A Disturbing Trend: The lack of playable games on the E3 show floor

Watch Dogs Screenshot - 1140337

If you ask any gamer why they’d like to go to E3, chances are they would say it’s to try out the demos for the newest games. Ask a journalist why they’d like to go to E3 and they’ll give a similar answer: try out the demos for the newest games. The reasoning, however, is different. While the gamer is merely excited at a chance to play an upcoming game, journalists want to see if the game is shaping up nicely so they can share that information with their readers.

In a world where Aliens: Colonial Marines-type situations happen more than we think, it’s natural for journalists to want to actually play a game before giving any type of opinion on it. Shows like E3 are usually the first opportunity for us to try out the latest and greatest in the world of gaming.

Well, usually. There’s a growing trending at the show: an increasing amount of games that aren’t playable.

This troublesome development first came to my attention at PAX East this past March in Boston. Ubisoft’s booth featured a lot of their big games, yet none of them were playable. This included Splinter Cell: Blacklist, a game that’s set to release later this summer. Despite being a prominent feature during Microsoft’s E3 briefing the previous year and its release mere months away, the game wasn’t playable. This isn’t really the best way to portray confidence in a game you’re publishing.

Let’s contrast that with the EA Sports booth at E3 this year. There were two levels to the booth: The upper floor featured demos for current generation games while the lower level was an enclosed area showcasing the next-generation of EA Sports and the Ignite engine. None of these games in the Ignite area were close to the final product, yet NBA Live, Madden, and Fifa were all playable. Were they full-featured demos? No, but they let us get our hands on the games. That counts for something.

inFamous Second Son

Now look at the Sony booth. Back in February, they debuted the PlayStation 4 to the world, featuring games such as Driveclub, Infamous: Second Son, Knack, and Killzone: Shadow Fall. Only two of these games, Driveclub and Knack, were playable on the show floor proper at E3 last month. To compare, everything at Microsoft’s booth, with the exception of Dead Rising 3, was playable. The same can be said for Nintendo’s booth, with the exception of the complete absence of Super Smash Bros. outside Nintendo Direct and their Software Showcase.

It doesn’t stop there. Titanfall, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare, Assassin’s Creed IV (single-player, the multiplayer was playable), Watch Dogs, Destiny, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and others were all unplayable on the show floor.

I just don’t get it.

It’s 2013 and gamers are becoming far more intelligent. They know that while on-stage demonstrations of games look impressive, they’re not always indicative of the final product. Heck, most of the reasoning behind these on-stage/eyes-on demonstrations is to ensure the game leaves the best impression possible. Ironically, Battlefield 4 and Assassin’s Creed IV ran into technical hiccups. If we’re going to run into issues, why not at least allow us to play and experience them for ourselves?

That said, I can understand why publishers are so reluctant. Take Ryse, for example, a game that’s been in development for quite some time. This was the first public unveiling of the title and a showpiece for the Xbox One console. It was also a bit underwhelming. My expectations for the game became tempered, my enthusiasm dwindled, and my interest moved elsewhere. But honestly, I’d rather be disappointed now, write about said disappointment, and see developer Crytek improve on the game.

Now, I will say that I do understand that some of these games aren’t even close to seeing the light of day. Games such as The Evil Within, Destiny, and Titanfall won’t launch for at least nine to ten months. But you know what? I doubt that this is the last time we’ve seen these games show up at an event. I don’t doubt that we’ll eventually get the chance to experience some type of hands-on experience with these games. I fully expect to see Titanfall have some type of public beta and both The Evil Within and Destiny will make appearances at conventions in the future.

Titanfall

Yet, for the games coming this year, their time is running out. A lot of people have issues concerning Assassin’s Creed IV after some were disappointed with Assassin’s Creed III. They want reassurance that they won’t be disappointed again. The same gamers want reassurance that the ambitious Watch Dogs will live up to expectations.

Reassurance, that’s all we really want. It was great to know that Forza 5 is shaping up nicely. It was equally great to know that Ryse, despite my concerns, is more than just a game filled with glorified quick time events. It would have been nice to get the same reassurance from Infamous, Watch Dogs, and the rest of those non-playable games.

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Jake Valentine
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