Gaming expos were once few and far between, but much like the industry itself, their size and number have exploded in recent years. Fans and the press alike would be glued to E3 in June, kicking off the summer of gaming announcements before coming to an end with its Japanese counterpart TGS. In recent years, the likes of Europe's gamecom and a proliferation of smaller shows such as the Games Developer Conference, Comic-Con and PAX have seen preview coverage and new announcements reach saturation point. We look back at the big three expos, their surprises, and what they mean for the industry as a whole.
After a slimmed-down press-only event in 2008, Los Angeles' E3 conference in June was a force to be reckoned with. The only expo to have showings from all three hardware manufacturers, each conference had a wealth of announcements to get excited over.
While Sony offered more surprises, the strength of their lineup was few and far between. It finally showed off the PSP Go, which itself was labelled "the worst kept secret of E3", along with a Motion Controller that didn't wow the audience like Natal did. On the other hand, God Of War III was dated and Uncharted 2 had the best showing of any game at the expo. A trailer for Final Fantasy XIV was a complete surprise, and reminded us of the left-field announcements of E3s of the past.
It was an expo that probably had more announcements than any other in years past, and reminded us of why E3 is such an important event in the gaming calendar. It also showed that despite the credit crunch, hardware and software development is relentlessly marching forward.
Moving from Leipzig to Cologne, Europe's premier games expo entered the big leagues this year. It truly was Sony's time to shine, and although the announcement of the PS3 Slim wasn't exactly a surprise, its price and release date were instant hits with the audience. New PS3 firmware and PSP Minis also rounded off Sony's impressive PlayStation brand reboot, even if the announced price of the PSP Go left a sour taste in the mouth of consumers.
Microsoft on the other hand, led with the announcement of a single game. Peter Molyneux enthusiastically detailed Fable III, chronicling the life of the son or daughter from Fable II as they become the ruler of Albion. Aside from an episodic Fable II, that was everything the hardware manufacturer brought to the table, leaving third parties to show off their Christmas lineups for the rest of the show.
While the scale and quantity of new products wasn't a patch on E3, it was regarded by many critics as one of the better organised shows in recent years, actually allowing for informed and orderly coverage instead of the usual tidal wave of new products left and right. The fact that both Eastern and Western hardware manufacturers took it seriously highlights the significance of Europe on the world stage, which will surely grow in years to come.
Tokyo Game Show 2009
Uncharacteristically, this year's Tokyo Game Show was a damp squib. The presence of gamescom weeks before meant that many games had already been shown and that there were simply not enough surprises left to tell, and the diminishing presence of the Japanese gaming industry meant that exciting home-grown products were few and far between. (And anything rousing, such as Level 5's new Professor Layton, was impossible to show off due to the language barrier.)
Perhaps more interestingly was the news outside of the expo: Nintendo attempted to derail any breaking stories from Sony with reports of a Wii price drop and bundle, and Microsoft dropped more hints about Natal. The show was clearly a shadow of its former self, and with gamescom fighting for space and E3 once again seen as the premier event, TGS will have to pull out the stops to remain viable in future years. Is the titanic shift towards Western development too much for the Japanese games industry to recover from?