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Regardless of what’s revealed at E3, you can always count on the annual show for one sure thing – the excruciating, embarrassing, exasperating press conference. When a bunch of clueless corporate businessmen and obviously uncomfortable game developers share the stage, trying to relate to gamers while simultaneously trying to hit all the necessary boardroom bullet points, the results can be agonizingly awkward.
Here are the seven moments from last week’s press conferences that had us burying our faces in our palms the fastest. Laugh. Cringe. Just be grateful you weren't actually there...
Nintendo's E3 press conference got off to a promising start with a Legend of Zelda video montage that spanned the series' history, all set to a live orchestra playing a medley of poignant Zelda melodies. As the music ended and we wiped the tears of nostalgia from our eyes, Shigeru Miyamoto entered the stage to begin the show.
It's not every day that you have, A) a professional live orchestra at your disposal, B) specifically hired to play songs from a hugely popular and enduring franchise of which you are the creator, and C) a massive audience both live and online hanging on your every word. So it's understandable that Miyamoto, drunk with power, assumed the conductor seat to command the musicians to play various sound effects and themes so that he could live out his Link-roleplaying fantasies live onstage.
This indulgence seemed to be going well enough as Miyamoto pantomimed Link reaching into a treasure chest as the orchestra played the chime for getting an item, and then as the Zelda-auteur basked in the healing glow of the fairy fountain theme. But things went awry when he got greedy and requested the item chime again, but with full orchestra. Poised to mime his imaginary item acquirement with extended flourish, Miyamoto freezes as half the musicians confusedly begin playing the fairy fountain theme again, then snaps out of it only to repeat "item get!" after the item chime had already begun, and an awkward cacophony of musicians finally transitions to the correct request.
With so many great games in a row that publisher Electronic Arts is trying to split the series in half (Shift vs Hot Pursuit/everything else), the Need for Speed franchise has clearly been on a roll. And early buzz on the latest entry, Need for Speed: The Run, was thrilling: it’s basically Cannonball Run, a pedal-to-the-metal blast across the entire US. But when EA demoed the game for the first time at its press conference, all that early hype came to a tire-screeching halt. The constantly-innovating racing series has finally added the one thing absolutely nobody wants: out-of-the-car quicktime events in which you get to watch the game play itself while you tap a button now and then.
Nobody has ever purchased an FPS because it added in a great puzzle mode. So why would we want to run around in our sneakers when the entire point of the game is stomping the pedal on exotic sports cars we can’t afford? During our demo, the developers apologetically swore the on-foot bits were only 10% of the game – but that just leads us to conclude that A) these moments aren’t that important and B) even the devs know it’s a bad idea. Yet it remains. License revoked.
As Sony’s E3 press conferences go, this year’s was pretty amazing. It began with a sincere apology to PSN users, was refreshingly short on self-aggrandizement and vague sales talk, and mainly focused on showing off upcoming games, which is all most of us really want from a press conference. There were still a few low points, however, and one of the biggest was the way Sony presented Move this year.
Those who’ve followed Sony’s pressers over the last two years may remember the way Move’s imitation Wii remote was held up as some kind of revolutionary new thing that nobody had ever seen before. That was annoying, but it was at least more exciting than Sony’s message this year: Move is for making games accessible to people who are terrified of controllers.
That was the thrust of Kobe Bryant’s appearance, anyway. During a demo for NBA 2K11, the NBA star was trotted out to prove that “anyone” can play the game using Move.
It wasn’t clear if the point was that Bryant is normally incapable of playing NBA videogames, or if the Move controls were so just so easy to pick up that even an NBA star (who’d almost certainly played during rehearsals) could do well using them. Either way, Bryant’s appearance wasn’t quite as cringe-inducing as the rather sheepish presentation from Bioshock creator Ken Levine.
After nervously recanting some of the “uncharitable” things he’d said about motion controls, Levine went on to say that shoehorning Move into Bioshock Infinite would “remove this barrier of entry” that supposedly keeps people unfamiliar with controllers from enjoying his game. Because, you know, it’s totally plausible that non-gamers would invest $300 in a console just so they could play games using its $99 add-on motion controller, and that the only thing preventing those non-gamers from appreciating a franchise like Bioshock is the lack of Move support.
Levine’s nervous onstage demeanor didn’t do much to sell us on the concept, either, even when he started talking about the “other ways to interact with the world” that Move could enable. Sadly, he didn’t give any examples, so for now it looks as if Move’s potential will be confined to “family” games and purportedly making “core” games less intimidating to grandmothers.