Gaming showcase E3 plays for position in changing industry landscape

Net Results: It’s the time of year when games firms reveal their plans and secret weapons

Microsoft revealed its Xbox One only a few
 short
 weeks ago, deciding against waiting to announce its next-generation console at the show. Photograph: Stuart Isett/The New York Times

Microsoft revealed its Xbox One only a few short weeks ago, deciding against waiting to announce its next-generation console at the show. Photograph: Stuart Isett/The New York Times

 

It’s that time of year again: E3, one of the biggest games exhibitions in the world, is about to kick off in the US, showing us exactly what we can expect to hit our consoles and mobile devices in the next few months.

It’s the time of year when games firms reveal their plans and secret weapons as they try to dominate their particular sector.

And it’s also that time of year when the nagging voices start to ask once more: is E3 even relevant any more?

Given the events of the past few months, you’d be forgiven for wondering exactly what the big console makers have left to announce. Sony and Microsoft have already revealed their next-generation consoles to the world, outside of the expected E3 platform.

Nintendo isn’t holding a large press conference at this year’s show, opting for smaller events instead, concentrating on games. Its Wii U was the first of the three next-generation consoles to hit the market, and the handheld market is largely covered with the fairly recent 3DS launch, so little is expected on the hardware front from the company next week.

But now that speculation over the new consoles has been largely put to rest – at least over what the systems themselves will consist of.

It may just allow one thing to take centre stage instead – the games.

Microsoft revealed its Xbox One only a few weeks ago, deciding against waiting to announce its next-generation console at the show. Instead, it will concentrate on revealing the different games it intends to make available on its new console, something that was largely held back from its big announcement in Seattle a few weeks ago.

This year’s plans are a bit of a contrast from the Kinect launch, which took place at E3 with a massive event that involved Cirque du Soleil acrobats and a media circus.

But it’s easy to forget that the Xbox One’s predecessor, the Xbox 360, was shown for the first time in May 2005, a few weeks before the show took place. Attendees got up close with the console at that year’s E3 event – presumably what will also happen this year.


Sony approach
Xbox executives have also been teasing something big for the Xbox 360 at this year’s E3, indicating the company is adopting the same approach to its consoles as Sony did with the Playstation 2, and continuing to support it.

Speaking of Sony, the Japanese company has also been holding back on the detail. After unveiling the Playstation 4 in February, the company is now gearing up to provide a first look at the console at E3, and a closer look at its games. We’re heading for another console war, and that in itself should generate a bit of excitement.

The Entertainment Software Alliance, which owns E3, is of course remaining upbeat. The show itself has committed to taking place in Los Angeles for another three years, up to 2016. And with an industry that is quickly evolving to include mobile gaming, there may be life in E3 yet.

The questions dogging E3 seem to be the same that befall most of the major tech shows eventually, as the big electronics firms seem only too happy to reveal their big news away from the show floor, possibly in a bid to avoid getting lost in the deluge that accompanies such events.

Similar questions have been asked about International CES, the Consumer Electronics Schow, in recent times and, rightly or wrongly, the questioning voices get louder every year as the industry landscape changes significantly.

Microsoft’s decision to pull out of playing a major part in CES was a catalyst for some of the speculation. It no longer has a major presence on the show floor, with its usual booth opposite Intel taken over by Chinese firm HiSense this year.

But like E3, CES continues to draw crowds every year, with more than 150,000 people showing up in Las Vegas last January to pick around the new TVs, connected appliances and robotics.

Maybe it’s that we expect too much these days. We’ve been bombarded by so many flashy product announcements and innovative devices that have created a whole new market that we expect nothing less than stunning. There’s less that impresses us, as evidenced by the apathy towards some of the new products hitting the market. But for now, conventions like E3 and CES will soldier on.

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