With the 24th E3 expo just wrapped up, let’s take a moment and look back at some of the most memorable moments in the last 10 years. Why the last ten years? Because these conferences started evolving into the grand gaming spectacle they are today, over the past decade. So this will let us focus on the finer moments.
One more thing before we get into our list. This list is based on personal experiences and opinions, so something that may have been the high point for a lot of people may not feature in this list. For example, the announcement of Shenmue III will not feature here as I never had a Sega Dreamcast and never got to play Shenmue I and II. So I can’t get behind the hype of the newly announced game. With that out of the way, let’s move on to our list.
Bethesda made its E3 Debut in 2015. And what a debut it was. They seemed to have checked all the right boxes on how to make a debut when competing with giants like Microsoft and Sony. Their show was short and sweet with a high emphasis on ‘sweet’. This meant the announcements of Doom and Dishonored 2, two massively anticipated titles thrown into the mix in the tightly packed show. But Bethesda did save the best for last and the announcement of Fallout 4 was something special. This was executed to perfection thanks to the icing on the cake that was the release date of November 2015. For a company to announce a highly anticipated AAA title and release it the same year was unheard of at the time and even now. Double thumbs up for Bethesda on that.
Before delivering the best press conference ever in 2016, Sony delivered what was dubbed as E3 of dreams in 2015. This title was earned thanks to the announcement of dream titles like Shenmue 3 (which did not hit it home with me anyway) and big hitters like Horizon Zero Dawn. But what was perhaps the defining moment of the show was the announcement of Final Fantasy VII remake. A title that has been requested by gamers, for a remake, more than any other in the world. Period. However, it was Sony’s delivery that hit me harder. A year ago on the same floor, Sony announced a “remaster” of the original FFVII PC port, which in turn was ported from the PS1. Yes, that did sound disappointing at the time, and fans concluded that this is all they would get. But Sony was cooking an actual remake all the while and waited a year to unveil it and surprise the world. Sony pulled a fast one on its fans and the fans were ever so glad for that.
2009 was a special year for Sony. It’s PS3 was finally catching up after a disastrous launch and the heavy hitting games were just around the corner helping Sony boost sales. One such heavy hitter was Uncharted 2. The demo at E3 2009 showcased what the PS3 can do and more importantly, marked the evolution of games back in the day. This game was leaps and bound ahead of its predecessor. From the rooftop helicopter battle to Nathan Drakes quips, to the climactic battle in the crumbling building, this demo was a PS3 owner’s dream come true back in the day. And the game still holds up today which is a testament in itself.
The Jesus of Steam and Valve’s head made an appearance at the Sony conference in 2010. While this sounds like a random executive attending a conference, things could not have been any different. The then-struggling PS3 had its fair share of flack thrown at it by developers as well, thanks to the complicated development process using the cell processor. Among them was Valve’s Gabe Newall. However Gabe went a step further to declare that he had no interest in developing games for Sony’s platform as it was “rubbish”. So it was a pleasant surprise for everyone when he appeared on Sony’s conference a few months later and began with “Hi, I’m Gabe. I’ve said a few things before.” And then went on to announce Portal 2 for the PS3. This was another moment indicating the shifting tides for Sony in the years that followed. Needless to say, this was a dream come true moment for a PlayStation fan like me.
Back when Konami was not “Public Enemy no.1” it had maintained a decent slew of titles in various genres to keep the gaming public happy. To showcase these titles Konami had their own press conference in 2009. And what a mess of a conference it was. This list was intended to look at all the good moments from E3, and sitting though Konami conference at the time was nowhere close to a comfortable experience. However fast forward 9 years and when you look back in 2018, what you have is comedy gold from a notorious company that does not give a fudge about its consumers. From Lucha wrestlers slapping each other to an earsplitting musical performance, a dance demo which left the developer gasping for air, another dev pausing every sentence for applause followed by awkward silences, lighting and sound errors, and who could forget the infamous ‘Psycho stare’. This conference had everything going against it. The conference is as hilarious now as it was uncomfortable back then. If you have not seen this, I highly recommend that you find this rare gem of a conference from any corner of the internet and treat yourself.
Ubisoft surprised everyone in 2017. After a roller coaster ride that was E3 2016 namely from Sony, there was no way that 2017 could reach those heights. And no thanks to my prediction Sony did underwhelm last year and Microsoft’s conference quickly turned into a meme machine thanks to the overuse of the word “EXCLUSIVE”. Step in Ubisoft to save the day (or year) who delivered a pleasantly surprising conference. This was the year Ubisoft ACTUALLY showed signs that they do care, at least about the image of the company. For a company known for aggressive microtransactions and downgraded graphics in launched products that shined on E3 conferences, Ubisoft wanted to appear as a more consumer-friendly company. And they did just that. The regular host Aisha Tyler was ditched so the executives themselves could take the stage, and this worked. From a teary-eyed developer unveiling Beyond Good or Evil 2 to Ubisoft and Nintendo heads standing back to back with prototypes of Mario vs Rabbids weapons, and a revamped and more focused Assasin’s Creed, this conference surprised everyone and actually turned out to be better than its competitors last year.
2013 was an exciting time to be a console gamer. This was the time when the shift to the then ‘next-gen’ was happening. Both Microsoft and Sony had unveiled their consoles with a price tag and teasers to upcoming games. But the similarities between Microsoft and Sony end right there. The XBOX One while announced a few months earlier, was given a price tag just the day prior to Sony’s conference. And the way it was all delivered is hurting Microsoft even today. Non-consumer-friendly practices, like always online, DRM, Kinect attached, and mandatory check in every 24 hours, complicated and restrictive used game policies, were pushed down the throat followed by a hefty price tag of $499. Of course, this was great for Sony, and they had a field day at E3 2013. Sony attacked almost all of the above fails from Microsoft, going so far as to make an instructional video for sharing used games which lasted 10 seconds (One man hands the game to another, and the video ends). Sony then announced the price for the PS4 at $399. Whether you are a PlayStation, Xbox or PC gamer, you will agree that this conference was an entertaining corporate fisticuff that Sony emerged victorious out of. And Sony is reaping the benefits to this day.
Sony’s 2016 conference could fill up this list completely. It was the strongest and the most fan-pleasing event yet. One that set new standards and changed the way companies look at E3. Of all things in that conference, 2 things stood out. We will discuss the other one later, but the one I want to bring up here is the appearance of Hideo Kojima. After the turmoil that transpired with Konami resulting in the demise of Kojima’s brainchild – the Metal gear franchise, Kojima had been off the grid. These events were as saddening as they were shocking and showed how a corporation can undermine and destroy creativity and creators. Enter Sony. Sony collaborated with Kojima getting him a studio and Guerilla games’ Decima graphics engine, and got him to do what he does best. Of course, all of this was under wraps for a surprise at E3. And what a surprise it was. Watching Kojima march down the stage to the tunes of Mad Max – Fury Road, followed by him uttering the words “Hello everyone… I’m Back” in his broken English, gave me and many gamers goosebumps. And that wasn’t all. He immediately announced his next game Death Stranding followed by a trailer which was enchanting and confusing in true Kojima fashion. This was a moment for the history books.
I struggled to decide between entries 3 and 2 and settled that this moment definitely deserves the better spot. If 2016 was Sony’s best year, the one prior to that was in 2010. And the one moment that sticks out in peoples mind is the appearance of Sony’s fictional “VP of everything” the one and only Kevin Butler. Portrayed by actor Jerry Lambert, Kevin Butler was a character who appeared in various PlayStation adverts as VP of various fictional departments (VP of testing cars, VP of sharp things, VP of action adventures). These ads really hit the spot with the fans and they wanted to see him in E3. But the E3 roster was only comprised of actual Sony executives. Kevin crashed the party during a seemingly boring keynote about a Coca-Cola collaboration. And he delivered. The next 5 minutes resonates with everyone who has even the slightest sliver of passion for gaming. While this was a pitch for the Move controller aimed at satire, it was also everything a gamer wanted to hear in a time when gaming as a whole was still struggling to be accepted as a legitimate form of art and had an image problem. Just look up for some Kevin Butler PS3 ads to get some context, and then look for Kevin Butler at E3 2010 and enjoy what you see and hear.
You saw this coming when you read entry number 3. What can I say about this? Sony’s conference in 2016 revolutionized E3, and how the world and other game companies look at it. Sony’s realization about the pedigree of the event and its commitment to deliver and stand out from the crowd really showed throughout the whole hour and a half the conference lasted. And it began with perhaps the strongest opener in E3 history. Complete with an orchestra and a track from the game, God of War was unveiled to the world. And it was a combination of the presentation, the impact of the orchestra and the radically different and wonderful take on the game that created the magic, setting the tone for the rest of the show. This was a moment I personally was not ready for but took in every second of it with a grin on my face. And I know there are millions who share my emotion. When we look back now we can realize that this was a pivotal moment to the industry as God of War has emerged as one of the best-reviewed games with quotes like “New standard for the Industry” thrown in regularly in its reviews. This E3 moment was one for the ages, and I hope that more of these are made in E3s to come.