The E3 That Was: The Future That's Yet To Come

Being at E3 is a bit like walking through the doors of an overpriced superclub. The swelling, monstrous swamp of noise. The hordes of sweaty bodies jostling for space. There’s a wide-eyed joy in the beginning but by the end, as you haul your beaten, bruised, exhausted body through the exit door for the very last time, you exhale.

That’s relief you’re feeling. It’s over. It’s finally over.

Before the doors were flung open, before the first conference, the first buzzword, there was a sense that this year’s E3 would be an important one. The launch of next generation consoles, the unveiling of new exclusives, Nintendo’s attempt to rescue what has been a disastrous launch for the Wii U. Even if the stakes weren’t high, even if this whole rigmarole loses its significance in a few short months when the Xbox One and the PS4 are finally released, E3 felt important.

It was important, I think.

If we’re talking in old-fashioned terms of who stole the show or who ‘won’, then yes Sony was the victor, clearly. It was a bloodbath. The swirling doubts, the constant miscommunication, the contradictions; Microsoft’s bungling attempts to share its grand vision of an all-in-one box to rule them all was ramshackled by a blistering (often hilarious) incompetence that Sony obliterated with crystal clear, cutting simplicity. How do you share games on the PlayStation 4, asked Yoshida, at his trolling best?

He simply passed the physical copy of the game to his colleague. Game over. Congratulations Sony, you have won E3. And the internet.

It wasn’t that Sony’s product was better; that the exclusives were better, or the hardware. It was the message. It arrived in stark contrast to Microsoft’s garbled PR circus. Years ago Don Mattrick would literally slide onto the E3 stage with a practiced slickness that seemed unassailable. In 2013 he seemed older; confused, beaten down and a little bewildered by the reception. He couldn’t open his mouth without saying the wrong thing.

“Microsoft needs to get its shit together,” one person said to us, during the conference. “All jokes aside, we need them.”

The scary thing is this: behind closed doors, speaking to the folks at Microsoft, it wasn’t hard to get a feel for what Microsoft is trying to achieve. There’s a genuine vision behind what it’s trying to create with the Xbox One. The Xbox One is a modern, truly next generation box hampered by the limitations of the present. Hampered by bandwidth, hampered by an aging retail model. These are problems that most likely won’t exist in four or five years but now? Right now? They are game breakers.

For almost each and every issue consumers are currently having with the Xbox One, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, sometimes there’s even a reasonable solution. But that doesn’t matter anymore. Because each and every time a Microsoft exec opens their mouth, sense and logic is sucked into a black hole by an idiot wind so potent that it might sink the whole enterprise.

Keep it concise. Keep it consumer friendly. It seems simple, but Microsoft seems to be having a real hard time doing simple at this precise moment.

And Nintendo? Nintendo did what it always seems to do. Quietly tucked away amongst the roaring engines and splatter of constant video game gunfire, Nintendo focused on the games. The games that no-one was really talking about, the games most journalists seemed to overlook. There was no Zelda announcement, no Metroid. The Mario game Nintendo did announce seemed to underwhelm a press machine looking for the next ‘big’ 3D Mario; the next Galaxy.

But if you stayed awhile, picked up a controller and just played you’d find a company in fine form, with quality control at an arguable all-time high. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was a video game bustling with inventive wizardry. Super Mario 3D Land solved the multiplayer 3D Mario problem with a casual shrug of complete genius. Even Mario Kart, arguably the most staid, flaccid part of the Nintendo puzzle, seemed to innovate within its own traditionally rigid confines.

Then there was the 3DS, a handheld on the tipping point. More new games, a building catalogue gamers are finally taking notice of. Nintendo might struggle to transfer that success across to the struggling Wii U but the first party games are there. Help is on the way.

And that was the story of my E3. Sony won the battle for hearts and minds, but Microsoft genuinely intrigued me with its vision for the future. Cynicism is easy, and completely justified, but I wonder what the playing field will look like in five years time? I wonder if Microsoft is better prepared for those eventualities. And Nintendo? Nintendo had the games but, considering the lack of third party support, it might not be enough.

I left E3 for the last time and exhaled. That was relief I was feeling. I was relieved to escape the noise and bustle, certainly, but also relieved that I could still be excited by games, excited for the future. Video games aren’t perfect, but they’re certainly still worth caring about.


Comments

    Nice wrap up. It's hard to keep track sometimes,

      ... with all the news, hype and, this year in particular, outright negativity.
      I don't necessarily like a lot of Xb1's features, but I think Microsoft are being very forward thinking. Not everything about the hardware is horrible.

        You can give them credit for that all right, looking to the future.

    Only 358 days until E3!

      It's all about Gamescon & TGS now ;)

      Last edited 17/06/13 1:38 pm

      ...and only 3000 (give or take) until the next console launch!!

    I think one of the fundamental flaws with Microsoft's vision is that it is one of the future. I will grant them that they are seeing how the future will change in gaming, but as gamers, we have pretty simple needs from the console we are playing our games on. We want to turn it on, power up a game and then play it for an unspecified time, that is pretty much it.
    Microsoft's vision for the XBox One is a solution looking for a problem. The Wii U Gamepad is in a similar boat. Sure Nintendo themselves have used it as a tool for many aspects of their games but their party games are where it really shines, which is almost proof that the ideas aren't big enough to fill a stand alone game. A Pokemon Snap 2U though, the console is built for it, make it happen.
    Judging by the steps that Microsoft is taking to future-proof themselves, my guess is that they have no real desire to release another console generation (short of some major advances in tech related only peripherally to gaming) and while the future the XBox One is being built for may eventuate in 5 or so years, right now, in the present, it doesn't affect us, it only hinders us.
    Both Sony and Nintendo can probably see where Microsoft are going with the XBox One and have likely said "we will cross that bridge when we get to it"

      Agree with you Nexi, although I think there may be at least another round of consoles from MS though.
      The Sony show was smooth, almost down to Earth (Tretton) at times and polished. Sony showed a variety of games - shooters, racers, RPGs, adventure, platformers etc. To me, their exclusives look like they are worth waiting for - Order 1886 looks great, as does inFamous 2nd Son. Having finished inFamous on PS3, found it underwhelming.. so it was good that 2nd son aroused my interest. There was Vita announcements as well, was very happy about that.

      MS in contrast suffered glitchy / broken presentation. The execs sounded too cocky - although I think Mattrick is incapable of looking or sounding cocky :)
      There was far too much shooter coverage for my liking. The exclusives didn't do anything for me either - I liked Forza, although it looks similar to all others prior. By the time TItan came in, I was well & truly over shooters - Titan looked boring anyway.
      As Nexi said, it really is obvious that MS's machine, certain games, and service offering really are pitched towards the future. Such a shame, because I am happy to play today's games HD up'd for another generation - one gen early for me MS, but we'll see how you go.

      Last edited 17/06/13 2:56 pm

        I remember when Xbox first came on the scene 11 years ago, I distrusted them, I was a console gamer from way back and it seemed like a ploy to assert PC dominance over the console. Well in many respects it was, but PC gaming has a lot of benefits made possible by the internet and to their credit the 360 won me over by taking the best things about the PC platform and integrating it into consoles.

        By contrast, this time around it feels like they are taking the worst things.

        Given the system they've set up - it makes perfect sense to me why you would need a 24 hour check in if games are being loaded to a HDD but are still able to be traded.

        What irks me though is that all of the games will be at the mercy of their servers - and the way they have so casually dismissed the XBLA library I and others have amassed (and I use that word deliberately) saying it won't be available on the new hardware - shows me that when they want to sell their next console (if they even get that chance) they will think nothing of cutting off those games as well.

    Microsoft genuinely intrigued me with its vision for the future
    What is this vision that will benefit the Gamer (outside PR bluffing)?
    I still don't see any real benefits that our current infrastructure can handle or are just a DRM or clever economic tool.
    I really want to understand how games will be better under microsofts vision!
    After all they promised us Ryse as a 1:1 Kinect game @E3 2012 and now its a QTE game!

    I don't know why, but for some reason the whole MS apologist thing bugs me...
    -"It wasn’t that Sony’s product was better; that the exclusives were better, or the hardware."

    Product: Sony's is less restrictive, less DRM is good. Now MS may have TV in theirs... but I buy games consoles for games, I am not some fool who cannot figure out how to work a TV and needs MS to help me, if you want to convince me that the whole TV integration thing is wonderfull do an article on exactly what it does, and how it makes watching tv easier than the remote control currently does, maybe you'll suceed, but all I've heard is that you can watch TV via the xbone (but not in australia at launch, and we may need to buy some device later to use the functionality), and that we can get achievments for watching tv... so with what I currently know I doubt you'll convince me that this is a feature I'll care about. The new kinect may be way better than the old... but I got bored of the old after about half an hour, interesting idea, but the controller was better for gaming.

    Exclusives: My preference is toward the Sony exclusives, but that is just preference and I'm not a Halo fan.

    Hardware: From what I read Sony has slightly better specs, but only slightly. Either way a good gaming PC would probably be faster.. but would also be more expensive (though has more functionality).

    "Hampered by bandwidth, hampered by an aging retail model": I don't really go in for multiplayer, and their Cloud ideas are NOT new there have been companies doing this for ages, heck Sony is doing it for backwards compatibility, and there is absolutely nothing stopping them doing the same thing as MS on the PS4 later if they wish to, and just treating it as they will be the backwards compatibility. MS are not "hampered" by the existing retail model, they just don't like it anymore and so want to change in the hope of making more money, thats fine, they are allowed to do that.. but those who were happy with it are equally entitled to get bent out of shape with MS shaking things up in this way.

    MS made a bunch of decisions that the gaming public just didn't care for, either they should have considered doing some/more research prior to making these changes (if they expected things to go different), or they just don't care and expect gamers will just buy into their model (and we will, just not at first... as they get a decent number of "must have" exclusives people will buy in... but it will be hard for the xbone till then.)

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