Opinion: E3, and the importance of press conferences
by Robert Workman, shacknews.com, Jun 2, 2014 12:45PM PDT
Every year, the Electronic Entertainment Expo not only draws press members from around the world, but also millions of gamers who turn to websites to get the latest information from the show about their favorite franchises, as well as upcoming games that should be on their radar. It's a huge event, and a vital one for most game companies, as it allows them to get a foothold on how the next fiscal year will shape up.
This year is an especially important one to the "big three"--Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. For Nintendo, it's "do or die" time for the Wii U, an opportunity to introduce projects that will entice people to purchase the system, while at the same time drumming up big franchises like Super Smash Brothers. For Microsoft, it's catch-up time with the PlayStation 4, as it plans to introduce some big games for the Xbox One, including the recently announced Halo 5: Guardians. And for Sony, it hopes to keep its consistency when it comes to the PlayStation 4's dominance--although a little more love for the PS Vita wouldn't hurt.
So where does the importance lie with these three companies when it comes to press conferences? Let's take a look at each one.
Obviously, Nintendo doesn't need to worry about the press conference front because it isn't having one. After having a bomb of a show two years ago that revolved around NintendoLand, it opted to do virtual presentations through the Internet instead. Last year wasn't bad as far as presenting new projects and news, but this year, it needs to try harder.
We've already heard what Nintendo is up to from a video released a few weeks ago, made in conjunction with the team at Mega64. A humorous piece focusing on Fils-a-Mech (a comical take on Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime), the video also informed the public about a Super Smash Brothers tournament, as well as live broadcasts from the show and, as usual, a digital event to reveal new games.
This could be big for Nintendo, but only if done the right way. The Smash Brothers tournament will go a long way towards reinforcing its place in the fighting market, and hopefully become embraced by tournaments like EVO. It's a good change of pace for Nintendo, who usually shied away from officially taking part in said tournaments, only to have a change of heart that seems to have paid off. This is a crucial time for the franchise, especially considering the six month gap between the 3DS and Wii U releases.
Speaking of Wii U, the company needs to use this year to evangelize the system if it wants it to succeed. As mentioned, a price drop would do the trick, but gamers want new titles as well. Nintendo has a wide stable of beloved franchises, so bringing them back would certainly go a long way towards winning gamers' hearts. We've also caught wind of the company introducing NFC figurines similar to Skylanders, which will also bank on its recognizable characters.
Though industry-watchers clamor for new franchises, Nintendo seems most likely to double down on its existing ones. It would be a safe, but potentially successful move if done right. It may not have a big stage show anymore, but with the right moves, the company may be able to return to greatness.
Microsoft already has some momentum going into E3, with the introduction of a Kinect-free Xbox One model and revised Games with Gold. But those moves were somewhat responsive to Sony's market dominance. Sony made a very public show of differentiating itself from Microsoft last year, in a press conference that was almost a point-by-point refutation of Microsoft's moves at the time. The company should be hungry to get its mind-share back.
With price parity secured, games are the necessary ingredient. Some of the games that have come out thus far have been excellent, but more are needed to keep up with Sony's flow of releases aided by its indie initiatives. Microsoft needs to announce both strong AAA titles as well as downloadable games and indie releases that attract multiple types of audiences.
This year will obviously be all about Halo, between the announcement of Guardians and a rumored new Master Chief collection with all four games in one package. Those two games can't carry the whole weight themselves, so Microsoft will have to make a bigger show of indie affection along with some new surprises to capture interest.
Oh, and Microsoft, new Battletoads please. Thanks.
Sony already has some strong energy going into E3, having moved seven million PlayStation 4's sold worldwide and plenty of games going for it. The last thing it should do is halt that momentum, so expect Sony's press conference to bring plenty of thunder.
The company will no doubt reveal some familiar names during its show, like Uncharted (with actual gameplay, hopefully). It also seems high-time for a new entry in the God of War series. However, what it really needs to do is surprise--and it's a straight bet that The Last Guardian will be that surprise. This on-again, off-again project has been on fans' lips for years, and the company hasn't really shown an update. If it can finally reveal it at E3 for PlayStation 4, it could really get the attention it deserves.
That's not all, of course. The Order: 1886 should get some multiplayer love, Vita could use some new announcements (including the confirmation of a U.S. release for Vita TV), and some more indie favorites could go a long way. All Sony needs to do is continue business as usual, focusing on the games and giving gamers a reason to own the PS4.
Let's not forget about PlayStation Now, either. This streaming service could help convert a few PS3 fans over to the new system, provided that the company comes up with a fair way to price them so that it doesn't gouge their wallets. We'll likely get to see more of this in action at the show.
To Sum Up…
Honestly, it can be anyone's show. The announcement of a key title or price drop can change the tide of the show in an instant, whether it's based on value, nostalgia or genuine excitement. It's just a matter of seeing what these companies can do to sway the gamers…and chances are all three will bring something special.
Is it June 9th yet?