If you’ve kept up with video game news, by now you are familiar with the proverbial smoke and mirror show that E3 tends to be. With promises of cutting edge consoles that are barely more powerful than the last gen to bullshots and “gameplay” on dev PCs to make false expectations of what the end product will look like. I say all this, with valid reason, and yet this E3 has me cautiously optimistic.
It almost feels as if publishers and developers are starting to realize that gamers watch E3 as well. It seemed, overall, that there was an actual honest attempt to make people interested in the games shown. I just hope that this trend continues, as the last few E3s have mostly been a lot of “Why bother?” It’s that attitude that causes a disconnect between the core audience of gamers and the companies we know and love. I feel like a few moves could be made toward making E3 an overall better experience for both presenters and viewers alike.
If I may, I’d like to make a few suggestions for what could be done to change this.
A great first start to salvaging corporate to consumer communication would be to only show gameplay. We’re tired of over-hyped trailers with dubstep and Mt. Dewritos plastered all over it. What I care about — something I think most gamers keep at a higher importance — is how a game plays. Without a good idea of what a game is going to look like in action, I don’t know if I want to spend money on it. Games like Anno 2205 show off what they call gameplay, but there’s no real person interacting with it. If there was, we’d know better what the game plays like. Sadly, Ubisoft wasn’t willing to take a risk with that and instead showed off a video that they said was a save file of an employee, but it was always the same paths, the same planned time-lapse to show off what their game might look like. Compare that to Platinum Games with Transformers: Devastation. They showed actual game play, and stuck to what they knew people wanted to see: A tight combat system with a realistic representation of the art style and game play. I am more inclined to buy the Transformers game now because of this fact. I know what I’m buying and what it’s going to look like in action.
Another step that should be taken is a bigger focus on including the public in the show. The biggest driving force behind video game sales, and the industry as a whole, are consumers. Without having a focus on your audience, you turn something that could be a great way to forge bonds with your community and exchange that for what is basically a beauty pageant. We, the gamers, care about what you’re showing. We want to be there to experience it for us. Not vicariously through somebody that is paid to be there and sticks to a very strict script. If you want genuine interest in your games and your idea, bring back the public. The best marketing is word-of-mouth, hands down. You want more people talking about things well after E3? Let us in. We’ll do the hard work for you. Not to mention it’s a good way for consumers to hold companies accountable. If something is clearly suspect, the public will know about it one way or another. Rather than play the weak position of hoping to cover it up by making an event press only, own up to your mistakes as companies. Be honest with your customers; we promise we’ll try to understand.
That being said, there are also those who are of the opinion that E3 is antiquated. Like a proverbial Old Yeller, it needs to be taken out back and dealt with. Some companies have been out of touch with the core audience for a very long time. A lot of the things shown are the usual suspects of trailers with nothing of substance. We’re tired of the same shallow promises that ultimately are just empty hype. It’s a shame that companies in this day and age of such advance technology are so ashamed of their product that they hide it behind CGI trailers that look nothing like the final game. It breaks my heart that companies feel the pressure of “better” graphics as a tool to be used for marketing. Showing off a development build with higher resolution assets and filtering is not only a shame, but it just goes to show how little faith companies have in their own ideas. It destroys the confidence we had in that company or that product. I don’t want to play a game that looked amazing in the footage but gets an overall downgrade because of the limitations of the hardware that happens to be the lead development platform. It’s a cheap trick and a great way to break down the connection of trust that to consumers is so important.
I feel like E3 can be saved, but it’s going to take a lot of effort from the show runners and the companies that attend. I feel like it can go back to being an important place to interface with the audience. They took a good first step when allowing 5,000 fans to attend this year, but who was invited? E3 would do well to open this event back to the public at large. That’s how viral marketing works. Get people excited, get them in there to actually play your developing games, and let them form their own opinions based on merit. Not the heavily groomed and carefully calculated show that amounts to little more than stage magic. We want to buy your products, but you have to be honest with us. We can tell if something is going to be quality or be a flop. Interface with the public more and you could get a better idea of what your fans and consumers want.
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