and so is the road to hell.
With all the hype around this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), it's tough not to get excited and starry-eyed and filled with hopes and dreams and desires for the future of gaming. This year is especially important with the release of the "next-gen" PS4 and Xbox One at a time when gamers are voicing their disillusion towards gaming more than ever. A lot is resting on this particular E3, and developers are feeling the pressure to go bigger and bolder.
But what is the cost of these great expectations? As past E3s have shown, we often end up with bloated, overhyped extravaganzas that do little more than enrapture us in a world of gaming for the hour-long show, but then leave us with unmatched expectations when finished products are revealed. The developers mean well, but in the end, they seem to be shooting themselves in the feet.
Personally, I don't want huge conferences that bloat my expectations and leave me high and dry in the end. I don't want to see extraneous dances (unless they somehow get a Jensen's Safety Dance together), gratuitious booth babes at every station or teleprompter-driven pseudo excitement. What I'm looking for in this year's E3 is much more basic and equally more important: I'm desperately looking for something at E3 to restore my hope in console gaming.
THE HISTORY OF E3
The conference we currently call E3 started in 1995 with the unveiling of the PlayStation, showings of the Sega Saturn, Virtual Boy and the Nintendo 64. This expo had grown from what was previously the Consumer Electronics Expo (CES), of which the video game industry was treated like electronic's ugly and uncooth stepbrother. The expo quickly proved popular and took off, growing in size and importance. It became an industry-wide vehicle for showcasing new systems, concepts and games. And, just like any event in the entertainment industry, companies felt the pressure to keep increasing production value of their overall presence with bigger conferences, fancy booths and gimmicks. 2005 marked the first year E3 was broadcast on TV, increasing the event's accessibility and the public's interest; this particular E3 boasted the attendance of 70,000 people.
The conference took a downturn in 2006 with only 60,000 attendees, and the 2007 and 2008 expos were renamed to "E3 Media and Business Summit", where it became an invite-only event. This was an attempt to scale back the bloated nature of E3, but was a shock to many gamers, bloggers and some in the industry, likely since the change was so abrupt. The 2007 conference only reported 10,000 attendees, and dwindled to 5,000 for the 2008 conference.
In 2009, E3 was reverted back to its previous structure, and this revision was relatively well-received by much of the community. The extravaganza continued to grow to the near-hysteric proportions of where it sits today.
So, now we're here again, eagerly awaiting another E3. I remember watching my first E3 conferences in 2011 and fell into the hype only to be met with the lackluster systems and games that just didn't do it for me over this current generation. In full disclosure, since this gen was announced a few years ago, I've been extremely busy with work and have had a lot of personally difficult times which I'm certain have affected my ability to get excited about a lot of things, but I also think this last generation of gaming was a disappointment to me in many other ways.
I was the proud owner of a PS3 in 2009, but I had a hard time finding games I had enough desire to put forth the money and energy to enjoy and look forward to. It didn't help that 15 months into my ownership, my PS3 met with the YLOD and attempts at fixing it at home did not work (and I'm an engineer, so I gave it a good try with the reflow solutions). I didn't have the money to have it officially repaired, so I sold it for pennies on its original price. I also got a 360, but again, the limited number of games that excited me led to me having to dust the console off more than I turned it on.
These issues partly led to me falling more and more into PC gaming. There weren't enough great experiences for me to keep with consoles, and most games I truly wanted had a PC port anyway! The last game I was truly, wholeheartedly excited about was Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC), which had me counting down the minutes until I could get home to play, and gave me amazing dreams of crawling around in the shadows, dragging the many bodies I'd accumulated into ventilation systems...
I had tried again to get excited by watching the 2012 E3 streams, but was met with my own disillusionment when seeing the uncomfortable portrayal of an excited gamer executive by of Steve Balmer and an awkward Ubisoft conference led by Aisha Tyler (I know a lot of people thought she did great, but I felt her timing was off and it felt very awkward to me). And don't even get me started on Mr. Caffeine...
Even Last of Us garnered a less-than-expected review score here on GS, and this was a much-hyped game of the 2012 show. More recently, watching the Xbox One reveal and Don Mattrick's plastic performance did not bely my fears for the current E3. What I WANT to see are games that capture my attention and make me desperately want to get back into console games again. At this point, I almost don't even feel like the consoles themselves matter: the graphics are already good enough for me, the standard controllers haven't evolved and aren't different enough to matter, and I haven't been impressed by motion control enough yet to feel comfortable enjoying over my mouse and keyboard.
What I'm most worried about with the current E3 is the best of intentions leading to overall disappointment and negative affects for the gaming industry in general. We don't need more studio collapses (or for EA to buy any more struggling studios, which sometimes leads to a wish the studio had collapsed instead of been sent to purgatory). We don't need massive increases in game prices. We don't need to be told how to use our consoles and what we want.
We need hope for the future, we need managed expectations and, more than ever, we need exciting, FUN games!