The Electronic Entertainment Expo is over for another year in Los Angeles. This year we saw Microsoft and Sony offer up more information on their next generation game consoles. Meanwhile Nintendo did what Nintendo always does; announce a ton of sequels to their previous franchises. At least Microsoft and Sony are trying to come up with some new games. Nintendo seems to be stuck in a rut on that front.
A quick history lesson: E3 2013 was my 17th visit to the trade show (yes, I am old). Yet, while there were certainly a lot of people who roamed the halls, the show itself felt smaller. I remember when the entire LA Convention Center had every square inch filled with exhibits. This year, the large South and West halls had big portions with no exhibits at all and the Kentia hall hasn't been used during E3 in years.
Part of the reason is that many large game publishers are no longer around, such as THQ, Midway, LucasArts and Atari. Other large companies simply don't show up anymore, such as Valve, NCSoft and others, and still others just have meeting rooms at E3, like Take Two Interactive.
As a result, I just have to wonder if a trade-only show like E3 needs to exist anymore. For a long time, E3 was important to get the word out on major game launches but now we live in an era where the Internet is an even faster way for publishers to let gamers know about their new releases. Not only that, but events such as the two US-based Penny Arcade Expo shows, which are open to the public, give publishers other ways to connect to their fans.
With the prospect of no new game console launches for a long time following the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, it could also serve as an excuse for other game publishers, even major ones like Microsoft, to decide not to attend E3 2014. In fact, I emailed Microsoft's PR reps to ask if Microsoft had made any decisions on that front but they would not comment.
Xbox One: The final word ... for now
In an editorial posted soon after Microsoft's E3 2013 press conference, I said that Microsoft needed to have a good explanation for the Xbox One to have an online requirement for playing games beyond 24 hours, as well as its restrictions for used game discs. Since then, Microsoft officials have tried to give their side of their argument, but in my opinion, they seem hollow.
"Microsoft needed to have a good explanation for the Xbox One to have an online requirement"
In a video interview with Microsoft's Xbox leader Don Mattrick, he suggested that the online requirement for playing games on the Xbox One was a "future-proof choice". However, as I have remarked before, the current Internet infrastructure in the US has a ton of problems that make a console with Microsoft's hardware setup inaccessible for many gamers.
Mattrick made matters worse when he said that people who want a console that doesn't require an Internet connection should just buy the eight year old Xbox 360. Basically, he's saying, "You know that cool Halo game we showed a teaser trailer for on Monday for the Xbox One? If you don't have a good Internet connection, you are out of luck." This kind of arrogant attitude is not the way to market a new console, at least in my opinion.
As far as the used game disc situation, another interview with Microsoft's marketing chief for Xbox, Yusuf Mehdi, has him stating that the company is trying to get consumers to embrace the digital-only system for games, adding, " ... we believe digital is better".
Indeed, we think that digital will be better for games ... eventually. However, the mistake that Microsoft is making is forcing that digital game future a bit too soon when it should allow the marketplace to dictate when it will become viable. More and more people are buying books, movies, TV shows, comics and audio track via download, but none of those industries are pushing for their physical versions to have the kinds of restrictions that Microsoft is trying to do with the Xbox One game discs.
It reminds me on how TV makers tried a couple of years ago to make consumers embrace 3D televisions. Consumers, however, knew better than the TV industry that 3D televisions are not ready to be in most people's homes. No one wants to wear 3D glasses for hours on end to watch a football game or a marathon of TV shows.
Consumers are not ready for a full digital future for games. It will happen, but if Microsoft thinks that its Xbox One disc restrictions will make that future happen faster, I think they will be sorely disappointed.
Neowin's E3 2013 coverage is sponsored by Alienware