The 10 Most Memorable E3 Press Conference Moments
A strong first impression: It's important for meeting new people and it's just as important for meeting new games. These days, those gaming first appearances increasingly come during flashy E3 press conferences, where game publishers and hardware makers give presentations that can make or break important product launches.
These conferences have had their fair share of embarrassing, exciting or just plain inexplicable moments since E3 made its start back in 1995. We've chronicled what we think are the 10 most memorable of these moments below, but there were many more that didn't make the cut. Check out the honorable mentions for more E3 press conference goodness.
10. Introducing: The Regginator
"My name is Reggie. I'm about kicking ass, I'm about taking names, and we're about making games." With those immortal words, a new Internet sensation was born. The Regginator, as Nintendo's new Executive VP of Sales and Marketing Reginald Fils-Aime came to be known, became the subject of dozens of Photoshopped images, YouTube mashups and snarky commentary all over the Internet. More importantly for Nintendo, though, Reggie's appearance prefaced a more proactive PR approach for the usually staid company, which had languished during the GameCube years. Reggie would eventually ride his E3 debut and minor gaming celebrity status to a position as the head of Nintendo's North American operations during the launch of the Wii, leading the company back to the top of the console market.
9. N-Gage Bares Its Price
Finnish phone maker Nokia had its work cut out for it at E3 2003, jumping into the handheld gaming market against Nintendo's Game Boy Advance monolith and Sony's PlayStation Portable (which had been announced literally minutes before). Even without the stiff competition, though, its mess of a press conference would have likely killed Nokia's N-Gage gaming phone on its own. A cavalcade of awkward breakdancing, missed cues, technical problems, buzzword-filled speeches and underwhelming game demos led up to the "big reveal": a bikini-clad model who threw off her covering to reveal the system's $299 price painted on her belly. The silence was deafening as a few journalists reportedly walked off after seeing the sky-high price for the portable (the Game Boy Advance retailed for less than $100 at that point). It was an embarrassing coming-out party for a system that would end up with appropriately embarrassing sales numbers.
8. Rock Revolution Fails to Rock
The company that helped popularize the rhythm game genre was falling behind by 2008, letting the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises eat into the market once dominated by Konami's Dance Dance Revolution. So the world premiere of Rock Revolution at Konami's E3 2008 press conference was a big deal for the company. Rock Revolution product manager Lauren Faccidomo did her best to make things dramatic, playing a real guitar through an awkward cover version of "Blitzkrieg Bop" before taking the performance "from the stage to the living room" by strapping on a plastic Rock Revolution guitar. Things fell apart quickly, though, as Faccidomo utterly failed to find the beat set by the competent drummer, missing a majority of her notes before failing out of the song after only a minute and a half. Not the best way to end a press conference, or to introduce a game that would go on to be bomb both critically and commercially.
7. Miyamoto Leads a Wii Orchestra
Expectations were high among the packed Kodak Theatre audience. Just days before, Nintendo had revealed a new name for its Project Revolution, and the press was eager to see what this new "Wii" and its motion-sensing controller were all about. So when Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo game designer extraordinaire, came out in a full tuxedo and wordlessly began conducting a virtual orchestra in a rousing rendition of the iconic Legend of Zelda theme song, the packed house paid rapt attention. Miyamoto's overly dramatic conducting continued during a high-energy montage of Wii game demos, ending with a flourish to a deafening round of applause. It may have been a little over-the-top, and the eventual release of Wii Music definitely didn't match the excitement of Miyamoto's conducting, but it was definitely a memorable introduction for Nintendo's new system.
6. Jamie Kennedy Bombs
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. "Hey, we'll get a comedian to host our press conference," the Activision executives must have said. "He'll cut through the boring financial reports and dull game demos with humor and high energy." The reality was almost the complete opposite, though, as the Jamie Kennedy that appeared on the E3 press conference stage that day seemed drunk, sleepy, hung-over or, possibly, all three. Kennedy's performance fell flatter than a pancake as he proceeded to make fun of the audience ("There are so many virgins in here, Richard Branson is ... doing this event"), interrupt game demos with inappropriate comments, and actually get heckled by both the audience and the onstage personalities themselves (including skateboarding legend Tony Hawk). Mere words can't capture the horrible awkwardness of Kennedy's presentation -- watch the video and see for yourself.
5. Twilight Princess Drives the Crowd Wild
It had been a long time coming for Zelda fans. After seeing an impressive demo of a "realistic," "next-generation" Zelda game way back in 2000, Nintendo had thrown a curveball with 2003's Wind Waker and its bright, cel-shaded, cartoon-style look. So when the highly detailed, 3-D version of Link appeared during a trailer at the end of Nintendo's E3 2004 press conference, the crowd went absolutely crazy. Fanboy journalists were practically crying in the aisles as a montage of clips from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess played amidst intermittent hooting and cheering. After the video, when the lights came up and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto came out holding a replica Zelda sword and shield, the audience exploded yet again with a deafening screams of approval. Not the proudest moment for game journalism, for sure, but the impact of the moment would last all the way until the game finally saw the light of day over two years later.
4. Peter Moore's New Tattoo
Sure, Microsoft's then-Vice President Peter Moore made some ripples in the press when he announced Halo 2 at the 2004 E3 press conference by way of a bicep tattoo, but that announcement was muted by the sheer predictability of a Halo sequel on the Xbox. Moore's second tattoo, a Grand Theft Auto IV logo revealed during Microsoft's E3 2006 press conference, had a bit more impact, eliciting an audible gasp of appreciation from the jaded journalists in attendance. When Moore went on to announce the game would appear on the Xbox 360 "the first day it was available" and that Microsoft's system would have exclusive downloadable content, everyone in the crowd knew the Redmond powerhouse was making a serious play for Sony's then-dominant position in the industry.
3. The Gaffe-Tastic PlayStation 3 Debut
The most famous moments of Sony's infamous 2006 press conference actually didn't generate much reaction at the time. Sure, there were a few gasps and confused whispers between seats when the record-high price tag of $599 was revealed at the end of the conference. But the "Giant Enemy Crab" and "Riiidge Racer" moments that have become go-to jokes in the gaming community (see video) passed by at the time with little commentary or laughter from the assembled audience (at least from where I was sitting). At the time, it just seemed like more of the standard press conference pablum -- overly enthusiastic gushing about the product line set amidst two hours of mind-numbing videos and demos. Only days after the conference did the power of Internet video turn Sony's E3 2006 presentation into the running joke that it is today.
2. Saturn's Surprise Launch
In today's age of instant digital downloads and blockbuster Apple keynote speeches, launching a product on the same day it's announced isn't that big a deal. It was a big deal in 1995, though, when Sega shocked the gaming world by announcing during its E3 press conference that 30,000 Sega Saturn units were already on store shelves at selected retailers, months before the system's planned September launch. It was a move designed to preempt Sony's PlayStation before it could even get off the ground, but it ended up backfiring pretty badly on Sega. The stealth launch meant a limited lineup of rushed launch software, hard-to-find hardware and strained relationships with retailers that weren't in on the early access. The surprise launch was also a marketing nightmare, as consumers had little to no warning before seeing the system on store shelves. Sega's death as a hardware maker years later can probably be traced back to this very moment at E3 1995.
1. "Two Hundred and Ninety-Nine Dollars"
With those two little words, SCEA President Steve Race indisputably won the first E3 for Sony. Coming mere minutes after a shocking surprise launch announcement by Sega (See No. 2, above), Sony needed to use its press conference to prove it could play with the big boys in the videogame market. Sony Electronic Publishing President Olaf Olafson softened up the crowd with the usual hyperbole about the PlayStation's transformative power, but calling up Race partway through the speech would prove to be the defining moment of the show. As Race recalled to Steven Kent in "The Ultimate History of Video Games," "I had a whole bunch of paper in my hands, and I walked up, put them down on the podium, and I just said, '$299' and walked off stage to this thunderous applause." The price tag, $100 less than that for the just-announced Saturn, was much lower than most analysts expected and immediately took the air out of Saturn's sails. More than that, though, it cemented the E3 press conference as an event that could make or break a product, and christened the industry's new trade show in a dramatic fashion.