Hot Topic - Trade Show Turmoil - Who Were The Real Winners This Year?
Written Thursday, September 30, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
I found it appropriate for this month's Hot Topic to turn our attention to this year's trade shows and treat it more as a reflective piece and focus on who were the real winners throughout the year. Why is it appropriate you ask? Well that’s simple, because September saw the last of the trade shows come and go, and also because I can directly apologise for our lack of Hot Topic last month. Unfortunately the overwhelmingly busy season saw us miss our first Hot Topic of the year, so yeah, apologies for that. Here we are though, back on track and full steam ahead.
So, the trade shows? Well, from a gamer's perspective, it's safe to say that this year's trade shows were a bit of a mixed bag.
"Welcome to the farce that is the Kinect unveiling..."
E3 2010 started as it meant to go on... with over-the-top pointless choreographed exercises with a focus on spectacle, rather than substance. Yes, we’re talking about Microsoft’s Cirque Du Soleil “extravaganza,” which did nothing but prove that Microsoft has more money than sense at times.
Aside from that farce, E3 2010 was a show of very few exciting game announcements – Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit for instance was a given, although granted, Bad Company 2 Vietnam wasn’t! – but the games on show did hit the right notes. Eidos Montreal proved that the Deus Ex reboot was in good hands, while 2K Marin shocked us with their impressive showing of XCOM. Aside from that though, it was the usual suspects that impressed the most, with Gears of War, Assassin’s Creed, Rage and co. all leaving their mark on the masses of attentive fans and industry folk.
For the most part, the games took a back seat while the console creators were keen to push their expensive technology in a period of what can only be described as economic uncertainty; with Microsoft pushing Kinect, and Sony pushing Move and copious amounts of 3D. Nintendo on the other hand went the other way, focusing on the core games, much to the delight of the masses. Oh, and that fancy 3DS of theirs! That in a nutshell sums up this year's E3 and it's crystal clear that Nintendo cleaned house.
Gamescom 2010 on the other hand was a totally different kettle of fish, and definitely felt more about the fans and the games, than it did about the hype and publishers pushing their products into the stratosphere. BioShock Infinite stole the show, but it wasn’t alone, and with the likes of Ubisoft’s From Dust and Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution impressing again, it’s safe to say that it was possibly more of an impressive show from a software standpoint than E3 ever was.
That’s not to say that the usuals didn’t turn up though - because they were all present and correct - but we like to see new content and debut showings at these events more than anything. As far as announcements go? Aside from Mass Effect 2 going to the PS3, nothing else really stood out and captured the hearts and souls of the masses. It seemed like trailers and release dates were the best most could manage this year.
"Chewing gum. Kicking ass. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen."
I do find it quite odd that the Penny Arcade Expo – PAX Prime to all the cool kids – provided the biggest shock of the year... yes, that Duke Nukem Forever is now in the hands of Gearbox and is on its way to a 2011 release. PAX does have a much larger community-based involvement than any of the shows and that’s probably because unlike the other big 3, the main focus is the consumers with the press just there to make up the numbers – a reason that Gearbox’s Mikey Neumann cited as to why they decided to debut the game there.
Ironically enough, the real winner in terms of major trade shows was the only one we didn't attend - D'oh! I am of course talking about the Tokyo Games Show, which went some of the way to proving that Japanese developers shouldn't be discarded just yet.
In recent years, Japanese developers have been criticising the Japanese games industry for not evolving and playing second fiddle to the West. It turns out that all they needed was a new piece of tech for them to try their hand at and unlike the American powerhouse that is Microsoft, they seem to understand what the current install base want out of Kinect: core games.
Out of one trade show, and one show alone, came more “core” titles for Kinect than Microsoft had shown to date... 5 more that is; including a horror game from PaRappa the Rapper creators; Yukio Futatsugi’s – of Panzer Dragoon fame – Project Draco; Suda 51 and Grasshopper’s Codename D; SEGA’s psychological horror title, Rise of Nightmares; and From Software’s Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour. For once, the future of Kinect is rather more appealing from a traditional core gamer’s perspective than ever before.
"Dante is back after his stint in America's Top Model..."
TGS had a lot more going on than just Kinect though, with the likes of Devil May Cry – we won’t talk about the new Dante! – and even a new Ninja Gaiden coming out of the shadows. Speaking of shadows, there was also a debut showing for Suda 51’s Shadows of the Damned; as well as an unveil for Dead Rising: Case West; a new hack ‘n slash IP by the name of Asura’s Wrath; and two arcade games – Fire Pro-Wrestling and Radiant Silvergun.
Ha, take that E3 and Gamescom!
If anything though, 2010 was a confusing year as far as trade shows go, which is puzzling, seeing as we’re currently in the golden age of gaming, with 2010 being a particularly standout year. Sure, they’re a good excuse to bombard the masses with new trailers, new screens and release dates, but unlike 2009, the big announcements were made elsewhere this year – Gears of War 3 for instance was announced on the Jimmy Fallon show... or should have been.
The question then remains: have publishers cottoned on to the fact that game announcements at big trade shows are relatively pointless, with the whole white noise phenomenon of the show stealing their thunder. Or does it mean that they’ve lost sight of what their audience wants from these events, this year especially? Kinect for instance had the wrong focus at E3 and Gamescom, focusing solely on the mainstream... an audience that don’t give two hoots about whether it’s E3 week or Gamescom week, unlike the fanatical games fans the world over that tune in from their own homes to soak up every morsel of information.
"Fans the world over watch MS’s E3 press conference."
However, it is perfect for them to unveil products to retailers and mainstream press alike, so we can only assume this was their intended objective with this year. Why it should differ from any other year though remains to be seen. All I know is, from a specialist gaming website’s viewpoint, it’s not what we want to see.
From a media outlet standpoint, we can’t really grumble about trade shows in general. Sure, we have to travel to the other side of the globe and get involved in many sleep deprived nights and an insane amount of writing, but we get to bring our completely candid opinions on everything we saw to you at home. Saying that, the appearance of BioShock Infinite, Rage, Gears of War 3, Deus Ex and co. are enough to justify our trips over to cover them. Only just.
Compared to 2009, 2010 paled in comparison from a trade show perspective, with Microsoft and Sony putting far too much emphasis on technologies which are yet to convince the masses. Would it have been alright if they did a bang up job of promoting them? Probably, but they didn’t. I do however believe that 2010 was a blip on the radar in terms of trade shows that wow, and we fully expect Microsoft and Sony to pick up their traditional games-are-win mantra next year, after their technologies see their full release on the market. They better had anyway!
As far as the winners and losers go? Well, I know it’s clichéd, but the gamers – that’s all of us here – are the real winners.
Editor’s Note: Hot Topic is a monthly feature here on X360A, where we take one of the month’s talking points and discuss it until your eye-balls bleed through sheer delight. Now that's intense!