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What’s the only thing worse than celebrities like Kobe Bryant and Ken Levine pretending to love motion controls in order to help promote their upcoming games? That’s easy – creepy child actors plucked directly from the “multicultural” search result page of some stock photography website and paid to grin, giggle or goofily dance for Microsoft executives’ amusement and their backstage parents’ approval.
Picking the worst example is impossible. The fake brother asking his fake sister for a celebratory “fist bump!” during Alice in Wonderland golf? The fake friends attempting (and failing) to yell “Oh no! Captain Hook!” in unison during Peter Pan coin collection? The fake son and fake father striking nauseatingly cutesy monster poses at each other during Sesame Street? We don’t know, but we can tell you what the best part of this maudlin mess was: Tim Schafer breaking script to make a joke at his own demo’s expense. “Unleash the simulated family! So lifelike!” were the truest words spoken that morning.
Heading into E3 2011, one thing was on everyone’s mind – Nintendo’s new console. What would it be called? How powerful is it? What games are coming? Will Nintendo reveal another disruptive, Wii-like angle that reshapes the games industry? Questions and speculation were overflowing, as if no other topic existed in the gamespace. So when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata finally took the stage (after the aforementioned Zelda orchestra), we all assumed the answers were imminent.
Above: Look at him. So pleased with what he’s about to do to us
Iwata immediately began talking about Nintendo’s hardware legacy, and how its next machine will continue to expand the gamer audience by providing “deeper and wider” experiences. This goes on for many minutes. At this point, we’re all on the edge of our seats – all of us, all around the world. We’re curious, engaged, teased, hell maybe even a little aroused in a bizarre kind of way, all waiting for OH MY GOD JUST TELL US WHAT IT’S CALLED! Iwata follows all this with a calm, almost dismissive “we’re going to leave the full details for a little later this morning,” causing a communal exhale that probably blew his hair back. All that buildup and teasing, just to pull out at the last second! We wouldn’t get closure for another 20 minutes, which is the game-conference equivalent of being two seconds from an orgasm and then forced to hold it for another half an hour. Bittersweet, to say the least.
The first hour or so of Sony’s press conference was supremely uncomfortable. Never mind the sweltering heat of 5000 oozing bodies crammed like sardines into a stadium - we’re talking about the pity applause that punctuated a series of ho-hum sizzle reels and unimpressive demos. Everyone was eager to move on from Infamous 2 (already on shelves) and Resistance 3 (drab, brown and indistinguishable from the first two) and get to the good stuff, namely what is the NGP going to be called and how much will it cost. Once that announcement came, the room cheered uproariously at the powerful, multi-functional Vita and its attractive $250 price point. After an hour of drag, this conference was finally taking off.
Then came the 3G-equipped Vita, which allows for an internet connection just about anywhere in the country and will launch for $299.99. Another victory, another round of deserved applause. But who will support this 3G connectivity? Surely Sony isn’t setting up its own cell towers, so it must be allying with an existing phone company… which one could it be? Kaz Hirai then announced AT&T as Vita’s exclusive provider, which led to the loudest, most sustained series of boos and scoffing we’ve ever witnessed in a press conference. You can hear a smidge of that in the press conference video, but trust us, sitting in that room, with a roof over your head and thousands of people sitting shoulder to shoulder, there was no mistaking the wave of disappointment that spread from wall to wall. Embarrassed recovery applause quickly swooped in to drown out the naysayers, and Hirai did a great job of rolling with the punches, but the audible letdown was inescapable. Ideally Sony will respect this reaction (and realize AT&T’s ongoing coverage problems have soured its reputation) and offer more options after Vita launches this fall.
We love Ubisoft games like Assassin’s Creed, Rayman, Prince of Persia, and Ghost Recon. But Ubi just doesn’t get E3. After last year’s preposterous event hosted by a bored Joel McHale, we figured the extremely French company couldn’t put on a worse show. Then 11 minutes into this year’s press conference, we were introduced to Aaron Priceman, aka Mr. Caffeine, and our lives would never be the same again.
We’ve seen bad hosts before. We’ve watched executives tell bad jokes and flub lines. We’ve witnessed comedians like McHale and Jay Mohr fail to connect with an all gamer audience. Still, it’s safe to say that no host of any E3 event has ever bombed as aggressively as Mr. Caffeine. Even with great games to show, he made the presser unwatchable thanks to his lame jokes, canned enthusiasm, and cheesy grin. We're not sure what type of crowds he normally works with (this guy's a professional pitchman according to his Twitter), but he was the absolute worst person to run this show.
Why is Mr. Caffeine so detestable? Is it his cavalier douchiness that’s straight out of the worst episodes of Entourage? Is it his incredibly tired use of played-out memes and internet humor? His terrible joke delivery that even Robin Williams would think is over the top? Or is it that he has one of the most punchable faces that has ever existed? Please Ubisoft, hire Gallagher, Jamie Kennedy, Paulie Shore or Carlos Mencia next time, we beg of you. Anything but another dose of Mr. Caffeine.
Jun 13, 2011
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