Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Post-E3: The Ugh

It happens every year.

E3 gets everyone all excited about games. We see a ton of incredible trailers and shaky-cam footage of games that just look too good to be true. Then a ton of "critic's choice" awards for E3 get announced, stamping dozens of games as potentially great.

Then none of them ship.

Not until the following year, at least. Or the year after. Or, in extreme cases, the year after that. Or never.

I know it's the nature of E3 as a marketing event, and I know companies need to start showing product more than six months before it ships, but it still drives me crazy.

Just look at this year. The Game Critics Awards represent a solid cross-section of gaming journalism, and we can use their award nominees to get a feel for what was truly impressive at the show. Here's the website, by the way.

One quirk: the actual winners of all their nominated categories aren't announced until tonight, for some reason. I'm not sure anyone cares at this point, but there you go.

On to the nominees. First, let's look at the "Best of Show" category, with the currently projected year of release listed as well:
-Assassin’s Creed (2007)
-Bioshock (2007)
-Gears of War (2006)
-Spore (2007)

Ouch. Only one of those games, Gears of War, has any chance of being released this year.

Let's try another category--"Best PC Game."
-Crysis (2007)
-Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (2006)
-Hellgate: London (2007)
-Supreme Commander (2007)
-Spore (2007)

Actually, several of those games could be 2008 releases, but no one will admit that yet. So the only game that could possibly ship this year is, by far, the least interesting one on the list. Damn.

Best console game?
- Assassin’s Creed (2007)
- Bioshock (2007)
- Gears of War (2006)
- Mass Effect (2007)
- Super Mario Galaxy (2006)

Super Mario Galaxy may not make it in 2006, but Gears of War certainly will (I hope). For everyone else, there's the familiar pattern.

To cut to the chase, there are 54 games listed as nominees in the various categories last year. take out the games that are exclusives on handhelds, and there are 45 remaining. Out of that 45, here's the complete list of what's still scheduled to ship this year, and believe me, some of these games will slip.
-Gears of War (360)
-Moto GP 06 (360)
-Test Drive Unlimited (360, PC, PS2)
-Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II (360, but already released on PC)
-Madden NFL 07 (360, PS3)
-NCAA Football 07 (360,PS2, Xbox)

-Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (PC)
-Neverwinter Nights 2 (PC)
-Sid Meier's Railroads! (PC)
-Company of Heroes (PC)
-Battlefield 2142 (PC)
-World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade (PC, expansion pack)
-The Movies: Stunts and Effects (PC, expansion pack)

-Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
-The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)
-Excite Truck (Wii)
-Wii Sports (Wii)

-Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3)

-Final Fantasy XII (PS2)
-Mortal Kombat: Armageddon (PS2, Xbox)
-WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2007 (PS2, 360)

Ugh! 21 games out of 45 are scheduled to ship this year? Even worse, some of the games in that group are either annual sports titles (Madden and NCAA), expansion packs (WOW and The Movies), or new versions of games that have come out many, many times before (Mortal Kombat, WWE Smackdown). That's 6 of the 21 right there. We're left with 15 games spread across 6 platforms, and like I said, half of those games will likely slip into 2007.


If you take out the expansion packs, here's all we have left for the PC: Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Neverwinter Nights 2, Sid Meier's Railroads!, Company of Heroes, and Battlefield 2142. I don't think any of those games really raise my pulse at all. Certainly, I'm interested in them, but there's a lot of rehash there, and Company of Heroes (the next in an interminable series of WWII games) is distinguished only because Relic is the developer.

Thank goodness for smaller developers and games like Paraworld, because without them, the rest of the year for PC gamers would look pretty bleak.

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