The Electronics Entertainment Expo is no place for the easily distracted, every inch of convention center carpet devoted to capturing the attentions of calloused video game journalists. In spite of the customary flash however, it's hard to come away from this year's festivals without a creeping sense of disappointment, that for all the showmanship, we didn't actually see all that much at E3 2012 -- an in-between year that seemed lackluster even by those standards.
It's diminishing to break such a show up into clearly delineated binaries like "winners" and "losers" certainly, but if impact can be measured by lasting buzz, Epic's certainly sitting pretty at the close of the event. It's telling, really, that Unreal Engine 4 generated some of the most excitement around the show. In a year when Sony and Microsoft are no doubt focused on churning out next generation consoles, one of the show's highlights came in the form of a gaming engine -- a backend on which the next generation titles will be built.
It's not hard to see why so much coverage was focused in Epic's direction. Pundits held out a faint glimmer of hope against all evidence to the contrary that a PS4 or Xbox 720 might be the subject of quick cameos during Monday's keynotes. Of course, neither delivered. Instead the events largely focused on already announced titles working to squeeze more juice out of six-year-old devices, prolonging the seemingly ever expanding lifespan of home consoles.
Nintendo, for its part, didn't offer much respite. All eyes were focused on the gaming giant in the lead up to the show, but in spite of a record three press conferences, the company didn't bring much new information about the forthcoming Wii U. The announcement of the first new Pikmin title in recent memory certainly turned some heads, but it hardly felt like the manner of blockbuster announcement the company usually trots out Shigeru Miyamoto to make. And in spite of the company's insistence that NintendoLand would be the game that helps the world "get" the Wii U, the collection of mini-games did little to rouse the press in attendance. In all, the company gave us little we didn't already know, conceding little more than a broad "holiday" release for its next gen console.
The single announcement that generated the most heat amongst the big three (Sony's WonderBooks included) was a bit of a surprise. The media almost immediately glommed on to SmartGlass as a key move forward for the Xbox's future. Sure, much of the functionality is still in the realm of speculation, but it's an exciting speculation nonetheless, promising a future in which home entertainment (TV and console gaming) are more seamlessly integrated. But that, like Unreal, feels a lot more like a laying of the groundwork for announcements to come.
Of course, it wasn't a show completely devoid of thrills. It was certainly a good call on Microsoft's part to kick things off with Halo 4 footage, while The Last of Us and sea faring footage from Assassin's Creed 3 wowed folks at Sony's presser. LucasArts also managed to build even more heat around the still rather mysterious Star Wars 1313 -- but that, like so much else at the show, will have to wait for some future announcement. Because if this year's expo showed us one thing, it's that we've got a lot to look forward to at E3 2013.