Hype, disappointment, and Mr. Caffeine: An E3 retrospective


“Let this gift be one of memory.”

So it turns out E3 is right around the corner again. Man, time flies. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since Beyond Good and Evil 2, Mario + Rabbids and whatever Devolver’s conference was about.

E3 is quite a magical thing for me. It’s this enchanting mix and match of awkward suits doing their best to put on a convincing human act, celebrities who don’t seem to want to be there, and genuinely exciting video game announcements. I laugh, I sigh, I want Octopath Travelerto be out like yesterday. That’s all I can hope for from big events like it.

Since the days just before E3 are ripe with unhealthy expectations, I figured I’d go back to the big showstoppers of years past. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, then, with a collection of my favorite moments in E3 history, twisted by my unhealthy Magic: the Gathering addiction, of course.

Nintendo, E3 2004 – The Nintendo DS is shown to the world

By being the introduction of the Nintendo DS, E3 2004 marked the beginning of Nintendo’s golden years. Adding a dedicated touchscreen is a brilliant idea for so many reasons. Like dedicated maps or inventory screens, or the added accuracy of touch controls compared to joysticks! Calling it a “Developer’s System” might be considered too cheesy nowadays (and let’s not talk about that “it’s not online, it’s no line” slogan) but the numerous possibilities the system presented captured the hearts of many.

When a new Metroid was announced and Reggie said you could tap the screen to shoot, I creamed my pants. I keep these pants to this day, unwashed, a symbol of my love for games and lack of restraint alike.

Chasing creative controls and affordable consoles over graphical fidelity turned out to be a very good move for Nintendo. Both the DS and Wii eventually became the company’s best-selling systems of all time. Starting with E3 2004, Nintendo was the hot topic in class. Everyone wanted a DS. Everyone wanted a Revolution — by the way, still a better name than Wii. Such a turnaround is particularly impressive considering the GameCube’s lukewarm sales. Nintendo’sparadigm shift was the spark that started a wildfire of hype.

The end of this tale, everybody knows, is a lot of movie tie-ins and minigame collections.

Sony, E3 2006 – Sony shoots itself in the foot hard with the PlayStation 3

The PlayStation sold like crazy. The PlayStation 2 sold like crazy. Sony made a lot of money with these things. What do you do afterward?

Announce a system that will cost $499/$599 with an awkward presentation full of unexciting games? That’s one way to go about it. Sony’s E3 presentation led to a lot of long-running internet mockery, from its historically accurategiant enemy crabto the unceremonious reaction toRidge Racer. The system’s troubles continued far past the puzzling E3 presentation as well. Even though Sony was losing money with every system sold, the high price simply wasn’t convincing people to switch over. A slow, painful presentation led to a slow, painful start for the system. Talk about humbling after the success of the PS1 and the PS2.

It’s ironic. The original PlayStation got a lot of its momentum back in E3 1995 when Sony announced it would launch at $299. And while the third system in the PlayStation family eventually bounced back closer to the Xbox 360’s levels, the harm was done. The PlayStation 3 never neared the popularity of its predecessors and successor.

Microsoft, E3 2010 – Microsoft’s Kinect takes the spotlight for the wrong reasons

Hardware presentations are always a gamble. While the DS presentation got me hype, and the PS3 presentation a little sad, the Kinect was a rollercoaster of boring me and making me laugh in cycles.

The presentation focused on the Kinect a lot. Like, a lot. It was shown as a tool for video conference. It was shown as a way to interact with movies. A little girl started petting a virtual pet for an uncomfortable length of time. Fitness and dancing were used to demonstrate the hardware.

The entire time, my internal Will Smith was going crazy. “Where are the video games“, I’d silently beg. I kept waiting for the video games. The video games just weren’t there. What a ride.

In the end, however, I’m glad the Kinect existed. We actually used one to guide a robot during a University class. It did a great job! The sensors on it are actually really good at what they do…It might just not have been the right fit for a game console.

Ubisoft, E3 2011 – This fucking guy

Remember Mr. Caffeine? Ubisoft’s presentation in 2011 is incredibly difficult to put into words. Revisiting the show, there were a lot of solid games there.Rayman Origins.Far Cry 3. Trackmania. It even had my favorite Assassin’s Creed trailer of all time, Revelations.

And yet I forgot all about that. All that stuck in my memory is this dude’s shit-eating grin. How I laughed and laughed at how terrible his jokes were and how poorly they landed and how he didn’t pronounce anything right.

To this day I still wonder if it was an act. What if Mr. Caffeine was the puppetmaster, and Ubisoft and audience alike were all puppets before his eyes? We’ll never really know.

Square Enix, E3 2015 – An unexpected IP returns!

I never expected much from Square Enix’s E3 presentation. I thought it would mainly be extended looks at games that would already be shown on Xbox One or PS4.

But then NieR Automata was revealed. That was the most unexpected reveal of the entire show for me, considering NieR developer Cavia had shut down previously. Melancholic piano and concept art did a great job at representing what the final game would be like, but people that didn’t play the first one probably didn’t get what the hoopla was about…

Until Yoko Taro showed up with an Emil mask and took everyone by surprise. That’s the kind of stuff I love E3 for, the unexpected. While less surprising, theKingdom Hearts III trailerthey showed was also so nice.

Now that I know the love for the Drakengard/NieR series is stronger than ever, I think there’s a strong chance to see a new project (or hey, even NieRmastered) in a future E3. Before E3 2015, I didn’t think I would be saying these words.

In the end, I’m very happy I was able to pull off this little exercise. Making the cards ended up being a real juggling act. The cards needed to both be able to represent the events in question, but also fit with the color of the company! I’m particularly happy with the way Ubisoft’s card turned out. Card draw, bouncing creatures and taking extra turns are super blue abilities, and here they’re combined with the conference’s awkwardness in fun ways. Sure, my Nintendo card might be stretching red color identity just a little bitand these cards are probably super imbalanced… But I doubt the Magic police is going to come after us any time soon!

In any case, those were some of the most memorable moments in E3 history for me. There were some highs, there were some lows, but it’s always a fun thing to follow. What are your favorite moments, do you think they could be adapted into cards as well?