E3: Retail Rituals

15 07 2008

E3 is now in full effect, which actually means reduced effect since it’s been shrinking for the past few years. So far, this quote is by far the most interesting thing:

“Science is a really powerful brand that no other entertainment property is trying to grab,” said Wright, after complaining that modern chemistry sets “are so nerfed that you could probably eat all the stuff and it wouldn’t make you feel sick”.

It is of course Will Wright talking about Spore, and he’s correct. Spore isn’t exactly going to teach hard science, but it’s based on extensive reading of it, and one of the first things in years to sex it up a little.

Will also claims that Spore now has more species than Earth, but that’s no doubt a bit of PR spin: while about 1.75 million species have been catalogued, estimates range from 5 – 30 million (source).

(Edit: Rock, Paper, Shotgun point to a video of Will’s talk. He spoke accurately on numbers of known species, but it was misreported as all species. The talk is well worth a watch, and only a few minutes long).

Announcements are starting to trickle out, with Nintendo upgrading the Wiimote, and Microsoft announcing avatars and an all round spruce up for XBox Live. Nothing seems to have come from Sony yet.

Most of the content from E3 each year seems a little tepid, yet the event itself has legendary status in the games industry, outside of any big announcements. Developers and journalists we’ve known have studied the event itself rather than the content, with the massive sensory overload leading Idle Thumbs to refer to it as “the balls kneeing robot”. That’s a pretty big contrast to GDC, which is still overwhelming, but the people there are very focused on the content and each other.

I think Tadhgk Kelly nails it at his blog:

It strikes me that if you’re going to do the conference thing then surely the thing to learn is some stagecraft? Don’t put the timid exec on stage if he’s not good in front of a crowd, for instance. Find someone to do it for you with confidence, even a celebrity if you have to. Don’t talk about how exciting things are: show how exciting they are. Don’t trot out lists of features as a replacement for content. In the end of the day, there are better ways to present this stuff but ultimately what it comes down to is charisma, and most of these people doing the conferences are no doubt very talented at their jobs but they comes across as nerds talking about their science project at the head of a bored class on a hot summer’s day. “Exciting!”

A lot of conferences have some pretty unsavoury characteristics, and that may just well be a consequence of gathering many people together in one location, but there are certainly a lot of tricks that game developers are missing when it comes to presentation.

(CC image: Willi_Hybrid)

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