E3 2012 Conferences

E3 2012: Dissecting The Conferences

So E3 2012 has come and gone. I would have written this article sooner, but I’m still a bit in shock as to how most things were handled concerning the main three press conferences. Now that the shock is starting to wear off, I’m able to coherently wrap up what we all so eagerly anticipated for a year. There were some highlights, but this year’s E3 was more of a let-down than a pick-me up. There was plenty of hype about possible next-gen console showings, but in the end more than anything there was a huge lack of “surprises”. Given that consoles are nearing the end of their life cycle, or at least marking the final years before next-gen releases, the low key press conferences should have been expected. I mean, if expectations and rumors are correct, the end of next year is when we can expect some next-gen console action. If so, this year is more of a place holder than anything else. Consoles are now in the “Sweet Spot” of their life-cycle. They have a solid install base, developers are getting comfortable with the coding side, and getting the most bang for their buck from the machines. Most if not all efforts are going on behind the scene now to prep for next year’s explosion into the next console generation.

Everyone loves to boast about what they believe will or won’t happen at E3 2012. We all make our predictions and then gloat or hide in shame based on how things actually went. Looking back now at my Pre-E3 2012 predictions, I’d say most of it was pretty much on the money. There were some specifics that missed the mark, but overall solid predictions. Below is my prediction recap.

E3 2012 Microsoft

CORRECT PREDICTIONS: Microsoft

+ Mainly focused on multimedia, instead of games

+ Used third party games to sustain their conference

+ Subsidized 360 bundles

+ Halo 4 opened the show

+ Gears of War and Halo 4 were the two main games of the conference

INCORRECT PREDICTIONS: Microsoft

– Didn’t show Kinect 2

E3 2012 Sony

CORRECT PREDICTIONS: Sony

+ PS Move 1-3 new games (Sports Champions 2, Epic Mickey 2, Wonderbook)

+ Exclusives for the PS3

+ 3-4 person stage demo of PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale

INCORRECT PREDICTIONS: Sony

– Didn’t spend much time on the Vita

– Didn’t show us FF Versus XIII or The Last Guardian

E3 2012 Nintendo

CORRECT PREDICTIONS: Nintendo

+ Release window for WiiU

+ Did decline to comment on almost everything important to prospective WiiU buyers

INCORRECT PREDICTIONS: Nintendo

– Didn’t spend time on the 3DS or how it will/could interact with the WiiU

– Didn’t give a WiiU price or exact release date

– Won’t have Trophy/Achievement system for online

Below is my assessment of each of the big three press conferences, what they did right, what they did wrong, and what they could have done to make a bigger splash than they did. Even though next-gen consoles weren’t shown or even talked about (except for the expected Wii U) there was still plenty of opportunity to have an impressive press conference, most of which was squandered. I’ll recap in the order of who I thought did the best.

SONY

Sony E3 2012

Nintendo had all the cards stacked in their favor and they blew it (I’ll get to that next). Microsoft was never even on the radar to take it, so it’s no surprise how badly they faired. Sony was the clear winner this year with an 80% approval rating. Let me explain. Sony did an excellent job keeping their press conference focused on the fact that they have the games! Which is first and foremost in my book.

Show me how my gaming console of choice, is going to please and appease my gaming needs for this year and next! In that respect, Sony knocked it outta the park. But to nail a press conference, you have to do a few other things. Of which, these things vary based on the company, strategy, and gaming formats that the company is involved with. For Sony, their main tent poles for E3 2012 (and every day for that matter) were; PS3, PSV, and PSN. While each main point was touched on, certain aspects were lacking.  The coverage everything PS3, namely the games, was fine. Executed to perfection! (except for a surprise game announcement)

Vita

With the Vita lagging in sales, and not performing the way I believe this system is capable of, Sony should have given Vita the spotlight for a good portion of the conference. Doing so shows confidence in the machine, and raises hype/future expectations for the system. Using the excuse that they “only have so much time to fit everything in, and are notorious for running long” is not a valid reason for the lack of Vita presence on stage. If the sales figures aren’t where they wanted them to be, don’t focus on that. But don’t let that be the reason to exile the system from the show. Vita could have easily held its own by showing the vast library it has (only 3 1/2 months on the US market at that point) with a famous Sony video montage.

Then have Jack speak about how proud they are of the new system, and how he can’t wait for us all to get our hands on these amazing titles coming later this year (followed immediately by a famous Sony video montage of upcoming Vita games). After the video, have the Assassins Creed: Liberation demo, and lastly the announcement about Call of Duty: Declassified. That would have been enough. That would have taken approximately 10-15mins. That time could have come from the AC3 demo or the Far Cry 3 demo. A surprise announcement of an unannounced Vita game would have really stretched the vitality of those 10-15mins as well. Something Sony surely has up their sleeve, but is saving for June’s “Game Heaven”. Not having the presence it deserved on stage really hurt Sony in my opinion.

Conference Issues

The other issue I had with Sony was how briefly they spoke about the changes happening with PS+. Given that this Instant Game Collection is such a big factor for them, you would have thought that they would spend more than two minutes on the topic. I checked the conference footage, and from the time Instant Game Collection is mentioned to the time Jack moves on to PS one classics is less than 120 seconds! (That includes applause time for the free one year voucher for audience members that was given out).

I guess what I’m getting at is they should have focused on this point more. It’s the mismanagement of time on the Instant Game Collection, Wonderbook, and lack thereof for the PS Vita that caused Sony to come away with an 85% approval, instead of 100%. That and the lack of ANY surprises….NOT ONE!! Press conferences are supposed to wow, and send you away talking about the company. It’s not for getting slightly more informed on games we already knew about. If Sony would have allocated their time just a little differently as mentioned above, and dropped just one surprise/unannounced game, they would have left a much sweeter taste in our mouths.

Nintendo

Nintendo press event

It was Nintendo’s show to steal. They have a thriving handheld, the current highest selling home console, and are set to release the first wave of the next-gen consoles. So how did Nintendo end up taking second in a three-way race for best E3 press conference? Well, to put it plainly, poor management of information. Nintendo came out and said they were having a separate briefing for the 3DS and that’s why you won’t see much of it here on stage. That would be fine; assuming that the conference time would be consumed with everything Wii U related.

But with all that time set aside for Wii U presentation….so very little was conveyed. And what was conveyed was done so in the weakest of manners. I went into the conference as a confirmed Wii U buyer, solely based off liking Nintendo and being a huge fan of innovation. But once their conference was over, I found myself reconsidering my steadfast position as a future Wii U consumer. This is NOT the goal of a company’s gaming press conference at E3 2012.

To be releasing your next-gen console, on the shelf, in stores, in less than 6 months and not given firm details!?!!?? It’s disheartening as a gamer; it’s damaging as a consumer. I can understand them not wanting to give the exact specs of the machine, that’s their choice. They’ve said it will be competitive with current consoles, and that’s about what I expected from the step up for Nintendo. But to not give a release date or price?

Pricing

They already screwed up with the 3DS launch, pricing it to high and have gone on record saying “we won’t make that mistake again with the Wii U.” Which means it’s not going to be outrageous. (Outrageous translates to $300+) The components needed to meet their HD needs are cheap now, so their main worry is obviously the touch tablet. I’d bet money that they are torn between the low affordable price of $199 and the expected price of $249. But what’s that a difference of, $50 bucks. With a price range so negligible they really should have at least hinted at the price range. That would have given consumers something to wrap their head around. But they didn’t.

I know they spent some time prior to the press conference with a web video about the Wii U tablet, now called the “Wii U Gamepad”, showing off its functionality. But again, if their reasoning for doing this was to free up time for the stage show…..HOW COME WE DIDN”T SEE ANYTHING!!! Pikman 3 was great to see. But we needed to see and hear more about how innovative this system is and how it will translate into a new way to play.

We all have our thoughts on what it could do, or might do. But this stage time is for you to SHOW us what it will do. Take the top 10-15 ideas that drove you to believe the Wii U and this gamepad would be innovative and demonstrate them on stage, in action. Even if they’re not in full working games, you can still convey the concept and direction that you expect Wii U’s gamepad to take moving forward. Make us want this! That’s all they had to do. But they didn’t.

Nintendo and Online

Lastly, let’s talk about the online component. Everyone knows that Nintendo is stepping into the HD realm, to capture the third party games market they currently have no hand in. But doing so necessitates an online network that works better than “Friend Codes.”  They didn’t detail the online side of this at all! We heard about Nintendo Land, and we all saw the video of “Non-Specific Action Figure”. And while those features looked interesting, we didn’t get further details during the press conference.

I’m aware that they’ve stated Friend Codes will be going away, but they also stated they have no intention on requiring developers to incorporate Trophy/Achievements into every game. Devs can do so on their own if they want, but it’s not required. As such, there will be no member ranking system for their console. This is a colossal misstep for Nintendo. All third party games will have it since the PS3 and 360 require it. So it will only be the exclusive 1st party Nintendo games (that most Wii U owners really care about) that won’t mandate/have them. It’s an attractive system that will hurt Nintendo not to have.

Conference Issues

Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo…..you could have had it all. It seems to me that the most interesting news and most informative details about the Wii U were show or talked about outside the official press conference. What’s the point of that? This is the time for you to take center stage and blow peoples’ minds! Instead you drip-tease the information everywhere but your main event. Even now the most important information is still unknown. How the online network will function, how the Wii U gamepad will innovate more than any other touch screen gaming devices, what the Wii U release date is, what the Wii U price point/range is…..shall I go on?

Since none of that was discussed on stage, Nintendo should have done that 15 game 3DS briefing on the E3 2012 stage. At least that way we would have felt like the press conference counted for something. As bad as the Nintendo Conference was, it still beat out the horrible Microsoft event. My approval rating for Nintendo’s E3 Press Event is 60%. They were the only ones that at least surprised us with something (Pikman 3) and they did have new hardware to show, but they didn’t impress. The key phrase for all of E3 2012 and the article, “mismanagement of information.”

Microsoft

Microsoft Conference

Like I stated before, I expected little from Microsoft and they gave just that. For a gaming conference, they sure had little to say/show about games. Sure they used third party games to fill their agenda, as usual, but SmartGlass should have filled another time slot in terms of announcements. Microsoft has continued on their track of moving farther and farther away from a game machine and closer and closer to a multimedia hub. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for multimedia, but I want my game console to focus on games. This is the primary reason why I believe Sony owned the E3 2012 press event. Microsoft did have Halo and Gears, but what else is new….seriously, what else is new!

With as little as Microsoft actually had to show off at this press conference, they should have shown their next-gen console. Ready or not, if they wanted to prove that they still care about gaming, this is about the only way they could have done it. Third party games are great; I play them all the time. But to use your companies press event stage time for anything but YOUR very best, is simply a waste. They clearly had nada to show in the way of exclusives and new IP. So why not focus on what they did have. Their subsidized 360 bundle would have been a great thing to spotlight. It’s actually a smart idea. To offer your console dirt cheap to attract new users, or casual users if you will. Then have the core console that has more to offer for the core user.

Conference Issues

But I guess in the end, a gaming console focusing on games at a gaming press conference is a little silly. The clear way to steer the ship is into the multimedia winds. For this reason, I got from Microsoft what I expected, same ole shooters, and more multimedia content on their gaming platform. They didn’t have any surprises, nothing wowed, and in no way did I walk away from their conference thinking, “Hell Yeah, I’ll be doing a lot of gaming on that machine!” Microsoft took third (or dead last) in my “Best of E3 Press Conferences.” My approval rating for Microsoft’s event is 40%. The first few years of Xbox 360 as a game console were great. Here in 2012 I can’t even blame it on mismanagement, I believe this is the way they want to go….and it ain’t about gaming.

This year’s E3 2012 is over, and next year can’t come soon enough. I’d like all the big three to take note of one thing…never underestimate the power of surprises, unannounced games. Those simple actions can truly win the hearts and minds of your respective audiences. Gamers are the ones who tune in to your E3 conferences. Gamers wanna hear about unannounced games, and they want to be shocked and surprised. That’s the main thing missing from E3 2012, and it left everyone with a very sour taste in their mouths even though there was a wealth of gaming goodness to be had.

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