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Hype Check: Debunking E3's Marketing

Anti-E3

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If you judged each of E3 2016‘s conferences by the volcanic applause following each announcement, no matter how minuscule or massive, then you probably think everything the developers said was written by God himself on a stone script. But you’re smarter than that. I know you are. So, in continuation of our ‘anti-E3’ coverage, here are some of the moments when the creators and executives of the show were misleading, vague or “economical with the truth”.

The Elder Scrolls Online named “Best MMO” of 2015

When one of the speakers for Zenimax came out to talk about the Elder Scrolls Online, I was surprised. But when he said that it was named the “best MMO of 2015” I was astounded. After all, I reviewed it, and it was not very good. But as many people pointed out: what other MMOs came out that year? And where did this claim come from anyway? The developer was likely talking about this article from MMORPG.com, which was written, halfway through 2015, in July – more than a year since the game’s initial release on PC.

The developer went on to say that TESO “now supports a highly engaged community of over 7 million of you.” But where does that number come from? There were 772,374 subscribers in August 2014, according to the firm SuperData. The game has since ditched its required subscription in favour of a one-off price, but thankfully Bethesda themselves explained where the number comes from. They meant the game has had 7 million players in its lifetime. That means the figure is technically accurate, although you might need to adjust the definition of “now” and “highly engaged.”

Microsoft’s “diagram” of the new Xbox One S

To kick off their conference, Microsoft showed off the new “sleeker” model of the Xbox One, which they said was 40% smaller. But during the video, full of glimmering HD close-ups, this image also appeared. An outline of a box that quickly shrunk to the size of the smaller console. As a human with eyes, your first reaction is “wow, that got a lot smaller”. But as a human with a brain your second reaction is “wait, that is NOT what 40% looks like”. The real difference is much less noticeable when you place the consoles side by side – as IGN journalist Joe Skrebels pointed out afterwards – allowing you to fit a single renowned novella in the slim space Microsoft have shaved away. What’s more, all the big talk during this announcement does not even translate into a better machine.

Everyone’s use of on-stage “players”

Some of your favourite companies are sticking to this timeless pretence. The notable exception being the demo of Final Fantasy XV by Square Enix, which was so clumsy and repetitive that it had to be real. It’s easy to understand why publishers don’t want someone to screw up a dramatic jump and have “YOU ARE DEAD” show up in the middle of a big presentation. But please dispense with the false banter and human puppets on-stage. Otherwise, it will become one of those bizarre lies we all simply accept, like pop stars miming their hits, or Santa.

Nowhere was this stagecraft more obvious than Ubisoft’s stealthy-then-shooty demo for Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Mercifully, they didn’t have the actors on stage but the co-op demo did feature a man switch to his non-suppressed firearm before shouting “they’ve seen me!”. Which was like seeing an actor at the theatre react to a bullet wound and then hearing the prop gun go off.

Ghost Recon’s big claim

The developer for this game also claimed that it was “the very first military shooter set in a massive, dangerous open world that you can play entirely in solo OR in up to four-player co-op.” This is one of those weird spin sentences that only becomes true with the last few words. Like saying: “I am the only man here with the strength to lift a bus!” and then quietly adding “…if I take these steroids and practice.” Even the normally forgiving audience of E3 did not entertain his awkward pause for applause.

The entire Final Fantasy XV VR demo

The VR stuff shown during Sony’s conference was very fetching for the most part. They showed a small roster of games that will be playable using their consoletastic headset. But when the Final Fantasy XV section began the first-person vision was so bad it looked like it was being controlled using a joystick, with absolutely none of the telltale head swiveling that VR headsets create. Depicting the character wearing it in-game along with a first-person view was probably just a placeholder for the final thing but it was still a terrible representation of a promise that was clearly not yet workable. And if you don’t want to believe us, ask some of the journos who got to try it out for real.

Any time someone said a game would be “different every time” or offers “endless replayability”

This is one of the cardinal marketing lies in the industry. EA said this during its Battlefield 1 presentations about it’s huge multiplayer maps and Ubisoft said it about its Underground expansion for the Division, probably in regards to its randomly generated urban dungeons. But honestly, how different can you make shooting people through a red cross-hair “every time”?

Even if the environment slightly changes? Technically (again) they are correct. But we all know these sayings are just a rhetorical trick. When you walk over to your refrigerator, it is “different every time” – the temperature is different, the time of day is different – but you still reach for the same packet of cheap American singles, and you still walk away feeling slightly ashamed of your wasted life.

Look out for more of our anti-E3 propaganda over the next couple of days or check out more pro-E3 2016 news instead.

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Who am I?

Brendan Caldwell

Features Editor

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.

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