E3 is a magical time of the year where game announcements, demonstrations, and insanely intricate booths collide for an entertaining and revealing handful of days. We’ve become used to certain press conference staples. Slick (but uninteresting) sizzle reels. Hardware unveilings that dominate news coverage. Game announcements that can make or break a company’s upcoming lineup. But sometimes you need some crazy E3 gimmicks to shake things up a bit. With E3 2017 just around the corner, here’s The Game Fanatic’s list of 5 crazy E3 gimmicks that totally worked.
Five Crazy E3 Gimmicks (That Totally Worked)
Sony’s E3 2016 Orchestra
The pre-show to Sony’s E3 2016 press conference went pretty predictably. There were a couple of plucky hosts talking up already announced PlayStation games outside the Shrine Auditorium. There were interviews with developers excited to get time to talk about their games. And there was an auditorium full of press members just waiting for the delayed show to start already. But something was different.
Even with the impatient rumblings of the audience, viewers online could see an orchestra pit filled with musicians just in front of the main stage. This orchestra, set against glamorous red satin curtains, made the event feel immediately classier than your standard video game press conference fare. The orchestra played a theme that had all the trappings of a God of War track and, lo and behold, we were treated to ten minutes of gameplay from the upcoming God of War title for the PS4. All the while, the live orchestra backed the footage with aplomb. It was epic as all hell.
The orchestra continued to back the conference throughout its svelte one-hour running time. They played conference speakers on and off the stage, highlighted the beauty of Horizon: Zero Dawn, and backed the swift reveal of the upcoming Spider-Man game. Though this crazy E3 gimmick could have gone wrong for Sony – live music can be a logistical nightmare – it all went off without a hitch, and it helped make their 2016 conference one for the books.
Nintendo’s E3 2016 Zelda-Only Show
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been hailed as a modern classic. A masterpiece. A genre-defining epic that is sure to change the nature of open-world games going forward. But before E3 2016, it was just a Zelda game coming to the Wii U we didn’t know much about. That all changed when Nintendo went all-in on this one game.
Though many were skeptical of Nintendo eschewing a proper conference or even a full Nintendo Direct, this crazy E3 gimmick proved to be a masterstroke in marketing and branding. Breath of the Wild became the talk of the show, winning game of the show from outlets like IGN and Destructoid, as well as winning best of show from the Game Critics Awards.
As far as Breath of the Wild is concerned, the hype surrounding it only grew after Nintendo’s E3 gambit. Perfect reviews started pouring in and, before you knew it, the game began to outsell the Switch itself. The Game Fanatics gave it a 10/10, calling it “An utterly engrossing swan song for the Wii U and a promise for the future of the Nintendo Switch.” Nintendo pulled it off, and if they do the same thing with Super Mario Odyssey this year, expect fan anticipation to blow up like no other.
Sony’s E3 2015 Blitz of Re-Announced Games
The Last Guardian. Final Fantasy VII Remake. Shenmue III.
The majority of the gaming world thought that these games were never going to see the light of day. Heck, only The Last Guardian was confirmed to ever be in development, and thanks to some unfortunate misinformation handed off to IGN, everyone believed it had been canceled just days before the show. But they were wrong. So wrong.
Though these three reveals were separated by other games and announcements, the impact felt like a rapid-fire fever dream of a deranged fanboy. The Last Guardian? That’s canceled. A Final Fantasy VII Remake? We’ve been burnt before. Shenmue III? Don’t make me laugh. But dreams came true.
The gimmick here was packing these megaton announcements that we all expected to be vaporware into a single conference. It was enough to make some members of the press completely lose their minds. These games could have easily been spread out over multiple press conferences to keep the momentum going, but Sony opted to barrage fans with announcements. And it worked. Sony’s E3 2015 conference has already gone down in history as one of the best video game conferences of all time, and this crazy E3 gimmick skyrocketed the PS4’s previous hype into the atmosphere.
Nintendo Forgoing a Live Press Conference at E3 2013
Everybody misses Nintendo’s live conferences. There are some incredibly impactful moments in video game history that happened on their E3 stage – Shigeru Miyamoto taking up the Master Sword and Hylian shield at E3 2004 to announce The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and the unveiling of the now-classic Wii remotes at E3 2006 that ushered in an age of unparalleled popularity for Nintendo come to mind.
It’s also hard to forget the lackluster Nintendo press conferences that preceded their switch to Nintendo Directs for E3. Miyamoto tried to repeat 2004’s Zelda success by demoing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on stage in 2010 but was met with embarrassing technical difficulties.
Their E3 2011 and 2012 presentations of the Wii U only confused their audience and didn’t properly educate consumers on exactly what the Wii U was. Many just thought it was a tablet for the original Wii. Others didn’t know if their old Wii remotes would work with the Wii U. Their E3 2012 conference ended with an awkward on-screen fireworks display coupled with the Nintendo Land logo, disappointing everyone in attendance that was expecting a special surprise finale.
But then Nintendo did the unthinkable – they didn’t host a press conference in 2013. They had dabbled in Nintendo Directs for a couple years preceding E3 2013, but they finally committed to the format in earnest. Within the highly controlled, super-compact format, Nintendo showed off Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
Nintendo has stuck with E3 Directs ever since (bar the aforementioned Breath of the Wild 2016 showcase). Though hopefully one day the traditional Nintendo press conference will make a return, their move was bold, and this crazy E3 gimmick made for a better show than they’ve had in years.
Peter Moore’s Tattoos
You should never get a tattoo unless it’s important. The name of your first-born child – that’s important. Your family crest – that’s important. Revealing games at a press conference – that’s important.
Although Peter Moore has now left the video game industry, he formerly sat as the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division from 2003 until 2007. In that time, he did a lot of good for the company. He helped launch the incredibly successful Xbox 360 and primed it for success. He also got Halo 2‘s release date tattooed on his left arm, and GTA 4‘s logo tattooed on his right.
Sure, this gimmick is silly. It’s strange. It’s permanent. But damn if it didn’t get fans even more excited for those games than they already were. And who’s to say this little stunt didn’t boost sales of both juggernaut games? Never bet against a crazy E3 gimmick tattoo.
These five crazy E3 gimmicks totally worked. But you know what? E3 gimmicks almost always fall flat on their face. Stay tuned for The Game Fanatic’s list of five crazy E3 gimmicks (that totally didn’t work).