Before we get this started, let’s get one thing straight: E3 was great once more. Everyone that thinks it’s somehow getting worse when we’re presented with awe-inducing games left and right has problems. We live in the golden age of gaming, even their trailers are becoming so surreal that it’s hard to believe this all started with 2 lines floating on a screen. That said, there is one thing that became abundantly clear while watching the press conferences and added presentations: Companies are becoming more aware that not only games are products, but that the people behind it themselves can be turned into cash money. Capitalism has struck its flagpole into our very hearts, for good or bad. This is a tale on the cynical undertones that could be found, but probably were missed, since they’re not meant to be seen by the greedy masses.
The main offenders here were Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft; all for different reasons, but we’ll focus on those and take jabs at others when we can. Do you remember how Microsoft didn’t really have any game to promote for over 30 minutes? That’s because the big M knows the money trail is only indirectly related to games. A recent study has shown that users are actually using their Xbox more as a multimedia device than playing games on it. It’d be stupid not to follow that trend and grab the people where they are. Microsoft pulled that off in numerous ways, connecting as much of their products into that clientele.
For instance, Xbox Live is largely expanding streaming services, such as NBA and other sports, bringing more big names to your services, even on your Windows Phone. Not enough cellphone pushing, you say? Their new project Smartglass turns all your Windows operating devices into a real time encyclopedia. You’re now not enjoying the moment at hand anymore, because everything you own can instantly distract you from what you’re actually doing. Attention spans are cut to a brief minimum and that’s marketing genius. If no one stops to think, no one will stop to offer any critique and everyone will nicely go with the flow.
Buy more things, so you can not watch your show better.
What does that mean for your favorite games? Well, first off they’ll be pushed into the background more and more. How much do you remember Gears of War, a flagship title for the company, being pushed this year? Do you even remember what a Loco Cycle is; let alone what it’s about? Now, Microsoft has always had fewer games and that’s alright. Whatever exclusives they have sell like crazy. Their plan is incentives and exclusive content within multiplatform games such as South Park, though Sony is closing the marketing gap on this with other titles.
This just means an alternate focus. Gone are the days that Kinect is pushed as a motion control device extraordinaire. Now you’ll get an enhanced Microsoft microphone that will give you some lip if you curse during a Fifa match, like it’s 1984. The smart implementation now comes from another corner: Nike. They have more financial gain, so it’s logical that all the stops are pulled there; the fickle fitness audience is a bigger catch to sell hardware to. Yes, Microsoft are a crafty bunch and all the more power to them for being savvy. However, that does mean that games are no longer a priority, so keep watching kittens through Xbox Live!
Destryoing games, one yearly step at a time.
Let’s take this hate train to another path now and look at EA. Oh, Ricitiello can certainly say they do things differently, but what he meant before taking a cheap shot at Activision by ‘congratulating’ West/Zampella, is that they stopped caring. In general, their conference was not pitched towards gamers, but to sponsors. But since they don’t have a console or hardware to peddle, their focus is in that other place where everyone is headed to: social media. In short: EA is now the Facebook of games. They don’t care about you; you’re the product. Whether it’s their social integration in Madden Social,
Call of Duty Elite Battlefield Premium, or Autolog; it’s all aimed towards that demographic that uses games as a commodity for intangible bragging rights. Even SimCity Social is joining this effort; there is no stopping it. Hell, even Crysis 3 is more steered towards instant gratification than ever. Close the attention span, that’s what it’s all about. All bluster, less luster.
The frightening pinnacle of this, however, is Fifa Football Club, which has cleverly found the correct baby steps to solidify sports titles’ throwaway aspect, while on the same hand ensuring sales down the line. You see, “building” on its success, you can now take progress from your previous game through the social integration into the new iteration. That leaves whatever the yearly updates have going for them with even less leeway. You’d be an idiot not to jump onto the newest platform each year now, since you don’t even need to start from scratch anymore. More bragging rights, more sales and less focus on the game itself. Now Fifa games and those that will follow this trend will officially only have a year’s lifespan, so why even put any effort into it. People will buy the next just to jump on board anyway. No one wants to be left behind in the social spectrum. (If I was really cynical, I could easily link this to hiveminds and the uprise of fascism and all worldly decay: social pressures)
Wrongness level: Unrated. Bling factor: Priceless.
Lastly, but most horrid of all, was Ubisoft, but not because of the content per se. While the games shown are quite adequate, it’s the way in which they're presented. Now stay with me here, I’m not talking about lady-boner jokes (though that too). Jack Tretton of Sony started their conference cleverly by stating that anything anyone on-stage mentions can and will be scrutinized, even if the tone is off. And boy, was this year’s terrible host(s) from Ubi ever wrong in that. I think it should be a given that a presenter doesn’t admit that she’s only there for eye candy and “only plays shooters,” when addressing people that don’t care what dazzle status she owns on the tv box. Not only that, but the entire conference was marketed towards the fad, superficial entertainment otherwise known from crunk rap and such. There’s a nerdcore reference in there for us nerdy kids.
Let’s start with the worst introduction ever: It’s great that you all know who Florida is (spelling it wrong, just for kicks), but a completely blinged out microphone does not get me interested in a game, nor a trailer featuring tons of random Youtube personalities. In that extension, the presence of buffoon Tobuscus is granted the same fate, even if he regurgitated questions like a pro. Far Cry 3 was the most appalling in that effort of gratuitous glamor, so much so that it hit its mark perfectly: The general consensus was that Far Cry 3 looks like a superb title and Ubi had one of the strongest conferences. As such what will follow is certain to spawn “flame bait” reactions with no further thought, more so than aforementioned points. That’s exactly what the corporations want you to think, man!
Don't blame me for the imagery, this is the jump off point for the game.
I’ll forget for a second starting a presentation with plastic tits in my face and an orgasmic moan, since that’s apparently also how Tomb Raider is going to be now. No, after that we plunge directly into the cavalcade of split-second bluster with speaker systems everywhere, so you’re sure not to miss on a second of gameplay without needless profanity. With no rest, we immediately jumped into this pit of flames, bullets, death, and ferocious tigers being shot in the face, to end with what appears to be a drug induced hallucination with more sex and violence. If anyone at this point isn’t stimulated, you’ve passed the comatose point. But all of that completely needless and empty gameplay, all of it I could have forgotten, if not for the presenter right afterwards casually dropping an off-color joke about shooting an endangered species. There has never been a point where I was closer to jump on a stage and punch someone dead in the face, not necessarily for the tasteless joke (taste is subjective), but because it was tossed in a brash way without even the realization that this may be very offensive to a large group of people.
For those of you that don’t care about the preservation of wildlife, consider it with me now making a joke about doing stuff to your mom’s cancerous butt, just as a sideline punchline. It’s a crappy analogy, but most people get upset about either motherhood or cancer, for statistical reasons. It’s in such a manner that Ubisoft sells their product: By not caring what you or anyone beyond the vast majority think. If you’re not one of the jocks or popular kids that’s “in” with the cool crowd, you don’t matter, you geek. Go back to your basement where you can’t hear us partying with Just Dance 4 and put on some Zelda or whatever his name is.
The same could be said about Splinter Cell: Blacklist, though in reality the gratuitous “kill faster than ever” element fits Sam Fisher better, since he always was the acrobat of all the operatives. I’m not so sure where the Kinect airstrikes came from, but that’s just us going around in circles at this point. Instant gratification and attention spans, just in case you forgot already.
Just in case you thought Sony wasn't wise to the rest of the companies.
To make it “fair” I should rightfully scrutinize Nintendo and Sony as well, though I see that more as reaching for straws. They didn’t really make any gross missteps that lead me to believe they’re catching up to this disposable marketing effort. Nintendo is just on a sole plane entirely, as if they’re an island that vehemently tries to be self-sufficient even if the obvious benefits of other methods are right there. However, it would be nice if they didn’t make jabs at mobile device games every year. We get it, you don’t like mobile devices.
So let’s close down with some of Sony’s interesting quotes. First off they told us that around 80% of their products are online. This is a cynical piece, so that means I should point out that one in every five gamers does not go online. That means that one in five also gets screwed with unfinished games that need day-one patches, suffer from being rushed, offer only a full experience online and so on. The 80% sound like a swell group to be a part of, but it also sounds like one in every five people is still a large demographic that rightfully doesn’t deserve to get the finger by providing less than finished products they’ll never adapt into a full release.
In that same line, Sony promised us 200 new digital titles this year. That’s approximately one title every two days. Isn’t there such a thing as quality over quantity? No one has the possibility to run through such a gamut of games, so there’s little point to boasting such a thing other than to have people gawk at big numbers without thinking this doesn’t matter at all for more than half of those titles. Also, these titles are only available to four out of five people.
Making my own point in futility.
If anything, this is just written down here to offer some time for people to reflect and think whether or not that one game you liked so much really offers what you think it does. Having some forethought and introspection can only benefit everyone in the end, as there will be less chance to be disappointed that way.
That is all, don’t hate me. I don’t hate games, at all. In fact, I love them a bunch, all of them. I love them so much that I’d rather sound like an alarmist than make some aspects seem alright by not speaking up. Games are fun, let’s keep it that way.