The unspoken truths of E3 2009

Exclusive announcement deals are silly

Console exclusives are silly on their own, but even sillier are exclusive announcements. You must have noticed that Metal Gear Solid: Rising was announced at Microsoft’s conference, but despite being multiplatform, wasn’t even acknowledged by Sony. As was The Beatles: Rock Band. Sony, on the other hand, got a big Assassin’s CreedII trailer, while Microsoft ignored the game’s entire existence.

Above: Exclusive game? No. Exclusive announcement? Stupid

It makes sense to distribute gameplay footage to different conferences – no one wants to see the same presentation twice, but the fact that Microsoft and Sony didn’t even make reference to any of the multiplatform games showcased at their rival’s conferences suggests that backroom deals were made. We can’t say for sure whether or not money exchanged hands for these exclusive announcements, but it’s not as if the industry is above it.

Sony’s crowd was unusually raucous

Roughly the same group of writers and editors attend each conference, so when the crowd reacts with only moderate enthusiasm to the biggest announcements from Microsoft and Nintendo, but goes absolutely ape-shit over every tiny bit of PS3 news (not PSP, the crowd was quiet for that), we get a bit suspicious.

The Uncharted 2 demo was amazing, but did every little glance at the landscape warrant cheering and uncontrollable applause? Again, we can’t say for sure that there were plants in the audience, but it’s not as if Sony hasn’t pulled silly “guerilla marketing” stunts before.

Above: This should be the look on the face of anyone covering all three conferences – beaten, tired, and ready to be cynical

Before the “bias train” rolls in to toot its angry horn at us, we wouldn’t put it above Microsoft or Nintendo to pull the same crap – we just happened to notice it at Sony’s conference the most. Maybe it was just the mimosas served beforehand.

Everyone is jumping on the “me too!” motion-control train, they know it’s shameless, and they don’t care

Microsoft and Sony might not admit that they saw Nintendo’s success, decided they wanted a piece of the pie, and then immediately began developing their own motion control systems, but that’s exactly what happened. And they don’t care how much we’ve criticized Nintendo for abandoning its diehard fans, and they don’t care whether or not you can actually make entertaining, deep games using this technology, and they don’t care if their systems become flooded with awful, gimmicky games. In fact, they’re totally cool with all of that, as long as they can print money.

It doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. Project Natal has promise, though we’re still not sure that it can replace the relaxing feeling of sitting back with a regular, old-school controller. Sony’s glowing balls look impressive as well, but again, with all this technology, very few seem to be asking, “Uh, hey, does anyone really want to stand in front of their TV and swing this thing around?”

Above: The future of gaming?

You’d think Wii’s success has already answered that question, but it really hasn’t. Nintendo marketed Wii brilliantly - so brilliantly that I had to get one for my mom for her birthday. Guess what’s collecting dust?

Above: Hint – it’s this

So is motion control the wave of the future? Maybe, but they’ll have to find a way to make it more than just a gimmick, and that’s not what they care about right now – right now they care about making sure the bandwagon doesn’t leave without them.

Ever want to see the bottom of your avatar’s foot? BAM! Yeah, that’s gaming.

The PS3 could always access Facebook and Twitter

The integration of Facebook and Twitter was a good move for Microsoft - these services will be used. Hey, sometimes the laptop is across the room, the 360’s already on…so why not see who’s eating Shabu Shabu or “OMG had a crazy day! Lol!” as long as you don’t have to get up?

But of course, the PS3 already has a web browser. Unfortunately, Sony hasn’t been great about marketing all of the PS3’s features, and the UI isn’t the most intuitive. The PS3 is powerful, and it does a helluva lot, but because it isn’t being promoted as a user-friendly entertainment device, Microsoft gets cheers for announcing support for something the PS3 could do all along. This industry is more and more about marketing.

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer