By Eric Chetkauskas / June 25th, 2014
E3 has historically been an exciting time in the game industry. I remember watching E3 coverage on TV, taking note of which upcoming games looked good. After a few years, the only games I enjoyed seeing were ones I already knew about and was planning on getting anyway. E3 just stopped being interesting, and ultimately, I just stopped caring about it.
This year was no different. While the staff was giving their E3 predictions for an article, I had made some snarky and sarcastic comments about how uninterested I was. Surprisingly, not only did my comments make the article, but others had expressed a similar apathy.
The major conferences on the first day pretty much met my expectations. Microsoft and Sony featured shooters and fast-paced action games with a seemingly high level of online multiplayer. Sony showed off some interesting services with PlayStation TV and PlayStation Now. The focus on spectacle carried over to the conferences themselves, with visually and technically impressive presentations. I can’t actually fault them for anything, but it was abundantly clear that I’m just not in their target demographics. I will say that both Ori and the Blind Forest and ABZU look amazing, so it’s not a total loss.
For the second year in a row, Nintendo had a “digital event” in lieu of a traditional press conference. Their presentation was basically a glorified Nintendo Direct, but by focusing on content as opposed to presentation, they were able to show off just as much in half the time. Also, due to the nature of first-party Nintendo games, they were of greater interest to me. There were reveals for games both new and known, including a ton of new Super Smash Bros. info, Toad getting to star in his own game, the return of Yoshi and Kirby, and much more.
Not to sit here and say I’m interested simply because it’s Nintendo. To be honest, I’m not much of a Smash Bros. fan and while I love the look of the new Zelda, talk of it being open-world has me uneasy. Mario Maker looks intriguing, but it’s not something that I’m particularly dying to play. But I did see enough from them to at least give me the impression that things were looking up in the Nintendo camp.
The one thing Nintendo did that really changed the game this E3 was their Treehouse Live stream broadcasts. For those who don’t know, the Treehouse is a super-secretive branch of Nintendo that does super-secretive things along the development process of upcoming games. To see a glimpse into this world and watch as Treehouse employees played some of the new games with the developers themselves was a real treat.
While other companies used CGI trailers to show off what a game will look like when it’s done, Treehouse Live showed us actual gameplay and talked about the game and art designs. We learned how the yarn aesthetic in Yoshi’s Wooly World was derived. We saw the combat system in Hyrule Warriors. We got not one, but two lengthy demonstrations of Xenoblade Chronicles X. Big name titles weren’t the only ones shown either. Indie games like Shovel Knight and Swords and Soldiers 2 got into the spotlight as well.
Hands down, Treehouse Live stole the show. Seeing the actual games was the one thing that’s been missing from E3 for so many years now. Watching real people show off the actual products they worked on was a ton of fun, no matter what I thought of the actual game. There was a lot of uncertain expectations of Nintendo going into E3, considering the lackluster sales of the Wii U and their conspicuous absence from events like PAX East. With Treehouse Live, Nintendo not only outdid their competition but, for the first time in quite a while, renewed our confidence in them, and gave me a reason care about E3.
I would say that it was my favorite part of E3 2014, but this also happened….