E3’s press conferences are great for showcasing all those fancy-pantsy new games but, more importantly, they’re also an invaluable source of the most glorious corporate folly: a place to revel in poorly-conceived skits, mirthless misfires and moments of such inexplicable lunacy that its impossible to see how anyone ever thought they might be a good idea in the first place.
This piece originally appeared on June 15, 2016, on Kotaku UK.
Ubisoft has, traditionally, been the crowned king of E3 What the Fuck (see, among many other examples of beautiful gallic excess: Mr. Caffeine and that time it decided to throw live rabbits at the audience several years ago), but that hasn’t stopped others publishers from joining in the fun. Off the top of my head, we’ve seen Nintendo’s legendarily awkward Wii Music drum solo, whatever the hell Microsoft thought it was doing here, and that time Sony entirely lost the plot.
Thankfully for everyone, E3 2016 has also had its fair share of bewilderment-inducing moments, which means we get to indulge our favourite past-times of i) chortling at corporate idiocy and ii) compiling that most delightful of journalistic devices: the list! So, without further ado, here’s our run-down of the most baffling, confusing WTF moments from this year’s E3.
This one came our way courtesy of PC Gamer’s PC Gaming Show, in which Lisa Su, CEO of AMD, took the perfectly innocent idea of a graphics card comparison to rather-too-literal extremes.
If you want to announce a brand-new story mode for your hugely successful footie game, fair enough. It’s a decent enough idea to be worth dwelling on for a spell. EA’s decision to kick off its reveal with a random actor waffling on for a minute, pretending to be a character we hadn’t yet been introduced to, however, was perhaps one of the more baffling ways to get proceedings underway.
If I’ve learned anything from 30 years of Match of the Day, it’s that footballers—and football managers, especially—are generally not renowned for their impeccable comic timing. As such, it’s rarely wise to ask them to perform in a live comedy skit in the middle of your press conference, and it’s especially not a good idea to have it drag on for TWO AND A HALF FUCKING MINUTES.
It’s hardly unheard of for publishers to slip a few corporate shills into their press conference audiences to make sure no dramatic announcements are swallowed in a fog of silent indifference. Could this explain the presence of quite possibly the most enthusiastic audience member ever to exist at Bethesda’s show? Maybe, or perhaps this irrepressible woman just really, genuinely couldn’t contain her excitement for Bethesda’s latest wares.
Okay, fair enough, this pre-recorded video segment celebrating the mouse and keyboard was probably a skit. After all, it featured a man with a lovely-looking beard using the phrase “waffle-stomping newbies”, and describing the best thing about mice as being “clicking”. Unfortunately, it took me three watches to ascertain that it wasn’t supposed to be serious, so either I’m very, very tired (which I clearly am), or the whole thing was perhaps a little too believable for its own good.
Sadly, however, Microsoft has no excuse with this one. Its Apple-esque introduction to Project Scorpio absolutely, definitely wasn’t supposed to be humorous in any way, shape or form. So when it contained a man earnestly proclaiming that Scorpio would feature “the highest quality pixels that anybody has seen,” the world practically guffawed itself into a coma. Clearly even Microsoft felt this was a hyperbolic step too far; it’s edited the offending line out of the trailer since it aired during the show.
A forlorn-looking man commands an uncomfortably large amount of camera time during Microsoft’s Scalebound demo
Maybe I’m just being cynical, but it’s hard not to suspect that the overbearing presence of Beats by Dre headphones during Microsoft’s Scalebound demo might have had a, let’s say, financially-driven origin. We could just about tolerate Scalebound’s lead character sporting the headphones in-game, but the company’s decision to linger for an excruciatingly long time on the man demoing the game (who also happened to be adorned with Beats by Dre) was just comically heavy-handed. And our forlorn friend didn’t look too happy about being involved at all.
Kojima’s new game Death Stranding, which debuted during Sony’s PlayStation press conference, wasn’t just A what the fuck moment, it was THE what the fuck moment of this year’s E3. Dead whales as far as the eye can see! Melting oil babies! Hovering corpses! Electronic crab innards! Norman Reedus’ firm, glistening butt! You name it, Death Stranding had it. And let’s not even talk about Kojima’s inexplicable arrival on a beam of light or the fact that Death Stranding is an utterly ludicrous name. Congrats, Kojima, you remain the king of what-the-fuck. Long may you reign.