It’s a new world; it’s a new day. E3 2015 has come and went, for those of us just watching the streams. While those trapped at the convention center have several more days of booths and parties and showings the big messages to the masses have been sent out. Fallout 4 is happening.
(It’s sold out? Shit.)
Fallout 4, though, is something we found out was happening a week plus before the Electronic Entertainment Expo media explosion began. Ostensibly this was the solution to a problem inherent in the formula: if you invite dozens of developers to show off the best looking bits of their games no one title can really shine. The problem we have is that the gaming medium has so blown up as the media people pay for and talk about and consume and pay for that we now live in a much different game world than years past.
At the presser for Sony we not only had the announcement of a Kickstarter but a CGI trailer for a remake of a game from almost 20 years ago that leaves viewers guessing just how much effort has gone in to this new game.
The event was filled with publishers writhing out every possible rationale for the continued slump of their platforms. Nintendo, who sadly have already announced their efforts at a new console, couldn’t produce much of truly interesting content beyond Mario Maker. Microsoft, who seem to have forgotten entirely about being a machine for the future of entertainment, are releasing rehashes of Rare’s library and making sure players have a Halo and Gears experience for this holiday season(leaving spectators to wonder just what year this is-checking my watch it clearly says 2015). Sony probably pushed themselves in the worst position having to both launch a game that’s been completely silent for more than half a decade and set off a Kickstarter for a new Shenmue.
The problem being that this handful of big games completely silences out other titles. Some games, like those Sony’s program showed, intoned an infancy of completion. While others, like Nintendo, didn’t really show well to the wider market. The most interesting event though has to of been the PC panel show, where it came to light that a lot of the big games were also coming to PC. So the big conferences couldn’t even fill the show with actual exclusives. While we all want the console wars to die down, or at times we want them to, in general they give us better games though the competition.
But now gaming is a more fractured space. Throughout Sony’s show I kept hoping they’d show more small JRPGs or give games a showing that would release by year’s end not these big titles all due out in 2016. With Nintendo, though they were amazing about showing off titles for both their devices and generally having a sense of actual fun throughout the event, there was this odd specter of the “NX” over the whole show. “Is this the last show before the announcement? Will next year be the last year?” Traditionally showing off a new console hurts the old one, even if it’s the state of the art device(as gaming consoles always are). But for fans of the Wii U the NX is like this vexing proposition. Though the system seems to have avoided the Saturn situation we all know in our heart of hearts that the system probably won’t ever get a chance to really shine.
There is a difference though versus how the conference spins it’s greatest announcements and how this really plays out in the living rooms and basements and computer room nooks and man caves. Square Enix’s presentation was interesting, but at the same time I came away from it wishing they showed a bit more of the JRPGs they have coming out. Not that it wasn’t an interesting presentation in that department, but they are in the situation where they have known games coming out but not release dates. But like every other show the release dates were apparently a secret to everybody.
This really was the first time it hit me how ill-prepared the press seems to be about showcasing these slightly less massive games on the periphery. When so many big games demand so much attention the smaller titles really seem to get lost. Honestly E3 is rife with possibilities for new media types. Of interest to me this year was the growth of 1st party broadcasts in the vein of last year’s Treehouse broadcast. While the actual press events themselves might feel theatrical at best and hollow at worst most games seemed to bring gameplay to streams.
As much as the big announcements can make a person feel like something is really happening, they also clued me in to why so many games seem to not really worry about them. Persona 5 for instance didn’t go crazy at this E3. While the game is definitely something to go crazy for there was just too much competition from other games. E3 has created a media extravaganza. It’s an event. But how media is consumed is changing and it’s going to be interesting to see how this starts to change. The disrupting effect of technology has really started to kick in.