A couple of weeks back, I was reading a piece on RPS that jokingly lamented the way the game reveals of this summer have gone down.
“NotE3 is never going to end, is it,” RPS’s Alice O’Connor moped. “I’m going to be shown trailers for the Destroy All Humans remaster every fortnight for the rest of my life.”
It kinda feels that way, doesn’t it? I mean, the last few summers we’ve talked at length about the fact that E3 was no longer really useful or necessary, having been usurped by other conventions and snubbed by major publishers. And yet here, in a year when E3 was neither necessary nor possible, it seems like every studio and org decided to try to take up the banner and do online showcases anyway. The result has been a long and seemingly endless drone of Twitch gameshows that are successively failing to light the world on fire. Are we bored? Maybe. But we cannot be that bored, right?
For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’ve asked our staff (and our readers!) to contemplate the summer of not-E3. Was a new Twitch gameshow every week really what we wanted in lieu of live events? Are you paying any attention to these events at this point? How do we escape this eternal hell?
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Obviously I’m partially biased by being the guy who usually covers E3, but as others said, having a million streams replace it isn’t the same, and I’m saying that as a someone who watches from the outside.
One thing that I feel sadly doesn’t get covered as much is how people on the ground are doing at E3 or any convention. You may see a lot of hype and cheering in the videos, but I can’t tell you how many of those people are employees, streamers, or people who won a contest. The reviews are rarely helpful, as I’ve seen people in the MMO industry in particular take free swag and grin when facing devs, only to throw stuff down and insult it when among press… before writing a positive review.
If every fan could go and play all the games to see through all the spectacle it would be awesome, even if I were out of a job. But these myriad of streams seems dull, even when sorting through them via media round-ups and other websites. They’re mostly anti-climatic, and part of that may be that these companies may feel like they have less pressure from not being physically in the same space as their competition.
So how do we move on? Let’s be idealistic, not just with E3 but gaming conventions in general. Having online demos people at home could play would be awesome, especially for MMO and other online multiplayer games which tend to fall flat for me. That would help companies need less on-site hardware and internet needs while also potentially capturing hype earlier on (not to mention free player testing and feedback). The physical convention would be for camaraderie, business, and yeah, let’s be honest, free stuff.
Andy McAdams: I’ve watched exactly one, if the WoW dev stream counts, and wracking my brain for another example I’ve even seen advertised, I’m coming up blank. But death by a thousand cuts is not what I wanted in lieu of an in-person E3. It’s impossible to keep track of and burdensome to keep up to date on what new thing is being announced today! The part that E3 was really good at was consolidating all of these announcements to the same week: It crammed everything into a single event that we didn’t have to keep context switching and keeping up with individual groups on what they are saying when to whom and eleven hundred other tiny details for each stream. It was all there, all in one place, and it was super easy to keep track of. The current model is like letting a pack of rats out all running different directions and saying “Ok, now just pay attention to the important ones!”
I also don’t think this is going to be especially effective for game developers. They are largely speaking to existing communities who all know or have strong suspicions about what’s being announced. There’s really no opportunity for reactions like “oh I heard about this cool new game I didn’t know about!” because the cool new game is busy marketing all their stuff to their existing community. There’s a synergy to a whole bunch of games that announce a whole bunch of things all at once where the announcements more easily reach outside their existing community. We aren’t getting that so guaranteed there are some really cool games who aren’t getting the eyes they deserve because we have a swarm of Twitch Game shows that no one can keep track of and are only really marketed to existing communities.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I made the mistake of subscribing to the Google calendar where they are keeping track of all the Summer Game Fest events. It’s a lot. It’s over 20 just on that one list, and it’s only halfway through the summer. Granted, most of them are not for MMORPGs, so I also don’t have to pay close attention, but damn I’m so glad I’m not covering the titles vying for non-MMO attention right now. Some of these shows are acting like they’re exclusive, too, making a huge deal about having press sign up ahead of time for a reserved seat (what the what?) when it’s literally just a stream. There are no capacity issues on a stream. Stoppit. I don’t really want to watch your stream. I definitely don’t want to register weeks in advance for your stream.
But guys, we’re not even to online GDC or online Gamescom or online PAX Prime yet, and it’s already exhausting. It’s not their fault, really; it’s just that being forced all online takes away a lot of the power of being live, all the hoopla of in-person crowds and demos, and makes it painfully obvious we’re all just logging into TV advertising. Top top it off, most of these teams don’t have a whole lot to show anyway because they’re stuck working at home just like so much of the country right now (not blaming them, just pointing out the reality). The fun parts were stripped away by the virus. I guess I’d rather stop faking and forcing online cons and just resume when things are more normal. I won’t be sorry to see this summer behind us.
Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX), YouTube): I don’t watch them, but I’m glad they exist. I’d argue those shows aren’t for the millennials-and-older crowd anyway; they’re for the people who are still learning about their gaming preferences and what their gaming identity is. I wouldn’t want to rob today’s kids of the excitement that comes with finding out the newest, hottest games.
I know what I like and I no longer have the urge to chase the next big thing. I’m happier grinding away at an MMO rather than watching some show about the next great esport or something. Chances are, I’ve already played it. I’ll just try it out when it releases.
As for the summer being an “eternal hell,” I’ve been taking it in stride and enjoying my time. I’ve been keeping things simple; I just play games. If it’s a game I want to play, I play it. Forget about who makes it – just enjoy the game. Getting mad over how video game companies do business is pointless and will make people even more frustrated than they already are.
But in theory, I have absolutely no problem with them. I’d rather studios just do their own presentations and put out press releases virtually so that we have to spend less time mucking about in conventions and more time absorbing the news and discussing the potential of these games.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Um… there were Twitch gameshows? Whoops. Well it appears I’ve (happily) managed to avoid them, seeing as my focus has been elsewhere. The only event I am really looking forward to is TennoCon 2020! I will be watching the whole thing.