Reading the hundreds of blogs, news stories, and general comments by people it seems that despite what all the exhibitors thought, E3 was a dud this year.
Never mind Sony launching a new peripheral for the key younger market on their PlayStation 3 console. Forget the fact that Microsoft is launching a new way to unify all our devices on one home console, turning the Xbox 360 into a true, central hub for all members of the family. At this point, there’s no point mentioning Nintendo’s revolutionary new Wii U console and it’s staggering list of launch titles.
Wait. Those all sound like good things! So what the hell gives?
It seems, to me, that the video game industry has been marred not by crappy announcements or lacklustre showcases. The blame for the lack of excitement in the video game industry should be squarely placed with the mainstream media and their investor buddies.
Look; the thing is that people in suits simply do not ‘get’ the video game industry. Cast your minds, if you can, back to 2001. The PlayStation 2 was the best selling console, Microsoft just entered the market with Xbox and Nintendo launched their fourth home console; GameCube.
It was the age of revolution. Graphics were fantastic and allowed us to experience new worlds in vivid detail. Online services were in their infancy and were opening up new gameplay possibilites. Even the sound processors in these new consoles were an exciting glimpse at the fantastic future that awaited us.
Some of the very best games that have ever been made were launched in this generation. Metroid Prime, Okami and Halo stand out as a barely-scratched-the-surface list of examples. Bold, new games with unprecedented gameplay presented in gorgeous detail.
And for a time, it was good.
A generation later and it’s all gone to hell. The success of Nintendo’s Wii forced the owners of E3 to close it’s doors to the public, allowing only journalists to check out the latest games. Wii’s success propelled Nintendo’s share price from somewhere around $15 to over $400 – a move that made lots and lots of people very rich. This took a lot by surprise and suddenly the video game market looked not unlike the technology market – a market where companies like Apple or Facebook will make you very rich, very quickly.
Suddenly, the gamer was the least of anyone’s worries. “How do we get more money?” seems to be the question of the day. Enter micro transactions, ‘free-to-play’, DLC and persistant online. Ads have even started to infiltrate video game worlds!
Simultaneously, journalists are on a quest to find bad news. It must be a euphoric feeling knowing that a few words you bashed together has the ability to wipe millions of dollars off a company’s value. Sadly, the newspapers are still to this day the main place a lot of investors go to get information on their investments.
So what happens when you put a bunch of people hoping to get rich into the same room as a bunch of journalists looking for a bad news day? We see what we witnessed at E3 2012.
Investors do not like to have their own opinion – that’s what analysts are for. Analysts are looking for current and up-to-date information. That’s what journalists are for. Journalists are trying to sell newspapers, and nothing sells like a failure. A pattern emerges; journalist writes a negatively spun article, analysts use this to form an opinion on a company and investors react accordingly.
And after all – it’s hard to expect a journalist to get excited about anything in the video game universe. Like I mentioned before; they just don’t get it. These people don’t play games; and if they do, they do it for money. They don’t go home after a long day of work and fire up The Legend of Zelda to soak in the beautiful atmosphere and lose themselves in the fantastically developed software.
As a gamer, I was excited for E3. And I was excited during E3. Sony is trying to get some younger players on board; that’s great! At what age were you when you first started playing? I know I was probably around 5 years old. I grew up on video games. Young people who grow up with games, remain gamers. The more gamers there are, the more consoles and games we get.
Microsoft’s “SmartGlass” idea is a decent one. Sure, I find it hard to believe we’ll actually be using it for video games, but it has huge implications for other digital content, such as the ability to put “DVD-Style” extras on a digital downloaded movie. Imagine watching a movie while simultaneously engaging in a Google Plus Hangout-type conference with the director. Even something as simple as handling your music playlist on a smart phone while you play your games is a decent enough idea.
And Nintendo. Never before have we ever seen such a strong line up for a new home console. Did you see Ridge Racer on Wii U? Neither did I. That’s a good thing – it means Nintendo are serious about getting a good balance of games at launch. That’s not to say Ridge Racer is a horrible game, but practically every console in history has launched with a Ridge Racer title. Wii U is going to be different from the get-go.
And then there were the games! What we will be playing at the end of this year on all consoles are a distant dream for a 13 year old me. Tomb Raider, Watch Dogs, New Super Mario Bros. U, The Last of US, Halo 4, Zombi U, Assassin’s Creed 3 – the list goes on and on. As gamers, we’re being spoilt.
So was it really that hard to find something that gets us fired up? Of course it wasn’t – but we weren’t invited. We weren’t at the conference where Nintendo showed an exclusive, mature zombie game for their new handheld. We weren’t there when Sony thanked it’s fans for sticking by during hard times. We simply weren’t there.
And those who were walked out, smug, annoyed, uptight. They didn’t understand how cool playing a high definition home console game in the same room as a family who doesn’t want to kill you for missing some episode of Glee. They didn’t understand how Sony’s Wonderbook will help keep this industry alive for another 25 years. They took to their blogs and websites and announced to the world that E3 and all the exhibitors were crap.
I think people’s opinion is very easily swayed. I remember seeing a room of fully grown men break down in tears when The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was announced. Would that have happened if the room was full of investors and journalists? Of course not. Sure, Twilight Princess didn’t go on to be the best selling game of all time – but that wasn’t really the point, was it? If you don’t know what the point was, you’re probably not a gamer.
I’m trying to say here that the video game industry is not a get rich quick avenue. Video games are pieces of art. They need to be appreciated by people who understand what they’re about. Journalists have had their chance – it’s clear that they will never understand what gaming is about. Why any self respecting journalist will inject their opinion into news articles is beyond my comprehension, but that is just the way the world is at the moment I suppose. Investors who abandon ship the day a major video game publisher announces a new generation of video game console are really in the same boat – you lost your money because you don’t get it.
So let’s give back the video game industry to the people who created it – the gamers. When there’s a major announcement, let’s have the gamers front-row-centre. Let’s put investors to the side and journalists at a distant back. I think the roars of the gaming public at a video game announcement would give investors a better insight than some pretentious journalist who is quietly seething at the thought of being stuck at work in LA for a week.
There’s hope for this industry yet – but it’s up to the gamers, not the journalists, to decide it’s fate.