything about the GameCube at the previous E3 was disappointing, but the subsequent Space World unveiling in Japan left many eager to check out the system and its games for the first time at E3. Nintendo had a relatively large number of first- and second-party games at the show in some form or another, ranging from a trailer of Metroid Prime to playable versions of Luigi's Mansion, Pikmin, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Wave Race: Blue Storm, Eternal Darkness, Kameo: Elements of Power (which would later become an Xbox 360 launch game), Star Fox Adventures, and Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II (one of three highly anticipated Star Wars games--Star Wars Galaxies and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic were also at the show on the PC).
The GameCube wasn't the only piece of new hardware at Nintendo's booth. The Game Boy Advance was also on hand. It was previously shown off at Space World in August 2000 and released in Japan a month before E3. The system didn't grab as much attention as one brief clip of something called Metroid IV, which looked absolutely horrible at the time (nearly Game Boy Color levels) but would later become the fantastic Metroid Fusion.
Microsoft also put on quite a display at the show with games from its Xbox launch lineup, the most notable of which was the original Halo, which had undergone a transformation from real-time strategy game to first-person shooter. While most enjoyed the mechanics and the demonstration of advanced AI, there were some controversial complaints about frame rate and other technical issues, but either way, Halo drew some major interest as did some other Xbox launch games, like Dead or Alive 3 and the very first shots of Project Ego, which would become Fable.
With the PlayStation 2 still going strong, Sony had the challenge of keeping its hardware relevant amid new products coming from Nintendo and Microsoft, and it did so by announcing support for online gaming with a modem that supported analog modem connections as well as broadband. More importantly, the PlayStation 2 had a pretty spectacular showing in terms of software with Final Fantasy X, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (which had an enormous spot in Sony's booth), and Grand Theft Auto III.
Quote of the show:
"You know, it's amazing what you can afford when you get out of the hardware business. It really is…and with $500 million to spend."
-Then-Sega of America president Peter Moore offers some potential advice to Microsoft and simultaneously wishes he had $500 million to spend on the Dreamcast.
for nintendo, games haven't evolved much in the past 10 years, last generation graphics, gameplay, etc. plus the "Interactive" technology is barely used to only a small extent, makes the controls only different, but not better. I was disappointed, but hopefully someday they come out w/ a real sword fighting game, where the way you swing the wiimote is exactly copied by your game's character swinging his sword
reading this makes me proud of being part of gaming history... who knows maybe I'll be telling my kids about the good ol' days of gaming some day.
While the end of sega as a hardware developer, which this timeline ultimately has to portray, is a sad one in some ways, its really great to see how gaming evolves. I remember when they showed off MGS2 for the first time, or even FFVIII before that, and thinking how gaming couldnt get any better. I remember how amazing it was that you could shatter glass in MGS2 (if your unsure why that demo was so long, its because they were showing off all the thijngs you could do in that game which at the time was INCREDIBLE. I remember how a gamespot reviewer was blown away by watching ice melt in the game haha) or hold up one of the guards if you caught them unawares. When I came back from afghanistan at the time it was my intention to get PS2 and that game. Its one I was not unhappy to buy either, great game. Now we're at that point again where I just cant see how we can top where we're in in terms of innovation. When looking at the history though it kind makes you excited for the future. So much has evolved, where will it end up next time? Good memories, enjoyable read.
Pretty cool. I remember reading so much about all of those features the following months in many different magazines. Oh nostalgia how much you have teased.
I seriously liked this feature. I especially enjoyed the overviews of the older E3's. It sucks that I can't see the live press conferences this year as I have school.
Sigh...I attended E3 2004...arguably the best E3 ever!....and was so proud to have been at the E3 where Twilight Princess was announced. I agree it was the greatest E3 moment ever and proof of what video game hype and loyalty WAS all about :) PLUS I got to be one of the first to touch the DS! And....RE4, MGS3, Metroid Prime 2, Fable, Star Fox Assault, Halo 2, Gran Turismo 4....STARCRAFT GHOST!!! (which I totally played)....greatest week of my existence. CAN'T WAIT FOR 2009!!!! :)
Great feature - always do enjoy these features of Gamespots. Providing me, for one, with information in which may have avoided my attention. Particularly enjoyed reading up from the article about information on those earlier ones I may have missed. Although I enjoyed the older generation of gaming, we shall forever have to look forward. Looking forward to E3 09.
I was at more of those E3's. I especially remember the the 1995 E3 in Los Angeles and SEGA launching the Saturn. We were blessed with a Saturn and 3 games from SEGA on the day it launched. The was a joyous day. The year before that Donkey Kong Country was unveiled to journalist who were in shock to see this incredible game on the SNES. Nintendo did an outstanding job keeping that game a secret. No one knew about it. I still can remember speaking to Peter Moore about the Dreamcast. He was so excited for the console and kept telling us it would be much better then the Saturn and be on the market a lot longer. Hehe!! It still died way to soon. That system was awesome and had great exclusives. Fun times.
*sigh* I miss the old days of SNES, N64, PS1, Saturn, and Dreamcast. Guess I'm stuck in the past. xD
I remember getting into E3 when it came to Atlanta in 1997. I remember my jaw dropping to the floor when I saw Ocarina of Time and the Metal Gear trailer. I've been wanting to go back ever since. Here's hoping that this year is a return to the E3 of the good old days.
Once again Nintendo can take the show if they show Zelda, it is truely amazing how much of a following that series has.
Not much time left for this year's E3.....................Check out My Pre E3 Blog
Cool article. Much better than the usual blog post style stuff that gets written without any research or real effort.
That reaction for Twilight Princess in 2004 was the defining moment of E3, never seen such a crazy reaction in my life. I don't think that will ever be topped or even approached.
so many good old time and bad too !!! was a 2x bad time these couple of past years...lets hope it doenst go strike 3... :(:(...
There are just so many games that we will HOPEFULLY see for the first time this year (at least extensively). Splinter Cell: Conviction, Alan Wake (?), God Of War III. There are many more, I'm really hoping Sony pulls something big, my PS3 is becoming just a blu-ray player and not a gaming system. As for Nintendo, They will have to show the Wii reincarnating Jesus (or something like that) for me to get interested again. Microsoft, just please for the love of God stay away from being Casual, avatars are bad enough, we don't need another kick in the jeans. Oh, and make the Zune HD amazing....please.
Ahh... what a nice trip down memory lane. I remember still being a kid and egerly awaiting magazines coverage of E3... I even remember reading about the Ultra 64, Dreamcast and Zelda: OoT... Still, now we have the internet. Anyone can watch the shows and presentations live, and E3 can reach every consumer without them being there... and what do they do? Downsize it!! Wheres the logic, eh?
I Hate school. Now I have to record E3 and by the time I get to se it all the new reveals will be on the Gamespot homepage.
Good trip down memory lane. I expect this year's E3 to be much more hyped and exciting than the last 2 years. I remember when it was absolutely nuts at previous conventions. Can't wait to see what's in store this year!
cool hope we get to see a great E3 this year. If the rumours turn out to be true then we'll have a lot of new games to check out which is a great thing :D .
I seriously hate those right guard commercials. They make me not want to buy it when I have to watch it ever time I watch a video on this site.
and everything happened in just little over a decade..from the ps1 to the ps3,mgs2 to mgs4,from crappy graphics to photorealism and advanced physics...things are changing fast..imagine what will happen in just 13 years from now..