E3 2012: Did It Underwhelm?

Consumers who are so often stereotypically divided stood united after E3. They tossed their respective passions for Mario, Master Chief and Sackboy aside to collectively contemplate E3 2012, and responded with a resounding three words that reverberated across all four walls of the internet; is that it?

And on the face of it, who can blame them? Microsoft staged Usher while Sony ignored the Vita, only for Nintendo to also underwhelm with NintendoLand and miss the opportunity to take the industry’s biggest month by storm.

[drop]All three could have certainly done more to impress, but maybe they were always doomed to disappoint the participants of an industry where new technology and unique experiences are of perpetual expectation and sometimes no longer enough to satisfy. 

We are so accustomed to seeing the metaphorical bar being pushed that we are becoming somewhat desensitised to the advancements that are forced to serve an audience who are becoming increasingly demanding.

Not only do titles need to instantly gratify “a Twitter generation” they are expected to use the height of modern technology to deliver the unexpected, and that is a predictably difficult task when videogames have already covered so many fronts.

Furthermore, to fulfill just one of the aforementioned expectations isn’t enough; take Wonder Book, for example. It’s an interesting and innovative concept that uses augmented reality technology, but because the (admittedly flawed) demo wasn’t fast-paced and didn’t include some degree of violent conflict, some consumers were very quick to dismiss and denounce it.

While hinting that violence is the best (and ultimately most profitable) way to entertain, the reaction to the demo could also be argued to highlight an inability to savour something before feeling compelled to taste the next. Instead of using the time to contemplate the potential prospects of the concept, it was left to Twitter to provide the instant gratification that wasn’t being provided by Sony.

[drop2]In fairness, this reaction could have been born largely through frustration; allowing Wonder Book to take the stage over Vita was an awful decision and understandably got devotees of the portable hot under the collar.

It also goes without saying that E3 is meant to showcase the best of the industry, but the underwhelming impression that was provided across the board could again be due to preconceived expectations and individual definitions of what forms top quality entertainment.

As a result, it’s hard to know whether E3 2012 was genuinely disappointing or whether the ever-changing media landscape and consumer expectations made it so. There were some standout moments that received the positive coverage they deserved (Watch Dogs being a primary example) but a large number of conference reviews appeared unmoved by the majority of content on show, which suggests two alternate conclusions.

It’s feasible that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo viewed E3 2012 as the Euro’s in preparation for the World Cup of E3 2013, but it’s just as likely that we no longer realise the quality we are being treated to, take it for granted, and thus demand better. It’s this demand that drives progress, but if it has indeed got to the extent where consumers can no longer fully enjoy a product for want of a better one (especially at an event like E3) then surely something has to change.


  1. If Sony had just replaced Wonderbook with Vita, it would have been the best Sony conference for a few years…

    • Completely agree. I don’t know who thought spending so much time on wonderbook was a good idea but they have a new handheld out and they needed to tell people why they have to have one. Instead, they completely failed. I know what’s coming out because I look but for those who don’t know much about it, E3 is supposed to be the platform that informs people.

  2. Underwhelming as a whole.

    And please stop going on about Watch Dogs – it looks ok but just because it literally was the only surprise game doesn’t mean it’s gonna be awesome because of said fact :)

  3. It was definitely underwhelming. In every way.
    Yes, the majority of Microsoft and Sony’s current big reveals are probably tied in with their next consoles so they’ll wait till next year for something more exciting, but Nintendo had no excuse. After the disastrous reception they received last year they should have been pulling out all the stops but they couldn’t even give a price, release date or some specs.
    As for everything needing to be violent, whilst the scripted and brutal sections are those that leave the biggest impact when screening games, you can look back through E3’s history and very quickly and easily point out that all the best moments were those that were massive surprises. Portal 2 on PS3. Project Natal. KB’s epic game speech. When Nintendo revealed a plethora of new games for the wii like Kirby, Donkey Kong and Super Mario Galaxy 2. It’s announcements that make an impact but there were none of those here. The biggest ones we saw were Watch Dogs and Beyond which is why everyone is making so much noise about them.
    Had Sony just held off on LBP Karting and God of War a couple of weeks, they would have been fantastic moments for us all.

  4. I was watching the 3 ‘big’ shows stream over gamespot and people commented negatively the most when the focus went off the games (which was a lot).When any game was being shown there was virtually no comments at all,everyone was watching with interest it seemed.
    As each show concluded i noticed people just didn’t talk about the sequels being shown (halo 4 seemed the only one) so i think that yes we are becoming desensitized in this instance.
    The devs also don’t seem clued in,they mostly came across like a trendy grandad endlessly amused with novelty.Maybe it’s because they weren’t ready to rise to our next gen speculation,i’m not sure.
    In short i still think us video gamers are an easy bunch to please,i think devs might have got bogged down with timing too much in our current economic state and i reckon ‘sure it was ok’ can be enough sometimes.

  5. Personally I didn’t think it was unreasonable to expect the Vita to be showcased at E3. It is Sony’s new baby and should be supported. I bought a vita at launch and I think it is a fantastic machine and I use it a lot, but what incentive has Sony given for other gamers to jump in too? They definitely missed a trick at E3, it just seems to be a monumental cock up on Sony’s part. Don’t get me wrong, I liked most of what I saw – even the storybook demo, my daughter will love that so I can see the potential of that.
    You never know they might do a Playboy version of storybook for ahem… research.
    Come on Sony, give us something to get excited about (oo, poor choice of words there considering my comment above!)

  6. I was away when E3 was on so was expecting to see loads of new and exciting stuff when I got back, but there wasn’t much to get excited about.

  7. Great to see you writing again Toby!
    Personally, I thought it was pretty disappointing, even though I hadn’t let myself be drawn into the pre-E3 hype (e.g not subbing to PS+ just because some people ‘in the know’ tweeted about it), I still found myself at the end thinking every conference was lacking. For MS and Sony, it was clearly the surprises that were missing, yeah they had some good bits, but over all they were pretty mediocre. Ubisoft did well with all their games, although I still really missed Rainbow 6 – they haven’t mentioned it since it was announced.

    • Why thank you kind sir!

    • Thanks Gazza, nice to know that my AS exam induced absence hasn’t gone unnoticed!

  8. E3 wasn’t brilliant this year but it did what it needed to.

    Nintendo – They hardly put on a great show but announced a tonne of upcoming Wii-U titles, a large percentage of which I can see myself buying.
    Microsoft – dreadful overall but the 5 minute demonstration of Tomb Raider looked great.
    Sony – God of War and Last of Us look terrific. Should have been a larger focus on the Vita however.
    EA – Combination of great and lousey games. Need for Speed Most Wanted looks terrific.
    Ubisoft – Almost faultless. Great list of games all delivered at a good pace.

  9. If I’d have watched all the E3 coverage without seeing any rumours beforehand I would be perfectly happy. All these silly streaming rumours that spread without any real substance to back up the claims plus all the wild next gen speculation meant that when they weren’t shown we were disappointed.

  10. Sony and Nintendo’s 2010 conferences set the bar high, in my opinion. Nintendo announced so many games (Zelda Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Returns, Kid Icarus Uprising) AND showed off the 3DS to boot. And of course Sony had the Portal 2 announcement, the Kevin Butler appearance and the surprise Twisted Metal demo. For the last two years, neither company has impressed me as much as they did back then.

    Microsoft, on the other hand, have been sliding downhill year after year since 2009. They tease us in the first 20 minutes by demoing/announcing some cool games, then proceed to waffle on about something 80% of the audience doesn’t care about.

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