For 12 years, the Electronics Entertainment Expo was the largest and most important trade show in the video game industry.
Every May, the Los Angeles Convention Center would embrace tens of thousands of gaming nerds in its loving arms. After last year's expo consisted entirely of wating in snakelike, three-hour lines that stretched around corners, up stairs and out doors through the entire convention center to play Wii Sports for ten minutes, the crowd and overall mayhem proved to be too much for organizers and developers alike.
In response, the organizers announced shortly after last year's show that E3 would be drastically downsized for 2007, at the request of exhausted industry professionals.
So they held it in a run down alley behind a hotel in Santa Monica.
The new E3 was now invite-only, and thus much smaller and more intimate for those who were invited, which was still almost half made up of a bunch of bloggers. I would've figured that they'd be one of the things E3 was trying to shed itself of, but apparently a video game event just isn't a video game event without some guy from North Jersey posting a new blog every time somebody buys, mentions or thinks about a Nintendo game. Thanks to the wonders of liveblogging, nobody outside the professional side of the gaming industry seemed to notice any difference, save for the setup change from tables and booths to dumpsters and progressively wetter and moldier cardboard boxes, and the addition of the drunk Vietnam vet hanging out by the Medal of Honor table. Or at least I think it was the Medal of Honor table.
Not to be outdone, the three main first parties ensured that their press conferences would remain the highlight of the expo by getting their own drunken veterans to pace around dizzily and yell on stage.
The Microsoft Conference
What do you see in the cloud of gas, Charlie Brown? I see a heart.
No, wait. It's a horse head. Finally, the long-awaited sequel to Widget!
A violin rock band rocking out the theme song to Halo? What the fuck, Linus?
Wait, another band? I'm sorry, folks. I appears that I've accidentally downloaded a torrent of Lollapalooza instead of
No, wait, that's Microsoft's Peter Moore on guitar. He and his pals are showing off a demo of Rock Band, which takes the music and timing concept introduced Guitar Hero to the next level by adding bass, drums and vocals. Great. I have perfect pitch, so I already know that I'm not the world's greatest singer. I don't need a video game to give me an actual number.
Next up is Viva Pinata: Party Animals, based on the hit animated series heading into its second season in over 20 countries. In all of those countries, that series is called "Mario Party." This was followed by a preview of Mass Effect, which looks much more mature and
OK, you know what? They really need to stop showing that shot of Tammy Faye on Larry King right before she died. Really.
At least they can make realistic looking non-cancerous humans by giving them just a tiny, tiny hint of fake, cartoonish animation, so as to not cross too far over that uncanny valley into oh God creepy. Still, everybody turns out looking really sweaty. Maybe it's because it gets pretty hot inside an Xbox 360, but every rendered human character looks like they just got done having sex for like, an hour. Which I know from experience, ladies.
Listen. Everybody else had to wait an hour and a half just for the Microsoft conference to even get to talking about Halo 3, and everybody's already played the multiplayer beta a month ago. So capping off the Microsoft conference with nothing but a trailer was barely exciting, even for those who have played Halo for more then 20 minutes because they don't expect every first person shooter to be controlled exactly like Goldeneye. So the only thing salvaged from the Halo 3 preview was this new kissing-my-boyfriend photo for Master Chief's MySpace profile.
After Peter quickly got everyone to look at how much more they made than the console that's much cheaper, he went backstage to hand in his walking papers to Bill Gates and left for EA Sports. Then he went to get JOHN MADDEN FOOTBALL tattooed around his arm like barbed wire.
So they brought out global marketing VP Jeff Bell to show off what's coming for Xbox Live, including a video game version of the board game Scene It? The surprise announcement: Scene It? comes packed with four new, revolutionary Big Button controllers.
But first, I'm intertested in knowing the safest way to check the temperature in my newborn baby's butt.
Not intent on forcing you to hold a controller to buzz in and answer questions with two hands, Microsoft introduces the Boobah to Nintendo's Teletubbies. Which is really among the only fair forms of punishment given to anyone who actually buys a board game remake for a video game console. Did you own Anticipation? Fuck you.
Bell then invites New Orleans Saints star Reggie Bush to play a quick round of Madden 2008 with him. "Maybe I'll take the 'D,' and you can take the 'O'?" Bell asks like he's Bush's dad trying to sound as hip as possible before he asks his son about drugs. Let's rap for a minute, Reg!
One great feature available for Xbox Live Marketplace users is the ability to buy and download feature-length movies, perfect for everyone who can't bother with DVDs because they're afraid to go out into the sunlight or have any sort of social human contact. Bell announced the addition of Disney's catalog. And I swear to Jesus he said "From Winnie-the-Pooh, to Atlantis, to Waterboy." Oooooh, way to entice me with the hits, guy.
"You got me straight trippin', boo."
The Disney catalog was available for download that night, and will be for about twelve more minutes, after which everything goes back into the Disney Vault and you're stuck with the choice between Brother Bear 2 and Alternate 1985 Cinderella.
Oh, and hey, here's Microsoft Game Studios head Shane Kim to name drop Fable 2 and Halo Wars, then leave! Hi! We just thought we'd mention that those two are coming out without showing you any new information about them. Sorry, but our focus was so intense on bringing home the part about the Scene It controllers.
"Our goal is simple," Kim says: "Partner with the world's greatest creators to deliver the world's greatest games." Holy shit there's going to be a kidnapping at the Nintendo conference.
Oh, they're just talking about CliffyB and the guys who make Call of Duty? Jeez, don't scare me like that, man.
After the voice of CliffyB came out of some side speaker to introduce the PC edition of Gears of War, the team behind Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, showed off a demo of their game. In this game, you're apparently fighting Murky Dismal because where the hell did all the color go? Seriously, don't you people get tired of games where you run around Pleasantville and shoot things?
Other quick highlights of the Microsoft conference included Assassin's Creed, which showed off an impressive demo of chasing a guy through a crowded, Middle Eastern marketplace, and Lost Oddyssey, where you control a thousand-year-old immortal who SHIT LOOK OUT A SEXUAL PREDATOR
God, it's like he's reaching for handle bars.
Spider-man: Friend of Foe? What does he do in this one, kill Dumbledore?
Ooh, I rock at this level. PROTIP: Waggle the right control stick to lash your tongue. Lightly press the right shoulder button to brush your hand against her cheek.
The makers of Game Genie invite you to enter the Sensible World of Soccer. As opposed to the Silly World of Soccer, by Jethro Q. Walrustitty, which is the level after Make Out With Cho in the Harry Potter game.
You know what I wish had explosions in it? The Reader's Digest word search.
The Nintendo Conference
AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! TOLD YOU BITCHES
Reggie Fils-Aime is the kind of guy you laugh at and say you want to punch in the face when he comes on stage and attempts to say epic things like
"My name is Reggie, and I...
The man's tone of voice and overall speaking rhythm makes me feel like I'm back in freshman year of college, being asked to get out my notebook and jot down every effective public speaking cliché I can point out. Not that it's not effective here, but with Reggie, it all seems amplified. It's the same way with everything you learn in school. Someone mentions Erik Erikson in passing and your ears perk up like they're talking about fucking Thundercats.
"We think this E3 marks a conclusive turning point for the video game market, welcome more players and more opportunity to our form of entertainment."
More players? What the hell press conference are you at, Reg? It's already been crammed down our throats that E3 has been moved to a shack on a rock in the middle of the ocean.
"Looking back, E3 here in 2007 may be seen as a coming out party for an entire industry."
Oh, OK. I wasn't really expecting that sort of announcement, but good for you, Reg. I hope you find the man of your dreams.
And that he's cool about rollin' with fat dudes.
Look out, everyone. Here comes Shigeru Miyamoto's latest ingenius creation... a fucking scale™!
Yeah dat's right, I kicked that punk ass giant in da toof.
Wii Fit was the game Miyamoto said he was most excited about showing off, probably because it was one of like two games we didn't already see at some other conference. The other one was just Mario Kart with prettier graphics.
And a steering wheel. I should be irked by Nintendo's seemingly quick abandonment of the "Wii Remote can do anything" mentality shown in the first video when they unveiled the thing, but I've played Excite Truck completely sober and controlled the thing like my blood was made entirely of red wine. The next morning I died for your sins.
A few days later I was resurrected as a zombie, until this bitch shot me in the face with the new Wii Zapper! It's a $20 cradle that the remote and nunchuk sits in so you can stop whining about how your arm's getting cramped. Do some push-ups, you baby. There's a push-up game that comes with that fucking scale.™
The rest of the Nintendo conference was about an hour's worth of made up almost entirely of video montages of every nice thing ever said about the Wii or DS in mass media in the last year, which means one clip of Stephen Colbert, one clip of South Park, several Nintendo-themed YouTube videos that make Mega64 look like a foreign fucking masterpiece, and 912 clips of old people either bowling or playing Brain Age.
Then somewhere in the middle, for good measure, they got two bloggers come out and play Phantom Hourglass and Metroid Prime 3. How are all these Nintendo fan site owners getting classy invites and free stuff? I invented HySpace. Isn't that worth a thank you note or something?
Yours till Niagra falls,
Samus C. Aran
The Sony Conference
After last year's showing was deemed an embarrassment, Playstation founder and Sony Computer Entertainment chair Ken Kutaragi was last seen in some shed with a gun in his mouth.
His replacement, former US division head and Ridge Racer fanboy Kaz Hirai, realized that this year had better be a vast improvement if they wanted to do something about all those large piles of PS3s sitting around in every GameStop in America. So he
I'm sure half of the sort of people interested in having a picture of Darth Vader on their PSP is just going to take out a Sharpie and do it themselves. But that's just judging from all these links I see of people spray painting their NES gold, cutting a Triforce out of it, and having the inside glow blue or some other crazy Pimp My Ride shit. You know what I miss? Stickers.
Jack Tretton, the first known video game character to run Sony Computer Entertainment America, speaks without moving his lips, which means he's either reading my mind or Garfield. Both of these are horrifying possibilities that I don't want to think about for too long. He's showing off the PS3's online community thing, Playstation Home, which makes me feel like I'm about to be welcomed to Packard Bell Navigator, making it a terrible idea by proxy.
Oh God he's materialized!
Not quite the commanding presence Reggie Fils-Aime is, Jack spends the next three minutes explaining that he's nervous. Then he makes sure that the first thing he mentions is the reduced price tag on the 60-gig version PS3, the last little "oh by the way" comment and biggest outrage from last year's conference. Smart move. He then talks about the Playstation 2 for about five seconds, pretty much just saying GOD OF WAR 2 IS PRETTY GREAT YOU GUYS and moving on to the PSP's upcoming roster.
Wow, great view, camera guy! Thanks!
Jack jumps back into PS Home and runs into Kaz, who's playing a video game inside of a video game and that's kind of sad. Even Jack busts his balls and asks if he's playing Rrrrridge Rrrrracer.
It just so happens that Kaz's avatar is grillin' burgers, so he asks Jack to watch them so he can go back to the real world and talk to everybody. I just got finished watching a giant imp get weighed and call it a video game, and this is still the cheesiest shit I've seen all day.
Or maybe this "look you guys we're inside a video game" schtick isn't as far off as I thought. Kaz is wearing the same exact thing he wore last year. You'd think he got paid enough to invest in multiple outfits.
He's holding what he calls the latest version of the PSP. It looks exactly the same, only now it's a tiny bit skinnier and weighs less. You know, I always pegged Playstation fans to be the type to call their 130-pound girlfriend fat, but I figured they'd be tough enough to hold onto a PSP for an extended period of time without complaining about it.
The floor is handed over to Phil Harrison, the first known talking phallus to run Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide. His short attention span appears to get the best of him, and he asks the audience to bunch together for a camera phone picture.
Harrison takes us through a brief tour of some upcoming games to be downloadable from the online Playstation Network, including Echocrome, a sort of M.C. Escher has dinner with Super Monkey Ball inside of an Etch-a-Sketch, and Pain, a game where the object is to see how much you can hurt yourself by doing ridiculous shit. So take my dinner analogy and pretend The Incredible Machine is sitting with Jackass at the next table. The rest of the games, to nobody's surprise, involve shooting, racing, or basketball.
Phil heads back into Home and we see a perfectly clearly running version of SingStar for the PS2, and more and more it looks like you will soon be able to play your PS3 games in the virtual world inside your PS3. Right here lies the difference between the three console giants. Even Wii Sports tells me to take a break and go the fuck outside after a while. Sony wants me to never get up from in front of my television again except maybe to work.
See? Look. There's the photo he just took. Such photos can be sent into Home from friends, so let them do all that hard work involving going outside and enjoying the sights. We're Sony. We can recreate sights right here in real time!
Jack comes back to introduce a montage of what he calls "exclusive, hardware-driving" third party games...
Starting with that one game I made the Rainbow Brite joke about during the Microsoft conference! Which I can't fault him for, because it looks like actual color is, indeed, exclusive in the PS3 version.
Next up is the newest trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4, which makes everybody go crazy and sick with excitement. Even the people in the game, from the looks of it. Everybody on the right just suddenly started having what appeared to be painful constipation.
Hideo Kojima revealed this to be the grand finale of the Metal Gear series, and the trailer is actually worth watching and getting excited about. So how does Phil follow it?
By totally killing my game woody. That damn furry.
One thing I've noticed on all of these Home demos is that everybody walks like the Undertaker. Is there a run button, or will we all have to suffice with walking slowly and ominously to our every destination?
Among all the stupid avatars conversing with each other and walking around Packard Bell Navigator Land, there were a number of PS3 games I would have liked to be excited for if I owned a Playstation 3.
Little Big Planet was among the few highlights that didn't involve shooting motherfuckers or racing against motherfuckers. It's hard to tell from that helpful and wonderfully artistic shot from the back of the hotel room across the street, but it looks like you control the rag doll from that one Korn album and his buddies, all of whom are about an inch tall. You create levels with various obstacles and see if you and your friends can make it all the way through and bring the Twins to the World Series.
Infamous told the story of an anti-hero who can shoot lightning out of his arms, and you decide whether to use your great power with great responsibility or fry everyone's iPods. The concept and gameplay actually look pretty great, even though the character looks like some idiot they got to star in 8 Mile 2 beacuse Eminem didn't want to.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune is the formerly unnamed Naughty Dog project I saw last year and redubbed "Lester the Slightly More Likely." It still looks like that, but with more people and less likelihood to go around to all of them.
Killzone 2 was the final game shown at the Sony conference, after Phil pretended to be done and Jack, still hanging out with Kaz in PS Home, busted out the most bullshit "AREN'T YOU FORGETTING SOMETHIIINNNG?" of all time. Other than the dramatic strobe lights in the audience and one guy in the game saying "shithead," there isn't really much to tell beyond that it's another first person shooter that looks very pretty.
And Gran Tourismo 5 is this close to rendering the flies blinking before they hit the windshield. There must be better things to concentrate on. Like the fate of E3, about which rumors have already begun spreading considering changing the whole presentation again. All this reporter can tell you right now is that next year's E3 will take place in a rented out VFW, Nintendo will unveil the Wii Mechanical Bull, and all the games you saw today will have BRAND NEW TRAILERS. Oh man. I can't wait.