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E3's Biggest Surprises

We take a stroll down memory lane ahead of next week's massive show in LA.

  • Text: Matthew Dixon and Sam Bishop

Ever since the first Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3 for short) in 1995, there have been many surprises along the way, both good and bad. In this list (and in no particular order) we highlight a selection of the biggest ever shocks and surprises to have ever graced E3.

Watch Dogs: In E3 2012 Ubisoft built up a lot of hype ahead of their press conference, eventually blowing the roof off of the building when they showed the world their new game, Watch Dogs. They claimed the game allowed the player to use the city as their weapon for the first time, having the power to control an entire infrastructure through technology and surveillance. This was enough to get people on board but the gameplay trailer was what really excited the masses - it not only looked detailed and interesting as a concept, but it was visually stunning too. Regardless of what happened to Watch Dogs since, this was the big reveal of 2012.


Super Smash Bros. Melee Character Reveal: Nintendo weren't the most confident platform holder around the time of E3 2001 - the PlayStation had achieved far higher sales than the Nintendo 64 during the previous console generation. This time they needed to hit it big and make a splash, and they did exactly that by revealing a huge roster of characters for Super Smash Bros. Melee on the GameCube. New characters were introduced and existing ones returned, but people were particularly surprised when characters like Ness were revived for the game. Needless to say, the reveal went well and there was applause all round.

Nintendo's 2004 press conference: As a whole Nintendo had a fantastic E3 in 2004. To start with, the Nintendo DS was revealed and had a whole host of new and interesting features such as a touch screen, dual screen, and wireless connectivity. This wasn't all Nintendo had up their sleeve though, as they later shocked the gaming world by revealing The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. As the trailer ended and Link stood on screen with his sword and shield, the screen faded and revealed Shigeru Miyamoto in the same pose with a sword and shield. Rapturous applause ensued. Not a bad year at all for Nintendo.

The Natal Experience: Microsoft first announced "Project Natal" at E3 2009, but its big coming out party was in 2010 where Microsoft hired Cirque du Soleil to usher in the Kinect era with "The Natal Experience". An event set at The Galen Center one the day prior to their press conference, visitors (the usual E3 suspects) were given white ponchos upon entry and were made to partake in what can only be described as one of the most awkward mixes of "performance art" and video gaming that you can imagine. Add to that eerie child actors who felt a tickle as they were licked in the face by Kinectimals, and you've got something that most attendees thoroughly wished they'd skipped. It's easy to dismiss Kinect today, but keep in mind that at the time there was a positive buzz surrounding Microsoft's new tech. However, it was all downhill from there.

Gabe Newell at Sony's E3: Gabe Newell, prior to 2010's E3, was not the biggest fan of Sony nor the PS3, famously criticising it and calling it a "waste of time" and a disaster. Imagine everyone's shock, then, when he made a surprise appearance during Sony's 2010 E3 press conference to announce that Valve were bringing Portal 2 to the PlayStation 3, going on to praise the PS3 and say that it would be the best console version of Portal 2. Unexpected to say the least.

Mr Caffeine: Aaron Priceman, better known as Mr Caffeine, presented Ubisoft's 2011 E3 press conference, and it didn't go very well at all. His attempts at comedy were met with awkward half-laughs or silence, and he subsequently received negative reviews all round. If that wasn't bad enough, he became the subject for internet humour, many focusing around his use of the phrase "doodly doodly doop" which he repeatedly used to demonstrate the sounds of time travel.

Pele on Stage for EA: In an effort to make football/soccer more appealing, EA decided to bring Pele on stage at their E3 press conference in 2015. E3 is usually action packed and fast-paced, showing everything bombastically in order to astound onlookers, so to have an elderly man tell stories for ten minutes wasn't the wisest choice and it didn't go down as well as they had hoped. It wasn't necessarily a disaster, but it certainly didn't have the desired effect.

Sony Vs Microsoft 2013: The 2013 E3 conference is largely remembered for the massive next-gen battle between Sony and Microsoft. Both companies gave us the first proper looks at their new consoles. Microsoft giving us a release date and price of $499 for the Xbox One, as well as a look at its launch exclusive Ryse: Son of Rome. Despite all this exciting news it is widely considered that Sony "won" E3 in 2013 as they blew Microsoft out of the water. How? The PlayStation 4 was publicly shown for the first time and priced at $399. The software lineup featured Infamous: Second Son, The Order: 1886 and Killzone: Shadow Fall, and was overall much better received. 2013 sticks out as a big year for current-gen consoles and made an impression that still reverberates in the industry today.

Konami 2010: One of the most memorable and bizarre moments in E3 history is the infamous Konami press conference in 2010. Featuring bad jokes, dancing, terrible magic tricks, wrestlers slapping each other, and a stare that still haunts the Internet. Along with a terrible script, this conference has become one of the most infamous. It has spawned countless jokes at Konami's expense, and still leaves people baffled at what they could have been thinking. Below you can check out an interview with Tak Fuji, whose presentation of Ninety-Nine Nights II creating some of the most extreme memes in video game history.


299: Looking back to the very first E3 in 1995 we can see Sony dominating the market place and dropping bombs that each were welcomed by eruptions of applause. We are of course referring to "299", the infamous words spoken at the Sony press conference. Steve Race comes on stage for a "brief presentation". He simply states, "$299", and walks off to roaring applause, as that price point made PlayStation $100 cheaper than the Sega Saturn.

Sony's 2015 triple-bill: Sony had another great year in 2015 with the announcement of some highly anticipated games. During the conference Sony re-announced The Last Guardian, and announced Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Shenmue III. It was a crowd-pleasing trilogy that had fans the world over losing their shit. On top of that they announced a new IP called Horizon: Zero Dawn and showed off Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Sony will do well to better last year's show in 2016.


PS3 Price Reveal: Sony haven't always enjoyed themselves at E3, most notably during their 2006 press conference. Considered one of the most embarrassing conferences for the platform holder, the PS3 announcement went down like a led balloon. Calling the PS3 a "financial investment" at $599, and then proceeding to go against everything they were saying made the audience confused and infuriated (for example, they discussed "lack of gimmicks" but filled their tech demos with interactive cards and PSP integration). Along with showcasing some awkward gameplay, Sony's announcement was just not what the audience wanted or expected.

E3 has had some highs and lows throughout the years, whether they were big prices, huge successes, or unmitigated disasters. Either way, we can only hope for similar levels of entertainment at this year's show.