I’ve always doubted that companies actually could win something like E3, there was usually things in each of the big three’s conferences that I was excited about, and there were also things in each conference that I was bored with or just didn’t care about one way or the other. E3 2012 had to be the biggest letdown I’ve ever witnessed since I started watching them. It was certainly the worst E3 that I’ve tried to cover, usually I’d write the grade that I thought each of the big three deserved. I don’t even think its worth my time to do that this year. I truly believe that 2012 was the year in which nobody won E3.
Where to even begin with Microsoft’s show? I went in to this not expecting much from them. It’s clear that Microsoft has their studios working on next generation games, and that’s been the case for the past couple of years. I actually thought the Microsoft show started off in epic fashion, Halo 4 undoubtedly looks gorgeous, the problem with starting off a show with Halo 4 is that it has nowhere to go but down. I understand that third party multiplatform games are really important right now, I also understand that getting DLC first as a timed exclusive is equally important, mainly because it entices people to buy the game for your console. What I don’t understand is why Microsoft chose not to demo Forza Horizon, Gears Of War Judgement, Steel Battalion, Crimson Dragon or Fable The Journey? It is a bit perplexing because from what I have seen of those games after E3, they are all looking great, and Forza Horizon is getting a ton of love and admiration. It looks to be an amazing first entry by Playground Games into the open world racing genre.
So my first complaint was that Microsoft didn’t demo a lot of upcoming games that aren’t going to be available on other platforms. I knew Microsoft would talk about re-branding their music, we now have Xbox Music as opposed to the now defunct Zune. We heard the rumors of SmartGlass before the show even started, so I was fully expecting that and I didn’t mind, I thought it was interesting technology, but I think it would have been better suited at a different show, not E3. I was actually surprised by the lack of Kinect at their show, the past couple of years has seen a heavy focus on Kinect, but this year their was an obvious lack of focus or general direction. There were a couple of other highlights, seeing Joe Montana on stage was pretty nice, he seemed genuinely impressed with Kinect voice commands for Madden 13. It was nice to see someone actually be on stage and seem sincere, Montana was a childhood hero of mine and some of my earliest gaming memories are of playing Joe Montana Sports Talk Football on the Sega Genesis. Seeing Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park on stage was also pretty entertaining. They were the only people throughout E3 to not use a teleprompter, everything they talked about was off the cuff and pure genius.
The show took a turn for the worse when Usher took the stage to do a performance, its easy to pick this out as the worst moment of Microsoft’s press conference. I think ending the show with Black Ops 2 was also a mistake, why not kick off your show with Black Ops 2? It seems like the last few years Microsoft has kicked their show off with the premiere of the newest Call Of Duty. Microsoft probably should have ended the show with Halo 4, leave people with that image in their minds. Microsoft could have had a most impressive and memorable show had they simply demoed their games, dropped Usher and maybe talk a little about something huge like their first ever free to play game, Ascend: New Gods. That would have been huge, as its clear that Microsoft is opening up Xbox Live a bit.
Lets face the facts that the Xbox 360 is seven years old, we should have seen its successor two years ago. Its more than obvious that Microsoft isn’t going to release a full retail new IP on its aging platform. Stringing along the core Xbox 360 owners with Gears, Halo, Forza and Fable until the next Xbox is only going to work so long. Don’t get me wrong, I get that its easier to make these sequels right now because all of the tech is already there and its about profit, these games sell well, make money and are relatively easy to produce. I enjoy all of those games, I am not one of those people who doesn’t understand how the business works. It doesn’t make sense to release new IP’s at the end of a generation, especially if they are interesting titles that can help launch a new platform. If your thinking “Sony is releasing new IP’s”. I am way ahead of you, I think Sony is in a better position with more studios at their disposal, they can have most of their studios work on next generation games, and still have studios to spare for the current generation console. That being said, The Last Of Us would probably push some PS4′s if they had decided to make that a launch title for that platform, so it’s a double-edged sword to say the least.
Microsoft’s strongest point coming into E3 was the Xbox Live Arcade, this might very well be the best year ever for that platform. Trials, Minecraft, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, Fez and Fable Heroes have all helped to prove that arcade titles can be just as immersive and entertaining as full retail releases. This was the area in which they actually had some new and interesting IP’s to show off, but all we got were some teaser trailers and no stage time. I was very excited when I heard Twisted Pixel had a new game, but we got little to no information, all in all it was a lack of information that killed their show for me. They actually had first party content to show off, but decided not to show hardly any of it off.
I think next year will obviously be a bigger and better year all around, don’t go thinking Nintendo or Sony’s shows weren’t equally as bad as Microsoft’s show. Wonderbook might have very well been the worst thing shown at E3, and Nintendo’s lacking to actually show us the Wii U or give us a price, release date or specs was pretty much a debacle as well. If I had to take a stab at who won E3 2012, it would be Ubisoft, the big console makers were full of fail and lack of information. Hopefully next year we see an epic clash as new hardware is shown and new games are shown. Until then, we can all take a deep breath, the horrible E3 is over, time to get back to relaxing and having fun with some games.