Big Pic­ture Mode

In­dus­try is­sues given the widescreen treat­ment

EDGE - - SECTIONS - NATHAN BROWN Nathan Brown is Edge’s games edi­tor, and is pack­ing his favourite Dori­tos-branded swag bag for the trip to E3

Nathan Brown pre­pares for the Elec­tronic En­ter­tain­ment Expo

So long, Kinect. The new gen­er­a­tion’s whitest ele­phant is as good as dead, and I’m still not en­tirely sure who I feel the most sorry for. Is it the de­vel­op­ers mak­ing games for it on the un­der­stand­ing there would be one in the box with ev­ery con­sole? The early adopters who were sold a lemon on what al­ways felt like a load of false prom­ises? The be­lea­guered Mi­crosoft PRs try­ing to put a pos­i­tive spin on yet an­other hu­mil­i­at­ing pol­icy change? Clearly, Xbox One’s cam­era is far from the only ca­su­alty here.

Not that there aren’t pos­i­tives. Mi­crosoft has clearly re­turned its fo­cus to games. New Xbox di­vi­sion leader Phil Spencer seem­ingly has greater clout than his pre­de­ces­sor, Marc Whit­ten, and it ap­pears that the new-look Xbox di­vi­sion it­self will be less trou­bled by the needs and wants of other Mi­crosoft de­part­ments. And the tim­ing of it all sug­gests we’re in for quite the E3.

The cheaper, Kinect-free Xbox One will be re­leased on June 9 – the same day as Mi­crosoft’s con­fer­ence. It launches, then, on the day on which, at E3s past, it would have been an­nounced. Drop­ping Kinect ahead of time doesn’t only sug­gest Mi­crosoft is go­ing to spend its E3 brief­ing fo­cus­ing squarely on new games, it tells us much about how the con­fer­ence it­self has changed, too.

E3 was born as, and no­tion­ally re­mains, a trade show: a place where videogame mak­ers and mar­keters gather to show their wares to press and re­tail­ers. Yet from the mo­ment the first broad­cast cam­era was set up at the back of a plat­form-holder press con­fer­ence, that has been chang­ing. To­day, E3 is a con­sumer show that just hap­pens to be at­tended by the trade – though given the num­ber of people that wan­der the floor with swag bags dan­gling to their an­kles, clearly a few en­thu­si­asts still man­age to wan­gle their way in.

Where a con­fer­ence used to be­gin with a lengthy up­date on a con­sole’s sales per­for­mance, now it starts with a dub­step ex­plo­sion. E3 is no longer about graphs, but graph­ics: the people up on stage aren’t talk­ing

No doubt Phil Spencer had to fight hard to kill Kinect as a packed-in re­quire­ment, but it was his most ob­vi­ous tar­get

to a room­ful of writ­ers and re­tail­ers – the people who would be most ex­cited by news of a Kinect-free Xbox One – but a live world­wide au­di­ence of mil­lions of play­ers. Over the years things have had to be­come slicker, more stage man­aged, and pub­lish­ers and plat­form hold­ers have strug­gled to ad­just. Hence Mr Caf­feine, that Wii Mu­sic drum­ming GIF, and Kaz Hi­rai’s “Ridge Racer!”

Nin­tendo’s strug­gled more than most, ac­tu­ally, from Iwata’s Pow­erPoint ma­nia in the Wii and DS era to Kat­suya Eguchi’s tor­tu­ous Nin­tendo Land pre­sen­ta­tion, Reg­gie Fils-Aime’s smil­ingly in­tim­i­dat­ing sales pitches, and Cam­mie Du­n­away in gen­eral. Lit­tle won­der, then, that Nin­tendo has de­cided to with­draw from the pomp and bom­bast of the big­gest videogame show on Earth. It’ll still be at E3 – with, as usual, one of the largest booths on the show floor – but there will be no press con­fer­ence. In its place will be a spe­cial Nin­tendo Di­rect broad­cast.

Cer­tain cor­ners of the In­ter­net – cor­ners that sim­ply can’t get enough of Ge­off Keigh­ley’s Photo-Shopped Dori­tos mitre and putting the words ‘game jour­nal­ism’ in sar­cas­tic sin­gle quotes – have taken this to mean that Nin­tendo is fi­nally wash­ing its hands of a press corps that has gone too far. Oth­ers see Nin­tendo ad­mit­ting de­feat, re­treat­ing from the con­sole war front­lines. To me, this is Nin­tendo do­ing what it’s al­ways done, and in­no­vat­ing on its own terms, be­cause it un­der­stands how E3 has changed. The goal – com­mu­ni­cat­ing with play­ers – is the same, but the de­liv­ery mech­a­nism is dif­fer­ent. Why put on a lav­ish, costly stage show when you can put Sa­toru Iwata in a Ky­oto board­room with a cam­era and a bunch of ba­nanas and achieve the same re­sults?

I’m not about to add my voice to the te­dious an­nual swell of those call­ing for the death of E3. It’s a fan­tas­tic show, and this year’s prom­ises to be one for the ages – one, to bor­row Sony’s tagline, for the play­ers. Nin­tendo fac­ing what is prob­a­bly its last shot at sav­ing Wii U. Sony seek­ing to build on a re­mark­able 12 months and ce­ment PS4’s po­si­tion as mar­ket leader. And Mi­crosoft, with ev­ery crit­i­cised Xbox One pol­icy sent to the grave, re­turn­ing its gaze from ser­vices to soft­ware with a con­fer­ence that should be packed full of big an­nounce­ments. No doubt Spencer had to fight hard to kill Kinect as a packed-in re­quire­ment, but it was his big­gest, most ob­vi­ous tar­get. Now things get tough. When he takes to Mi­crosoft’s stage on the morn­ing of June 9, we’ll find out what kind of big game hunter he re­ally is.

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