E3 ’09 Postmortem: Awards Talk

In the past two weeks since E3, I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I thought of the show. I’ve generally told everyone the same story, but one I think is much more succinctly illustrated by the E3 Game Critics Awards nominees, announced this week.

Just look at “Best of Show:” — four sequels (Modern Warfare, Splinter Cell, Uncharted, Mass Effect) and one new franchise that doesn’t seem overly impressive (Brutal Legend). That pretty sums up what this E3 was about: it may have been at least a partial return to the Big Show feel of previous E3s, but in terms of the actual games, it was more about big publishers milking existing franchises like Halo or God of War or Rock Band rather than anything really new to get hot and bothered over.

Of course, not everything at E3 was a sequel or spin-off, but even many of the E3 panel’s “original” games, like Alan Wake and Heavy Rain, were titles we’ve seen many times before.  Raven’s Singularity looks cool, but the show demo was a bit underwhelming. Splash Damage’s Brink was locked away upstairs at the Bethesda booth, and I doubt many people even knew it was there. Activision made a lot of noise with DJ Hero, but it was hard to tell exactly how the game worked unless you had a back-room demo. It’s almost like publishers have gotten so comfy with the routine of marketing existing franchises that they’re not sure what to do with anything really new.

And so that’s what E3 2009 was about: a lot of stuff you’ve seen before. Which isn’t a bad thing, as the games I most want to play are titles like Modern Warfare 2 or The Beatles: Rock Band. But if you’re wondering what was new and cool this year, the easiest answer is: “the same stuff that was cool last year.”

(P.S. No, I have no idea why this text is showing up so small. Time for some WordPress investigation this weekend. )