Ah, E3. The little acronym that gets all of us who play videogames all excited. The Electronic Entertainment Expo is just around the corner, again - which means it must have been about a year since I started subjecting you all to my thoughts on here. All the big players in our favourite industry are strapping on their running shoes and doing their pre-race stretches.
EA are doing a big stream instead of a conference this year - which given how embarrassing their outing was last year is probably a wise decision. Apparently Anthem isn't going to be a part of it in spite of previous assurances that it would be - which doesn't bode well for that particular game, which was been on apparent life support for the last couple of months despite their occasional insistence otherwise. No doubt they'll show us FIFA and Madden though, and Star Wars will make an appearance. And they probably won't mention microtransactions too much, unless they want to be pelted with whatever freebies they've left under the audience's seats. Nintendo are... doing a stream this year, because they're Nintendo and not caring about what everyone else is doing is what they do best. Ubisoft are have confirmed that they'll be showing a load of stuff, but they haven't said exactly what it is yet - the titles of the games will probably be leaked a day before their press conference. And one of them will probably be Splinter Cell. Bethesda are planning on rocking up and either publicly apologising for Fallout 76 or just carefully avoiding the subject. Sony are taking a year off - which is a shame, as usually they show us a whole bunch of games that we can look forward to seeing at at least the next 4 E3's before they're finally announced. And Microsoft have been shouting about how many first party Xbox Game Studios games they're going to be revealing at the show. Let's face it, if they want our positive attention right now, they're making the noises they need to be making...
At this late stage of my gaming career though, I've watched enough E3's to have a pretty good handle on how they pan out. We'll see trailers, get given information, and then all be expected to board the hype train like good little consumers. All the people in the conference rooms will clap at the right moments and dish out the occasional loud exclamations, while the platform holders and studio heads strut around onstage like the rockstars they dreamed of being as kids.
Harsh? Maybe. But at this point, I'm actually kinda sick of E3. The only thing you could do to expose yourself to more lies and bullshit in a given year is watch election campaign trail coverage. There'll be the inevitable fallout - some of it during the show and some of it in the period (sometimes years!) after as the facade slips and the truth is revealed. So, in the interest of skipping to the end and avoiding the disappointment, I've put together this handy guide to interpreting E3. It's not exhaustive, but over the years these maxims have been proven to be true more often than not.
1) The game won't be as pretty as that demo.
See that game, there? Yeah, that one. The one that looks absolutely ridiculously pretty? So pretty, in fact, that it can't possibly be running on current console hardware? Well... spoiler. When it arrives, it won't look like that. It probably won't even look close to what you're seeing right now.
And that's because what you're seeing right now isn't the game. It's the developer's hope for what the game will look like. It's their wildest aspirations. Seriously... unless it says "in game footage" at the bottom of it, just assume you're being subjected to the usual marketing smoke and mirrors - that way you won't be disappointed when the game comes out (not that you'll remember this trailer in 5 year's time anyway).
2) No release date? You're not seeing it soon.
You know that amazing trailer you just saw? For that game that looked immense - and almost too pretty? Well, you aren't going to see it anytime soon. Unless a trailer has a release date (and no, "Winter 20xx" does NOT count as a release date), you can and should assume that the game is at least 2 years away. Unless it's being shown in the Sony show. If it's in the Sony show, it's 5 years away. (cough Final Fantasy VII remake cough).
3) Release date shown? That date is NOT the date you'll be getting it.
So, you've watched the awesome new trailer for the awesome new game, and at the end it gives you a release date! An actual date! It could be in the daft American mm-dd-yyyy format or the sane dd-mm-yyyy format that's used by pretty much everyone else; it doesn't matter. You've got that date! Yay! You know when you can play the awesome new thing - and that might even be on an awesome new console!
Except... that first release date is almost always bollocks. Delays happen all the time in the games industry - to the point where it's far more surprising and newsworthy when a game actually ships on the date that was first announced for it. Don't go booking any time off just yet.
4) No price mentioned? It's gonna be more expensive than you expect.
This one mainly applies to new hardware, rather than games - as the price of games has been pretty much static ever since the days of the SNES. Make no mistake though, the very next thing that most consumers want to know once they've been told what the cool new console can do and when they can have it is how much it will cost. If that piece of information isn't announced on the spot, right there and then, just assume it's going to be more expensive than you'd expect/hope. At least if it comes in lower, your disappointment will please you.
5) "Gamers" will bitch about everything.
The final thing you can guarantee about E3 is that you'll end up reading complaints from people describing themselves as "gamers" and just... shaking your head at them. Maybe you'll find yourself wondering what kind of blessed existence these idiots get to live to be able to choose a decision by a game designer as something to get so wound up and cross about. Maybe they'll be all upset about a game being in third person (see last year...). Or maybe a developer will have the sheer gall to put a female character model into a historical shooter. Or worse, have a main character whose sexuality can be decided by the player? Whatever happens, you can pretty much guarantee that some company or other will announce something to upset the basement dwellers.
With all this in mind, enjoy E3. Just go into it expecting to treat everything you see, hear, and read with a pinch of salt and it'll all end up being for the best. And if you do end up getting upset with something... well, you only have yourself to blame.