I know, I know. This is not new news. This topic has been a source of nerd rage for years now, but I feel like the recent press events at this year’s E3 have shamed even the most embarrassing moments from past shows. I didn’t think anything could get worse after Microsoft’s terrible “watch paid actors play Kinect” demos, but they have.
Microsoft’s demo was bad, but at least they didn’t shove a bunch of Kinect games that no one cares about down our throat. Sony’s presentation was probably the “best”, but still had it’s bad moments. Ubisoft’s event was incredibly awkward, which is usually what happens when you hire a somewhat famous actress and tell her to say things like “girl wood”. By far, the largest embarrassment to the industry came from Nintendo. This is a shame, because Nintendo is generally the only press event that journalists actually look forward to attending.
Miyamoto is always a delight to see, as he seems genuinely enchanted with the characters and games he has helped develop. His enthusiasm and wrinkled face gives him the aura of an excited grandpa. Who doesn’t like an excited grandpa? That said, when Reggie Fils-Aime, the President of Nintendo of America, steps on stage, the mood changes from that of whimsical delight to that of an angry high school political science teacher. Throughout his presentation, which was delivered with all the bravado and excitement of a house plant, I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened back stage before he stepped out. Did his dog just die? Was he just informed that his wife was filing for divorce? Did he suddenly reach the realization that the WiiU is entirely built on gimmicky features that have been around for past few years already? Whatever it was, this man looked angry, and it stayed that way for the entire presentation.
Things only got worse when Scott Moffitt, the executive VP of sales and marketing, came out to talk about the 3DS. For someone who’s entire job revolves around getting customers to buy things, he pretty much destroyed any enthusiasm I originally had for Paper Mario and the other 3DS games he showed off. I have seen Jr. High kids that have better public speaking skills than this guy. I don’t mind if you read from a prompter, but if you read from a prompter like theres a period at the end of every single word, there’s a good chance you shouldn’t be making speeches on your company’s behalf. Like Reggie, Scott also seemed to have been given terrible news backstage. Buck up, buddy! The 3DS isn’t nearly as huge of a failure now as it was at launch!
I don’t even want to go into the insultingly bad “Sing” ad, or the ridiculous videos of a “family” having “fun” with WiiU minigames that aired after the show. To be honest, what makes me mad, even more than all the individually bad segments from every press event, is the overall complete lack of effort to actually, oh I don’t know, make events that are appealing to people who enjoy video games. Maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t care less if a paid actor talks about a game. I don’t care if Joe Montana comes out to advertise a football game. I don’t care if Aisha Tyler talks about how much she plays first-person shooters. Shockingly, what I want out of a press event is to see the games.
Maybe I’m completely wrong about this, but if you make a good game, it’s going to speak for itself. I’ve always had respect for the way Bungie revealed their new Halo games (and how 343 Industries did the Halo 4 reveal this year). The lights dim, the screen comes up, and we then watch a member of the team play through a section of the game. No, the person playing the game is not a celebrity, and there is no over-produced marketing video with buzzwords flashing across the screen. We are watching an average man play a game. While it may have seemed a bit cheesy, I loved when the developers for the new WiiU Raymen Legends game took the stage, mainly because they were absolutely stoked to be there! They were excited about the game, they played the game, and now I’m excited about the game way more than I would have been had Reggie or Scott simply talked about it after showing a short video.
Am I being overly critical? Is it too much to ask that major video game publishers actually spend some time with their ears to ground to learn about the customers they are selling/marketing to? If they want to continue with their current trend of press events that treat consumers like children watching Saturday morning cartoons, I suggest they stop letting their customers watch videos of the events online. To be honest, the most entertaining part of the events was watching tweets from industry veterans as they joked and made fun of pretty much everything on the stage. There’s a reason E3 has become somewhat of a laughing stock in the game industry, and there’s a reason several major players have stopped participating in the event. It’s sad too, because I don’t have the money to fly to GamesCom in Germany, which is fast becoming the “new E3″ as far as the industry is concerned.
If you are reading this and you are somehow relating to video game marketing in any way, please keep this in mind. It’s all about the games. If someone were to walk on stage, say “here’s this game”, then show an awesome demo, that’s all we will need to hop on board the hype train. The lights, the celebrities, the dancing, the fanfare… while these may be marketing tricks that work on other demographics, they are absolutely insulting to the majority of people who play and enjoy video games. You’re simply furthering a stereotype that gamers are drooling idiots who can’t think for themselves or discern mind-numbingly pathetic marketing attempts from actual quality games.