E3 2011: What it Says About the Industry

E3 2011: What it Says About the Industry

E3 is about noise, excitement, celebrity appearances and previews, but when the worst of the clamor has passed us by, we can reflect on E3 and try out a bit of divination, too.

Leigh Alexander put together a meaty E3 write-up on Gamasutra, and one point she made is particularly interesting: Core game developers seem to realize that it’s more important than ever to let their audience know, “Hey, we’re here, and we’re ready to entertain you.”

“There were no middling titles on anyone’s marquee this year; the quality level of core retail titles on offer was across the board higher than it’s ever been,” Alexander wrote. “And this year’s event played more squarely to the traditional market than ever before. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo seemed eager to emphasize that their newest mass-market devices — motion-controlled Kinect and Move and touch-based Wii U — had numerous applications for core games.”

Alternatively, publishers and developers may have simply come to realize that E3 is a haven for early builds of core games; with the rapid rise of social and mobile games, traditionalists like to see some assurance that they haven’t been forgotten.

Either way, E3 2011 indicated that even veteran studios are undergoing an identity crisis, and are inching back to their roots even as they bundle up the stacks of money they’re receiving from casual audiences. Nintendo’s reel of third-party games coming to its Wii U console indicates that the company has had a change of heart about its audience: Compare the blood and blades of Darksiders II and Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge to Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii, which Nintendo showcased as its primary “core” title for E3 2008.

Nintendo’s attitude shift is a little surprising. Sony’s resolve to cater to its core audience with the PS Vita is less surprising. Microsoft is a strange case study, as the giant is trying very hard to unite the kingdoms of Core and Casual. Shooter fans will be getting Halo 4 and Gears of War 3, but otherwise Microsoft is still throwing a lot of energy and support behind Kinect, a peripheral that’s generally regarded as something for casual gamers to play sports games with.

Microsoft apparently hopes to convince core gamers that the Kinect is meant for them, too, and with any luck, the ability to carry out full conversations via Kinect in Mass Effect 3 will convert a few traditionalists. Fable: The Journey and Star Wars will eventually be on hand to help. It’s hard to predict if Kinect will become the choice control scheme for core gamers, but by God, Microsoft seems intent on uniting casual peripherals with core games. No one can give the company an F for effort.

Overall, we can surmise that Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony are all still intent on serving the core market, and they’ll be throwing the best of themselves into everything they do for the rest of 2011 and into 2012. What’ll make the coming generation especially interesting is the means by which each company will serve its core fare, including a handheld system, a tablet-controller–and a device that allows you to ditch the controller entirely.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. I would argue that you are mistaking what game companies showed at E3 for what their overall strategy is. By and large, I think most of the companies realized that the casual audience (and related press) does not pay attention to E3 so they should focus that event on their products that play to the core market. For example, Playfish did not have a presence at the EA booth but given the Popcap rumors and other indications, they are still pushing heavily into the mass market space. Overall, I think what you saw just proves that E3 has become a niche show for the core gaming market and not necessarily where the game industry is going overall.

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