E3 08: An 11-step Recipe For A (Mostly) Crap E3

Nintendo might not be a games company any more

It was a press conference to crush the souls of even the most innocent, but Nintendo's lack of first-party hardcore content wasn't in itself the biggest problem. Much more disturbing was the company's attitude afterwards. Reggie claimed not to understand the traditional Nintendite's disappointment in the face of Animal Crossing. Cammie told core players to "Keep playing Mario Kart". Shigsy admitted that the discordant, embarrassing mime-fest of Wii Music was indeed a "musical toy", and therefor better than a videogame. Even the Pikmin 3 announcement was quietly sneaked out during a later interview. And of course, GTA: Chinatown Wars on DS was great news, but the speed with which it was glossed over spoke volumes.

And those games that the Mario and Zelda teams are working on? Consider that Miyamoto later referenced the Touch Generations series while saying that "With Zelda, we have to consider how to make it accessible for new gamers to pick up and play and enjoy just as hardcore gamers have." Is that past-tense "have" an indication that the age of Ninty's consideration for the core gamer is over? We'll probably have a better idea later in the year, but right now it feels like Nintendo has already packed its bags and is just waiting for a tactful moment to tell us how it really feels.

Of course, the company has been around for a lot longer than it has been making videogames, and it has every right to change its focus to more lightweight, electronic amusements at this point if it wants to. Given its current success with the casual market it's entirely possible that hardcore gaming is now just a passing phase in the company's long history. But things used to be so good, Ninty. Remember? Remember the good times? We were so happy back then! Don't throw it all away now!

Microsoft says "Me too" to everything

Avatars, a bland, grey new dashboard with more than a hint of Sony's XMB, a Primetime game channel dedicated to game show-style content, Scene It: Box Office Smash, a two hit combo of motion control and Singstar in Lips, You're In The Movies, which looks exactly like a first generation EyeToy game… Oh Microsoft, why are you doing all of this? Your core audience is a huge one, and is made almost entirely out of the sort of people who have always and will always play videogames. RROD aside, you were already delivering everything they could ever want. You had it set.

All of the effort and money you put into this new line-up won't matter a jot to them. And trust us, the 'expanded market' is not sitting around reading the games press and weighing up which console is best for casual games. If it’s put in front of them at a party, they’ll play it, but waiting with baited breath for the moment the Xbox caters to their needs they most certainly are not.

Sony bumbles along uneventfully

It's been traditional - and entirely right - over recent years to dub each big games show as "the one where Sony really has to pull it out of the bag". Usually it hasn't happened, but at least it's been a consistently entertaining experience along the way. The blend of showboating delivery, varied hardware initiatives and a gleefully oblivious mindset has been a crowdpleaser ever since the PS3 was announced, even if we didn't really care about what was being said. At E3 '08 though? Everything was just a bit dull.

Of course, Sony is aware that it's now in Nintendoville, circa 2003, and thus a more humble attitude is needed. But things have been improving for the big black slab of game lately, and we're now finally ready to get excited again. This E3 could have been a welcome turning point if Sony had pulled out the stops, but all we got was a stream of games that we already knew about, some barely relevent PS2 news and more talk of downloadable TV and PSP connectivity. It was brilliant to have God Of War III officially unveiled though, even if the Chains Of Olympus manual did blow the surprise a while back.