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So, who really won E3 2014's conference battle?

E3 2014 is one of the best in years. In terms of the sheer volume of brilliant, exciting games shown at the conference, it’s an absolute bonanza of excellence. Doesn’t matter that many of them are skipping 2014, doesn’t matter that a bunch of expected games were missing: this E3 is vintage. But who impressed the most? I’m sure you have your own opinion, but here are some of my observations on the show so far.

Microsoft kicked things off on Monday, and showed a whopping 36 games in 90 minutes. It was a breath-taking display of eagerness from a console maker desperate to reclaim its core audience from Sony. And many of the games it showed are class acts: Rise Of The Tomb Raider, COD Advanced Warfare, Crackdown, Assassin’s Creed Unity… even Halo: Master Chief Collection is exciting in an ‘already-played-it’ kind of way. 

So all good, right? Well, not quite. Microsoft showed so many games, so fast, that it’s tough to recall any real highlights. The common consensus seems to be that ‘Microsoft showed a load of games’, not that ‘Microsoft really impressed with X, Y, and Z’. I absolutely applaud the Xbox One owner for showing such a strong dedication to ‘proper games’, but I also worry that it has ignored forward planning and strategic vision in favour of quick-fix thrills. Microsoft said nothing of how Xbox One will evolve over the coming years, and it ignored Kinect entirely. I’m no fan of Kinect, but it’s worrying how fast Microsoft is willing to abandon key aspects of its console strategy to satisfy the vocal corners of the Internet.

Still, a strong showing from Microsoft, and it looks like the company has (so far) avoided the clangers that plagued its E3 2013… Not sure the same can be said for EA. The home of Battlefield and Mass Effect had the most inconsistent showing of all the press conferences. Battlefield Hardline and Dragon Age Inquisition are both resounding ‘thumbs up’, but EA was far too vague on Mass Effect and whatever the hell Criterion is working on. Its sports line-up looks strong, but its tough to get excited about the slight improvements most seem to be making in this new console generation. 

Ubisoft, however, really impressed. For me, they’re right up there with Sony as one of the ‘winners’ of E3. The French publisher has a fantastic mix of games, and showcased a slick combination of well-produced trailers and impressive gameplay demos. Assassin’s Creed Unity and Far Cry 4 are nailed-on hits for 2014, and Rainbow Six: Siege is one of the most exciting reveals of the show. Plus, Aisha Tyler continues to be the Ace up Ubi’s sleeve when it comes to presentation. There wasn’t even an attempt to get us excited about endless Rabbids spin-offs this year: it was all quality games. Ok, maybe the bearded hipster dancing thing was a bit weird…

Next-up was Sony--the second of the ‘big three’ console conferences. Confidence is sky-high at Sony, and that was perfectly reflected in its balanced, exciting show. Core games impressed (hat tip to LittleBigPlanet 3, Bloodborne, Mortal Kombat X, and GTA 5), indies were well represented, and we got a good feel for where Sony is taking the whole PlayStation console family. 

And that really is crucial. It’s obvious that Sony has a plan, and it isn’t just about games--it’s about VR, PSN, Vita, TV and all kinds of other things. However, this vision doesn’t come at the expense of games; they live side-by-side, complementing each other. Hey, I’m not saying everything is going to be brilliant. Project Morpheus could be a total flop like PS Move, and Vita is essentially just a peripheral for PS4 now--it’s not all smiles and sunshine. But Sony’s show left me with the biggest feeling of confidence that console gaming is in safe hands.

Finally, Nintendo showed its hand via digital event on Tuesday. It’s clear that there’s a huge cultural and technological divide between Nintendo and the other console makers (and PC). There are positives and negatives to take away from this. It’s apparent that Nintendo is laser-targeted at its own zealous fanbase: from the introduction of Miis and Palutena to Smash Bros, right through to the Captain Toad and Yoshi spin-offs, Ninty is out to please hardcore fans. However, that comes at the expense of variety, and the kind of games likely to win them new Wii U buyers. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand Nintendo’s appeal unless you have a long, loving history with its consoles--they’re becoming ever more inward-looking, and detached from other game makers.

New Zelda was the highlight of Nintendo’s show but, frustratingly, it lacked the kind of solid details and exciting features to make a massive impact. Plus, 2015 seems an awful long time to wait for a killer game on a struggling console… Perhaps the most promising idea from Ninty was Amiibo, the Skylanders-style NFC toys designed to corner the ‘Mummy, can I have a Mario figurine, pleeeeeease!’ market. They could well bankroll Nintendo until a new console arrives to compete with PS4 and Xbox One… if that’s even a thing. Nintendo is becoming so detached, it may eventually eschew traditional console gaming entirely.

So, who ‘won’ E3 2014? It’s such a massive cliché, but we--the players--have won by a mile. Pretty much every digital preference is catered for, from whimsical indie games that defy categorisation, to meat-and-potatoes shooters. There are great games for 2014, 2015, and beyond because the focus really has been placed on the players this year. Yeah, don’t worry--I know that’s a bit of a cop-out, here comes the stuff you can all grumble about in the comments…

Putting on my personal-preference hat (which looks a little like a posh, jazz-era top hat), I’d say that Sony and Ubisoft absolutely smashed it. Of all the conferences, they were the most confident, balanced, and forward-looking. With real verve and swagger, they showed the titles that really made me sit up and pay attention-- Far Cry 4, Rainbow Six: Siege, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, LBP3--the ones that made me truly excited for the next 12 months of gaming. 

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19 comments

  • mari-fernandez - June 13, 2014 11:45 a.m.

    Nintendo surprised me this year, Legend of Zelda, Bayonetta, Yoshi Wooly World, Super Smash Bros, Xenoblade, Splatoon, Mario Maker, Hyrule Warriors, Star Fox and announcing a new Metroid!!!
  • Jackonomics2.0 - June 12, 2014 10:16 p.m.

    Really depends on how you look at it: -Microsoft had better momentum, but no actual big games aside from Kamiya's new IP and Crackdown rebooted. -Sony was good and constant, but it broke down and it stalled for way too long. As for Nintendo, they did impressively well showing info on previously announced games, their NFC, new games, Zelda,a tech demo of Star Fox thats really early and new IP's, combined to be even better with the rest of the E3 days with their livestreams and other announcements not exclusive to the event, making them arguably the bigger presence throughout E3. Its a just shame people are ignoring their 2 new IP's and then people will bitch why Nintendo isnt making new IP's. Seriously that squid spray loli shooter thing is one of the more imaginative shooters i have seen in years, well besides Garden Warfare that is. Tie really, but this year was flat out awesome.
  • Yahaire - June 12, 2014 11:40 p.m.

    Sir, you speak the words of reason!
  • BladedFalcon - June 12, 2014 7:59 p.m.

    I think this E3 was far more balanced in regards of the "big 3" companies, I think all of them did good, but none of them did GREAT. In terms of Pace Microsoft was probably the best, Sony's was great in the first half, but powers and talk of statistics hampered the momentum drastically. Some of their announcements were awesome... but I still feel they needed at least one more big exclusive to truly seal the deal... I mean, what the fuck is Sony Santa Monica doing right now? As for Nintendo, I definitely they did leagues better than last year, but I also thing they are still in the same route, for better or worse, they are focused mainly on the Nintendo properties we all love and known for DECADES. It was a nice amount of content, but still didn't feel different or fresh enough to draw in people that aren't hardcore Nintendo fans. Still though, I'd rather have this kind of conference and attitude from all 3 companies than what happened with Nintendo in 2008, or with Sony and Microssoft in 2011.
  • TheGooseinator - June 12, 2014 8:23 a.m.

    I'm normally a Sony and Nintendo kind of guy, but even I have to admit that Microsoft kicked some serious ass this year.
  • Redeater - June 11, 2014 10:06 p.m.

    The winner is whoever owns a Vita or PS. Fucking revamped Grimfandango mother fuckers.
  • winner2 - June 12, 2014 12:47 p.m.

    Wait what? It's coming to vita or is it a remote play thing?
  • winner2 - June 12, 2014 12:51 p.m.

    Sorry I was so flustered for a second that I forgot about teh interwebs at my fingers. But I mean... Mother of god.
  • lenny-boogie-butt-harris - June 11, 2014 6:44 p.m.

    Nintendo won this E3, they're STILL showing games and unannounced info! What are you nuts?
  • Outofmanyone - June 11, 2014 5:05 p.m.

    I watched every conference aside from Microsoft(I usually just browse the highlights) and overall, they were good. I didn't exactly feel 'blown away' by any of them but I enjoyed them all. Still no Beyond Good & Evil 2, new Metroid or Half-Life 3:-\.. but I can't say I expected them to show those games. I am glad there was a high amount of quality put into the games shown this year, I was a little afraid of the impact that the mobile games movement would have on E3 this year but I was glad to see that developers are continuing to push themselves in the traditional terms of gameplay, sound and visuals because that's what we want. And from the comments I've read regarding E3 this year, it really seems like everyone is happy with the announcements that were shown, and sometimes making us happy.. can be a little hard to do;)
  • victin1rox - June 11, 2014 4:36 p.m.

    I thought you didn't give Nintendo enough credit.
  • Reuben6 - June 12, 2014 7:17 p.m.

    He gave ninty credit?
  • rxb - June 11, 2014 11:19 a.m.

    I think I won e3. I played Hooters e3 drinking game and had a great time. Being serious, it was a great show all round, could have been better without all the leaks and early announcements.
  • shawksta - June 11, 2014 8:17 a.m.

    I do agree on the whole "the gamers won" E3 is about all of us coming together to celebrate games, and frankly its the entire event that is really shining. I enjoyed all the press conferences, EA was weak, Ubisoft was good, i wouldnt say wow like how you feel Andy, sure we saw more assassins and Far Cry in the beginning, and the Rainbow Six in the end was fantastic, but the rest was meh, still a great conference for one developer. Microsoft and Sony are on tie ends like the podcast said, Microsoft had the better line-up factor while Sony had better momentum before they just suddenly stopped it, awesome. and for my personal preference hat i loved Nintendo's and i feel your downplaying it a bit, they showed a ton of footage of upcoming and newely announced, with developer commentary and great humor. Its probably because most they showed were barely third party and all on their own rather than showing multiplats like the rest.Reggie said it in the beginning "Its a celebration of being a Nintendo fan", and small titles or not, Captain Toad's Treasure tracker, Yarn Yoshi and Kirby look to be very interesting and use the Gamepad well, and dont get me started on Splatoon, everything about Smash, and the constant Treehouse Livestream. If anything Nintendo probably has the biggest presence at E3 as they are just showing all over the place and they arent done. This is why i dont like to compare the conferences, its about the entire E3 experiences of watching demoes, more footage of our favorite games and every last bit until its fully over.
  • Mrs.Nesbit - June 11, 2014 7:41 a.m.

    The whole, "Sony has a plan, and it's not just about games" thing seems to be similar to why everyone said that Microsoft lost E3 last year. Although I thought Sony had a pretty good showing overall, I started to get bored near the end when they began discussing their television and movie ideas. Microsoft on the other hand kept my interest piqued throughout, simply because they were doing what everyone said they needed to do: show games. I also think that for the most part the Nintendo games shown looked promising, but a long ways off. Still, they will have Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros out in time for the holidays.
  • Eightboll812 - June 18, 2014 9:13 a.m.

    It's similar but different in two important ways. First, you are confusing E3 with the actual product announcement. MS was focused on games at the last E3. This was in response to gamers being pissed about all the TV, TV, TV talk at the product launch announcement. MS lost at E3 because of the DRM and always-on and their cluster-f of responses to confusion over their murky explanations. But setting aside that confusion and making a more general comparison of the "plan and not just about games" of the two launch seasons, last year was a product launch year...of a game console...whose early buyers and ultimate success would be determined by avid gamers. To talk about anything other than games and gaming capabilities at THAT E3 or that launch announcement was suicide. Later in a generation, you can talk about what else your solution can do and get away with it, because ultimately gamers do want their consoles to be able to do more than just simply play games, so once you got people in the stable, you expand and tell them what else you have for them. It's the natural evolution. But the difference is, the order in which you focus on expanded capabilities vs core capabilities. Sony had the order right, MS did not. Secondly, the difference is that of the four components listed here in this article that Sony mentioned in their event, three are gaming peripherals/items. The other difference is that Sony's TV component is external and OPTIONAL, so I can ignore it if I want to. Not so with MS. I would be buying their TV components whether I want them or not, so I can't quite overlook the question whether I'm buying a set top box or a gaming console. It seems similar until you look a little more in depth at what the issues were/are.
  • nick-stancato - June 11, 2014 7:20 a.m.

    It caught me by surprise, but I think Nintendo won. They countered my largest complaint with the Wii U - variety of genres and franchises. Nintendo has a wide variety on the way and I think that will make their console very successful in the long run. Think of all those Xmas sale because of Kart and Smash. Sony's was meh. They continue to toss Vita owners under the bus, which I dont appreciate. And they spent far too long on TV and a random movie trailer. Ubisoft's was fantastic - and they continue to be my favorite large 3rd party publisher. They blow EA and Activision out of the water. Microsoft was night and day compared to last year. It was a great show with a lot of great games and new exclusives. They didnt focus on crappy Indies like Sony did to the detriment of AAAs. EA's sucked. I dont care about sports, racing, or more sports. I dont really care about Battlefield. I *do* drool over Dragon Age, but thats all they had. They needed more Star Wars and more Mass Effect if nothing else.
  • Jaguar8481 - June 11, 2014 7:15 a.m.

    What I think is wrong with asking who won based off of a conference is that Nintendo clearly decided that they were going to use the entirety of e3 to announce stuff, not just one individual conference/video. They announced Mario Party 10, Fantasy Life for 3DS, Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright and Devil's Third after the initial conference. They also are showing off an as yet to be announced 3DS title tonight. Otherwise, I do agree that Sony had a very strong showing...if only it was a more concise conference, it'd have been the best.
  • aimbotmaster - June 11, 2014 6:38 a.m.

    "Sony has a plan, and it isn’t just about games" For me that's why Sony lost out of all three this year. Sony's conference slogged with the here's our TV plans and also other things talk. That and the fact that out of the "CORE GAMES" you listed only 1 is a PS4 exclusive (Bloodborne.) Overall at E3, it's depressing to count how few game this year aren't about you shooting guns.

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