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Winning the Night

E3's conferences are over for another year. Who won, who lost out - and what fresh direction does this give the industry?

E3 happens, as it has done for many years, to a scripted schedule. Those in Los Angeles trundle across town from conference to conference, while those abroad play a game almost as tedious as LA traffic, hopping around different streaming sites to see which ones will let them watch the events without pausing for buffering every ten seconds.

Then we declare a winner, and losers - and begin days or weeks of mud-slinging over the merits of our chosen champions, as much defined by tribalism as by the quality of anything on show in many cases. Yet that tribalism, as annoying as it can get, also gives us an interesting yardstick to use to judge the platform holders' E3 conferences.

If each company has a clan hanging off their words and waiting to rush out to wage online flamewar in the wake of their pronouncements, we can start looking at E3 like a political campaign. Who satisfied their supporters, managing to get out the core vote? Who, on the other hand, alienated their base? Did anyone cross over party lines and appeal to traditional supporters of another party? Did it work?

Microsoft's focus this week wasn't on keeping the owners of the first fifty million consoles happy - it was on working out where the next fifty million are going to come from

If we're going to measure by those standards, then Microsoft arguably set itself a pretty tough task. Last year's E3 presentation for the Xbox 360 set out a stall for Kinect, shouting the company's intention to gun for Nintendo's casual and family market to anyone who would listen. This year, they've sold a ton of Kinect hardware and generated a great deal of buzz, and Microsoft may even have started to believe its own line about Kinect delivering many extra years of life to the Xbox 360. Its response - shout harder.

It's not that the company forgot about the core gamer audience - it opened on Modern Warfare 3 and closed on the unveiling of Halo 4 (sadly leaked in advance, which robbed it of much impact), after all. In light of what came in between those events, though, it's hard not to see them as much more than misdirection. This was an E3 conference about all the things Microsoft's core audience doesn't want to hear - embracing casual gaming and making Xbox into more than just a games device.

With well over fifty million of the devices sold, Microsoft's focus this week wasn't on keeping the owners of the first fifty million happy - it was on working out where the next fifty million are going to come from. Online reaction was predictably negative, for the most part. The success of Kinect doesn't sit well with many core gamers, who fear that the platform most of them have chosen this generation, the Xbox 360, is going the way of the Wii - and E3 will have done nothing to allay those fears. In particular, new Fable and Star Wars games focused heavily - perhaps even exclusively - on Kinect controls will fuel (admittedly largely unfair) concerns that core gamers are now being "robbed" of titles and franchises in favour of appealing to a new audience.

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Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.