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E3 2012’s winners and losers

E3 Winners and LosersWith E3 now living in the past-tense, the DT Gaming writers who were present at the show took the weekend to gather their thoughts, relax, and sleep. Sweet, merciful sleep. With our thoughts collected, we began the long introspective look back at E3, beginning with the winners and losers.

This year the show was a bit muted compared to years past, but there were still some publishers and developers that stood out. For better and worse. Here’s our list of the winners and losers of E3 2012.

Winners 

ryan flemingRyan Fleming
Winner: Sony 

PlayStation Press Conference

For me, the big winner was Sony. Its press conference was the best by a long shot, and Beyond: Two Souls, The Last of Us, and Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation were powerful exclusives. Wonderbook: The Book of Spells elicited what may have been the biggest gasp of the show when J.K. Rowling’s involvement was announced. Sony also continues to validate its decision to support small, independent developers with games like The Unfinished Swan and Sound Shapes, and the plans it has had in motion for years with the Vita are finally coming together. The cross-platform compatibility of the Vita and the PS3 has been mostly an unfulfilled promise to this point, but Sly Cooper could be a landmark game in that sense. The Vita is also poised to do well with the Vita-exclusive Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation, an exclusive Call of Duty game, PS One hits on coming to the Vita, and a new white Vita. I have no idea why, but people love their white-colored gadgets. And then there is the upcoming God of War: Ascension, which was almost an afterthought.

More than anything though, Sony seems to finally be learning. It knows it has had issues when it comes to the online side of things, so it is going to further push the PlayStation Plus program by offering full PS3 games for free, including InFamous 2 and LittleBigPlanet 2. This was also the first Sony press conference I have been to in years — literally years — where Sony did not cram 3D down our throats. The technology is doing OK, but Sony put so much emphasis on it that it was beginning to alienate those of us without a 3D TV. It shows that Sony is learning. It wasn’t a sexy or flashy conference from Sony, but it was a smart one.

anthony john angnelloAnthony John Agnello
Winner: Gearbox

Alien vs Colonial Marines

It’d be hard to unequivocally declare any exhibitor, publisher, developer, or platform holder, at E3 2012 a winner. The dramatic changes in how games are made, played and consumed by the public at large are starting to take a toll on the powers that be, resulting in once powerful, both fiscally and creatively, companies flailing.

That said, Gearbox had two of the strongest looking games at E3. Aliens: Colonial Marines generated a ton of buzz on the show floor, for both its multiplayer and single-player content, even years after its initial announcement. Borderlands 2, meanwhile, continues to look sweeter with each showing on the road to its fall release.

Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo were all plagued by bad choices. Sony for not showing greater software support for the Vita, Microsoft for failing to make Smart Glass’ benefits clear to developers as well as consumers, and Nintendo for not showing off stronger first-party software for Wii U.

earnest cavalliEarnest “Nex” Cavalli
Winner: Telltale Games 

Walking Dead Episode 2

I agree with Anthony here. It’s not so much a matter of who “won” E3, so much as it’s a contest to see which company managed to bore us the least. I lost count of how many helicopters exploded, how many futuristic shooters included inexplicable archery, and how many times publishers blatantly lifted ideas from one another with an implicit promise that their version of the concept would be the one that people actually care about.

Given that this article won’t allow me to just throw up my hands in disgust however, I’m going to say that Telltale Games won E3. Granted, it’s a relatively small firm that was only showing one game, but Episode 2 of The Walking Dead is just fantastic. The first episode was a surprisingly excellent adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, and yet based on the 20 minutes of gameplay I watched from Episode 2, it adheres even more strictly to the source material. Plus, its tone is incredibly dark, which is exactly what I was hoping for. It’s the only thing I saw at the show that exceeded my expectations, so it gets the win by default.

adam rosenbergAdam Rosenberg
Winner: Ubisoft 

I think Ubisoft scored the biggest all-around win at E3 2012. Certainly the biggest surprise of the show came from the publisher’s press conference in Watch Dogs. Then there are the many Assassin’s Creed 3 reveals — naval combat, Boston gameplay, a full-blown spin-off for PlayStation Vita — and the revelation of an entirely separate co-op campaign in Far Cry 3. Not to mention the reveal of Splinter Cell: Blacklist and the addition of bass guitar gameplay in an upcoming Rocksmith expansion. There’s also ZombiU, one of the standout Wii U launch window titles in a library that seems surprisingly tepid based on what’s been revealed so far. If Ubi has any competition on the “best of show” front, it’s from Sony, if only for Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us. Sony’s press conference is the clear winner of the show, but it’s telling that some of the highlight moments during that event went to Ubisoft games. 

Surprise

Losers

adam rosenbergAdam
Loser: Nintendo 

As far as the show’s losers go, the unenviable top spot here is held by Nintendo. Following 2011’s bungled Wii U reveal, Nintendo really needed to put on a good show for this year’s upcoming console release. We do know more about the launch library of software and we’ve got a better sense of what the hardware feels like, but no one — not even Nintendo — seems entirely sure of what kind of space the Wii U will occupy in the market. The online portal that is Miiverse only adds to the confusion; it’s still not entirely clear how it works or what sort of value it will add to the new platform. With the Wii U arriving in less than six months from now — barring any last-minute delays, of course — I think we were all expecting to come out of E3 2012 knowing much more about the console than we do now.

anthony john angnelloAnthony
Loser: All three console makers

PlayStation show

Yeah I reiterate what I said in the first round: All three console makers were the big losers this year. Sony had some really strong PlayStation 3 games to show. Beyond may not seem to innovate much on Quantic Dream’s formula, but it seems like a cool story nonetheless. Wonderbook and Last of Us are also promising. Where the hell were the Vita games though? With the exception of Assassin’s Creed Liberation, not a single major original game was announced for the handheld [Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified was revealed, but with no details at all other than the name and a vague holiday release]. This week’s new release Gravity Rush is a lonely slice of originality on the handheld, and I would have liked to see some stablemates for it at E3 last week.


earnest cavalliNex
Loser: Nintendo 

I don’t know how anyone (outside of the company’s most die-hard, delusional fans) could claim that Nintendo wasn’t the big loser of E3 2012. Sure, we all expected the company to show off a ton of new sequels to their core series — rehashing old series has been the firm’s entire business model for the past two decades — but this was Nintendo’s big chance to finally offer fans some facet of the Wii U to be genuinely excited about. Instead we get a new controller that liberally swipes design ideas from Microsoft, new games that certainly don’t look “next-gen,” and a touchscreen controller that, in almost every application, seemingly hinders gameplay more than anything else. The only novel thing the company had to show off was that Miiverse initiative which initially seemed promising, but quickly turned into just another iteration of Nintendo’s eternal drive to sanitize online gameplay at the expense of fun.

ryan flemingRyan
Loser: Nintendo

Nintendos Booth

Nintendo was the biggest loser, but only because it failed to meet expectations. Nintendo announced 23 titles coming out for its new system, which is remarkable. In another show, that would be an outstanding presentation, but that isn’t what people wanted. And we aren’t just talking the gaming press, Nintendo’s stock took a huge hit following the lack of reveal at E3. We wanted and expected to know more about the console that is due out in a matter of months. Whether it is a tactical move or not, you can’t help wondering if the console isn’t entirely ready or if Nintendo is worried that the specs won’t impress after months of scrutiny. That may be untrue, but you can’t help thinking it.

Besides that, the Wii U has yet to capture our imagination. The Wii was a success because it allowed anyone to pick up and play with their friends. With the Wii U, the gamepad makes that harder to do. Many of the gamepad-specific games had one person be “it,” as the other players were playing against them. That experience may be exceptional with five players, but it will be essentially unplayable with just two, or even three players. Nintendo needed to convince people the Wii U was the future of gaming, and it didn’t. It may still in the coming days, but it certainly didn’t ease concerns at this E3.

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