E3 2015: Is it Hip to be Square (Enix)?

E3 2015 was in full swing today, and not only does that mean paying attention to the games, but also paying attention to how companies big and small present their games. The history of E3 is full of cringe-worthy moments (“giant enemy crab” is now in meme Valhalla), but it’s also interesting to look at things from the companies’ perspectives. They have to simultaneously present themselves as familiar and accessible to their audiences, strong and authoritative to their investors, and simply superior to their competitors. It’s one thing to be part of a three-ring circus, but when one performer is in all three acts, it’s easy to see why sometimes an attempt to be “hip and cool, like the kids” might go a bit south.

Last year Nintendo really showed up the competition. Rather than making a big spectacle as would be typically expected of them, all they did was do one digital announcement and then show their games off through their “Nintendo Treehouse.” No bells or whistles; gameplay was their philosophy, and their “simple is best” approach made a far bigger impression than any other company.

So that brings us to this year, as each game developer tries to determine their particular balancing act between fun and serious. Nintendo used Muppets and emphasized their Wii U gamepad as a new way to play games, all while continuing to abandon the traditional live presentation. Square-Enix utilized straightforward business suit talk that relies on the strength of their properties, and reversing the disappointments of their fanbase. Gamers of all types exist in this current space, and companies have to figure out who is their audience, across not just various age groups but also cultures. After all, E3 is as much about the world as it is the United States or Japan, even when Japanese companies are presenting.

So who do you think “won” this year’s E3? Is it even possible to truly win something where so many disparate values are being poured in? Does it ultimately come down to the bottom line months later when the games come out, or is there something more ethereal, like the pure desire to enjoy a great game?

-Carl

By the way, did you see Keiji Inafune’s new game, ReCore? Well, he’s going to be a special guest at Waku Waku +NYC! Get your special VIP Pass today to skip the line and meet one of video game industry’s greeatest creators!

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