||Looking back at E3 Part 2
June 20, 2007 John JCal Callaham
Summary: JCal runs through the latest E3s today as we prepare for the new edition this year.
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 3 )|
It was all about Doom 3 at this edition of E3. id Software's next game in their premiere first person shooter series blow folks away who saw it behind a theater set up and it won a ton of E3 awards. While the E3 demo blew people away the final product was considered to be a disappointment when it was finally released in 2004. LucasArts showed off a number of games at their appointment only suite but two of them, Sam and Max and Full Throttle 2, got canceled a few months later as the company decided to get out of making adventure games that was a huge part of the publisher's success in the mid 1990s.
The three main console makers showed off their second generation games for their respective consoles and two of them, Microsoft and Sony, revealed their plans for online gameplay. Microsoft officially announced Xbox Live at E3, which gave users a $49.99 per year fee to play multiplayer games like Mechassault. Sony's pre-E3 press conference has Sony execs proudly proclaiming that "the console war is over" with over 30 million PS2 shipped worldwide after two years. It also revealed its plans for online which was free to play but required buying a $50 network adapter. SOCOM was demoed again at the pre-E3 press conference along with other games. Nintendo charged back with the impressive first person action-adventure game Metroid Prime and showed off for the first time the unusual cell shaded Zelda game that had even the Nintendo faithful scratching their heads.
Looking back at E3 2002 its amazing to think about the number of games shown that turned out to be major hits. Battlefield 1942 was off in one corner of the EA booth. The free America's Army game was officially revealed at E3, complete with real US Army personnel demoing the title. Microsoft announced Ninja Gaiden as an Xbox exclusive. In short E3 2002 was all about the games and the game services and less about the hardware.
While Doom 3 got the lions share of attention at the previous show, E3 2003 was all about Half-Life 2. The game, revealed publicly just a few months beforehand, was shown in a closed theater and it was spectacular to see the impressive animation and the attention to detail that at the time were miles away from what other games were looking like. Developer Valve Software proudly proclaimed at the show that the game was on track to be released in September of 2003; it was a declaration that would haunt them as both delays and a theft of their engine code by a hacker would cause the game to miss that release date by over a year. However the demo at E3 was enough for Half-Life 2 to get the game tons of E3 awards.
The other major surprise of E3 2003 was the announcement of the Playstation Portable, or PSP, at Sony's pre-E3 press conference, The announcement of Sony's entry into the arena where Nintendo was supreme caught even the most experienced game journalists off guard with its advanced graphical technology. The PSP wouldn't debut in the US for almost two years after the E3 announcement but back then Sony was king of the console hill and could do no wrong.
Not all the announcements went over well. Nokia decided to hold a big press conference to reveal the pricing of their N-Gage mobile phone gaming device. The design of the device looked awful and the graphics for the games were sub-par. A $299 price tag for the N-Gage also failed to generate excitement even though it was revealed by a model pulling off her top to reveal the price written on her abs. Nintendo didn't have a spectacular pre-E3 press conference either. Their big reveal was a 3D Pac-Man game where people could also control the ghosts. Nintendo tried to make the case that hooking the GBA up to their Gamecube to get extra content was better than online multiplayer but folks were not buying it.
Other notable games shown at E3 2003 was the impressive first person shooter Far Cry, and the UbiSoft re-imagined Prince of Persia title. Capcom got people's attention with the Gamecube exclusive Resident Evil 4 and Konami impressed folks with the Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. A few journalists, myself included, got to go to the Playboy Mansion to see an early build of the Sims like game Playboy: The Mansion, a game that wouldn't get released for nearly two years. One game that didn't get a ton of attention at E3 was Call of Duty, an Activision WWII shooter that many saw as a copy of EA's Medal of Honor series. It turned out to be one of the best games of the year.
The 2004 edition of the show is perhaps best remembered for the appearance on stage of new Nintendo of America marketing head Reggie Fils-Aime at their pre-E3 press conference as he declared that he was all about kicking ass, taking names and making games. It was the beginning of Nintendo's revival in the console market after letting Sony take over the industry. File-Aime showed off their new Nintendo DS console which had 3D graphics (a first for a Nintendo console) two screens with one being a touch screen and onboard WiFi connectivity. The biggest announcement was that it was launching that fall ahead of the PSP's launch in the US. The press conference also introduced a new Zelda game featuring the classic look instead of the cel-shaded look of the last game. Originally it was supposed to be a Gamecube game but as we will see Nintendo decided to switch tracks later on.
| 2004/2005||Page:: ( 2 / 3 )|
Sony's E3 presence was smaller than in past years. Many expected to check out PSP games for the first time but Sony only showed a few tech demos of the hardware. Microsoft was all about Halo 2 at their E3 booth as they prepared for the last great game for their original Xbox console. Both Half-Life 2 and Doom 3, the big stars of the last two shows, still had not been released by this time (they would both finally get released before the end of the year). Meanwhile Blizzard showed off World of Warcraft at their booth as people were awaiting the launch of what turned out to be the biggest PC MMO in history later that year. Other impressive games like Burnout 3, F.E.A.R, and what was then called Splinter Cell 3 were also shown. Blizzard also showed their console action game Starcraft: Ghost at E3 but just a few weeks later it was revealed that the company had dumped the game's original development team and brought in a new team. The efforts turned out to be for naught as Blizzard pulled the plug on the whole game in 2006. The folks at Infinium Labs attended their first and last E3 with a huge display as they tried to convince people that their Phantom Gaming Device was going to blow everyone away. No one was convinced and the Phantom was never heard from again at the show
The big highlight for me at E3 2004 was yet another visit to the Playboy Mansion, this time to see a more complete version of the game Playboy: The Mansion. Unlike the previous E3 where the event was just for a few game journalists, this was a full Playboy party with tons of Playmates and Hugh Hefner himself attending. The game finally got released in 2005 but proved to be a bomb in sales and in critics eyes.
It was perhaps the most memorable E3 since the launch of the Xbox and Gamecube in 2001. Sony came out swinging as they devoted their entire pre-E3 press conference to the announcement of the PS3 console. It showed off its advanced graphics via Epic Games' Unreal Engine and it showed a number of games that were supposedly in development. Some of them turned into real games like Warhawk and Resistance: Fall of Man while others have yet to actually appear (including what looked like a net Red Dead Revolver title from Rockstar). The most impressive trailer of them all was Killzone, a sci-fi first person shooter that looked like a CGI movie. As it turned out it was a CGI movie. At the time everyone thought Sony was going to be king of the consoles once again. The release date of Spring 2006, however, was one that most journalists didn't think Sony could make. As it turned out they were right.
Nintendo's pre-E3 press conference was a more sedate affair than last year's show. The company showed off the very small case of their next-gen console which they were then calling Revolution. They also showed off more of their Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and promising it would come out in the fall of 2005 for the Gamecube. That announcement turned out to be premature.
Microsoft decided to launch its new Xbox 360 console a few days before E3 which made their pre-E3 press conference something of an anti-climax. The games the company showed were mixed with Call of Duty 2 looking great on the console while others like Perfect Dark Zero were a disappointment. Microsoft's big news was that the console was launching that November, one year ahead of Sony and Nintendo's efforts. One big game that debuted at E3 was the Xbox 360 exclusive Gears of War but it would be over a year before the game actually launched.
As far as games. Bethesda Softworks blew people away with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and 3D Realms and Human Head showed off Prey; yes, Prey a game that was last shown way back at E3 1998. The new Doom 3 engine based game contained some of the same gameplay as the original Prey but it was basically a whole new look at the original game. Also shown behind closed doors was Alan Wake, the next game from developer Remedy. It would later be bought by Microsoft for their Xbox 360 and PC platforms. The game that got the journalist's biggest attention was Spore, the next game from SimCity and Sims developer Will Wright. The evolution style game had a demo that showcased the user generated creation of a life form that turned into a space faring civilization. It's taking longer to develop than first announced, though as Spore has now been pushed back to sometime in 2008. One highlight for me was seeing MacGyver himself, Richard Dean Anderson, on stage at the Namco booth as he promoted the upcoming Stargate SG-1 first person shooter, shown in playable form at the show. It was clear that Anderson was out of his element; he didn't know anything about games in general or the Stargate game in particular. As it turned out development of the Stargate SG-1 title imploded later that year and it was canceled.
Before Sony's pre-E3 2006 press conference everyone was convinced while entering the big sound stage that Sony was going to blow people away with their PS3 games. As it turned out that press conference was the beginning of the end of journalist's love affair with the Playstation business. The playable games they showed didn't match the CGI trailers that the company showed a year before (and Killzone wasn't shown or mentioned at all) and the prices of $499 and $599 for the two versions of the console make people dumbfounded when they were revealed at the tail end of the press conference.
| Conclusion||Page:: ( 3 / 3 )|
Microsoft had a better time of it, showcasing Gears of War once again as they prepared for the game's fall 2006 launch date. They also officially announced new games like Forza Motorsport 2, Fable 2 and Shadowrun which was used as a demo of the company' plans for Live Anywhere which would allow Xbox 360 people to play against PC counterparts. It was a plan that still hasn't really shown its full potential over a year later. The last event was Microsoft's first look at Halo 3 via an in-game engine trailer that looked and sounded impressive.
However, E3 2006 will be remembered mostly for Nintendo's return to the top of the console food chain. A few days before E3 Nintendo announced that it was dumping the Revolution name for the console in favor of the Wii and Reggie Fils-Aime summed up the reaction to the name change at their pre-E3 press conference when he thanked all of the journalists who approved of the new name, "all two of you". Despite the controversy surrounding the name, no one could debate that the Wii with its motion sensing Wiimote (first announced at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show) was a huge sensation at E3. People waited for hours in line to enter the Wii section of the Nintendo booth to check out games like Excite Truck, Metroid Prime 3 (still not released) and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess which was now confirmed as a Wii launch title (it would still be released on the GameCube as well)
The final E3 in its former state showed quite a few impressive looking titles like Battlefield 2142, Hellgate London, BioShock, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Crysis, Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed but in the end a number of journalists gave top honors once again to Spore based on yet another brief behind-closed-doors demo. With most of the games shown at E3 2006 either released or planned for release this year it remains to be seen if Spore will be worth the hype when it is finally released.
The past 10 E3 shows I have attended have always been the yearly highlight of my work career. Some of the things I haven't talked about in my articles are the massive crowds that gather around certain booths just to get a T-shirt from a booth babe or the appearance of the random celebrity from Steven Spielberg to Gary Coleman. The LA Convention Center's Kentia Hall was always a hoot to visit as I saw some odd games and gaming controllers from a variety of different international companies. I saw companies rise and fall at the show like 3DO and Acclaim and GT Interactive. I saw the excess of the G.O.D. parking lot events. I saw members of the US Army rappel down buildings. I saw the massive E3 banners being put both inside and outside the convention center. I attended parties at the Playboy Mansion, outside Dodger Stadium and at the House of Blues. I went to movie sound stages for pre-E3 press conferences. Most of all I got to see games that the rest of the world sometimes didn't even know about for the very first time that later went on to become huge sensations.
Now all of that is gone as the decision was made to cut down E3 to a invite only event with only a few thousand attendees in Santa Monica hotels and the Barker Hanger. What will the new E3 be like? What new games and game hardware will be shown? Most of all will the event be a step forward for the industry or a step back? Tomorrow I'll put on my speculation cap and examine what the new E3 will be like and what games we are most looking forward to seeing at the show. Stay tuned.