E3 Conference Lowlights: From Mr. Caffeine's Dick Jokes to Jack Tretton's Tie




E3 is through its first day and we’ve already had the major conferences from Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony yesterday, and finally Nintendo.

I’m one of the Unlucky Games Abyss staffers miles away from LA, so these shindigs represent my E3. As a non-attendee, I find it easy to allow the jaded snarky bastard who lives in the recesses of my jagged soul to type merciless snark about these so-called conferences into his laptop, all while sipping a totally not bitter and definitely not depressing eighth beer of the cold, lonely night.

But the reason I find it easy is because the conferences are so full of proper total complete and utter funny. The nonsense that’s announced, the horribly awkward hosting, the obviously scripted staging, and the unrelenting trough of WTF moments are more entertainment than sharing a box of popcorn with Charlie Sheen at the Ice Capades, but for all the wrong reasons.

Here are my lowlights of the press conferences of E3 2011.

Microsoft

Where to start? How about every single detail being leaked on xbox.com just minutes before the start? Hey Halo 4, would you like a zing-ectomy?

That leak was the starting gun for the race to present the most unattractive crap in the most unappealing way, all with the power of Kincect. We saw that when we say dialogue options out loud in Mass Effect 3 that it’s even weirder when our character says something different. We saw that voice commands for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier are a little more laborious than buttons. Neat!

Of course, the winner was the pair of words that underlines Microsoft’s entire mishit of a show:

“Lightsaber on!”

Yup, Kinect: Star Wars is just like the movies. I’m a fan of Kinect, but its integration into enthusiast games looks redundant and superficial. It is more than a little worrying for Microsoft that the only thing that looked like an undoubted winner (outside of Gears of Warfare 3) was Dance Central 2.

EA

This was actually a rock solid conference, but it still had its moments of despairing hilarity.

There was EA CEO John Riccotello proudly taking a dig at other conferences for using big celebrities to endorse their products just minutes before Peter Moore came on stage with a bunch of NFL stars.

There was yet another CGI trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Sure, MMOs demo poorly in expos, but my mum always said if you have nothing good to show about your game at a E3 press conference then don’t show anything at all, you little mistake of a child you.

But maybe the winner was Need The Speed: The Run with the announcement that for the first time players will be able to get out of the car and do stuff, only to reveal that this stuff they’ll do appears to be little more than QTEs for running away and beating up a cop. Still, if that’s the worst EA could do than they must’ve done alright. Even if they forgot to announce Mirror’s Edge 2, silly billies.

Ubisoft

I could just write “Mr Caffeine” and be done here.

I get that Ubisoft wanted to go internal with a host after the debacle of Joel McHale desperately trying to resist ripping the extract out of Battle Tag, but Mr Caffeine was worse, much worse.

Maybe we just don’t get French humour. That’s how I felt, anyway, when Ubisoft celebrated 25 years of making games by re-enacting Shakespeare with Michael Ancel down on one knee asking president Yves Guillemot “Ubi or not Ubi, that is the question?” We laughed but not with them.

When Mr Caffeine came on, no-one laughed. He made jokes about chatting up the 40% of people who play video games and aren’t obnoxious men. “Here, hold my Joywand!” he exclaimed with the smile of a comedic predator, “Yup, that’s right, I’m not afraid of a few dick jokes.” Apparently the way to chat up the female demographic is to completely alienate them from your presentation.

You know, I suspect there are a few dick jokes that are afraid of him, though. Or any jokes. Ever.

It’s hard to remember that much of the Ubisoft conference outside of his awfulness, honestly, so let’s just not. Instead, let us reflect on his weird time-travelling hand motions, the way he yelled out “Epic Fail!” like he was one of the cool kids, and the way he inserted extra ‘e’s and ‘l’s into ‘Tom Clancy”. A true legend, Mr Caffeine, a true legend indeed. Won’t you come back next year?

Sony

Sony easily had the best conference of the five, but there was still plenty of fried gold to munch on.

SCEA CEO Jack Tretton’s shirt and tie combo, for example. Salmon pink with ocean blue? OK then.

Kudos to Sony for using the genuine developers associated with the projects to talk about their games, it was a nice change from the overly groomed Microsoft aesthetic, but maybe Medieval Moves would’ve gotten a little more notice if it hadn’t been presented so boringly. The E3 meme machine will remember the Zelda clone with Move more for “Nice job, Jeremy!” than anything else.

Finally, there was the announcement of AT&T support for PlayStation Vita which actually drew boos and laughter from the crowd. I hope the ink isn’t dry on that contract, Sony.

Otherwise it was a fairly slick little presentation by the one company that really needed it. They managed to avoid any of the many gaffs waiting for them with bringing Kobe Bryant on to talk about NBA 2K12. They even did a good job with the PSN apology. It’s like they actually employed someone to do a good PR job for them or something.

Nintendo

It’s been a few hours since the close of the Nintendo conference and if it wasn’t for all the hard working boys and girls out there trying to explain just what the hell Nintendo was talking about with Wii U, I wouldn’t have a freaking clue about that thing. So it’s a console that’s a controller but with a console, but I don’t need the console to play it, but it’s not a portable, but you can play it like it is a portable. What? OK, I actually got it better than that, but no thanks to the big N. Woeful.

It was messy, it was unclear, and it was confused. It was all hard-hitting Reggie-isms like (a smidgen paraphrased) “We hear you. You want the new and the old. You want the comfort of the familiar and the zing of the fresh. You want the crunchiness of peanut butter and the smoothness of jelly. You want DC and Marvel. You want Reggie and Miyamoto. Contradictions? Maybe. Maybe indeed…”

I like Reggie Fils-Aime – who doesn’t? – but the Wii U was desperately lacking in actual useful details for those of us who wanted to know if it was actually doing anything the Vita couldn’t with the PS3. Instead, we got lots of that strern Reggie forehead and spiel that felt like bark without the bite.

Even with the whole conference being so confusing that you didn’t know how to even feel about it, there was still a fun, palpable lowlight in the form of getting a huge, gigantic orchestra full of professional musicians who have spent their lives learning their craft to play dinky little Zelda jingles at the beck and call of the evil, power-mad Miyamoto. PLAY MUSIC FOR MY FRIENDS, he boomed.

And so they did. And the audience applauded. Out of fear.

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