As I begin the process of planning and setting E3 appointments for this year, I can’t help but to think about how attending the show has always been such a goal of mine. I know that it’s old hat for many of my colleagues, and I understand that it’s a LOT of work for everyone– media, retailers, analysts, exhibitors, and staff– but I really do consider it one of the highest honors that I can attain to be counted among one of those who get to attend. This is going to be my third consecutive year, which I still can’t believe sometimes after so many other years where I was *this* close to going but could not do to some circumstance or another.
Even if I wrote 2,000 words about it, I couldn’t really express how special this is for me. 2011 was amazing because it was unexpected and I was overwhelmed by it all. KmartGamer really opened the door and gave me (along with Amy and Stephen) my first look at what E3 was like up-close. I was ridiculously under-prepared for what was to come. I didn’t have any business cards and our schedule was so packed with meetings that I was carried along with the tide as the show went on. 2012 was my first year as media, and covering the show solo was a lot more chaotic than I could have imagined. I was one man versus a convention center, and I did the best I could. I was beaten up a little, ran out of money by the second day, and my hotel was the last place I wanted to be for long. Still, I got a lot accomplished. I attended my fair share of meetings, got to see more of the show floor, got to attend an incredible Symphony of the Goddesses performance, and got to meet many people whom I admire and who inspired me to get to where I was (and am today).
This year will be no less of a challenge. I’m attending the show solo again this year, which means I’m my own writer, photographer, personal assistant, and provider. My appointment schedule has already filled up for the first day (June 11th), and I still have meetings that I’m working on setting up– including Hyperkin (Hello, RetroN 5!), Zen Studios (As if I’d miss a chance to talk pinball!) and hopefully some time with Activision. I’m also honored to be attending Michael Pachter’s Wedbush Networking event again this year, getting to meet Mr. Pachter along with Jesse Divnich and others. I’m really looking to find out more about– if not possibly get into– sales and industry analysis as a career path, and meeting the people who inspired me and fueled my interest and passion is very important to me.
My coverage will have a different approach this year, with a focus on more analysis and anticipated consumer response to games and hardware than the enthusiast focus that I went with last year. How well do I think these things will sell? What kind of reaction do I anticipate from consumers when these products release? What kind of effect do I think they’ll have on the market, if any? These are the kinds of questions that I’ll be focusing on. I will be doing some hands-on pieces, as well… after all, getting to try some of the games early on that everyone else will be playing later on makes for experiences that I’m going to want to share. Most of that coverage will be going up on Popzara either during the event or in the days that follow the event. I’m going to try to update here and at Armchair Analysis as well with some relevant coverage.
Through it all– the planning, the travel, the hustle and bustle, the long hours, and everything else– E3 is something that I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to attend. Despite arguably being a bit less vital than the event has been in the past, it’s still something that leaves you with memories and experiences that stay fresh long after the doors have closed. I’m very excited, and I’m very grateful to Nate at Popzara for helping me out with preparation for the event. For me, it’s a feeling that I’ll never tire of, no matter how many of these events that I am fortunate enough to attend.
I can’t wait to share it all during and after E3 in just a few short weeks.
I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be attending this year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles and covering the event for Popzara Press. This will be my third consecutive year at the event– my first was in 2011 as one of the three KmartGamer bloggers selected to attend, and my second was also on behalf of Popzara. It’s truly an honor to be considered for event coverage and to be allowed access, and I’m grateful to Nate and the Popzara team for finding a way to get me out to Los Angeles again this year.
It’s an important event this year. I know that I have said this before the last two of these, but this year has even more at stake. Despite Nintendo electing to not have a press event this year, Microsoft and Sony will by vying for attention as their new platforms will take center stage and will have major buzz during the event. In addition, there will be plenty of older-gen and new-gen software competing for consumer dollars and on display. A new Call of Duty game, a new year of sports titles, more downloadable releases, and likely other surprises that we’ll see as the show unfolds. While it will be possible to learn about most of the major news from the event from home, getting to experience the games first-hand and perhaps even getting a crack at the new hardware is something that you can’t do by just sitting in front of the computer.
At this moment, what I know is that I’ll be in Los Angeles and will have access to the show floor. My press credentials were approved and the all-important first step has been taken. What will happen next is that I’ll be in contact with Nate at Popzara and we’ll be putting together some strategies for coverage. I have a list of things that I’m hoping to see, and I’m sure that Popzara will have a list of things that they will be able to get me access to. Once we put together a general itinerary, I’ll be sharing some of it with you… but until then, things are still very much in the planning stages.
Covering E3 is a massive undertaking. It’s also a rewarding experience from both personal and professional perspectives. My writing experience under deadlines has improved. My time management skills have gotten better, as well. I’ve met some truly inspirational people who have been driving forces for me as a writer and as an armchair analyst, such as Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, Marcus Beer, Kevin Dent, and many others. I’ve made a few contacts– and I hope to make a few more this time out. Most importantly, I’m instrumental as a front line contributor. I see games and hardware first-hand, touch them, play with them, and can write about them from a different perspective. It’s a lot of work for all involved, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.
I’m looking forward to filling in the blanks and letting you know more details as we work them out.
Hey there, everyone!
After a long and very busy week in Los Angeles, I’m in the midst of working on E3 content for Popzara Press. I have some things to share here with you as well, and will do that this coming week. It was all quite an adventure. I met some incredible people, saw some great games, and was able to apply a lot of what I saw towards my analysis of where I expect console sector sales to trend for the balance of 2012.
A couple of pieces are already up on Popzara for you to look at, covering my hands-on experiences with Double Dragon: NEON and NBA Baller Beats. Feel free to leave comments or questions on either article, or you can do so here. I loved Double Dragon: NEON, which builds on the arcade experience and revisits some of the coolest moments from other games in the series. As for NBA Baller Beats, although my basketball skills need serious work, I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had playing it.
Expect more content to go up as soon as today, including hands-on pieces for Dead or Alive 5 and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed. I also have some insight into two of the biggest games for this holiday season in Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Skylanders Giants, plus more brief looks at games including The Amazing Spider-Man, The Last Story, and Way of the Samurai 4. That’s not all, either. I still have a considerable amount of writing to do in the next day or so, including hands-on impressions of Borderlands 2, Zen Pinball 2 and the Avengers Chronicles tables, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD.
This week is also NPD sales data week, as May’s numbers will be released on Thursday. That means that I have another busy week ahead of me.
For the next week or so, I’ll be doing a lot of sharing of articles and content here… but we’ll be getting back to more original content once the E3 crunch eases and I have a bit more free time. I’m also taking a trip back to Stateline Video Games today, where I’ll be working on some details for some community management and social media integration… as well as sharing some of my thoughts on E3 with Frank. It’ll be a fun decompression afternoon after the rigors of the last few days.
Popzara Press recently published two articles of mine that I wrote in order to get the E3 ball rolling there.
The first one is from an analyst perspective, breaking down each of the three hardware companies: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Microsoft was the easiest of the three to talk about, though I found it interesting that early fears of a strong focus on non-game entertainment seem to have cooled with word of several big third-party game announcements during the Monday morning presser. I think that we might be surprised with what Microsoft brings to the table, but I’m not sure whether it makes a difference in terms of hardware sales for 2012 given the saturation status of the platform. Sony’s event could be the most intriguing, as there are several possible storylines. How will Sony address the Vita situation? What of this rumored cloud-based gaming acquisition that we’ve been hearing about? Is a revamp of PlayStation Plus in the cards? I’m personally very interested in what comes from that event Monday night. Finally, Nintendo’s true unveiling of the WiiU is extremely important. Nintendo needs to start selling the world on what WiiU is, and this is the company’s first big chance to do that. Launch date and pricing won’t be revealed, but games and hardware capability will be center stage.
My other piece has to do with some downloadable games that I’m looking to see on the show floor. I named three in particular. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD is a personal selection. I hold this series in very high regard and am excited to see the work that Josh Tsui and his team at Robomodo have put so much effort into. I’ve been following the progress of THPSHD since it was announced last December; from what I’ve seen, this has the potential to be one of this summer’s bigger releases. Zen Pinball 2 is another game that I’m looking forward to seeing. If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a pinball freak… and it’s great that the PlayStation 3 is finally getting its own Pinball FX2 kind of upgrade from Zen Pinball. Hopefully I’ll get a peek at the new Avengers tables, too. Finally, Double Dragon: NEON is an appointment that I set up because of my arcade roots. WayForward has done some great things with arcade IP in the past (Contra 4, anyone?) and I’m eager to see what they’ve done with Double Dragon here.
I hope that you’ll take a look at both pieces, and I invite you to comment on either or both.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that most of my writing for the next couple of weeks will be for Popzara Press. I’m not sure how much extra writing time I’ll have during the event, and I’m going to be playing catch-up for another week or so after I return from Los Angeles. I will post some more personal stories and content from the trip here as time allows, though, and most definitely after my Popzara workload slows down a bit. If you’re interested in more frequent updates from me during E3, I recommend following me on Twitter. You can follow along as I’m terrified during my flight, you can find out what I’m playing and who I’ve met, and it’ll basically be a running diary of my experience.
Although the thought of flying to Los Angeles is still freaking me out, I’m extremely excited to be able to attend E3 this year. It’s going to be a big show and I am even more excited to be able to share my experience with so many people. Some call this work– and it certainly is– but I consider it an honor.
I’ve had difficulty believing that I’m a decent writer.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m not used to compliments. I’m not sure how to accept them sometimes. I’m always grateful that someone would take the time to tell me that they enjoyed what I wrote, or to even remotely compare me to others whom I hold in high regard personally. I’ve been mentioned in the same discussion as Michael Pachter a few times. I’ve been told by other writers or analysts whom I respect and admire that they’ve taken time out of their busy schedules to read pieces that I’ve written. These things are the ultimate compliments to me, and I value them very much.
I think I’m realizing now, with a website taking a chance on me and sending me to E3 this year, that I’ve failed to recognize what these people have been trying to tell me. I feel weird admitting that maybe I am as good as some have said, or that I do have the talent needed to possibly make something of myself in a role that I was all but ready to give up on not too long ago. I guess that I’ve always believed that keeping compliments at bay kept me grounded as a person. Not totally buying into compliments made me work harder and made me become a better writer.
I think, to quote a popular internet meme, that I’ve been “doing it wrong.”
This trip, as unexpected as it is, has everything to do with Popzara Press– and I’m very grateful for the hoops that Nathan and Chris have jumped through to get me to Los Angeles– but it may also have something to do with the idea that I might have earned this kind of trust and opportunity. This is, perhaps, what other colleagues and writers have been trying to tell me for a long time. It’s time to believe that I might be good enough to be an accomplished writer or analyst.
It’s time, to put it bluntly, to believe in myself.
I have a chance now to set things in motion for the future. I have a chance to start building my own network of contacts and take some initiative instead of relying on others. I have a chance to show that I can work under pressure. I have a chance to generate my own unique content. These are things that I’ve been told publicly and in confidence that I can do, but I never genuinely believed it until just recently.
In the past month, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve been sourced as an analyst. I’ve participated in my first podcast. I’ve had eight Armchair Analysis pieces published. I’ve covered five earnings calls. That’s all in addition to securing my spot in college for the fall. It’s all because I finally stopped just listening and added belief to that action… and this has been perhaps the most important transition of my life so far.
So, to all of you who have ever taken the time to compliment me in my life, my writing, or anything else… It’s my turn to not only thank you for those compliments, but also to prove you right.
Earlier this week, I was given an opportunity to be a guest on The SideQuest, a regular podcast delivered by the great people over at SideQuesting. I’d never been a part of a podcast before, so this was a new experience for me. While I’ve been writing about video games for a long time, I haven’t talked about them at length since my time with The Game Guys– a weekly radio show about video games– back in 2000.
It was a lot of fun talking with Dali, Steve, and Mike for what wound up running over three hours. We covered a lot of ground, including some discussion about game delays, Take-Two, Grand Theft Auto V, 38 Studios, and a bit of what we expect from Sony at E3. Having an agenda made the show easy for me to follow as we recorded, and it’s great having the chance to talk with others who also so interested in the industry. I hope to do some more guest spots down the line. I do have one show appearance lined up in a few weeks with Rich Grisham, who I chatted with earlier this month about some interesting E3 and sports game topics. We’ll see whether anything develops during my E3 trip in Los Angeles.
Speaking of E3…
Thanks to Nathan and Chris at Popzara Press, my travel plans for the big show have been locked in. It’s going to be a hectic start– as I’m arriving at LAX just hours before E3 begins– but a relaxed finish as I’m going to be in Los Angeles for an extra day (I’m leaving Friday night). I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend and cover E3 for Popzara this year, as I wouldn’t have been able to afford travel and accommodations myself. I’m looking forward to what’s going to be a mixture of appointments and show floor exploration. Unlike last year, I have connecting flights and layovers this time… so my “baptism by fire” for travel will be interesting. My itinerary for E3 will be locked in next week, so I’m excited to get it and start preparing.
This will be just my fourth plane trip. I went to Florida twice in the early 1980s to visit my grandparents, and then I flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles last year for my first E3 trip. These flights are, obviously, much longer than a Connecticut to Florida trip or Phoenix to L.A. hop. I’m not exactly a fan of flying, either. If we were supposed to fly, we’d have wings. Instead, because I’m paranoid, I’ll be keeping an eye out for John Lithgow on the wing of my plane the whole time. If any of you have lots of flight experience, maybe you can tell me what to expect. That would be great.
The fact that I’ll only have a small amount of sleep before heading out to the Los Angeles Convention Center isn’t too concerning. I’m unfortunately not attending the Nintendo Press Conference (unless I get a miraculous invite in the next 10 days, anyone?), but that takes some of the pressure off for the first day if I don’t go. The Convention Center doesn’t open until noon, so I’ll have time to get acclimated before setting out. I’ve been trying to gradually set my internal clock to West Coast time, so I’ll be ready to rock for the duration of the event.
I’m really excited. A little nervous, given that this is really my first show as a media representative, but very excited. I can’t wait to share my impressions and experiences with you.
With the relocation of Armchair Analysis to Popzara Press, and with my return as an active member of the gaming press, I wanted to take some time to self-promote a little bit.
Twitter: Starting today, I’m re-activating my secondary Twitter account, ArmchrAnalyst. Moving forward, I’m going to be separating my tweets a bit so that my friends and colleagues aren’t overloaded with stats, stock quotes, and other industry observations on my main account. Plus, after some outside feedback, it makes sense for me to diversify and have a “professional” Twitter account. I’m hoping that you’ll follow both. I’m still going to be quite active on my main account, so don’t worry if you follow me there already.
Facebook: Both Armchair Analysis and Consoleation have their own Facebook pages, in addition to my own personal one. I’ve begun to get more involved with Facebook recently, especially with social games. Each page will have a quick reference of my published work; Armchair Analysis will be business and industry related, while Consoleation will be gaming-centric. I had considered expanding to Google+, but traffic and engagement don’t seem to be active enough at this time… so I’d like to focus my networking and social reference efforts on Facebook for now.
Blogs: Consoleation will continue in its current form. Expect updates about my retrogaming adventures here, plus some Armchair Analysis Extras as time allows. Site traffic, thanks to you, has been steady recently. It helps, of course, if I update regularly… so that’s going to happen as much as I can. My Armchair Analysis blog is in the process of being taken down and the content will belong to Popzara. This will allow me to focus my extra writing time here, which is a good thing.
Published Content: My relationship with Popzara Press continues to grow. As you know, the site is funding my trip to and coverage of E3… so my E3-related content will be going up there instead of here. Armchair Analysis content is my primary focus with Popzara, but I’m working to take on some review and preview responsibilities there after my return from E3. In addition, I’ve collaborated with offered analysis to a couple of great writers recently and have been sourced twice. I’m hoping this trend continues, and there are initial plans to take part in some podcasting in June.
This is a very exciting time for me, professionally, and I hope that you’ll follow along as big things continue to take place.
Details are coming into focus for my trip to E3, and my excitement level is beginning to build. As it stands, I’ll be getting into Los Angeles on Monday afternoon (June 4th) and will be staying at the Cecil Hotel for the duration of my time there. Unlike last year with KmartGamer, my direction is completely independent. There are no itineraries, no quotas, and no requisites.
Nathan from Popzara Press has given me a lot of flexibility. I’ll be covering what I can and basically taking the coverage in any direction that I choose. The show floor is huge, with lots of publishers and exhibitors to cover, so I’m sure that I won’t have a shortage of potential content. I am hoping to set up some appointments with publishers before the event, though it’s a bit of a challenge building a list of contacts from scratch. Networking is going to be a new adventure for me, as senior editors used to handle most of the PR contacts and such. I’m learning as I go.
This is a very unique opportunity for me. Last year was much like an introduction to E3, with cemented plans and tight schedules. This year is wide open, with no hand-holding. It feels like a “show me what you can do” opportunity, and I will strive to make the most of it. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of games, meeting a lot of people, and taking in the E3 experience as a member of the games media for the first time.
My road to E3 starts now, and I’ll be updating here as I reach certain checkpoints. I hope that you’ll walk down that road with me. It’s going to involve some hard work, some planning, and a whole lot of learning.
Most importantly? It’s going to be a lot of fun.
I honestly thought that my trip to E3 last year was going to be my only trip.
The KmartGamer project folded, I moved from Arizona to Massachusetts and haven’t had a job since, and I had even contemplated putting my writer’s pen down for good. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding E3 recently, which makes sense given that we’re just three weeks away. I was excited for those who were going, some of whom I’ve befriended on Twitter who are attending for the first time… but was OK with watching and reading stuff from home.
More recently, I’ve found my writing stroke again, thanks to a phone meeting with Nathan from Popzara Press a few weeks ago. He provided me with an opportunity to talk about industry sales and trends, and to bring Armchair Analysis to a new audience of readers. The terms of the opportunity were perfect for me, and I was given a lot of latitude to work at my own pace. I’ve been busy since then, thanks to that meeting and due to earnings season providing me with plenty to talk about. Once earnings season ends, E3 news would likely take over and I figured that I’d react to press events and other announcements as I have every year.
E3 was something that Nathan and I had talked about before. Attending E3 last year was possible because Kmart and Sears did everything; I wasn’t working enough to afford a trip to Los Angeles and I really didn’t (and still don’t) have many contacts “on the inside”, so those concerns were alleviated. All I really did was show up as expected, follow my itinerary, and put together some content. I told Nathan that I didn’t have any of these luxuries this year, and we tabled the discussion for awhile.
Last week, I was asked to submit my press credentials for E3. I really didn’t think anything of it, given how late in the game it was. I sent the information along, and thanked Nathan for thinking of me. It means a lot that someone that I’ve worked for over only a few weeks would have the confidence in me to think about sending me out to Los Angeles. The KmartGamer trip was more of a contest, even though it briefly became something bigger. This was different… and besides, I had no way to get out there or pay for anything, given my current state of unemployment. I had nothing to lose.
I received a rejection e-mail this afternoon. I had expected it, and forwarded it to Nathan with my gratitude. I am happy just having found what feels like a great opportunity to get back into writing, so this was less a disappointment and more a sign that we’d move on to other things. But then… things changed.
I received a second e-mail from E3 registration stating that my application had been approved, along with my confirmation barcode, while chatting with Nathan. He then dropped the biggest bombshell: Popzara Press is handling the travel and accommodations. I was– and still am– floored. We’ll be working out final details this week, but, barring any unforeseen circumstances…
I am going to E3 once again.
There’s a lot of preparation that has to happen between then and now. I am unbelievably excited and honored to have this opportunity. I’m going to be working with Nathan to hopefully set up some appointments for the event, and I’m looking forward to having a bit more time to network with some people out there. It’s going to be a different experience, and a big step for me professionally. I’ll be getting business cards ready to go, and I’m hoping to do a little more hands-on this year to go with more meetings and conversation.
I want to publicly thank Nathan and Popzara Press for having confidence in me and for making this happen. I’ll be providing the best coverage that I can, and learning a lot along the way. I look to reward that confidence by providing info and impressions from the show floor and giving readers my perspective on the controlled chaos that is E3. I’m also going to meet Armchair Analysis inspirations like Jesse Divnich, Michael Pachter, and Kevin Dent again this year– and that’s going to be a personal highlight for me.
Let the planning begin.
After three consecutive nights with three hours of sleep apiece, walking into a closed meeting room at 10am and seeing Star Wars Kinect didn’t seem to show much promise. After all, other sites had been less than kind to the game and the reaction during Microsoft‘s press conference wasn’t exactly warm. When I volunteered to test the game for a group of my peers and the other members of the KmartGamer team, I didn’t have high expectations… but when the demo was over and my pulse was racing, I wanted more.
The demo had two different modes of play: Jedi Training and Jedi Destiny.
Jedi Training is just as it sounds; Yoda guides the player through the control basics, including using the Force, lightsaber combat, and basic movement. It’s hard to put into words how cool it was to wield powers like Force Push and, by just using your left hand, thrust battle droids away from you. These powers have always been associated with simple button presses in the past, but with Kinect’s body tracking abilities, players can execute actions as though they really are “in the game”. Moving a downed ship from spot to spot requires more concentration (at least in theory), so both hands are used to guide the ship to its destination. It almost requires players to think like the character that they’re portraying; even the most skilled of Force wielders can’t just zip a large craft from one place to another; slower, more deliberate movement is needed. That’s what is expected and works best when performing the same action in Star Wars Kinect. Lightsaber controls are dictated by the right hand, and the tracking seemed spot on; side to side slashes, vertical cuts, and even more elaborate twirls and twists were all registered by the Kinect sensor and brought to life on the big screen.
Jedi Destiny puts the player’s training to practical use in the Cloud City of Bespin. The city is in turmoil, taken over by battle droids, and it’s up to the player to stop the invasion of the Trade Federation. The action is on rails– much like SEGA‘s Star Wars Arcade– but it’s no less fun. Combining force powers and lightsaber skills, I dispatched plenty of droids and felt unstoppable as I was able to use Force powers and lightsaber skills at the same time. Facing Destroyer droids was a more difficult task, as extra body movements were required to leap towards and over them to get an advantage. Some of the body tracking movements for side rolls and jumps did feel a little inconsistent; they were great when they worked, but the on-screen character would have been full of holes when they didn’t. Thankfully, dying in the demo wasn’t possible. I did manage a couple of impressive feats, including taking down three battle droids with a single Force Push action (something that our LucasArts guide hadn’t yet seen before), while making my way from Bespin’s exterior to inside near the infamous dining room where Lando’s betrayal takes place and various corridors.
The demo concludes inside of the Carbonite Chamber. Two hooded Sith warriors appear out of the darkness, each dual-wielding lightsabers. I stood, ready for battle… and the demo ended there. I was tired, but exhilarated. I felt like a Jedi, minus the physique and droid companions. I wanted more, but that desire would have to wait.
I completely understand that some people are expecting more out of Star Wars Kinect. After all, the arcade experience has been all but dead for years and players seem to be looking for something more. Conversely, I had an absolute blast playing the demo. The game represents a chance to get closer to unleashing your inner Jedi than ever before without the need to hold a controller or learn a button layout. Most of the controls were intuitive and easy to learn. It’s an accessible experience, even at this early stage, and we still don’t know all of the content that we be included in the retail version when it lands this holiday season.
I’m more excited for Star Wars Kinect than I was going into E3, and, to me, that indicates that the demo was a success. It wasn’t perfect, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy my time with it. The arcade experience shouldn’t be considered a detractor; if you are willing to look at the game for what it is– instead of what you think it should be– I think that there’s plenty of fun to be had later this year.