E3’s leaving me a bit cold this year. The fact I’m not covering it for a gaming website is actually a blessed relief, as it means I don’t have to stay up until ass o’ clock in the morning watching cringeworthy live performances from executives who should know better. But I’m not even feeling particularly inspired to seek out the big news from it myself — nothing’s grabbing me as hugely exciting. The most interesting thing to me is probably Nintendo’s new console, which does some genuinely innovative and cool things — but we’ll have to wait and see on pricing.
E3’s not necessarily about people like me though. It’s first and foremost about the suits and the money, secondly about the press and the actual gaming public comes in a distant third somewhere. It is, in essence, a huge PR circus whereby lots of companies can make outlandish promises about their new products and hope no-one remembers by the time the product in question actually comes out. (See: anything Peter Molyneux or Microsoft have ever said, anything regarding motion control, anything regarding Vitality Sensors.) It’s an important time for publishers to show off their big new titles to keep their shareholders happy, and for the press to help keep the buzz flowing.
I’ve never been to an E3, so I can’t speak for what the experience of actually being there is like. I’m sure smaller developers and publishers are there, too, but I feel a bit sorry for them. As is always the case, the big news is always about what Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft and EA are up to — and probably something Call of Duty-related from Activision, too. Smaller companies are there to get their products noticed, too, but it must regularly seem like an uphill battle to them when all the big sites want to cover is Halo 4, Call of Duty 300 and other Games With Guns In.
There have been a few surprises, of course. Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs is looking cool — at least it did until the dude pulled a gun out — and David Cage’s latest project is sure to be just as interesting and divisive as his previous work. I’m not yet convinced by The Last of Us (ugh, zombies) and I want to know more about pricing before I get too excited about Wii U.
Herein lies the rub, though. I couldn’t give a crap about the “big games”. I know that plenty of people do, otherwise we wouldn’t be on our sixth Halo game, our fifth Assassin’s Creed game (not counting spinoff titles) and our four hundred and seventy-sixth Mario title. And the big sites certainly cover the big games with aplomb. But where is the discussion about more niche titles like Larian Studios’ upcoming new Divinity game and the batshit-crazy looking Dragon Commander? Where’s the love for independent developers? Where can I find what I’ll be putting in my shopping cart without question next time there’s a Steam sale?
This information is out there, I’m sure, but it’s hard to find. It’s easy to be cynical about E3 because of the information that gets the highest priority. “Biggest budget” seems to equate to “most important” in the eyes of a lot of press and public alike, and that’s a bit of a shame. For me, the most important titles should be the ones that move the genre forward, the ones that do genuinely interesting things, the ones that I’d want to discuss on the Squadron of Shame SquadCast. But I guess they call things like that “niche” for a reason.
Also, fuck E3 memes. If one more person makes a “my body is ready” joke I will punch them. Hard.