For an industry founded on creativity, these media briefings are increasingly soulless, risk-free, lifeless affairs. They fail to capture the thrill, excitement and emotion of the art form they represent. Worst of all, they insist on continually saying that you will be feeling these emotions without actually proving it.
I’m being pithy, of course. Gamescom is stuck in an awkward position. E3 still rules the roost, but the European event’s size dictates that Microsoft and Sony have to make an effort. Therefore we get C-grade announcements pitched as AAA news. And yet again we get to see Sony and Microsoft duke it out in an increasingly familiar game of conference one-upmanship.
Ooh, thrill to the new cars in Forza! Swoon, as a slightly awkward looking Peter Schmeichel talks about a collectible card game. Gasp, as Remedy tries to convince you that their new version of bullet time is somehow a notable achievement. I know there’s a console war on, but when the big news from Microsoft is that Rise of the Tomb Raider is now an Xbox One exclusive, just what are you expecting me to get excited about?
To their credit Sony did better, having the edge by presenting an eclectic selection of impressive titles. Sony have always had the affection of the European market and with 10 million PS4s out the door you can’t blame them for having a confident spring in their step. The Tomorrow Children, Wild, DayZ, Rime all looked impressive but the execution of their presentation was the same as ever. A hyperbolic muddle of half-statements, press quotes and strained enthusiasm.
Nintendo are not having a media briefing at Gamescom, but for all of their (much deserved) criticism in recent years they have nailed the art of conference promotion with their digital-only strategy. Perhaps it’s a format that can only work for Nintendo and their fans, but I’d take three minutes of Etsunobu Ebisu wandering around a yarn store over the sight of Quantum Break’s generic hero shooting barrels from cover any day of the week. (Shooting barrels? C’mon Remedy, get a grip.)
To an old dog like me this bluff and bluster is starting to ring a little hollow. This is nothing against Gamescom as event. By all accounts, it’s a well run and enjoyable experience that could teach E3 and PAX a thing or two. But we are just getting started in this new generation. There should optimism and enthusiasm, energy and balls. But more and more, these press conferences are like watching your dad dance in front of your friends.