For all the variety in announcements and reveals, each passing E3 checks many of the same boxes. Sony and Microsoft are sure to poke fun at each other’s marketing decisions like two ex-lovers staring daggers at one another over dinner. EA will ask some unfortunate jackal to preach consumer-friendly tactics to a crowd of malnourished wolves who are all too familiar with the company’s money-grubbing history; and at this point it’s safe to assume that Nintendo will run off to play in its own little world in lieu of announcing its games onstage (which worked out quite well for them this year). Oh, the life and times of the games industry.
With that said, the less obvious but equally prevalent connection between the events is the prose used by presenters, the carefully worded marketing schlock that manages to shout promises from the rooftops all while tip-toeing around the meat of the dish. Many phrases have become so universally popular that I’ve no choice but to believe that, far from simple boilerplate information and PR’s coat of sugar, they’re some sort of activation sequence, a specific arrangement of words intended to send audiences into hysterics and spur fits of money-throwing so intense that all conversation is reduced to increasingly raucous cries of “HYPE!”. Maybe I’m overthinking things and there is in fact a point to it all, like some sort of quota for ambiguous promises which, if not met, will result in a studio being allotted less screen time next year.
E3 2014 was no different in this regard, so in the spirit of things we’ve compiled a few of the most notorious phrases that our beloved studios and execs always seem to have on hand during their E3 briefings and interviews.
“Just one of”
Just one of the ways we’re bringing X your way. Just one of the many games to release on System Y this year. Just one of the things to do in game Z. Just the first five minutes. Just the introductory cutscene.
Just one more thing to add to the list of baseless notions that will be forgotten the second something playable comes along. Just one more speck of empty words needlessly fluffing up an otherwise engaging press conference. Just one more minute of your life wasted on senseless PR gobbledygook.
The fact of the matter is that unless the words immediately following the phrase “just one” are “of the games we’re going to release for free tomorrow,” it will carry all the impact of a fluttering dandelion seed. Of course, that doesn’t make it improper or necessarily annoying; heck, if nothing else, you can make a nice drinking game out of the phrase.
This is a commonality owing to the advent of the Xbox One and PS4, the first home consoles capable of consistently delivering the golden benchmark. Playing at a stable 30FPS certainly isn’t a bad thing—if it were, the last eight years must’ve been some sort of wide-spread personal hell for gamers—but it’s unreasonable for the newest systems to be unable to deliver a jump in frame rate and resolution considering what they’ve got under the hood. Deliberately limiting frame rate in order to enable higher visual quality is another issue altogether, but in a flat-out sprint, PS4 and Xbox One can bring 60FPS to the table.
Regardless, it still comes off as strange to see an entire industry boisterously proclaim the existence of normalcy. 1080p/60FPS should be seen as the standard for PS4 and Xbox One releases, especially for the studios with a budget capable of ensuring it—coincidentally the same studios who so boldly advertise the figure (deliberate frame rate caps notwithstanding). We can put indie devs on the chopping block eventually—not that they struggle to reach the bar given their often minimalistic yet gorgeous aesthetics—but we can at least cut them more slack than, say, Naughty Dog.
At its best, boasting about 1080p/60FPS is like seeing a restaurant advertise the fact that they have plates. At its worst, it’s a foreboding sign of sub-par visuals to come. No matter the case, though, it’s a phrase that does nothing but waste air at E3.
This is the shorthand version of “our multiplayer is better than last gen,” and therefore belongs in the same category of fruitless advertising as the resolution/frame rate claim. It’s an obvious element and should be expected from new games. Dandy as candy, but obvious. However, I’ve already prepared a smart remark for this one and therefore have no choice but to make a separate addition to the list:
“Dedicated servers? As opposed to what? The servers that spend their time on free iOS games, fail out of public college and spend their entire life as a Cheeto powder-encrusted NEET—also known as the servers one tier above the ones used for Sim City?”
A timeless tradition of the console wars, console-exclusive content has really found its groove this generation. What was once an annoying thorn in the industry’s side has become an entire rose bush shoved under its eyelid. Sony and Microsoft alone announced or promised so much of the stuff that it’s already falling off the cart, right into the bin of unimportant fodder alongside cosmetic DLC for racing games.
Offering a snippet of content on one console won’t sway a potential buyer away from their familiarity with a network and controller, fondness of certain exclusives, or budget constraints. Console-exclusive content can only enflame the already festering wound that is the console wars, detract from the core game, squander precious development time, and give Andrew House and Phil Spencer something new to bicker over. Amusing as that last one is, it’s best to just shove console-exclusive anything back into the full game and it therefore has no place at E3.
I find it difficult to harp on developers for this one for the same reason I imagine many gamers do: I still catch myself saying it. I’m well aware that we are now in the current generation of PS4 and XOne, but damn is that a nasty habit. That said, the industry isn’t going to edit itself, so we should probably do away with the term until a new batch of shiny boxes make it relevant again.
That, and we need to stop the disturbing trend of “next-gen” becoming a prefix for every multiplayer shooter ever before Infinity Ward catches wind of it and plasters it all over GameStop.