E3 2012 preview: Without Apple, is it still the “true” industry event?

5 mins read

E3 is typically the most exciting time of year for the games industry. The fact that is manages to create a vacuum where very little interesting stuff (as in, news releases or game launches) happens for a couple of weeks before, and a couple of weeks after the event is testament to just how much energy goes into the event itself.

Smaller developers and publishers tend to go unnoticed amongst the announcements of the big guys, but there is no end of news – big and small – that comes out of the event. We’ll be trying to cover as much as possible at Digitally Downloaded, but let’s kick off the coverage with a bit of a preview about what to expect from the big guys.

In short: It’s going to be a quiet E3, I think. Sure there will be one or two games that will wow people with new footage, and perhaps even one or two surprise announcements, but usually the really exciting unveils at E3 are the hardware announcements.

There won’t be any consoles unveiled. Microsoft will not be showing off the successor to the Xbox 360, and Sony won’t be leading that charge. Indeed, Sony will be trying to drum up support and interest in its Vita, so I would expect to see the PS3 announcements to be relatively thin as well. Nintendo will be showing off a more developed Wii U, and that will be interesting as many of us will be hoping the concerns we had over the console last year were simply a consequence of it being barely more than a prototype when it was prematurely unveiled last year.

That will probably be the highlight this year, as Nintendo has now had the time to better prepare demonstrations that reflect the potential that the Wii U has to add something new to gaming. It’s also going to be interesting to see if Nintendo has plans beyond “release more games” to help the 3DS stay on top, because as it stands it’s still a console with more potential than realisation at this stage.

But the continuing absence of Apple from the show demonstrates a problem with E3: like it or not, Apple’s devices as well as Zynga and Facebook as a platform are all important threads of the gaming tapestry.

Apple itself has kept its distance from gaming, but all it would need to do is take the stage and show off a Bluetooth controller that connects with the iPad (and thus the TV via Apple TV), and the gaming industry would have a genuine forth platform to play with. This would be the perfect year to do it, too, given the lack of hardware announcements from the other vendors.

Even with “just” touch screen controls the iPad has become the home for a range of niche genres such as casual gaming, board games and even strategy gaming. The games industry ignored Apple to its detriment, and until E3 brings Apple on board, it’s harder this year to say that E3 represents the entire games industry than ever before.

That said, it’s still going to be a good show, and of course, developers working on Apple platforms will be there in force. Of the publishers, I think EA’s going to be the one to watch. We know what Activision is going to be showing, but EA’s the one undergoing a massive business transformation to invest more heavily in mobility products. It will be interesting to see what product vision is there for the next 12 months.

What is everyone else looking forward to with E3, and given that product info leaks are now so common, as well as the absence of Apple, do you think the event is still as relevant as in years past? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • What is this talk of "without Apple"? This is the year Apple and Nintendo formally announce a partnership, and Nintendo's profits EXPLODE that very day when they announce Super Mario Bros. iOS is available for just .99…starting, "NOW!".

  • Umm…YES, IT IS. While Apple did strike something unique with the Iphone devices in terms of gaming, to say that their absence disqualifies E3, the trade show where ALMOST EVERYTHING MAJOR UNDER THE VIDEO GAME SUN GETS ANNOUNCED, is a bit ridiculous. Apple themselves aren't actually pushing their platforms as gaming devices; they are pushing them as multi-tasking devices. Until Apple themselves starts trying to promote gaming more than just saying, "it's another feature of the device," E3 is still the industry event. Yes, it doesn't represent the entirety of the video games industry, but it represents the biggest players; shows like PAX and Indiecade represent the small guys.

    Also, if you want to include Apple in representing a major sector of video games, you have to also include PC gaming. Just saying…

  • Oh, I'm not saying that E3 is irrelevant, it is of course still a very important event. However, Apple and iOS represents a good 20-30 per cent of this industry right now. You've got entire fortunes being made on it – Angry Birds is by far the most valuable new gaming franchise if you take into account the licensed goods and the like – and at least one major player (EA) has made it very clear that mobile gaming is its future. 

    Within that context, I'm simply wondering if an industry event can truly be considered to represent the entire industry when one of the top five players in it is absent. Important, yes, and a valuable marketing resource, but not definitive. 

    I do believe it's up to Apple to remedy this. I would be very surprised and very disappointed if Apple doesn't make some strategic steps into the gaming industry over the next five years. 

    Like it or hate it, Apple is immensely influential for the gaming industry – if not the single most influential player in it. 

    BTW PC gaming is already represented by all the major players at E3. Alienware was there last year, all the major PC game publishers were there, OnLive was there.

  •  ROFL – Even before seeing your reply, I read Coffee's post and thought about that old opinion bit you wrote awhile back, Matt.

    As for the article?  I'm indifferent on Apple's presence.  There's other platforms out there for games that don't get shown at E3.  I don't think I ever hear much of anything about PC games there, but I consider that a more viable gaming platform than iOS to this point too.  Though, I do think Apple misses some opportunities here as well, by not participating.

  • Apple isnt a game company, they have no right to be there………

    @ matt apple is not 20-30 percent of the industry
    Matt S
    try 10

    Matt I feel bad for you, your getting rail roaded here……..

    But apple is irrelevant to most of us

  • u r the first person to mention apple should be @e3 but most "hardcore" gamers like myself and others i personally game with do not consider apple or FB as part of the gaming industry. if u r ok with $1.99 n up shovelware then knock yourself out nobodys gonna stop u. i on the other hand and real gamers play on real gaming devices like PC,PS3 or XBox 360 were u can find much more engaging and deeper gaming experiences  

  • I can guarantee you that I am just as "hardcore," if not more so, as you. The difference between you and I is that I don't pretend that all 20,000 or so iPad games are shovelware. I have all the consoles as well as an iPhone and iPad, and I play good games regardless of platform.

  • did not count ninty cause 90% of their games catalog is shovelware and yes i have wii too somewere in my closet 

  • Good piece Matt!

    If Apple wants to be at E3, they have every right to be. Its their choice to not be there. With that said though, in my opinion, Apple is the only smartphone/tablet company that I foresee as a viable gaming platform going forward. Yes, they need a controller, as touchscreen only works great for some game types. It's nearly as limited as Kinect when it comes to creating an actual 3D gaming environment, proper racing games, etc., which is what core gamers want, and aren't getting — giving merit to much of the controversy. 

    But, getting back to my original point, Apply has limited devices, and developers don't have to make their games compatible with each and every new smartphone that releases each month. I can see Apple platforms becoming a viable part of the core gaming industry, but there's a few changes that need to happen beforehand. Until then, I don't really see a point in Apple being at E3. 

    I've also seen a few worrying numbers for iOS/Android developers. The majority of them don't seem to even break even anymore on the markets, with the established few banking well into the millions, and most everyone else collecting scraps. That's not exactly a stable market, because the hundreds of shovelware titles swamp the few good games that release each week. That is unless you know where and how to find info to help you sift through the sh…. 

  • Stating Apple is "home to niche genres," a claim you made of the company and its iPad tablet, is similar to saying mainstream movie theaters are home to indie films. In what way is the iPad home to a niche gaming genre?

    Moreover, how is Facebook an important gaming platform? Based on your commentary, one would have to conclude that any website, electronic device, et cetera is an Importantgamingnplatform simply because people can play games on it. Is Ebaum's World an important gaming platform? Millions of people played games on the website. Why didn't you mention them a handful of years ago? Android phones have games available to play. Where do you mention Google?

  • Hi Drew,

    Firstly, thanks for dropping by. But to clarify for you:

    I said the iPad is home to some niche genres. If you want to play a board game, they're bring produced for the iPad, not the other formats. If you're in to casual gaming, it's usually iPad first, other consoles later. The strategy genre will be the next to go, now that the likes of Matrix and Paradox are taking the platform seriously. None of this is up for debate – with some game genres, the iPad is by far the best place to go for them. 

    The reason I mention Facebook and Apple is, more than Google and the other platforms you mention, Facebook and Apple control the experience. They are both, by far, the closest business models to the traditional gaming industry, and because of that they're both having a direct influence on the games industry that the more passive likes of Google are not. 

    That said I wouldn't be surprised if Google started attending E3. Perhaps not as a keynote, but Google, like OnLive, is an opportunity for developers and publishers, and really should be there for the back door meetings if nothing else. 

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