luke kalamar looks at the world famous video game conference …
Ever since the Nintendo Entertainment System hit the shelves in 1983 and became one of the best-selling consoles of all time, video games have had a place in billions of homes world wide. The once struggling game industry became a true force to be reckoned with and people began to flock to the industry for success. It wasn’t long until companies like Sega put themselves into the home console market, and technology industry titans Microsoft and Sony joined in a few years later. In our highly technological and constantly connected age, every single thing a game company does is breaking news. On one hand, it’s incredibly difficult to keep anything a secret. On the other, it’s very easy to get the public excited for a new game on a moments notice. Back during the early days however, before the mass popularity of the Internet and constantly updated news stories, getting quick word out about new game updates was no where near as easy. Advertisements existed and some trade fairs were around, but there was a desperate need for something bigger, better, and ONLY about the games.
It was in 1996 when that “something” finally came around in the form of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 as it is better known. For 17 years now, major video game industry companies would flock to the Los Angeles Convention Center to strut their stuff and show what they have in the pipeline. It is the biggest moment of the year for companies to get the public excited about the upcoming future in gaming. As of this writing, E3 is on its last day of 2013 and all of the news is still fresh. It is for this reason that I’m doing a special “Remembering the Classics” and won’t talk about a singular game or series. Today I’m going to talk about this immensely popular convention that has become synonymous with the gaming industry.
When E3 first came around in 1996, the fourth-generation of consoles was wrapping up and a whole new generation was beginning. The Sega Saturn was already gaining popularity, Nintendo had started to move on to the Nintendo 64, the much less popular SNK unveiled their Neo Geo CD, and Sony had officially declared that they were entering the video game market with the PlayStation. Nintendo also used this time to show the public its Virtual Boy system, which would prove to be one of the company’s biggest failures. Future hits like Ridge Racer, Virtua Fighter, and Panzer Dragoon first made their appearance at this show and contributed to the success of the first ever E3. Every year after that, game companies would use E3 to showcase titles that would become legendary in the eyes of billions. Massive hits like Final Fantasy VII, StarCraft, Metal Gear Solid, and many, many others first made their appearance at E3 over its lifetime. If you wanted to know about the hottest games coming out in the near future, E3 quickly became THE convention to watch.
E3 hasn’t been without its problems however. As technology became more advanced and the entire world slowly became one connected network, some developers started to wonder if E3 was even worthwhile. Attendance started to drop following E3 2005, despite that convention being used to debut the seventh and current generation of consoles, and it kept dropping for a couple of years. It got to the point where people began to declare that E3 was a dead conference and a lifeless shell of its former self. It’s hard not to think that way when E3 2008 only had about 5,000 in attendance, a far cry from the 70,000+ that attended in years prior. This immense drop in attendance is widely blamed on the decision to restructure E3 back in 2007, but the fact that attendance was already dropping before the restructuring began suggests that there were many more factors in play.
Despite this drop in attendance and people wondering if E3 is even worth it anymore, the convention has really bounced back over the years. The original format returned in 2009 and more and more people return to Los Angeles every year. E3 2013 is easily one of the biggest and most exciting E3’s in years because it’s on the precipice of a brand new generation of consoles. The last time this happened was back in 2005, but this one is clearly a massive step up in comparison. Both Sony and Microsoft used this E3 to show off their fancy new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, along with an incredibly massive library of games. Even though Nintendo’s Wii U was already available during Holiday 2012, they too have used this E3 to showcase their rapidly growing library. Each company brought their A-game and threw more punches than ever before. Sony, for example, went to great lengths to shame Microsoft on their used/shared games policy and DRM restrictions to enormous praise. The brief tutorial video “How To Share Games On The PS4” is probably one of the funniest things the company has ever done. This is just one of the few non-game examples of how this E3 is the most memorable in years.
Speaking of games, that’s what E3 is all about right? The games shown this year are some of the best I have ever seen in quite a long time. Previously mentioned titles like Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, InFamous: Second Son, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Battlefield 4 got extensive coverage with interviews, new trailers, and full gameplay videos. The games look absolutely beautiful and incredibly fun. We also saw the first footage of previously teased titles like Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS, featuring the likes of Mega Man and the Female Wii Fit Trainer, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, and The Walking Dead: 400 Days, much to the delight of many viewers. As if that’s not enough, developers went even a step further by unveiling a brand new Star Wars: Battlefront series, making the long gestating Final Fantasy versus XIII into Final Fantasy XV, and showing Kingdom Hears III, one of the most desired games of all time, for the first time ever. The excitement is so palpable you can taste it across the country.
The last time I was this excited following an E3 conference was many, many years ago. I remember being a huge fan before the 2007 restructuring and then almost completely tuning the event out following that. Sure I checked out some of the games they unveiled, but I stopped making an effort to actually watch it live or even care about what was coming out. Plus, I would have already heard about what I wanted through online news stories and many commercials. Things are completely different now and I couldn’t be happier. The systems look amazing, the games look to be some of the strongest in many years, and watching the show live was actually exciting again. To be honest, I’m even considering pre-ordering one of the upcoming systems. This is something I’ve never done or cared to do before, so the fact that I’m actually thinking about it as an option is a huge deal for me. It’s great to see that E3 is back to how it used to be and I can’t wait to experience this coming generation of consoles first hand.