I have covered my fair share of E3 shows. In fact, this year show marks my eleventh journey through the halls of E3. During that time, I have seen good shows and I have seen bad shows. This years' E3 was neither great nor horrible. It featured one big surprise, bad showings from all three major console press conferences, and a ton of very solid games. If I had to describe E3 in a simple phrase, I would refer to it as a "Solid Working Show." Lets take a look back at E3 2008 and then look forward to what should happen with the show in the future.
E3 began with a bang on Monday with the Microsoft and EA press conferences. I don't want to recap both of the press conferences--as we have covered them elsewhere. To summarize to the two press conferences: EA showcased a ton of great games and delivered them in a wonderful way at the Orpheum. Microsoft had great titles to show. However, they didn't reveal any AAA exclusive titles. The titles they showcased were largely available for other platforms. They did, however, steal the spotlight of the show by announcing a deal to bring Final Fantasy XIII to the Xbox 360 in North America and Europe on day one. More surprising than the FF13 announcement was the horrible redesign of the Xbox 360 interface and the bold claim that the console war was over for this generation.
Sony and Nintendo followed on day two. Nintendo was by far the most disappointing showing of E3. They spoke in very arrogant tones as they boasted of the large number of consoles they have sold in just 20 months with Wii on the market. They were also proud of the fact that they have released several low-budget DS games that have continued to sell well to date. Yes, it is true that Nintendo is doing well financially. However, E3 is normally centered to the hardcore gamer. So Nintendo did something to please them, right? No. Nintendo said they cared about the hardcore but never offered a single First Party title to cater to this group. This is the first time in E3 history that Nintendo has not revealed a game for the most die hard Nintendo fan.
Sony, on the other hand, had a lot of games to show. But the most important thing for them was to respond to the bold claims that Microsoft had made about their victory in this generation. Sony failed to discuss this, argue against it, or even comment. In addition, they remained completely silent about Final Fantasy XIII going to the Xbox 360. Sony did show some great titles but their press conference was not structured very well and it was slightly dull. Kaz also did not make an appearance. This made the event feel very unimportant.
Later that very same day Activision had their own special press conference in an old church. The big highlight of that event was the new 007 game and Guitar Hero World Tour. Unfortunately with Guitar Hero World Tour, you are getting a another set of new instruments and will have to figure out how to store them. The good news is that the game looks very challenging and fun. This is similar to how Guitar Hero III was different than Rock Band. However, it appears that all prior DLC will not be compatible with the new game.
E3 2008 brought very few surprises but offered the press additional looks at titles already seen earlier in the year. But will this be the last show? I spoke to several journalists and almost every single one of them wants this to be the last E3. That, however, would be a mistake and I think the Publishers know this to be true. If there is no E3, the press do not have a central place to gather to cover the big press conferences and any smaller publication will be forced out of the industry. If you force out the independent publications, then you will eventually have poor coverage that is easier to control and harder to trust.
I like to refer to E3 as a necessary evil. Yes, it is a pain in the butt to go out to another event. But necessary for the reasons I mentioned above. Is E3 perfect? Not at all. I think we should definitely look at how to tweak the show and make it a better experience and value. The best way to do this is to move it back to May so companies can make big announcements here again. Other ways would be to open up the show floor to regular attendees and have all press visit companies in suite rooms upstairs—away from the public. Whatever, they decide, our industry needs E3 and without it, coverage will suffer.