Top 10 Trends Of E3 2012

by Joe Juba on Jun 13, 2012 at 04:01 PM

Every year, E3 shapes perceptions about the current state of the industry and where it is going next. From the games on display to the initiatives being pushed by the console manufacturers, E3 gives gamers an opportunity to see upcoming trends. So, what did we learn this year? The following list outlines the dominant points we observed at the press conferences and on the show floor.

1. What Next Gen?

The current generation of hardware is still producing some fantastic games, but a new wave of consoles is inevitable. You wouldn’t know it from listening to Sony and Microsoft, though. As expected, both companies refrained from making any major next-gen announcements – but the surprising part was that they made no hints, cryptic statements, or any other kind of comment that even acknowledged that new consoles (and accompanying games) are in development. Only a handful of potential next-gen games were on the show floor (like Star Wars 1313), but the developers weren’t confirming anything. It’s hard to get gamers excited for the future when you refuse to talk about the future.

2. Few Surprises

We didn’t see many games at E3 that we hadn’t seen before. Maybe it’s because Internet sleuths leak all of the juicy info beforehand, or maybe it’s because the major series of this generation are churning out money too reliably. Whatever the case, the stunning announcements and jaw-dropping reveals of past years' conferences were largely absent. Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs and Sony’s Beyond: Two Souls were the only previously unknown high-profile titles. The rest of the big games for the next year feature a lot a familiar faces.

3. Strong Showings

Just because companies didn’t have surprises doesn’t mean that their games weren’t impressive. We saw and played some fantastic demos from titles like Assassin’s Creed III, Halo 4, The Last of Us, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Borderlands 2, and Dead Space 3. They may not have the mysterious appeal of newly announced games, but these are the experiences that are going to define late 2012 and early 2013, and it looks like we’re in for a treat.

4. Forgotten 3D

Remember how people couldn’t shut up about 3D? Well, they finally did. No one seemed to be touting 3D as an important or noteworthy feature in upcoming games. Even Sony, who has been one of the biggest proponents of the technology, stayed quiet about it. With any luck, this fad is on the way out.

5. Handheld Neglect

Owners of the 3DS and Vita bought their handhelds with faith that Nintendo and Sony would eventually provide worthwhile software to justify the purchase. E3 was not reassuring for those gamers, who saw the portable systems sidelined and practically ignored. A few announcements and demos for titles like Paper Mario on 3DS and Call of Duty on Vita weren’t enough to fill handheld gamers with confidence for the upcoming software lineup. After the rocky launch and uneven game quality for both Vita and 3DS, E3 made it seem like Nintendo and Sony were already preparing to give up on their latest portable endeavors. Both companies need to do more to show their commitment to these devices. 

Next: A look at MMOs, a new (old) weapon, and an indie actress 

6. Fewer WoW Chasers

As the most successful MMO on the market, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has seen plenty of imitators. However, this year we saw far fewer titles trying to emulate the gameplay and business model that made WoW a juggernaut. Shooters like Planetside 2 and Dust 514 grabbed attention, as did the strategy title End of Nations and the flight combat-focused World of Warplanes. These massively multiplayer games in other genres demonstrate a move away from the hotbar-driven MMORPG standard set by WoW. 

7. Bows

The most bizarre trend at E3 2012 was the dramatic decline video game weapons technology. Sure, there were plenty of guns and futuristic bombs, but some of the most prominent titles had heroes using good ol’ bows and arrows. You know, like prehistoric humans. Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, and Crysis 3 are just a few examples of games set in the modern-day with higher-than-average amounts of archery. Maybe next year everyone will be using slings!

8. One Screen Is Not Enough

It started with the DS, and then the Wii U continued the tradition. Now Microsoft and Sony are jumping on the bandwagon, implying that the future of gaming involves gamers staring at a variety of screens connected to their consoles in different ways. Microsoft emphasized SmartGlass, an app for tablets and smartphones that allows them to act as a remote control for interacting with your Xbox 360, as well as a second screen that can display additional information for games and videos. Sony, on the other hand, unveiled the impending ability for the Vita to be used as an expanded controller for LittleBigPlanet 2. If you just want to keep your eyes on your television without having to look down at your controller, you may be disappointed in the months to come.

9. Ellen Page

Okay, Ellen Page technically only appeared in one game at E3. But even though Beyond: Two Souls has her official likeness, the young girl from The Last of Us is clearly inspired by the actress as well. Considering both titles are PS3-exclusive, the similarity between the characters has probably resulted in some uncomfortable moments between members of Quantic Dream and Naughty Dog. 

10. You’re Talking, But We Aren’t Listening

Almost every E3 press conference had a segment that was geared for an audience other than the typical gamer. The problem? Those aren’t the people watching or attending press conferences. This led to long and embarrassing segments where publishers had to act like someone cared about projects like Wonderbook, Nintendo Land, SmartGlass, and ShootMania Storm – and everyone in attendance had to politely refrain from laughing at the misguided presentations.