Step 4. You Realize That You Aren’t Going To See Any Big Titles
We were invited to see Thief at E3 and scheduled a first-thing appointment to see it – which is mitigated because of Step 3. We didn’t get first showing, but we did line up outside of Square Enix’s theater in the “priority” queue so we’d have better seating as opposed to the Exhibits Only kids. This isn’t anything new. We stood behind a velvet rope for 20 minutes when a group of other people gathered in front of me by the entrance to the theater. “Excuse me,” I said, “why are these people being let in first when I was the first person to line up and I’m media, so I’m covering your game?” “Oh, these people have interviews with the developers.”
We were never even invited for interviews with the developers. Why did we set up an appointment for your theater when the people who have absolutely no media contacts whatsoever are going to see the exact same thing that I do at any point they want to show up at your booth at all? So the presentation goes on and the Thief design lead providing the narration keeps alluding to playing the game, like it was something we could simply apply for at the media desk. In fact, I gave them a “Best Of E3 2013” nominee sticker on the assumption that we would be able to play the game, a guideline to our awards process. After the demo, I march back to the media desk and ask the two reps at the desk to play the game.
Square Enix Rep #1: “We don’t have it/It doesn’t exist.”
Me: “The design lead told us to go play it.”
(The two reps look at each other)
Square Enix Rep #2: “It’s actually really tight, let me go check-” (she makes a motion to leave)
Square Enix Rep #1: (waves her hand over her Thief schedule without looking at it) “Yeah, you can’t even try to see it today, sorry.”
Square Enix Rep #2: (bounces back to table) “Come back first thing tomorrow and we can get you on a waiting list.”
So I do.
Me: “I was told to come back today to play Thief. I was told there would be a waiting list.”
Square Enix Rep #3: “Nope.”
Me: “So they were blowing smoke up my ass?”
Square Enix Rep #3: “Sorry.”
This repeats several times. Remember when Microsoft said that they weren’t going to be showing off anything behind closed doors and we couldn’t schedule any appointments to see their games? Half of their fucking booth was closed off to the public so they could preview games to the media via appointment. I’m media: show me your games, I want to cover them. No doing. Meanwhile, the big outlets brag about how they were. We couldn’t even get a word in edge-wise with Sony or Nintendo to see their games despite the fact that we’d been to their conferences the year before (and I managed to get in this year… just barely). Other games, like Ubisoft’s new The Division? Had to be invited. How do you get invited? Had to be a major outlet.
In many ways, we actually saw less from the big publishers over last year despite being a larger outlet now.