As E3 slowly loses its appeal to developers and Nintendo’s method of delivering game news continues to gain traction, game companies have been experimenting with new ways in providing their news to fans. Some have opted to create their own hour-long shows, others have attempted to replicate Nintendo Directs, and a few outliers have decided to make entire events out of a single game announcement. Through all these different methods, however, something has been lacking—a particular, unexplainable quality or lack of direction that only Nintendo has seemed to overcome.
This has resulted in attempt after attempt from various companies to experiment and find that secret combination of news and entertainment that Nintendo has done so well. Unfortunately, none have succeeded so far at creating a show at the same quality as Nintendo Directs, resulting in a lot of subpar viewing. But out of all the shows currently being produced as a form of news for games, two stand out as the most offensive, State of Play by Sony, and EA’s single game announcement panels.
State of Play
As the last horse over the finish line, Sony has finally begun hosting its show to deliver game news, State of Play. In a similar format to Nintendo Directs, State of Play aims to provide highlights of news in short 10-20 minute videos on a non-standard schedule. In this respect, Sony achieves precisely what they hoped to do, give a series of game news and announcements in one package. But part of what makes Nintendo Directs an event and so enjoyable, rather than just a series of video, is that they are presented as an actual show. People are talking, they are random asides happening, and clips that don’t directly relate to the news being announced. In short, the show provides more than the news itself. State of Play sadly doesn’t do this.
Instead, State of Play simply serves as a time of the month in which game news can occur in this format. There is no need for the news to be displayed in this method; it just, is. Iron Man VR announcement? Great! But if all that is being provided is a trailer and a date, why couldn’t this only have been a trailer post? Why does it need to exist within this format of a show that doesn’t attempt to be a show? The same can be said for the rest of State of Play, mixing minor announcements, game releases, and everything in between to be a show that doesn’t serve to present the information in a show-like fashion. This is the same issue raised by some of us here at Critical Coins for E3, specifically:
…if all most of us are going to do is watch E3 at home, and if some of the biggest developers and publishers are just going to go with pre-recorded videos (such as Nintendo), then what’s the point of a physical convention at all? Post up the videos for watching, and we’ll be on our way.
The difference being now for Sony is that this is being lumped into a show, without any additional value for doing so. Is anything gained by this format of presenting news? Doubtful. If anything, it detracts from the news being announced because of its failure to deliver.
Consider for a moment what a Nintendo Direct usually consists of in its entirety. Game-specific news is the main attraction, featuring bits of information on new features or gameplay, but often provides something more substantial like a release date window. In the case of some Nintendo Directs, they could present a long-form or further in-depth analysis of a specific game, but not at the cost of the smaller information of other titles as well. The second piece of news is game announcements, and a Nintendo Direct (except game-specific ones) always has some game announcement, with many having multiple throughout their presentation. It is these two factors, with the combination of the additional elements outside of the announcements and formatting, that make it so appealing. State of Play lacks all of these elements to a significant degree that the show suffers for it, and so do the viewers who wish to watch it. The announcements are okay but are quickly pushed aside for something else, the information in the middle is more so highlights than news, and the whole event ended with a new trailer for a game everyone knew was coming with nothing meaningful being added.
For this, State of Play comes off as being an overproduced trailer reel or an underproduced show by Sony on PlayStation 4.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
If State of Play exists as an example of an underproduced show, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is the complete opposite. Here was a show that was looking to take the smallest amount of information and turn it into something massive. The reveal featured a panel of different people from Respawn Entertainment, all serving to facilitate this event that was lacking in substance by providing fluff. Fluff about why certain choices were made, information about how the game plays, where the storyline fits, etc. This may seem like valuable information—and it could be argued that it was—it lacked a crucial element that would bring substance to what was being said, gameplay.
Video games are a visual medium, nearly as much as they are an interactive one. So for one to truly understand the information that is being presented to them and be able to appreciate it for what it is, seeing is believing, and for Jedi: Fallen Order—not much was shown. The main event consisted of a cinematic trailer, setting the stage for the game, characters, and it’s world, but little to nothing else. Sure, we got to hear from Respawn and the voice actor playing the leading role, but that is not enough. With no gameplay being shown, there was no concept for how it would play or perform outside of the spoken promises of the panel, meaning we were forced to use our imagination for what that might be, riding on a hope and a prayer that it ends up being true.
This is a significant failure in presenting a game announcement in the form of a show. Much was talked about, but little was revealed, and the few things that were didn’t provide anything meaningful. Instead, it was an event to treat those who have watched to a whole lot of fluff about the game, without actually giving context to if or why any of it matters. An entire hour lost to what could have been a 5-10 minute video that encapsulated all the pertinent information in a concise format.
If you are a company looking to make a big uproar about an announcement and turn it into a show, use the format well. Don’t stuff if full of meaningless fluff to make it appear larger than it is, and don’t attempt to make a series of unconnected presentations in the form of a show just for the sake of it. Put in the time to make it work in the format chosen, much like Nintendo has done with their Directs. Otherwise, keep it to what it simply always could have been, a trailer, and we will all be thankful for that.