The winners and losers of E3 2008, part one – the press conferences

By Patrick Garratt
17 July 2008 12:44 GMT


The results are in. After an insane few days of news coverage and announcements, the flood’s dried to a trickle. E3 2008 may well have been a pivotal year for the show, with some massive highs and tragic lows permeating the platform holder conferences, and an explosion of behind-the-scenes gossip left in the wake. Hit the link for VG247’s round-up of which console manufacturers got high scores, and which binned all lives on the first level.

E3 2008 winners and losers – the press conferences

First place – Microsoft

Microsoft “won it,” in our opinion. The Final Fantasy announcement has to be one of the greatest in recent gaming history, and no one truly expected it, not even Sony by all accounts.

The amount of controversy it’s caused since Monday has been unparalleled. The only other showing we can think of that’s actually crashed large sites was the first ever look at the PS3 casing, so that gives an idea of the level of magnitude of 360’s coup.

Aside from FFXIII, Microsoft’s showing was wall-to-wall gaming and service announcements. A complete Xbox 360 dashboard revamp and the inclusion of party-based movie-viewing and Avatars was genuinely exciting.

Gears of War 2, Fallout 3 and Resident Evil 5 looked exceptional from where we were sitting, and it should be noted that the latter two were shown in the 360 conference, not in PS3’s. As it was put to us after the event, “As far as PS3 and 360 goes for ‘gaming,’ there’s just no contest any more.”

There was little bullshit. Massive games, massive demos, and all those major titles had proper announcements and release dates. Tons to write about.

The casual stuff? Well, Lips looked fine, but it’s SingStar with sparkly microphones, basically. It’ll be interesting to see if it actually sells. You’re in the Movies? No thanks. Not so good.

As far as the other “lighter” games went, having Viva 2 and Banjo on board isn’t so slouchy. Both were looking excellent.

In terms of presentation, Don Mattrick looked relaxed and delivered a feature-heavy speech with ease. It’s quite something to do a double thumbs-up and stare into the distance when Yoichi Wada tells you Final Fantasy XIII is releasing on your console, but Mattrick managed it. Some good beta blockers going on there.

Second place – Sony

Jack Tretton was unflappable in Sony’s E3 2008 presentation, but there’s probably a good reason for that: it was boring.

You’d had to have balls of steel to profess otherwise, frankly. The conference was very long at over an hour-and-a-half, and lacked the real “wow” moment Microsoft provided with FFXIII.

There was no date for Home and big presentations for games that can hardly be described as “megaton,” such as Ratchet & Clank: Future Quest for Booty. A lot of it was fairly tiring.

That’s not to say there was nothing there. Far from it. Resistance 2, especially, looked brilliant, and the announcement of an immediate opening of the US PS3 Movie Store was good and welcome. Eric Lempel’s presentation of the Store and its features was impressive but, again, if was hard to not just stare and the stage and say, “Great.”

God of War III was teased, but there was no information at all. Solid announcements took the form of retail news, with the 40Gb PS3 being dropped in favour of an 80Gb option and – stop the press – new PS2 and PSP bundles confirmed.

Unsung star of the show was Sucker Punch’s inFamous. Expect to hear a great deal more on the free-roaming action game before release early next year. It looked sensational, and should have been pitched far more heavily.

DC Universe Online also looked promising, and it could easily be argued that Sony’s leading the way with mass online console gaming with this and brand new IP Massive Action Game, Sony’s final boom-boom.

MAG has 256 players. It’s PS3-only. It’s made by Zipper and it looks like Quake Wars crossed with SOCOM. As with the rest of the viewing, it was commendable, but so hard to get excited about.

In summary, Sony’s E3 2008 press conference was like bad sex: going through the motions, the odd enthusiastic flurry, a weary wish it was all over and a forced climax.

Patience is starting to wear a little thin, Jack.

Third place – Nintendo

The reaction was hilarious. Nintendo’s E3 press conference can be summed up thus: Shaun White Snowboarding, massive numbers, GTA DS (no details), Animal Crossing: City Folk and WiiSpeak, Wii Sports 2, Wii Music. End.

The “core” went nuts afterwards, claiming Nintendo had abandoned its gaming roots. Wii Sports 2 saw poor Cammie Dunaway, smiling right across to her ears, playing with a virtual dog, Reggie Fils-Aime and a frisbee. Not pretty.

Wii Music was worse. Yes, it’ll probably move huge amounts. It’s a Miyamoto project, and first-party Nintendo games are pushed so hard that selling “Rock Band for everyone else” is a bit of a no-brainer.

But watching a team of Nintendo executives playing the self-professed “toy” on stage, culminating in a group leap into the air, was cringeworthy beyond compare.

In the event’s aftermath, Reggie seemed exasperated by the fact “gamers” were calling foul, saying that Animal Crossing and GTA DS should be enough for anyone.

The internet thought differently, unfortunately. Some of the commentary from blogs has been stunningly rude, although Nintendo is unlikely to care.

Industry talk in the UK was one of complete disbelief: we’re unsure we’ve seen the acronym “wtf” used so frequently in such a short space of time.

The big question is whether or not Nintendo will be back next year. Is a games conference showing ever applicable for the company any more? Why bother showing and facing criticism – from all quarters, not just the games press – when you’re selling 750,000 Wiis in the US alone?

Tomorrow at 1pm – E3’s winner and losers, part two: which games and services had names in lights, and which are propping up the bar dropping tears into whisky.

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