Keep your shirts, I’m after games.
You may have read an opinion piece here earlier today criticizing giveaways at E3 this year. Well, I’m not here to add to that fire. This is merely a thought on the actual show and what it means to the future of gaming. But I will say this about that controversy; it’s apparent that a distinction needs to be made between a trade show and a typical convention. E3 has never been a public event, it exist simply to get the attention of those who control a retailer’s inventory purchasing power and for companies to share an artistic vision with their peers. The giveaways, booth babes, and elaborate exhibits exist simply to build a hype that publishers hope will translate to orders by major retail chains once the game is released.
There was a time, in the early days of the internet, when Gamestop employees and tons of regular people with minimal industry ties were needed to make it look like there was a buzz gathering around a game. That’s not the case anymore, with the number of small press and independent contractors in the industry growing exponentially over the last decade, in addition to many large publishers trying to save money; the need to bribe a regular person with a shiny keychain or a few shirts is gone. E3 has never been a convention in the sense most of us geeks know, it’s always been a sales pitch and if you’re lucky enough to be inside as a witness to it… then just enjoy seeing the excitement that only a select few get to enjoy. While this might sound like a viking funeral for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, it’s actually quite the opposite.
2014 may not have been the show’s most blockbuster year, but it unveiled what the direction of gaming is in the beginning of this next generation of hardware. With 3D gaming being an after thought now, the focus shifted to get everyone excited about virtual reality. Sony’s Project Morpheus and the Oculus Rift will be the driving force behind VR. We saw a glimpse of how this technology will be used, and it’s shaping up to be similar to what Nolan did with IMAX. This isn’t just something to make a game look prettier; it’s a legitimate tool for story telling or conveying an experience not possible otherwise.
This year also marked a milestone for both Xbox and PlayStation… no one talked about TV. E3 proved that consumers do have a say in shaping their gaming experiences. Little precious oxygen was wasted on telling you about TV or movie services, instead we got game announcements in bulk by both sides. Yes talking about those types of things has a time and place but perhaps the hardware guys are finally starting to realize that something that’s meant to lure a general audience might be better served at CES.
While I won’t argue with free T-Shirts being nice –no other piece of clothing is shot out of a cannon so well–, games are where it’s at. WB, Activision, EA, Capcom, right down to the indie developers all showed off some amazing stuff. It wasn’t just a look at their Fall catalogue, we got to see where these companies want to go years from now. I saw the Mass Effect concepts, we flipped for the latest Uncharted trailer. Even PC gaming has its spotlight shined on the big stage. Almost every major triple A title will have a PC release.
E3 has always been about more than getting your free summer clothing collection. It’s about the eyes of the world taking notice of the most immersive form of storytelling there is. I for one had a blast talking about games for an entire week. This was my ninth time attending the show and it always makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to champion an industry with the most passionate fan base in the world.