What? That's It? (E3 2008)

Like most people, I fear change.

I recently heard an adorable and completely true tale from some forgotten corner of the world of a village that elected their long-time mayor back for another term despite his all-too-common condition of being dead. Soft pitch jokes about politicians aside, I was particularly amused by one of the interviewed voters who defended his necrotic choice for elected official by stating that he didn’t like change.

How powerful our basic nature to resist change despite its immutable certainty. We hold fast to the familiar, indulge in our own personal traditions long after their usefulness and relevance has passed. And so, I am reminded of this as I invest myself in the middling irrelevance of another E3.

If you had wondered if E3 was now truly a relic of bygone days, hobbled permanently by the slapstick bunglings of the ESA, then this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo ought to just about wrap things up for you, which will make it easy to tie on a block of cement and toss the whole mess into the East River.

At this point the big three have made their big E3 case to audiences and consumers and the only thing we can say with any certainty and enthusiasm about these presentations is that they happened. We have visual evidence. Beyond that, I have an easier time getting my blood pressure rising watching The Golden Girls while on pain medication than enduring tedious press conferences from Sony, Microsoft and that one company that has forgotten we dedicated gamers even exist--Nitoden or something?

Oh, it’s not that the conferences were completely bereft of life—except maybe the one by the Big N; I’m genuinely concerned that there needs to be a warning not to operate heavy machinery after watching—but in comparison to E3s of old, these presentations were tame as a sleepy puppy. The biggest news so far in the entire conference is that a game we’ve known exists for years is now going multi-platform and still probably won’t be released before I have grandchildren.

I realize the commentary of how E3 of late is a shadow of what it once was may be wearing thin, but even after I’d decided not to attend this year I still had no idea how decrepit the shambling corpse of a show was going to be, set loose into the LACC, toothless and misguided, wandering around moaning and making a general nuisance of itself for the roughly forty-two journalists who decided to actually get on a plane and attend the living funeral. This slack jawed, incredulous expression on my face is not surprise that E3 is bad this year.

This is surprise at how spectacularly bad it is.

Yes, I realize that the ESA has had an unpleasant year, navigating to uncharted areas of irrelevance under the incompetent leadership (or some facsimile thereof) of a former Bush technology advisor with all the tech credibility of an abacus. Yes, I know that in general the members of the once useful organization are in open rebellion and splintering off in mighty chunks, but still, it’s embarrassing when you throw yourself a big yearly birthday party and almost no one attends. And those that do attend bring you socks for a gift.

That is what Sony’s carbon-copy presentation this year was: a three-pack bundle of socks wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper with a hole where the bow used to be before it got caught in the car door.

“Hey, look we’ve got Little Big Planet, Resistance 2 and Home!”

Yeah, we knew that last year.

“But, we also have God of War III!”

You see this, Sony. This is my pulse. This is how I already knew you were making God of War III. It doesn’t exactly take a divining rod and a spirit guide to figure out that you guys are finally reviving a key franchise, particularly not when the news has made it an all but foregone conclusion.

And yet, this announcement was a highlight in a year where window dressing and peripherals were propped up to be the star of the show. It was like watching Hollywood dump $300 million into a summer blockbuster and then tagging Kathy Griffin and Abe Vigoda as the stars.

I get the feeling that should you skip E3 coverage entirely, take a long nap through this dog-day week, and wake refreshed and bright eyed at the end; the number of significant things that you missed out on could be rehashed with a fairly concise text message.

FFXIII 2 360, GOW 3, RB2 list pwns & GH sux! LOL. L8r

Having attended the last great days of the show, where new game announcements assaulted you like muggers in the street, it’s hard for me not to be disappointed. I recall with heady nostalgia days before I could attend. Evaporating hours spent glued to screenshots and brief tantalizing news bits about games that would seed the population of my daydreams for weeks to come. What was once the Mecca or Jerusalem of gaming has become Poughkeepsie or the New Jersey Turnpike. A functional place, meaningful in the most mundane terms, but otherwise uninspiring.

So here I sit, watching things I don't care about to grasp some shadow of the joy that was once E3 week. I am a heroin junkie shooting motor oil in my veins to see if that will give me that once sky-breaking high. I feel like any moment now, maybe right after I post this article, the big E3 pomp and circumstance will bang into life and the announcements will flow like ambrosia, because this is what E3 is supposed to be, and somehow I just can't let it go.

The mayor is dead, but I don't like change.


Yep, instead of scaling E3 back, they broke its back. One thing worth remembering is it also happens at the entirely wrong time of year now. April / May is a perfect sweet spot in the game industry project cycles. Mid-July on the other hand? Too close to the holiday release window.

Elysium wrote:

And what better time to do that than E3?

Given a four to six month time between announcement and release? Any time that doesn't make this newly announced game come out in the winter months along with the dozens of triple-A, multi million dollar investment games.

The degree of competition in the winter is totally offset by the exponential increase in sales volume. In fact, it works counter to what you seem to expect to happen. Watch the Week Ahead around September, and see the amazing metric tons of totally mid-range games that suddenly launch to squeeze onto the shelves.

I'm saddened to see how the big three have all begun to copy each other. When I look back there wasn't much to differentiate the Nintendo and the Sega accept games. They could, digitally and physically, kinda do the same things. This held generally true (please don't get in to a pissing contest fanboys-of-all-colors as I sweep through 20 years of gaming here) until the last generation. In the last generation the big three really began to seperate themselves from each other. XBox 1 created a living online component while having a limited selection, Sony's PS1 swallowed up exclusives, created the largest library on earth, and got a taste of Hollywood with a DVD-install bump, and Nintendo rode the cutesy crap to near-disaster (Gamecube). Then in the current generation they were three very different machines... up until about 6 months ago.

Now, Sony has Home in the pipeline, Xbox has avatars in the pipeline, Wii's are letting people talk, MS and Sony have motion controllers bursting from their dev teams heads, and multi-platform is the rule when publishers go to market... The big three are all so much the same that even they get lost in their marketing speak.

When there's nothing exciting to say it's no wonder that E3 is less entertaining than Blanche Elizabeth Deveroux's boudoir photos.

Yes, her initials were B.E.D. And she's dead. Don't you feel bad now?

E3 2008: EA CEO confirms KOTOR MMO
Release for 2009. It's not something that we weren't expecting but it's still pretty big news for the Star Wars MMO fan community.

I know this topic is old news and in the internet standard time frame as old as Methuselah however I thought this was just too funny (and true) to pass up.


It's horrible, it's amazing, it's ridiculous and yet so true.
I laughed, I cried, I want my blankie.