E3 starts next week, which means that gamers will be glued to their various screens on Monday and Tuesday watching the press conferences from Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, and the major third party developers like EA, Activision, and Ubisoft. These press conferences are usually on the dull side so I thought I would offer a few tips on how to make the presentations a little more interesting.
These are my opinions only and are based on suffering through these things for the last eight years. I've also tried to factor in the various audiences that the press conferences are trying to reach. Gamers need to realize that they aren't the only one targeted by these presentations and that the publishers are also trying to provide information to investors, retail buyers, and other press outside the industry. Without further blather here are my suggestions.
1. Limit yourself to five chart filled slides or less, or find a creative way to do it
We all know that investors love pie-charts, bar-charts, and big numbers but these things put people to sleep faster than Pele speaking through a bad interpreter. This stuff is better handled by sending the numbers out ahead of time or at the same time as the presentation is going on, and it helps people pay attention as they don't have to scramble to write down all the numbers. Limit yourself to a few high level charts and graphs that highlights the detailed information that's being sent out.
That said if you find a creative way to deliver the information go nuts. For example, Sony used LittleBigPlanet two years ago to do their numbers and it was awesome. The slides were fun, easy to read, and digest and it was an effective way to push the game as well.
2. Let your developers talk about their games
There's nothing more awkward than watching a senior executive talk about a game they don't know much about. Sure they are much better at it than the average 40+ year old but they lack the passion and fire of the folks who are working on the game. I'm not saying you have to drag up Tom the tortured texture artist on stage but I'd rather see a producer talk about their game than someone who's seen footage and maybe played a level or two.
Don't believe me? Ask yourself, who would you rather see talk about a game...David Jaffe or Jack Tretton? Bill Gates or Cliff Blezenski? Case closed.
3. Smack talk against your competitors is always fun and welcomed
Gamers (and journos) all love it when companies take shots at each other. It's human nature to love that kind of conflict and when companies take at each other and it helps give folks some insight into how the companies perceive each other.
A great example of this is Sony using Kevin Butler to take on the lack of buttons in Natal. Pure genius and it's even better when woven into a presentation. I'm sure Reggie will be taking a ton of shots at Microsoft and Sony's motion gaming entries this year while pointing to the huge install base of the Wii. It's good stuff and it's great fodder to talk about over Twitter and message boards.
Plus it gives something for the fans to talk about in forums until the game comes out.
4. Don't take yourself too seriously
It would be naive to say there's not a lot of pressure on the folks who talk at the E3 presentations. Not only do they have to worry about screwing up in front of an audience of millions (Riiiiiddddgee Raaaaaaccer) or that they are representing the hard work of the thousands of developers but there's also the fact that what they talk about is going to be scrutinized by financial and industry analysts.
That said, lighten up a bit and have a little bit of fun with your presentation. Jack Tretton did a fantastic job of this at the Sony presentation last year. He did a great job of balancing humor (commenting on the PSP Go as the worst secret ever) and taking the occasional gaffe in stride. You are in the entertainment business after all.5. Console presentations should focus on exclusives not multi-platform games
One of the things that's driven me nuts over the last few years is watching Sony and Microsoft trot out multi-platform games in their presentations. I get that Call of Duty is going to be awesome on the Xbox 360 but I also know that it's going to be just as awesome on the PS3 which is why I don't know why Microsoft burned 20+ minutes showing the game off at their press conference last year. Unless you've got some exclusive DLC then let someone else show the game and focus on telling us why you're going to burying the PS3 this year.
I know there's probably some glad handing going on behind the scenes for these kinds of promotions but I'd rather have an extra 5-10 minutes of Gears of War 3 or Halo Reach footage this year than seeing 15 minutes of Black Ops footage. Focus on what makes your platform unique and let the third parties do their things at their press conferences or on the show floor.
6. Get the casual/non-core stuff out of the way early
We know that each game company is going to have a lot of games that we don't care about. Probably an entire line of games aimed at children, teenage girls, and soccer moms and we know you have to show them at your show. My suggestion is to get them out of the way early so that we can focus on the stuff we're all there to see. There's nothing like having a line of great games interrupted by Barbie Show Horse game number seven or the line of games aimed at teenage girls ("My First Babysitting Experience," Dressing Up For a Big Date," and "OMG I'm Pregnant"). Get them out of the way so we can get to the meat and potatoes.
I would even go as far as to schedule when the big name games are going to start so we can all go to the bathroom or grab something to eat or drink. This seems like a win-win situation for everyone, so let's make this happen
7. Every one gets one and exactly one Black Eyed Peas song, please coordinate ahead of time
I'm not sure if all the companies hire the same DJ but every presentation seems to have the same Black Eyed Peas song. Last year it was Boom Boom Pow and I'm guessing we'll be hearing I've got a Feeling over and over again before the lights dim.
I propose the following assignments of songs:
- Microsoft- I've got a feeling
- Sony - Imma Be
- Nintendo - Boom Boom Pow
- Electronic Arts - My Humps
- Activision - Missing You (Infinity Ward)
- Ubisoft - Shut Up (James Cameron)
Feel free to swap amongst yourselves, but let's coordinate so we get some variety.
8. Keep it moving, segments shouldn't be more than 10-15 minutes long
I'll be the first to admit to some level of ADD. If something runs for more than 10 minutes then you're going to lose your audience as their minds wander. Keeping your segments down helps keep everyone on task and makes sure that you're communicating your message effectively without going overboard. Ten minutes of James Cameron is awesome, 45 minutes is not.
Keeping segments to 10 minutes allows you three minutes to introduce it, four minutes of footage, and then another three minutes to tell us what we just saw. This isn't rocket science and it will help keep things moving allong.
9. Celebrity guests are awesome but use them correctly
Having E3 in LA every year means that the industry has access to a wide variety of famous folks they can bring on stage to talk about games. This is usually pretty awesome (I can now say I've been in a room with two of the Beatles thanks to Micorsoft last year) but it needs to be done in small doses and done correctly. For example it was great to see the Beatles and I'm sure it cost more than I make in three years to get them to show up for a couple of minutes but they did a great job of introducing the game and more importantly talking about where the profits from the DLC was going to go. The track was also a Microsoft exclusive so it dovetailed nicely with the rest of the Microsoft presentation and didn't violate rule #5.
Compare this to Ubisoft trotted out James Cameron to talk about the Avatar game. This was amazingly awesome for the first 15 minutes before quickly turning into a painful failure of Titanic proportions. It didn't help that he didn't have any visuals to work with but he was mostly talking up the movie with only the rare tangential reference to the game.
10. Timeliness is next to Godliness
The last thing is a plea to make sure your presentation is on time and that you don't blow past your finish time. Everyone at E3 is booked down to the minute and when your press conference runs over by 20 minutes it can screw up your entire day. I know that you want to wait until the entire seating area is filled but you know what? If a person can find their seat before the curtain rises it's Tango Sierra for them as the rest of us knew to get in our seats ahead of time.