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EA's E3 2012 Press Conference: Connecting Players by Any Means Necessary

EA showed expected games, made a few desperate pleas, and announced at least one surprising thing, all while connecting you to things.

EA held a press conference at E3 this year, as is their custom. They showed video games they had mostly already announced, as is their custom. They made some desperate plays at social connectivity and future subscription/downloadable content initiatives, as is very much their custom. And there was a football player there. You can see where this is going.

More like Dude Space 3.
More like Dude Space 3.

Nobody expects huge things from EA's pressers. Even among publisher press conferences, which are traditionally light on new announcements, EA has always seemed rather bland and low-key, especially when compared with the hyperactive weirdness of the Ubisoft conference, and the off-kilter inexplicability of the Konami pressers. So I can't say I was disappointed with EA's showing this year. It's hard to disappoint when you don't have hope to begin with.

The publisher did at least have the good sense to set the tone for the afternoon right from the get-go, with a decidedly haggard-looking John Riccitiello (it really looked like it had been a rough year for the guy) wandering out onto the stage looking only half-aware of where he was. He then went on to tout EA's many achievements, chief among them EA's dedication to ensuring you have more things to buy for that game you already bought. Yes, the abundance of paid DLC was EA's first talking point.

But then video games happened, and to be fair, many of those video games looked pretty good. The highlights were undoubtedly demos for Criterion's open world spin on Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and a show-closing demo of Crysis 3. Dead Space 3 also got a fairly lengthy showing, though reactions seemed mixed over the game's newfound emphasis on action-y gameplay, Lost Planet-looking setting, and abundance of bro-oriented dialogue. "Fuck this planet," one of the Dead Space guys said, and if social media reactions were any indication, people agreed with him.

Reactions seemed similarly mixed for Medal of Honor: Warfighter, though that may be due less to the quality of the game itself, and more to do with the fatigue that's been setting in over brown/tan/grey shooters set in modern theaters of conflict. I mean, there are a lot of shooters at this year's E3, and the fact that the demo followed the deeply underwhelming demo for Battlefield 3 Premium probably did it no favors.

SimCity's demo was a personal highlight for me. I've been excited about modern Maxis' take on the franchise for a while now, and the stuff they showed looked fantastic. Even the Facebook version of the game seemed to have some merit, and that's not something I say very often.

This is the first game I'm bee-lining for at the EA booth.
This is the first game I'm bee-lining for at the EA booth.

That said, the SimCity demos were but one example of EA's continued bludgeoning of the consumer with social features they may or may not ever care to use. EA's demos of FIFA and Madden were particularly engorged with these, and I can't help but question the need for more ways to connect games to social networks to smart devices and so on and so forth. I play many of EA's sports games, and I cannot say I've ever had much desire to do anything besides play some online games and maybe join a league. I feel like I'm not alone on this.

But, hey, if you do decide to pick up Madden this year, you can totally connect it socially with social stuff, and even look at a fake Twitter feed featuring various ESPN sportswriting personalities. Yes, Madden has its own fake Twitter, featuring people you probably go out of your way not to follow on Twitter. Oh, and there are new tackles, because of course there are

EA also confirmed that they will most assuredly be rejoining the NBA race this year with a new NBA Live, and even managed one sports-related surprise. In bringing a somewhat bemused-looking Dana White on stage, EA announced that it had acquired the UFC license, which had previously been held by THQ. Considering some of the things that Dana White has said about EA over the years, this is unquestionably hilarious. At least the game should be good, if that last EA MMA title is any indication.

Lastly, and most definitely leastly, Dr. Ray Muzyka was trotted out on stage to plead for the life of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Looking as upbeat as a man pitching an MMO that's losing subscribers left and right possibly could, Dr. Ray touted multiple new content updates on the horizon, and that the game would be going free-to-play up through level 15. Expect a similar announcement next year, except without the level cap.

And that was the EA presser in a nutshell. Next up, Ubisoft, which should, at the very least, be a bit more lively.

Alex Navarro on Google+