E3: Behind the Lips

E3 was different this year. The July timing meant there was little in the way of new announcements and the invite-only format kept the spectacle at bay. But the more intimate environment allowed for more time with each game, more chances to speak with developers, and generally a more valuable experience for the media.

Some US journalists I spoke with were disappointed that many of the builds they saw were the same as shown at pre-E3 events in June, but for international media it was often the first time we’d seen these titles in person. Ironic that what is ostensibly a US show proved more helpful for non-US media.

I saw a bunch of great games over the course of the week. Personal favourites included Mirror’s Edge, Prince of Persia, Far Cry 2, Age of Booty, De Blob, STALKER: Clear Sky, Colonization, and my pick for “best in show”, Left 4 Dead. But perhaps the most interesting demo I attended was for Microsoft’s Singstar tribute, Lips.

My time at the Xbox room was scheduled for Thursday 2pm – 4pm, the dead zone in other words right at the tail end of the show. It’s at this point that everyone is over it and just wants to go home. My time with Lips was at 3pm, precisely the same time Shigeru Miyamoto and his entourage decided to pay a visit and check out the competition.

Halfway through Keiichi Yano’s endearing presentation, Xbox’s US PR knocked on the door and kicked us out. Mr Miyamoto was clearly more important than some Australian journos. We’d been “Shiggy’d”. What was most frustrating – to be honest, karaoke games aren’t my thing so I wasn’t that fussed about Lips itself – was that when we had to vacate the room Yano had just hinted at how the motion-sensing Lips microphone could have other gaming applications.

There’d been a lot of talk in the lead-up to E3 that Microsoft would introduce “waggle” to the 360 in an effort to mimic the success of the Wii. Turns out they didn’t. But perhaps in the Lips microphone they did. I didn’t get the chance – curse you, Miyamoto! – to ask Yano about how sophisticated the motion-sensor inside the mic actually is, but the way he cryptically mentioned other gameplay possibilities (that they couldn’t demo at the show) gave me pause for thought.

Could the Lips microphone really be Microsoft’s “waggle wand”?

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3 Comments on “E3: Behind the Lips”

  1. mcclaud Says:

    I’ve kinda covered my thoughts about E3 in my blag.

    Since E3 is invite-only, it seems rather anti-climatic as a gamer to take anything from it. It’s like pimping out your best wares, but the actual consumers aren’t anywhere in the vicinity to interact. Or watching a musical on a stage on your TV. The experience is somewhat cold and impersonal to the point you ask yourself, “Why even bother paying attention or checking it out, since I can’t really get a handle on anything since I wasn’t there?”

    I saw a couple things that I thought I would like, and the rest was bleh. I have similar feelings about the MS, Sony, Nintendo press conferences as Penny Arcade does – MS said ridiculous stuff, Sony said condescending crap, and Nintendo didn’t say anything but disappointing stuff. I was actually glad not to be present for those things, but wish I could have sat throught the Spore demo and actually played around with it myself.

    I think PAX is actually going to be more exciting for gamers than E3 was. I’m going to PAX, too, and that will probably help set my mind about some things.

  2. David Wildgoose Says:

    I’m not sure you can compare E3 and PAX – the former has always been an industry event while the latter is a community gathering for the fans.

    If E3 were to open its doors to the public, you couldn’t hold it in July (or May when it used to be). At that point in time none of the big Xmas games are anywhere near being ready to show to consumers.

    But if it’s held in Oct/Nov, then it’s basically worthless for the media and retail buyers.

    Maybe the ESA needs to host two events? A small gathering in mid-year for the industry to get their work done (and have it in May, please), then a bigger, glitzier public show before Xmas where they can charge for entry (to pay for the mid-year show).

  3. mcclaud Says:

    I’d love it if they held two events.

    The best time to do a timed-media heavy event that includes fans for video games is in August/September. Although, I don’t think that the media really LOSES anything if a game is shown in October with two months until Christmas. I mean, all you guys put out these fat magazines about Christmas toys in November (well, mags like PC Gamer and Game Informer do for sure), and if we actually had a DEMO that the public could see, it would dispel the crap that’s going around about certain games (Fallout 3, for example).

    While PAX and E3 have less in common, the big gaming companies this year packed up their E3 sets and sent them to Seattle to be unpacked for PAX. It was weird, knowning my brother-in-law at Ubisoft said that they are just as hyped about PAX as they were about E3, even more so. The point is that the exposure is high and the mood right for gamers at PAX, so they actually READ or PAY ATTENTION more to things that happen at PAX then they did at E3 this year.

    A lot of people skipped caring about E3 this year that normally go on for weeks about it. That’s a sign of E3’s influence slipping for gamers, and it’s more of a “cosmetic event” for the media and investors.


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