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E3 gets moving with Kinect, PS Move | 10 Years Ago This Month

The annual hype train goes off the rails as Microsoft and Sony jump on Nintendo's motion control bandwagon

The games industry moves pretty fast, and there's a tendency for all involved to look constantly to what's next without so much worrying about what came before. That said, even an industry so entrenched in the now can learn from its past. So to refresh our collective memory and perhaps offer some perspective on our field's history, runs this monthly feature highlighting happenings in gaming from exactly a decade ago.

This week was supposed to be the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but the COVID-19 pandemic ensured that wasn't going to happen. But to be honest, with Sony skipping the show in a year when it had a new console to show off, it wasn't really going to feel like a proper E3 anyway.

So since we're getting neither a proper E3 nor any E3 at all, let's get a reminder of what the show looked like in June of 2010, when it was not only still happening, but still the biggest week on the entire industry's calendar.

All the big players were there. Microsoft was ramping up the hype for Kinect and had a lineup featuring Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3, and Fable III.

Sony was touting its Move motion-sensing controller and a big push into stereoscopic 3D gaming, and had a lineup featuring Killzone 3 and LittleBigPlanet 2. Perhaps more importantly, the company was celebrating that it was no longer "bleeding" money on every PS3 system sold.

Meanwhile, Nintendo was showing off the 3DS and talking about new Wii titles like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Epic Mickey, Metroid: Other M, and Kirby's Epic Yarn.

Even Valve was at E3 2010, with Gabe Newell appearing at Sony's conference to talk about how Portal 2 wouldn't be a second-rate port on the PS3 like The Orange Box was.

And because E3 has always been the time and place for breathless hype of questionable accuracy, there were also loads of people saying things that begged for inclusion in our usual Good Call, Bad Call section, so many that we're just going to turn the rest of the column over to those, helpfully categorized by subject matter.

Good Call, Bad Call: Nintendo

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GOOD CALL: As part of its E3 presence, Nintendo showed off The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the first time. As the first entry in the series designed specifically for the Wii's motion controller, expectations were high.

In unveiling the game, series creator Shigeru Miyamoto even said, "I think this game will be remembered as a key turning point in Zelda's history."

"I think this game will be remembered as a key turning point in Zelda's history"

Shigeru Miyamoto, on Skyward Sword

Miyamoto was right, but probably not in the way he had intended. The game released to an unusually cool reception for a Zelda title, so much so that when producer Eiji Aonuma sat down to make the next installment in the franchise, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, key elements like the game's open-world design and emphasis on discovery were directly in response to Skyward Sword criticisms.

GOOD CALL: Another major part of Nintendo's E3 presence was the unveiling of the 3DS handheld system. The company didn't announce the price of the glasses-free 3D portable, but Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata said the system would be sold for a profit on day one. With an eventual $250 price tag at launch, it almost certainly was. Four months later though? Not so much.

BAD CALL: "We take our responsibilities as a global company very seriously and are committed to an ethical policy on sourcing, manufacture, and labour," Nintendo told us after a series of suicides at Foxconn factories that manufactured consoles and smartphones made headlines.

That was in itself a good stance, but there's some question about whether Nintendo took those responsibilities as seriously as it claimed to. In 2012, Sasha Lezhnev, senior policy analyst at the watchdog organization Enough Project, blasted the company's sourcing of conflict minerals.

"Nintendo is, I believe, the only company that has basically refused to acknowledge the issue or demonstrate they are making any sort of effort on it," Lezhnev said. "And this is despite a good two years of trying to get in contact with them."

Nintendo has made progress since then but has largely plateaued in recent years.

Good Call, Bad Call: Microsoft

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BAD CALL: Microsoft giving everyone at its E3 conference the newly announced Xbox 360 Slim redesign, touching off one of the endless and infinite public discussions about ethics in video game journalism we used to have in this field before misogynists salted that particular patch of earth.

QUESTIONABLE CALLS: Microsoft choosing to promote Kinect with a surreal Cirque du Soleil performance, and our decision to get experimental in an attempt to describe the event for our then-new (but since-retired) blog posting format.

GOOD CALL: Wedbush research analyst Michael Pachter predicted (perhaps inelegantly) that core gamers would turn their noses up at Microsoft's "limited" motion-sensing Kinect camera peripheral, but it would still be popular because of its broader appeal games.

"The hardcore probably aren't going to be as impressed," Pachter said. "Their mums are, their girlfriends are, their wives are, their kids are: that is who wants this thing."

BAD CALL: Us, using the phrase "maverick analyst" in that same article.

Good Call, Bad Call: Sony

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BAD CALL: Sony built much of its E3 showing around the Move motion controller and its push for stereoscopic 3D gaming. Both were bad calls, considering the Move's big mark on gaming is that it was a PlayStation VR controller that made it to market six years before the system it would support and stereoscopic 3D was a flash in the pan.

But there were more specific bad calls within those bigger picture bad calls, like when Sony's 3D development boss Simon Benson said the jump to 3D was a bigger leap for games than the jump from standard-definition to high-definition.

"It's the first time you've switched on your other eye," Benson said, confusingly. "With HD we've gone for more resolution, which is great, more detail, better quality, but suddenly you've just switched on the other eye for the first time ever, you see the world with both eyes every day, yet in everything that's being pumped through your television you've gone back to seeing it as if you only had one. So really it's that level of significance."

"It makes all the difference to the whole industry because people are going to be playing these games for the first time in 3D," he added, recursively. "The first time they play a 3D driving game they'll be thinking 'these benefits are so significant that I want all my driving games to be in 3D from now on please'. And that kind of demand is going to mean that everyone who's making games will think, 'I need to feed that now.' Because it clearly makes sense."

"[Stereoscopic 3D] gives them an advantage... against the people they are playing against online"

Sony Consumer Electronics' Christian Brown

BAD CALL: Not to be outdone, Sony Consumer Electronics senior product manager Christian Brown proclaimed that 3D gaming would take off because it gives competitive players an edge somehow.

"This is really giving the games a deeper experience," Brown said. "We've spoken to a lot of people, and the gamers are the people who are really taking this on board very, very quickly. It gives them an advantage... against the people they are playing against online."

BAD CALL: Anyone who was swayed to go whole hog on stereoscopic 3D technology because a Consumer Electronics Association survey found that 27% of avid gamers were unrepentant liars. Er, I mean, planning to buy 3D TVs.

BAD CALL: Me, an avid gamer, buying a 3D TV in 2011. Child of Eden was great and a handful of movies like Hugo use 3D to good effect, but ultimately I didn't get enough use out of it to justify even the slight premium I paid for 3D. Not that I'm bitter and inappropriately expressing buyer's remorse by dragging the people who hyped up stereoscopic 3D in a historical industry column almost a decade down the line or anything.

BAD CALL THAT WORKED WELL AT THE TIME: Sony devoted a segment of its E3 conference to fictitious PlayStation spokesman Kevin Butler. The crowd genuinely seemed to love it, but the segment's humor constantly played on assumptions of who plays games and who games are for, assumptions that fueled many of the toxicity problems game companies are still struggling with.

Good Call, Bad Call: Third-Party Publishers

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GOOD CALL: THQ was at E3 to push its upcoming shooter Homefront, which was set in a future where North Korea invades the United States. While there, THQ VP of core games Danny Bilson declared that "The whole world of selling average games is gone. It's gone. The world of selling anything but spectacular games is gone. So what I think that means is less games, more focus, more care and then more crafting in the marketing to make people care about them more, it's all just about more love really. It's just treating them with more respect."

Bilson was largely right, as publishers around the industry have spent the past decade generally embracing the "fewer, bigger, better" strategy and particularly cutting back on the number of duds they release.

BAD CALL: As an executive at a second-tier publisher known for producing plenty of average games, Bilson maybe should have chosen his words better when asked if the company's successful launch of Homefront was the spearhead of its new strategy.

"We're dropping a clusterbomb that we let loose in January that will drop bombs for two years straight about every ten weeks"

THQ's Danny Bilson, using some unfortunate phrasing

"I can't say this is the spearhead, I can say it's more one missile on a cluster bomb," Bilson said. "We're dropping a clusterbomb that we let loose in January that will drop bombs for two years straight about every ten weeks. This is only one of them. This is our February bomb. We have a March one, called Red Faction Armageddon, it's really awesome."

Going by Bilson's timeline, the last of those bombs would have dropped in January of 2013. THQ went bankrupt in December of 2012.

GOOD CALL: Another THQ bomb Bilson no doubt had in mind when he said that was Devil's Third, the first project from ex-Team Ninja head Tomonobu Itagaki's new studio. Signing the game was no doubt a bad call for THQ, but Bilson's quote about the signing was pretty on point, and a tremendous example of ironic foreshadowing.

"This partnership with leading developer Tomonobu Itagaki reflects the high quality standard we have set for THQ's core games pipeline," Bilson said.

Devil's Third pulled in a 43 Metacritic average when it released in 2015. THQ was long dead by that point, but for reasons I cannot fathom, Nintendo had picked up the game as a Wii U exclusive. By release day, Nintendo knew what it had on its hands, and produced so few copies that it was selling to collectors for multiple times its retail price less than a week after its launch.

BAD CALL: Most of the decisions that went into Konami's profoundly awkward E3 press conference. It had painful scripted banter, technical issues, a dead silent crowd, uncomfortable presenters, a mostly dull slate of games, and it lasted for a grueling hour and forty minutes. Any one or two of those traits could sink a media briefing on its own, but Konami had them all, and made the whole thing extra memorable by throwing in some luchadores and a high school glee club singing Queen's "Somebody to Love" to promote Karaoke Revolution: Glee.

I was in the room for this, and the only things that kept it from being the worst E3 presser I've ever been to are the fact that Activision's E3 2007 event hosted by Jamie Kennedy was surprisingly not a fever dream, and that glee club performance was legitimately great and probably the best thing I've seen in the 16 years I've attended E3.

BAD CALL: With Infinity Ward in the midst of a talent exodus after the company fired the studio's co-founders, Activision executive vice president Dave Stohl said in an interview, "we're rebuilding a studio that can go off and build great new franchises in the future."

Since then, it has shipped four Call of Duty games, five if you count the Modern Warfare-based Warzone as a separate title.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar
Brendan Sinclair: Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot.
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