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Ask Gamasutra: The Pre-E3 Edition - optimism and dread

Ask Gamasutra: The Pre-E3 Edition - optimism and dread Exclusive

May 29, 2012 | By Staff




Ask Gamasutra is a monthly column that takes issues from within the video game industry, and poses them as a question to the editorial staff.

In contributing to this article, none of the editors read each other's responses. This is not about collaboration, but about the unique perspective that each individual Gamasutra editor offers.

For our latest edition of Ask Gamasutra, we take a look at E3 2012. The annual show, held by the Entertainment Software Association, has served as center stage for big industry announcements since 1995. Two of Gamasutra's editors have been to 16 E3s each, and most of the staff has been to several E3s over the course of their game journalism careers.

So with all of that E3 experience under our collective belt, our editors answer the two-part question:

What are you most looking forward to at E3? What is it that you dread the most at E3?

[Gamasutra will be providing extensive, in-depth, on-site coverage and analysis of E3 beginning June 4. Keep an eye on our E3 2012 Event Page.]

Christian Nutt
Features Director

Twitter: @ferricide

This is my 16th E3. I've gone beyond the excitement, beyond being bored with it, and on to a sort of serene neutrality. I do fight a losing battle with cynicism at times, though.

What I dread most is the homogeneity of triple-A games. I really fear that things are going to be yet worse this year than last: fewer games, more explosions, no pleasant surprises. Sony's press conference, in particular, was dreadful last year, with its pounding, endless loop of the same game over and over again. Sometimes I think everybody else must be okay with this -- even enthusiastic about it -- and that weirds me out.

It's not just Sony, of course; I can't imagine that any one of the three platform holders will show me a game I wouldn't expect from them. That means it's going to be up to personal taste, which means I'm looking most forward to Nintendo's press conference. I hope somebody has really been given the chance to take the Wii U platform and do something exciting with it -- and also whether or not those chances, if they exist, have been realized. That's what I'd most want to see, on any platform, not just Nintendo's: a developer given a chance to break the mold, and that developer smashing it. And that seems really, really unlikely for E3 2012. What I want is a game that puts a smile on my face. It doesn't seem too much to ask.

Kris Graft
Editor-in-Chief

Twitter: @krisgraft

E3 2012 is one of those crucial E3s that happen at the turn of a hardware cycle, and serve as an indicator of where the industry will be heading in the next couple of years. I'm looking forward to seeing how the industry's biggest annual hype machine has evolved -- or not evolved -- with the changing games landscape.

I don't expect to see three-minute gameplay trailers from the next Facebook resource management game -- E3's still about the big-budget spectacle of triple-A games. But publishers and developers have an opportunity to show how they are adjusting to emerging market opportunities, whether it's Unreal Engine games in a browser, streaming titles through Facebook or high-end tablet games. Digital and online are driving marketing trends, and those areas deserve attention if E3 is to stay relevant.

I always look forward to the first- and third-party press conferences as well, finding out what they've been spending their massive amounts of resources on. Learning more about Wii U, Unreal Engine 4, new hardware and new games is always a nice perk of the job.

What fills me with dread is when, at these media briefings, publishers make bad judgment calls such as Ubisoft's "Mr. Caffeine" from 2011 or Jamie Kennedy's similarly cringe-worthy 2007 Activision appearance. I'm hoping for a little pageantry at E3, but in the end, the games and the products need to speak for themselves. I'm also bracing myself for dubstep.

Leigh Alexander
Editor-at-Large

Twitter: @leighalexander

"Looking forward" to E3 is kind of complicated. I dread the workload, the long days on my feet, the migraine-inducing light, noise and crowd of the show floor.

More specifically, I have some negative feeling about it being the annual monolith driving the marketing hype cycle -- too often I feel that the work of games journalism can come down to battalions of internet writers dutifully passing along whatever glamorous fictions publishers have spent the year working to stage. E3 is precisely engineered to get everyone genuinely excited about products that don't exist yet, and everyone racing to describe them to our readers can feel kinda wrong to me without context. I hate talking about trailers. How much can a movie clip really tell you about a video game, anyway?

That said, the very scale and spectacle that sometimes troubles me also dazzles and awes me, too. It's amazing to see the size and weight of the mainstream games industry up close, and this year it's hard to know what to expect. I most look forward to the big surprises and the early looks at the shape of things to come.

Patrick Miller
Editor, Game Developer magazine

Twitter: @pattheflip

I'm looking forward to seeing the current console game generation looking its best. When everyone starts looking forward to the next generation of consoles, it's easy to miss out on the games that land in the tail end of a generation -- even though those are the ones that find new and creative ways to push familiar hardware harder than ever before.

Not looking forward to: Last year was the year of Threes (Mass Effect, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Gears of War, etc.). Triple-A franchises seem to rarely make it into the fourth installment without a few reboots, HD remakes, spinoffs, side stories, or other excuses to add a colon and a subtitle after the game name, so I'm guessing we're due for a year of Big Games: Now With A Longer Title.

Mike Rose
UK Editor

Twitter: @RaveofRavendale

Probably the game I'm looking forward to seeing more of the most is Grand Theft Auto V (if Rockstar does indeed show it off, which I'd be very surprised if it doesn't). I'm a huge GTA fan and the teaser trailer didn't give me enough, so I want more. Elsewhere, I'm really interested to see what games are announced for the Nintendo 3DS and the Vita. Can the 3DS continue its onward march, and can Sony announce anything real to stop the Vita decline?

I wouldn't say I dread them, but I rarely come away from the main conference showcases (Sony's, Microsoft's etc.) feeling that excited -- the silly play acts they have lined up and the dull 15 minute long playthrough demos aren't my idea of a good time. I'd much rather each company just goes bang-bang-bang, game after game after game, and doesn't treat us like we're 16-year-olds.

Also, I'm going to do a shot every time a PlayStation Move game is announced. I highly doubt I'll be even close to tipsy by the end of the show.

Eric Caoili
News Editor

Twitter: @tinycartridge

As a nut for handheld games, and as the guy who reports on PS Vita hitting new lows every week with its Japanese hardware sales, I'm anxious to see what Sony and publishers have in the works to turn the portable's fortunes around. Hopefully Sony's announcements will lean more toward new and promising software that will instill developer confidence in the system, and not another silly campaign/spokesmodel in the vein of its PSP "Marcus" ads introduced at E3 two years ago.

I'm less excited about the new online services, both subscription and free, built to make games more social and keep players more engaged. I expect plenty of companies to follow Activision's footsteps with Call of Duty Elite, and I'm sure fans of the series these services are attached to will be thrilled [or not! -- Ed], but I personally am not interested in watching publisher after publisher spend a chunk of their presentation time trotting out their game-specific social communities. I'd rather watch Marcus ads.

Tom Curtis
News Editor

Twitter: @thomascurtis

More than anything, I'm looking forward to learning more about the Wii U's software lineup. Ever since Nintendo unveiled the device last year, I haven't quite known how to feel about it. The tablet-like controller is interesting, to be sure, but until we see some real games make use of the hardware, I'm going to reserve judgment. Those tech demos from last year weren't enough to make me a believer.

Just like last generation, Nintendo's in a very interesting spot. It's launching a new console with some largely unproven technology, and now it has to show players why its new device is more than just a quirky novelty. Nintendo struck gold when it debuted Wii Sports as its proof-of-concept for the original Wii, and it'll be very interesting to see how that initial first-party software lineup defines the Wii U. At this E3, Nintendo really needs to show off what its new console is all about, and I can't wait to see what it has up its sleeve.

That said, I expect I won't get to see too much of the Wii U in person, thanks to my least favorite part of E3: the overwhelming crowds. I hardly played anything at the show last year because of all the lines, and I expect it'll be just as crowded in 2012. This year, my plan is to stay away from the major attractions, and instead seek out the obscure, less-trafficked booths on the show floor. I might not get hands-on time with the year's biggest releases, but I think it'll be even more exciting to find something that takes me by surprise!

Frank Cifaldi
News Director

Twitter: @frankcifaldi

I guess this is we're I'm forced to admit that I'm still a kid who wants new toys, and am therefore looking forward to seeing how the Wii U has progressed over the past year. While I'm still a bit skeptical that the tablet controller is worth celebrating as some kind of tool for gameplay innovation, if anyone's going to convince me it's Nintendo. My favorite E3s have been the ones I've walked away from feeling inspired, so I'm hoping Nintendo surprises me into actually wanting to make Wii U games.

As for the latter half of the question, what I'm dreading most is that sinking feeling I have watching footage of Yet Another Shooter during all of the press conferences, and realizing with horror, yet again, that I can't tell them apart anymore.

Alternate, more honest answers: The food trucks at the Sony press conference, the inevitable interview appointment I'm going to miss.

Brandon Sheffield
Sr. Editor Gamasutra; EIC, Game Developer

Twitter: @necrosofty

I'm wondering how social games are going to try to enter this traditionally very core-oriented landscape. I've gotten lots of press requests for social and mobile games I've never heard of, so presumably they're going to be there. It's hard to say I'm looking forward to that, but I'm interested to see how it shakes out!

Definitely looking forward to spending a week in downtown LA, which has some of the best bars, restaurants, and culture in LA county, for my taste. Some folks might think that's sarcasm, but it is not! Also, since I have almost completely stopped paying attention to new game announcements, I look forward to being surprised by what is coming out this year. (Hopefully pleasantly surprised...)

What I'm dreading... the massive crowds are of course a concern, especially the smells that go along with them. Standing in line to play a game I'm only halfway interested in (so I can talk to the creator later) while a guy breathes hotdog stink down my neck is not going to be a fun time. But you take the good with the bad! Aside from that, my least favorite element of industry events is the smalltalk, but I think I've gotten used to that by now. Stick to key phrases like "so what have you seen at the show?" and you can get out unscathed.

Chris Morris
Editor-at-Large

Twitter: @MorrisatLarge

This will be E3 number 16 for me -- and while I always read people complaining about the show at this time of year, I never understand how you can't be excited to attend. Yes, it's exhausting -- I expect a series of five 20-hour days by the time all's said and done. Yes, it's crowded. But it's also a chance to not only see what's next for this industry, it's a show that offers a few sneak peeks about what lies further down the road.

I'm looking forward to seeing Bungie's "Destiny" make its debut and can't wait to see how Nintendo has refined the Wii U. And I hope we'll see some game utilizing Unreal Engine 4, since it appears Microsoft and Sony are going to keep their next generation powder dry.

What do I dread? Well, the exhaustion is kind of a drag, but that's the ride we all signed up for. Honestly, it's scheduling that kills me. It's incredibly stressful trying to fit the puzzle pieces together and guessing what constitutes a good gamble of your time, versus something you can bypass. And politely shooting down meeting requests -- even ridiculous ones -- is an art form.


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