While fans who cannot attend E3 can at least view Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony’s press conferences online, they unfortunately cannot tour the Big 3’s booths on the showfloor. Though the conferences largely determine the public’s perception of these major players, to truly pick the show’s victors and losers, it is worth considering their presence at the show. To let you know who won the presentation portion of the show after the conferences, here is a look at how these companies maintained their presences during the show’s three days.
Interestingly, as opposed to last year, Microsoft’s booth stood in the same hall as Nintendo and Sony’s, located right next to the Sony booth. Bathed in green, Halo 4 dominated the company’s presence. An entire wall of the booth showcased artwork for the game as well as housed a massive screen on which the game’s trailers played. Devoted to the lines of fans waiting to see the game up close occupied nearly a quarter of the booth, with Gears of War: Judgment enjoying the second-longest wait. Master Chief’s presence also included a warthog fans could take pictures with to satisfy those not willing to wait for hours to see the game.
Microsoft’s booth was surprisingly uncluttered, as rows of demo stations for upcoming multiplatform releases like DmC and Far Cry 3 provided plenty of walking space and opportunity to play. Xbox Live Arcade titles were also on hand, including all the Summer of Arcade offerings and a few other miscellaneous titles. Kinect took up much less space than it did last year, where Microsoft placed it in the center of its booth in a circular set of rooms that passersby could see into. Only three or four games for the peripheral were on hand, including Fable: The Journey, but they could not command nearly as lengthy wait times as Halo and Gears of War did.
Bathed in a green light, the booth was undeniably branded in the Ring of Light’s iconic hue, save for the bright white and purple stages where those brave enough could attempt to pull off moves in Dance Central 3. I tried to dance – the footage has been burned – but it was a great way to pump up the energy of the entire booth.
Despite the company’s dedication to expanding the Xbox 360 as an entertainment hub, the booth thankfully put games at the forefront, and with the lack of many attention-grabbing schemes, it was a refreshingly simple but effective offering from Microsoft.
Perhaps most disappointingly, Nintendo’s home for E3 succumbed to the use of booth babes in one of the worst ways imaginable. The booth as a whole mirrored Nintendo’s work in the past – a square in the center of West Hall decked out in light blue and white, this time promoting the Wii U on the booth’s upper walls. The house of Mario certainly wins for comfiest carpeting, and with a wide-open area in the middle, the company provided plenty of rooms for the long queues that extended from each Wii U demo station. These demos were located on the sides of the booth, though the back portion of the area was sectioned off to exclusively house NintendoLand, marked by the entry ways that appeared on stage at the Nintendo press conference. Giving the section a theme park feel, each minigame had a few dedicated stations, giving fans plenty of opportunity to try out one of Nintendo’s most aggressive pushes at the show.
Now, I haven’t mentioned the booth models yet, because, where the Wii U is concerned, they were not much of an issue. Sure, one stood at nearly each demo, but they at least had knowledge of the title on hand and provided some tutorial aid. When it comes to the 3DS, however, Nintendo completely disappointed me. The only way to play any of the new titles at the show was to interact with a 3DS chained to the waist of one of these models, as occurred during the E3 3DS reveal in 2011.
Last year, though, Nintendo also had 3DS units at counters and stand-alone tables where attendees did not have to be attached to a model. It’s a pointless manner of demonstration, and I saw it provide an endless stream of awkward small talk. I see no functional benefit this set up produces over Nintendo’s booth last year, and it is disheartening to see this tactic used to show off the handheld that largely received the shaft at the conference.
Nintendo definitely gave show attendees the opportunity to sample the WIi U in a booth that reflected the company’s recent shift to a cleaner and simpler aesthetic, but the presentation of 3DS games amounted to a pointless and regressive tactic that hurt more than it benefitted the company’s strategy.
Sony’s booth fell somewhere between its two competitors, fitting as its actual location was sandwiched between Microsoft and Nintendo. While absent were the dozens of models at Nintendo, Sony cluttered its limited space with almost too many demo kiosks. While that offered shorter lines and more opportunities, it did make for a difficult to navigate booth less focused on presentation and more on content.
Despite the glut of titles, several of the biggest PlayStation titles were not available in Sony’s booth for the public. Demos of Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us were not on the showfloor. Stations for Ni No Kuni and other multiplatform titles lined the walls instead, which, while appreciated, did sacrifice the great occasion to highlight the well-received exclusives. While the Vita received quite the mistreatment during the Sony conference, a dozen or so titles with multiple stations were on a raised platform located right next to the stage where the PlayStation Blog livestreamed demos. The wall opposite the third-party titles housed the PlayStation Move and Dust 514 offerings, a nice showcase for the latter while perhaps signaling Sony’s realization to not push the peripheral on consumers.
Some demos did receive the spotlight in the center of the booth, and decent sized lines waited to try PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, LittleBigPlanet Karting and God of War: Ascension, though none were nearly as popular as Microsoft’s exclusives. A screen high on the booth’s back wall played trailers and montages, but even with the onslaught of demos, large statues of game characters and videos, I would have liked to see Sony pull things back and highlight even further what can only be played on its consoles, as Nintendo and Microsoft pulled off well. Even still, it provided a nice middle ground amongst the three, and even ended the show in a nostalgic fashion, playing a clip package of footage highlighting the booth, Sony’s conference, and the workers on hand who helped to make the show run so smoothly – apart from the seemingly two-hour long Wonderbook demo, of course.
Though Nintendo and Sony made their demos more accessible for the most anticipated titles (I only had to wait ten minutes to play Pikmin 3 and five to try Battle Royale), Microsoft’s booth best catered to attendees. Had Sony been given a bit more space or decided to show one or two fewer titles, they may have taken the top spot. But Microsoft had enough variation that meshed with its clear message of expanding the Xbox 360′s user base.
As a bonus, here is a picture of perhaps the strangest booth I saw, a demo for NBA Baller Beats. No better way to sell a game than to have a small child behind glass bouncing a basketball for our amusement.