VGX 2013: The Show That Can’t Be Unseen
Like most gamers, I found myself looking forward to VGX 2013. We’d been promised a new “gamer first” format that would trim away the commercialism of the event. The new format was live streamed only and over a three-hour period we were guaranteed world premiere videos and even new game announcements. What resulted was one of the largest on-air clusterfucks I’ve ever had the distaste of viewing.
Geoff Keighley is one of the best hype men in the industry. His Twitter account rang with teaser after glorious teaser all week leading up to the live event. New footage of hotly anticipated titles like Titanfall, Destiny, and The Witcher 3 were confirmed in the week prior to the show. The Titanfall footage was accompanied by the opening of the Hammond Robotics Twitter account. News even broke that VGX would host their first ever indie world premiere trailer and game announcement. All that combined with the last-minute addition of Joel McHale had me intrigued enough to invest three hours of my Saturday into the live stream.
What ensued was world-wide consumption of a three-hour disappointment sandwich. For every positive there were two, maybe even three negatives. The new format was intended to focus on the core gamer, but the fragmented execution and on-set confusion left me wondering who this show was designed for. It certainly wasn’t for me. Several times throughout the show Keighley and McHale flaunted the fact that VGX was trending on Twitter. If they’d bothered to read the tweets, they probably wouldn’t have brought it up. At one point McHale even referred to VGX as a several hour-long commercial.
The footage that was ultimately shown for Titanfall and Destiny severely underwhelmed. Ubisoft rained on the show’s parade by releasing the “exclusive” footage of Tom Clancy’s The Division prior to the show. And that wasn’t the only spoiled news of the show. IGN printed an article nearly two weeks ago that implicated Telltale was working on a project in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” universe, probably titled Game of Thrones. Their claim came to fruition yesterday evening when a teaser trailer was revealed by Telltale. Regardless of the spoiler, the Game of Thrones announcement was one of the better parts of the show.
South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone provided some much-needed humor. The duo’s introduction of the new South Park: The Stick of Truth footage was spot-on. The footage itself left me even more interested in the troubled game. The segment was one of my few moments of joy within the multi-hour train wreck.
Reggie Fils-Aime of Nintendo made his first ever VGA appearance. With him came new footage of the Retro Studio’s developed Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. The Nintendo of America executive put on his best PR happy face and tried to convince everyone that the Wii U was selling well. But Keighley wasn’t having any of it. Fils-Aime was the singular guest that the GTTV host felt the need to question and even marginally criticize. I wasn’t impressed with the footage shown, and neither host gave it a particularly warm reception either.
Tim Schafer and Double Fine’s inclusion was also a breath of fresh air. The Broken Age vidoc featuring Elijah Wood recording voice-over audio was actually pretty great. The teased indie game reveal ended up being the highlight of the show for me. Hello Games upcoming title No Man’s Sky boasts a galaxy of procedurally generated content begging to be explored. The seamless transition from underwater, to land, to outer space was truly impressive.
Ultimately what tanked the show was its shoddy production value and lackluster execution. I’ve never found myself begging for a commercial VGA format in my life, but yesterday’s failure proved to me that it’s the lesser of two evils. It was apparent that publishers weren’t sold on VGX. I’d say the Thief story trailer was probably the largest actual preview of the show, and that came by way of struggling publisher Square Enix. The fact that Joel McHale continually broadcasted his distaste for hosting the event didn’t help either. Several times throughout the show he shook up the interview formats, which was nice to see. When McHale spoke up it noticeably threw the devs for a loop, but his overall demeanor hurt the production. GTTV host Geoff Keighley was visibly shaken as well. Production miscues, constant misreading of teleprompters, and the general sense that neither of the hosts wanted to “be there” resulted in one of the worst VGA’s ever. The fact the show was called VGX this year left me wondering if they wanted to disassociate with it even before it aired. I’m not even going to talk about the GTA V musical performances.
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