E3 is that fun time of the year where the latest in hardware and software advancements are showcased to get the fans drooling and investors tossing money into the air. Each year fans watch it, rate it, discuss it to death, and generally enjoy the show. That doesn’t mean it can’t bring its own brand of horrible straight to the fray and give us moments that will be forever etched into gaming and entertainment history.
It’s that time of the year again, and the folks here at ResetPress want to give you our individual lists of the top five worst E3 moments. Enjoy!
5. Ubisoft (every year)
Every year Ubisoft makes me cringe in ways I didn’t realize I was able to do. While true we can get the occasional good game announcement, I always seem to ask myself if spending my life talking about video games was a waste. Ubisoft press conferences make me wish I hated video games; in fact I think I do just thinking about them.
4. Wii U
I’ll be honest: I don’t even remember the Wii U announcement, and I don’t know if anyone else does either. As a story old as time and as you’ll see repeated throughout this E3 list, Nintendo assumed the world would follow them off a cliff anywhere. But unlike the other two, Nintendo actually showed off something unique: the Wii U had a controller with a screen on it creating game play no one else had ever attempted before. But without any real games to show other than tech demos, gamers didn’t really seem to “get it.”
The dumbest mistake was naming the device “Wii U” to get people who bought the Wii to give this new console a purchase… which only confused the market. What makes this such an embarrassment is that a console announcement should stick with you but nothing about this did for pretty much anyone. Having such a failure to connect with an audiance all but doomed the Wii U for the rest of its life. Which, if the point of E3 is to drum up hype and explain your product, I can’t imagine too much worse.
3. PlayStation 3
I don’t know where to start with this one. Before E3 was as easily accessible, the PlayStation 3 was shown off in the worst way possible — poor games that didn’t highlight what made it such a leap forward, a poor presentation that failed to explain what the “Cell Processor” actually did. But the sharpest mistake they had made was announcing the staggering $600 USD price. There isn’t as much to write here as there is to remember one core rule if you are working on video games: stay humble. The PS3 failed to connect to an audience until the Kevin Butler price drop ads showed Sony actually poking fun of themselves. They’ve come a long way from the company who honestly said on stage, “You may have to get a second job.”
2. Xbox One Reveal
Before the Xbox one was announced, Microsoft was already in a very negative light from gaming audiences. After targeting the casual audience with the Kinect and generally not having many exclusive titles, Microsoft wasn’t exactly in a position of trust. A week before E3, it was rumored that the company’s brand new console would be always online, which was a deal breaker for many. We kept hearing about how you were able to rent games to your friends instead of just letting them borrow games you own, and how we would basically stream heavy aspects rather then relaying on our actual box.
They doubled down on everything gamers were worried about during the Xbox One reveal. They started with the casual audience, saying this was a media player more than it was a video game machine. Kinect would work this time but it was would be required to use, so having a camera and a microphone that’s always streaming on the web didn’t seem like the best idea! The price was not only way too expensive at $500 but the speaker misread the price and made us more confused.
None of this compared to the interview after the show, where the head of the department at the time made fun of gamers and their concerns. Suggesting you must live on a “Nuclear Sub” if you don’t have an always online connection. And the best bit was the line “And hey if you don’t like being always online, luckily we have a product for that! It’s called the Xbox 360.” Not only did Sony have the better show, but they were cheered on after they announcement you could share your games. I don’t know what Microsoft will do, but I will never forget them as the company that honestly tried that shit.
1: Final Fantasy VII Remake Reveal
Going into the PSX event none of us expected anything for Final Fantasy VII, but the running joke would never die. It along with Half-Life 3 would always serve a good punchline before a major event. In the middle of the press conference, a man from Square Enix walked up on the stage, and oh my god the life stream appears on the screen behind him. People’s ears begin to perk up, eyes are dead locked to the screen but soon we found out this… was a remaster. At this point the joke had died, Final Fantasy VII would never be remade.
But this was in fact a masterful lie, as E3 gave us one of the most powerful and emotional moments I and many others would ever have from a gaming conference. This time they had a CG trailer with classic locations and old music cuts. In big letters the word appeared “REMAKE” and the world screamed at once. My fiance and I were not only screaming but our eyes were teared. This was too good to be true. Even after the event the two of us would watch reaction videos just to feel that emotion of the moment again with our excitement at an all time high.
There is one problem: they haven’t started full development yet. It’s been four years, and I’ve played this waiting game before. Final Fantasy VS 13 took 11 years to make, and this is going to be an episodic release. The presentation wasn’t what made this the most embarrassing moment; we the fans were the embarrassing moment. For just that moment we believed Square would make a video game, and now I’m fully convinced I will die before I get to the second episode.
5. Ouya vs ESA @E3
Something told me the Ouya was destined to be a giant mess, and its presence at E3 2013 did very little to shake my belief.
Ouya founder Julie Uhrman didn’t want to go the traditional route and pay the Entertainment Software Association to be a part of E3 in 2013. Instead, the company chose to showcase its product across the street from the Los Angeles Convention Center in a parking lot. The ESA rented parking space in front of the Ouya display and conveniently parked large semi-trucks in a manner that blocked the Ouya presentation from view. What did Uhrman do? Rent space in front of the trucks and put up Ouya banners of course!
Uhrman claimed the ESA called local police concerning the banners, and police allegedly validated that Uhrman and company had the proper permits and all was well. The thing is none of that matters. Arguably the most ridiculous and childish thing to come out of a professional expo was over something like the Ouya.
The console turned out to be a massive disappointment for Kickstarter backers. It went nowhere fast and continued on as a dead afterthought until the company was bought out by Razer in 2015. Now it really is dead and gone.
Again, all of that over one of the greatest disappointments to ever grace Kickstarter.
I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but the Kinect is the greatest invention ever. We’ve even decided to erect a statue of it in Times Square, and it is the 45th President of the United States.
Yeah, no. The Kinect has been the source so much comedic material in the gaming world, and the cringeworthy disaster known as Kinectimals didn’t help. Plenty of us love animals, plenty of us have pets that we talk to and spend happy days with regularly, but these animals are actually here. With us. Physically. They’re actually real.
Kinectimals offered the way to end all of that bullshit. Why bother with a cat when you can pet a baby tiger named Skittles? One reason why I’d advise against that is because Skittles isn’t real, he isn’t there, and you’re just waving your hands in the air like a dunce. That’s exactly what the poor child actress did during Microsoft’s E3 2010 presentation of Kinectimals. The game failed utterly to get a crowd reaction, and that seemed to make her even more determined to show how satisfying the interaction was. But none of it came across as genuine.
It’s important to understand that the target audience for the game was small children. The presentation suggested such, the advertising reinforced it. It did get positive marks from critics, but Microsoft’s presentation likely didn’t do much to help. Instead of a natural reaction from a kid having fun, we got an awkward, noticeably rehearsed mess. I can’t watch it without feeling like I’ve done something horribly wrong.
3. Mr. Caffeine
Want to inject your brand with some zany “fun” to prove you’re hip with the millennials? Just add a character who appears to be out of his mind on a coffee binge and let the laugh track play — because that’s all the laughs you’re going to get.
Mr. Caffeine was the class act who pushed Charlie Sheen memes, made horribly bad dick jokes, ripped off Wayne’s World, made sex jokes that got zero laughs, and used possibly the worst transitions known to presentations. He quickly became the ire of Ubisoft’s E3 2011 presentation, and social media turned him into meme to represent just how badly the show went for the Ubi.
Ubisoft learned its lesson and stepped away from awkward, nonsensical stuff in future E3s. Just kidding, the company chose to go with Aisha Tyler for future presentations. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Tyler, but her awkward presence often suggests she is out of her comfort zone and isn’t exactly sure what to do besides let Ubisoft’s circus of dancing people in costumes and makeup consume everything.
2. Wii Music
I’ve covered many E3 events remotely both for ScrewAttack.com and for ResetPress, and one thing I know for certain is the crowd should be energized for the product or service you showcase on the stage. Even if you’re like the nervous, timid developer who introduced Unravel to the world, the world will catch on to your honesty and passion for the product. We will become passionate with you if you’re presenting something with potential. This wasn’t the case with Wii Music. Wii Music was a disaster cleverly disguised as a presentation.
The folks at Nintendo did their best to make the game look fun and interesting, but the majority of viewers saw it as a baffling gimmick to justify the Wii’s motion controls. It’s fair to say most look back at the Wii and consider it the ultimate gimmick console to begin with, but this thing looked to take the concept and beat it to death in front of a live crowd.
One could argue the initial idea was to take on ultra-popular rhythm series Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but the comparison was absurd at best. It didn’t look anything like people playing a rhythm game on stage. It looked like cartoon nonsense come to life, and sales prove very few people bought into it.
1. Xbox One reveal
New tech is always exciting, but tech fans – and gamers alike – often expect the new, shiny toy to expand upon what the previous toy did. Couple new features with new, bewildering restrictions and you’ve got the mess that was the Xbox One reveal.
Microsoft’s “all-in-one entertainment system” left a lot to be desired for the majority of fans with its overbearing digital rights management that forced consumers to be online at least once every 24 hours to ensure games are valid purchases. Industry analysts, myself included, believed then-president Don Mattrick and company presented the One in an arrogant “my way or the highway” approach – especially considering Microsoft told players who didn’t want to log in once every 24 hours to just stick with the Xbox 360.
Sony played up to fans’ anger during its E3 2013 presentation when the company proudly announced that PlayStation 4 owners would always own their games – a direct attack on Xbox One. Microsoft was forced to abandon its DRM policy before launch, but the damage was already done.
Phil Spencer has been the president of Xbox since March, 2013, and it’s not unfair to say his legacy thus far has been reversing all of the incredible damage Don Mattrick and the Xbox One reveal did to the brand. If that doesn’t qualify it as the fuckup for the ages, I don’t know what does.