Pour one out for what was once the biggest video game showcase on the planet. On Thursday, The Entertainment Software Association, the organisation that manages the Electronic Entertainment Expo, formally announced it was cancelling both E3’s digital and physical event for 2023. It’s the second year in a row that organisers fully cancelled the once-largest video game expo in the world, and we still have not had any kind of live-in person E3 since 2019.
Most major publishers, including Nintendo, Ubisoft, Microsoft, and Sony, had all previously declared they were not going to attend E3, so it’s still unclear what this bodes for any future E3 showcases. The 2021 all-digital event was no different than a press conference straight from a publisher’s own feeds, which seems to have given publishers ideas.
The big publishers have finally realised that they can stay safe in the cubby holes of their own PR departments. Now, with regular updates like the occasional Nintendo Direct getting as much hype as any E3 showcase, why should the publishers have to stick their neck out for public displays which, in the past, have gone so entertainingly wrong?
Let’s look back through the years at some of our favourite E3 moments, including the cool, the exciting, the sometimes sweet, but mostly the utterly deranged. It was those intense displays of both heartfelt joy and real incompetence that made tuning into E3 every year such an interesting time, which is something we will definitely miss.
Sony 1995 E3 demo and the first PlayStation
E3 in 1995 looks very, very different from its later, much more boisterous and money-suffused demonstrations. Though even back then, the gaming execs were getting pretty gutsy. After sharing just another one of Sony’s infamously trippy commercials, Sony exec Olaf Olaffson showed a purposefully dull slideshow, then PlayStation lead for the U.S. Steve Race strolled up on stage and said “$US299 ($415)” before walking off. In that move, Sony showed that its premier console would cost $US100 ($139) less than the competing Sega Saturn, marking it as one of the most affordable options for next-gen gaming.
Reggie Fils-Aime became the suit every Nintendo fan knew
“My name is Reggie. I’m about taking names. I’m about kicking arse, and I’m about making games.” This is how the public face of Nintendo introduced himself to the public at the 2004 E3. At first glance, the man who would revamp Nintendo of America’s public image looked like any one of thousands of men in suits, but his aggressive and at times direct verbal jabs at Sony and Microsoft made him a standout. Some fans started calling him the “Regginator,” a word that stuck with him throughout his career until he resigned as Nintendo of America president in 2019.
Wii would like to play
Nintendo went bold for the seventh console generation. Sure, the motion controls weren’t nearly as functional as advertised in its first demonstrations, but the Wii went cheaper while other parties went more expensive. More than that, the Nintendo Wii made full backward compatibility with the Gamecube a selling point.
The big PS3 price reveal
The 2006 Sony press conference was perhaps the most infamous of E3’s long history. The nearly two-hour-long showcase detailing the PS3 was awash in poor planning and even worse execution. It took up until the very end to learn the most mocked aspect of the console: its price tag. The $US599 ($832) 60-gigabyte model was a steep asking price compared to its contemporaries, though there was still high demand for the console at launch.
‘Giant enemy crab’
One of the best things about E3 has long been just how ill-prepared some developers are when showcasing their games. The 2006 Sony display of Genji: Days of the Blade would inevitably become one of the most famous examples of spokespeople who do not understand their own product. Case in point: right after the spokesperson declared how realistic the game was, a kaiju-sized crab jumped out on screen.
The entire Genji demo was such a big example of cringe that “you attack its weak point for massive damage” and “real time weapon change” has lasted far longer than memory of the game itself.
There’s nothing like poor Sony Corporation VP Kaz Hirai standing there awkwardly while the PSP struggles to boot up. “This brings back memories” he says again and again as the camera zooms in on his hands. We’ve all been there during incredibly awkward school reports in front of the class, but Hirai shows a superhuman ability to not break as his game sluggishly boots in front of thousands of people watching in-person and online.
‘My body is ready.’
Fils-Aime had even more antics in store for the E3s following his debut. During the 2007 demonstration of the Wii Balance Board, the Nintendo of America president got up on stage, stood in front of the board like an awkward slab of concrete, shrugged and said the magic, memeable words “my body is ready.”
The day Jamie Kennedy ruined Activision
Comedian Jamie Kennedy would later try to describe why his jokes landed so flat at Activision’s conference. At the time, he said he honestly didn’t know much or anything about the company’s gaming slate save for the Tony Hawk: Pro Skater franchise. He also claims he was told another actor was supposed to host the conference, but he got roped into the gig later.
The 2008 Wii Music showcase falls flat
“All right, bring the house down.”
‘Well BAM, there it is:’ The Microsoft Kinect didn’t connect
The Microsoft Kinect was supposed to be Xbox’s answer to motion controls, but the company’s first demonstration of the technology was less than stellar. The device itself and the technology behind it did last far longer than the Wii or PlayStation Move controllers, despite how mocked it was at the time.
That time Sony’s PS4 was praised for doing the bare minimum
For the eighth console generation, Microsoft was setting itself up for a fall. The company previously announced that the Xbox One would tie games to a console using DRM. Sony saw this, and decided to tackle its competitor at its E3 conference. It told the crowd that its games would be self-contained units, and that you could sell them or share them however you wanted. The crowd blew up in excitement, but just a few years later, we’re still talking about DRM and always-online aspects of games. In that way, it’s good to look back and see how the most basic aspects of ownership cannot be taken for granted in this industry.
Ubisoft’s Davide Soliani receives praise from his Nintendo idol
It was one of the most heartbreakingly sweet moments of all of E3 history. Davide Soliani, the creative director for Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle!, grew up a fan of Nintendo and its longtime lead Shigeru Miyamoto. So when Miyamoto called out and thanked “Davide-san” at the 2017 E3, the man could not hold back his tears. Moments like this are so rare in the game industry, that it makes the hole that E3 could leave that much greater.
Devolver Digital’s showcases
In the latter years of E3’s time on this earth, the publisher Devolver Digital perfected the art of spoofing the obscenity of gaming hype. DD’s 2017 conference was easily their best, especially for how unexpected it was to the gaming press at the time. According to Devolver Digital heads in an interview with Polygon, the now-classic showcase came together last minute, but it and its 2018 conference are still incredibly entertaining, even though we no longer have anything like it for the company to mock.
Ikumi Nakamura is what E3 should become
2019 was the last year we had an in-person E3. The 2021 digital-only conference wasn’t nearly as eccentric or excessive as in previous years, and former Ghostwire: Tokyo creative director Ikumi Nakamura is a good example why. Her on-stage antics during the Bethesda conference were some of the most genuine seen at the Electronic Entertainment Expo yet.
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