With news coming that the PS4 will be uncovered outside E3, and that consoles are reported on by tech blogs and sites, I figured consoles deserve their own conferences not affected by the busyboding of E3. Let them have the spotlight alone.
It might be a small annoyance, and maybe only noticed by a person who admittedly reads too many websites, but are video games considered tech or entertainment? News outlets list games as either or, the bane of a news junkie. They converge in either arena, but to say this little media miscue may soon have a result is relieving.
One stipulation of modern technology is ardently followed conferences unveiling a product to the world. When Research in Motion revealed its super saviour phone the BlackBerry 10 this week, amid a swarm of warmly named gimmicks, any announcement instantly shot up into Twitter’s global trends. It may have been the dead of morning, but still, the single showcase conveyed the notion quickly that BlackBerry was back and in a big way.
Steve Jobs in his ebony sweater and waist-high jeans famously touted a slew of Apple products to the public, morphing the simple business showing into an event. Flashy graphics, industry leaders, unexpected cameos–each conference acted more as a celebration of progress in technology. And frankly, games are overdue for that type of atmosphere.
What sells a console (or any product) is not just what the product is or the games offered, but a company’s enthusiasm. Anything to make the product seem more exciting, more hip, more attractive to the establishment. For those who watched the BlackBerry 10 showcase, notice how CEO Thorsten Heins kept trying to make the audience applaud each gimmick? He had the world’s attention and didn’t make quite enough of a splash, at least to critics. That lack of enthusiasm resonates.
I brought up Apple before because under Steve Jobs the company mastered these events. It wasn’t just the product which made headlines; Jobs’ charisma and genuine excitement attracted and sometimes dominated front covers, especially when the world learned he had pancreatic cancer. It’s sensationalism at its finest.
During E3, each company embellishes their games (in 2013, consoles too) for caffeine-fuelled reporters to write positive stories. Readers indulge excitedly on sometimes hundreds of news bits, from the indie-game-that-could to EA’s incoming sequel. Consoles are huge news, sure, however these machines must compete with every other group on the show floor, distracting from a plethora of blog posts (like here on Holygrenade) and the like following any major announcement.
That’s why companies must expose a console to the world either before or after E3, when the adrenaline rush of novelty dies down. And especially in a year where both Microsoft and Sony are expected to release their new gaming machines, to gain that pivotal foothold against the competition, these companies should start treating a console launch as that of a smartphone or other revolutionary (in the company’s mind) device.
We’ve already seen shreds of this trend. Delayed probably because of manufacturing uncertainties, Nintendo showed the Wii U at a press conference in New York. Even though the console was first showcased at E3 2011, the big N announced the cost and availability of the Wii U.
Perhaps the biggest showing outside E3 will be in a couple of weeks. On February 20, Sony will release information on the PlayStation 4, as confirmed by The Wall Street Journal. No word on if a conference is set, or just a livestream from Sony’s HQ, but something is coming out to formally announce the PlayStation 3′s successor.
The industry now is as competitive as ever, from Android-powered microconsoles to smartphones and tablets becoming a mainstay. Moreover, a sentiment exists out there pegging these as eventually wearing down what we understand as console gaming. That may be a wrongheaded approach–How long have people declared PC gaming dead?–but the console market will experience an economic and cultural shift in the coming years. And it’s vital the console-makers stay ahead of the pace.
It’s also important considering how increasingly marketable games are when attached to tech products, like Angry Birds getting the nod internationally with Windows 8, itself unveiled during a major conference. Video games are the next frontier that technology will explore and it’s only time before such media isolation is necessary to sell consoles.
Come back to Holygrenade (Would you kindly?) for thoughts and analysis on the big February 20th announcement, along with (sometimes) daily rants on the gaming industry.
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