E3 2008: The Doldroms

It wasn't long ago that the entire gaming community was breathless every May as the much vaunted E3 exploded with fantastic claims of supremacy by the big three console makers, amazing demos of soon to be blockbuster games, and plenty of speculation as to the market's future.

This year, very little of that happened.

The E3 of old is truly dead and gone, a relic of an era coming to a close. The first steps toward making videos an accepted form of mass media have been taken, and the rest can only follow.

What makes E3 2008 so unremarkable is not the shift of focus to a wider audience, but rather how little things have changed in the past year. Nintendo is still reaping the incredible rewards of their strategy, Microsoft is still blindly scrambling to hop on board, and Sony is still drifting. There's nothing new under the sun.

There were various points of interest. Nintendo announced a new attachment for their Wiimote, supposedly this one will allow for true 1:1 mapping of movement to control. Microsoft announced more changes to their Xbox Live interface including insidiously familiar avatars (they essentially look like the "hip" version of Miis), and Sony once again heaped incredible pre-rendered footage and promises at our feet, begging for just one more year to get their act together as another exclusive title became not so exclusive.

Nothing that particularly shook the status quo happened.

Sure, the usual herds of insanely rabid fanboys swarmed the internet trolling forums and news sites claiming X, Y or Z spelled the ascension or continued dominance of one company while A, B or C spelled doom for another. This time, however, people largely didn't bite. No one cared to, what was the point?

Sure, Final Fantasy 13 is no longer a PS3 exclusive, but it's not like any of their exclusives thus far have been that spectacular. Harping on the PS3s games library at this point is like harping on President Bush for his bad foreign relations.

Sure, the new Wii attachment could be seen as basically admitting that the Wiimote alone wasn't sufficient for true 1:1 motion capture. That revelation is as old as the Wii's release date. It's sudden rerevealing doesn't mean that Nintendo suddenly loses its profits, marketshare or mindshare.

Sure, Microsoft's presentation once again stank of their impossible attempts to understand the house that Miyamoto built. Once again, this has been pretty obvious from the get go. Acting as though their continued inability to comprehend what lies beyond the realm of teenage to college-aged male gaming is anything new is disingenuous considering they've been at it since last generation.

So for the hardcore gamer, this year's E3 was something of a bust. Both Nintendo and Microsoft were focused largely on people other than you, and Sony had nothing interesting except the stuff we we've been hearing about for two to four years already. At a time when typically salvos of new games taking hardware and game design to new peaks are being revealed, instead we find ourselves watching as our kid sibling the "casual gamer" gets all the attention.

It's a tough pill to swallow for people who've been the center of attention for two decades. The pendulum is swinging away, and for a while the old guard is going to be largely ignored except for misguided attempts at more Halo-like FPSs. Eventually it'll swing back our way, then forth again, and back again until eventually the momentum dies entirely and we have a nice equilibrium.

For now, I'll just look forward to Spore, the next WoW expansion and my currently vastly underplayed library of cool games that have already come out but I haven't beaten (Twilight Princess, Trauma Center, Ninja Gaiden 2, Armored Core 4 etc).


jocelyn said...

Mmmmm, Spore, I have yet to download the creature creator--haven't had time until the weekend.


Melanie said...

Uh...If I may be so bold as to suggest that you store up some wii points and go and get Dr. Mario (and then exchanging friend code thingies)...

If only for the sheer pleasure of that you will get in beating me 24290234095230 times....

in a row.