This year’s E3 extravaganza doubled down on press conferences (or ‘events’ if you want to give them more gravitas as entertainment than they’re due,) giving us stand-alone shows from publishers Bethesda and Square Enix alongside the usual suspects. Rubbing sweaty shoulders with these commercial juggernauts was The PC Gaming Show, a self-styled celebration of this “golden era” of PC.
Such a broad remit demonstrates the rich PC pickings that are to be found in 2015, but was also like an anchor around The PC Gaming Show’s neck; dragging it through an unsteady and massively over-long format which (admirably, but rather foolishly) tried to cover all PC things for all PC people in all PC ways.
A Bethesda show has an obvious line-up: it’ll be the handful of upcoming Bethesda-published games. Even a Sony or Microsoft conference has the relatively tight focus of ‘stuff we’re doing with our consoles and some exclusive games.’ Planning a general PC show presents a problem: the PC is a church of many gaming denominations.
Do you cover the major PC exclusives (the Total Wars and XCOM 2s)? The gigantic indie scene which pumps out dozens of titles per day on stores like Steam and GOG? The healthy stream of cross-platform games whose definitive, best-looking editions will be on PC (the Batmans, Deus Exs, Dark Souls 3s and the like)? What about technology like GPUs, or virtual reality? Modding?
It’s a distinct, important, and ever-growing area of gaming, so it absolutely deserves its own moment to shine at E3. But here at PC Invasion we struggle to cover all of the above with a daily site, let alone a single E3 conference. I certainly don’t envy whoever had to sit down and think about who (or what,) exactly, to book for The PC Gaming Show.
This debut effort tried to have it all. There were PC-relevant announcements, chats with Cliff Bleszinski and Dean Hall, on-stage demos of indie titles, and AMD putting their sponsorship to good use with a pair of blatant advertising spots (okay, yes, it’s all advertising, but this wasn’t even disguised.) Ambitious, but too much for one show to bear. Good editing sometimes means cutting decent material along with the fluff in the interests of remaining concise, and there was plenty that needed trimming from this two and a half hour monster.
Let’s keep the host, though. The PC Gaming Show realised (as Ubisoft did several years ago,) that having a person with actual presentational skills and experience can work wonders for your presentation. Sean Plott was a personable and relaxed moderator, able to handle both the rigours of the strange format (one minute Letterman-style talk show host, the next interviewing people while hands-on with a game,) and the occasional unscripted event like a persistent dead mic during the Hitman segment or inevitable Half-Life 3 heckles. Under trying circumstances, the man with the surname Plott never lost it.
But even he couldn’t save lengthy stretches where, to be honest, not much happened. With around thirty different participants, each given around five minutes, it’s no surprise that the Gaming Show ran long. There was a distinct sense though, that some of the attendees had accepted a spot without even having much to show.
Cliff Bleszinski is a great interviewee, but flirting with a long-form, podcast-type interview format in the middle of what was (mostly) an announcements show was a weird decision. One of several, on an evening where big names often had little to actually talk about.
Chris Roberts turned up in a video recording to remind people that Star Citizen had made an awful lot of money. A couple of people from Creative Assembly appeared to present a video containing literally two seconds of in-engine footage from Total War: Warhammer and a big advert for the real trailer in July (plus the not-exactly-amazing confirmation that Warhammer will feature some famous heroes from the tabletop version.) And as much as I love Obsidian and Pillars of Eternity, I don’t think it needed both Feargus Urquhart and a Paradox representative to present a short video confirming the expected expansion.
The nadir was hit early on (which at least resulted in a sense that the show improved throughout the evening,) when AMD’s ‘Chief Gaming Scientist’ was allowed free reign to ramble through some card announcements that had already happened earlier in the day. Neither interesting enough for the hardcore tech crowd, nor ‘layman’-focused enough for more casual viewers, this segment hit completely the wrong tone.
When AMD CEO Lisa Su took to the stage later in the proceedings, she at least had a dual-GPU Fiji card and the compact ‘Project Quantum’ hardware to show (though not enough time to really explain the latter.) Plus we were treated to a wonderfully ruthless-sounding “alright, we got it done” after somebody in the sound department left Su’s mic hot for a little bit too long.
Fortunately, there was enough of interest beyond the occasional blooper to suggest that The PC Gaming Show could evolve and thrive if it ever sorts out whether it wants to be an announcements show or a languid setting for interviews. Phil Spencer, acting almost like a human being when removed from the corporate spotlight, gave us the (much rumoured) Killer Instinct PC version and (more surprising) Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. Getting confirmation of a simultaneous PC release for No Man’s Sky was welcome. Blizzard’s announcements had some substance to them. It wasn’t a persistent parade of anti-climax.
Strangely, given the branding, there were too many missed opportunities to talk about PC specifics. The Hitman and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided guys could’ve added a lot to their sections if they’d been able to talk about some PC-exclusive graphics options or what-have-you. Mankind Divided hinted at this with the Dawn Engine trailer, but then slightly dented their PC cred by repeating the trailer footage from the Square Enix conference, complete with controller button prompts.
Our platform is as pervasive as smoke, already able to drift through and wrap itself around each and every E3 conference and presentation (save for Nintendo, who remain untouched); but that doesn’t mean the PC should be without a showcase of its very own. With a tighter focus, a ruthless editor, and a full line-up of unseen PC announcements, The PC Gaming Show could flourish into an E3 staple. Or, if it fancies going the talk show route, it could become a more cerebral (and less advert-ey) post-conference set of chats with various people from the PC world. Attempting to cram everything great about the PC into a single show may continue to prove impossible, but I’m at least looking forward to seeing them try.
You can watch the archived version of The PC Gaming Show, in full, here.