The problems with EA's E3 Conference
It's been another year, and thus another E3. As usual, having seen all the conferences present at this year's show, EA has managed to disappoint me yet again. However, instead of disregarding this annual occurrence as I usually do, I figured this time, I could take a moment or two and actually explain what made EA’s presentation at E3 so disappointing this year. Not terrible, mind you (we have the legendary Konami 2010 E3 conference to thank for that), but simply underwhelming.
Firstly, I’ll admit, I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t have preconceived low expectations regarding EA’s conferences at E3. But in all honestly, EA has never really proven me wrong yet. And after this showing, I feel reassured in a way that I’m probably going to feel exactly the same for years to come.
Even before we delve into the games themselves, there were some little things which nagged at me as I watched the stream as a whole -- most notably the presenter himself, who in this case happens to be the CEO of the gaming juggernaut. I’m no psychologist, but there’s just something about the guy which still breeds an air of distrust within me. Something about his delivery is just too slick, too calculated, and almost reeks of false enthusiasm.
I know that catchphrases are used everywhere nowadays, but of them have stood out to me as much as the words “play to live”. Is that even intended to mean anything? Perhaps I’m wrong, but maybe someone who doesn’t have the stigma of being the CEO of a company twice-voted as the worst in America would be a better candidate to present the show -- at least for a little while longer.
Before this accidentally devolves into personal attacks, let’s get on to the games (aka: the main reason we’re here). EA started off with Titanfall 2, which, looked exactly like what you’d expect from Titanfall 2. This is a problem, considering how quickly the first game was forgotten after its release. The gameplay trailer didn’t do it any favors either. Sure it was gameplay, but it was a montage spewing tiny fragments of gameplay – a common habit with trailers shown at previous conferences.
It doesn’t give us time to digest anything meaningful aside from the explosions of color and particles flying all over the screen. Simultaneously, it doesn’t give them time to explain and show, in depth, what has changed from the original -- and at this point, I’d just have to assume that the answer is not much.
Then, came the inevitable assault of sports games. Being someone who is totally disinterested and unqualified to comment on them, I’m reluctant to harp on EA too much for this. Both FIFA and Madden are hugely popular franchises, after all. But I think EA needs to understand that the audience for sports games only comprises of a tiny portion of those who are actually watching your conference at E3, or on livestreams. So for the majority of us, having sports games dominate half the running time of your presentation is simply too much to suffer through.
However, having forced myself to sit through this section, I did manage to notice a couple of things that caught my interest. First is their proposed foray into the eSports scene -- and given the huge growth of the current leaders such as League of Legends, DOTA 2 and CS:GO, it seems like a logical next step for a company as big as EA. While the potential is there, I’m not sure EA would have the patience to carve out its own space amidst the already fierce competition.
The other is the “story mode” which they teased in FIFA 17 -- and while I don’t think it will succeed in converting many new players, at least it is something different, and different attracts attention.
Just like last year’s Unravel, we then arrived at the “indie section” of EA’s conference. The terrified indie developer sent up this time (oh, the poor guy…), went on to present Fe, an intriguing adventure-platformer. While EA’s support of indie development under their “EA Originals” scheme is welcome, it certainly isn’t new, and irritated me when the spokesperson tried to present it as such.
Still, all this is nothing compared to the sheer disappointment which followed.
From this point on, you might as well have just switched off the stream – they showed practically nothing of value. The whole Star Wars section consisted of (thankfully short) behind-the-scenes style developer interviews. There was nothing to see here aside from a few screenshots of concept art -- no new gameplay, not even any cinematics.
The same could be said about the Mass Effect Andromeda trailer shown earlier. Again, I learned nothing new, which why I’m really having trouble commenting on it. This is a game that has been confirmed to have been development for years, even appearing in last year’s E3 conference, and yet we still know absolutely nothing about it. It is becoming more than a little obnoxious at this point, and really killed what could have been a massive hype generator for BioWare and EA.
Finally, as predicted, they ended the show with Battlefield 1 and still refused to show gameplay. Instead we were shown was looked to be the same cinematic trailer, over and over again. I know that EA held a livestream after the conference which showcased a real-time multiplayer match in Battlefield 1 – played by celebrities and popular YouTubers no less. But I’m sure most of the viewers would rather have seen a no-nonsense gameplay demonstration, as opposed to spectating a post-conference match that was constantly being interrupted by switching between the 64 players and cutting frequently to show the celebrities’ reactions.
And that’s the main problem with EA’s E3 conference this year -- there was no substance. If they barely show any gameplay throughout their hour-long presentation, how can they expect to get people excited, especially with the abundance of EA detractors already out there? If you compare this conference to the others, it projects complacency and laziness, but more worrying to me, pure incompetence.