What makes a great E3 press conference


posted 6/9/2010 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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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.
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