For the most part, E3 press-conferences are crowd pleasing carnivals of great spectacle and grandeur, packed with memorable moments designed to surprise and entertain with the production value of a broadway show. They are also, however, public events streamed live to every corner of the globe; a feat of technical and presentational talent that requires an immense amount of preparation. These challenges leave every E3 press conference vulnerable to a black hole of potential PR embarrassments and technical hiccups, some of which play out in excruciating circumstances. We can always expect goofs during E3 press conferences, to some degree, and most audience members have the decency to shrug them off. But there are also those times when a million-dollar presser turns into a three-ring circus of awkwardness. It’s these moments that will stay with us, long after the upcoming releases being presented have come and gone. Prepare yourself, for you’re about to re-acquaint with the most wince-worthy moments of E3 past.
Battlefield 4 On Mute (Microsoft, E3 2013)
Communication breakdowns can always be laughed off, but it’s when the technology quite literally breaks down where things can start to get a little tense. When DICE’s Battlefield 4 demo repeatedly failed to launch during Microsoft’s conference four years ago, the bemused jeers and murmured apologies made for an uncomfortable soundtrack against the giant black screen where the game should have been. After a couple of minutes, it was questionable whether we’d see any of Battlefield 4 at all, though when the host wasn’t shushing the audience and trying to escape off stage he was repeatedly promising that gameplay would eventually arrive. Luckily, the game did start running, but by that point the audience were more relieved than excited to see what followed. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but I’m sure that DICE will be conducting more than one sound check for the inevitable Star Wars Battlefront 2 demo this year.
Ubisoft Tries To Make a Meme (Ubisoft, E3 2015)
In general, comedian and actor Aisha Tyler has been a good pick for Ubisoft as the studio’s go-to presser host, bringing personality and warmth to balance against the company’s unappealing obsession with pre-order bonuses and dancing giraffes. Sometimes she takes it too far, though, as best witnessed in her biggest blunder during the studio’s press conference of E3 2015. For some bizarre, unexplained reason, Tyler decided to sit next to an Assassin’s Creed Syndicate cosplayer in the audience for an ironic conversation. After what felt like several extended minutes, Tyler asks her newfound friend “Do you have a meme you want to pitch?”, which naturally leaves both him and the audience entirely flummoxed. It was strange, confusing, and altogether unnecessary, and you can immediately witness the moment in which Tyler begins to regret her off-script stunt too. It was one bit of improv that the “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” host was not going to dig herself out of.
Wonderbook (Sony, E3 2012)
“If anything goes wrong, the fire exits are here, here and here” explained Dave Ranyard, who clearly knew more about the problems with Wonderbook than the audience did at that point. It didn’t take long for them to figure it out however, as the following stage demo for Sony’s new augmented reality device was a fiasco of stop-starts and faux pas. When pitching a new product, the last impression you want to leave is that said peripheral doesn’t even work, but that’s precisely how everyone was feeling about Wonderbook after witnessing a poor woman repeatedly attempt to make spells with a PS Move controller to no effect. Whether it was the Book of Spells game at fault or the Wonderbook device itself, it’s safe to say that neither fared all too well in the market after that fateful E3, and Sony quickly ditched the project not long after that. In fact, in a spot of bitter irony, this calamitous stage demo is probably the best thing that Wonderbook will ever be known for.
Battle Tag (Ubisoft, E3 2010)
Video games are often classified as such because they let you directly interact with something on a screen. Dungeons and Dragons, truth or dare, Monopoly – these are games, not video games. And no matter how much you try to gussy it up with technology, neither is laser tag. That didn’t stop Ubisoft from ensnaring a room full of the gaming media into a completely unwanted demonstration of Battle Tag. Without warning, Joel McHale’s disinterested hosting was brought to a halt by robotic taunts, followed by a parade of models prancing around and trying way too hard to blast each other with laser pistols at point blank. McHale then delved into unfunny banter with producer Gael Seydoux, forcing Seydoux to speak between exasperated gasps from the exertion of the aforementioned laser tagging. Choice Seydoux lines include “It’s a game you can feel,” calling Joel “James,” and “You’ve seen us running everywhere… but… the content you can create and share it with the community and your friends.” McHale and Seydoux then proceeded to shoot at an unarmed woman on stage. McHale ends the segment by telling Seydoux to “go bury yourself”; an appropriately awful curtain close to a thoroughly awful stage demo.
Kinect (Microsoft, E3 2011)
Listen: throwing a child actor on stage to perform in front of a crowd of tired and visibly unimpressed journalists three times their age is never going to be a good idea. Portraying an inanimate fern in the school play is one thing; demoing a game for press and shareholders alike is something else entirely. To their credit, these kids give it their all, but it doesn’t make what follows any less cringe-inducing. If you have a younger sibling, you’re probably familiar with how irritating it can be to hear them squeal “GET THE SPECIAL COIN!” while you’re playing a game. It’s even less endearing when said kid is a stranger who’s being paid to feign excitement. And not to rag on him too hard, but the Once Upon a Monster tyke has a lot to learn about acting. The whole thing would be a complete wash were it not for Tim Schafer’s off-script retort of “Unleash the simulated family! Very lifelike!”
The PlayStation 3 (Sony, E3 2006)
There’s no doubt in our minds that, every full moon, Kazuo Hirai fervently awakes from a tormented sleep, drenched in cold sweat at the thought of E3 2006. For it was then that he took to the world stage to usher in the PS3. It was then where, instead of drumming up hype for the imminent release of the console, he eclipsed it with a cavalcade of awkward lines and stilted enthusiasm. And yes, it was then where he uttered the phrase to tarnish his career for years to come: “It’s Ridge Racer! Riiiiiiiidge Racer!” Hirai wasn’t the only one belly-flopping, mind you. Though few know him by name, none can forget the words of Bill Ritch during a demo of Genji: Days of the Blade. After boasting that the game recreated “famous battles which actually took place in ancient Japan,” Ritch then proceeded to hack and slash at a giant crab and its beach-ball-sized offspring. By deftly attacking his crustacean foe’s weakpoint for “massive damage”, Ritch unintentionally dealt equally massive damage to the PS3’s image as anything other than a crab battle simulator.
Jamie Kennedy (Activision, E3 2007)
The 11th of July, 2007 was the day that comedian Jamie Kennedy forget that his job was to make people laugh. Back when Activision still held press conferences, the company decided to hire the star of Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask to host its E3 proceedings, perhaps in the hopes that he would resonate with the younger crowd. Kennedy responded to his contractual obligation by showing up to the conference with all the wit, tact, and diplomatic subtlety of Duke Nukem himself. Perhaps Kennedy was trying to push the envelope, delving so deep into an abyss of anti-humour as to invent a new form of comedy. Or maybe he was just having a bad day, sticking closely to the lowest common denominator and praising the few people who gave him pity laughs. Whatever the case, he alienated every single person in the room that day, both on stage and off. The only amusing thing to come out of the presentation was Kennedy’s response to criticism on Twitter years later. His slew of read like they were plagiarized from the journal of an angsty, misunderstood teen.
Wii Music (Nintendo, E3 2008)
Nintendo has certainly had its fair share of awkward E3 moments (the Wii U reveal, Reggie Fils-Aime telling the entire world about the state of his body), but it’s the Wii Music stage demo from 2008 that takes the cake for the company’s biggest PR blunder. Nintendo needed to prove that Wii Music was a game which would actually allow players to create enjoyable music with nothing else but the Wii Remote, but what followed suggest the exact opposite. It’s safe to say that not a single person, whether in the audience or watching from home, was excited by the idea of Wii Music after the band’s painful rendition of the Super Mario theme song. But the real tragedy of this presentation is that it painted professional musician DJ Ravi Drums as a bumbling fool. Those who witnessed his on-stage, Wii Music-induced outburst may go their entire lives not knowing how .
Mr. Caffeine (Ubisoft, E3 2011)
If you gathered the world’s greatest scientific minds and asked them to determine the purest form of aggravation, I wouldn’t be surprised if their results pointed straight back to Mr. Caffeine. Aaron Priceman’s lame, unexplained stage name would go down in infamy after 2011, where his hosting credentials were put to the test by an audience who wanted him gone within seconds of him opening his mouth. When he wasn’t time travel, Priceman was crashing and burning his career with ill-timed dick jokes and talk of “Tom Ka-Lancy’s” Ghost Recon. Priceman’s claims that Mr. Caffeine “effortlessly works a room and skillfully motivates an audience to action.” One wonders how, when asking his increasingly irate viewers to join him in the umpteenth “Doodily doodily doo,” Mr. Caffeine didn’t take note of the deafening, decidedly hostile silence. Thankfully, Ubisoft would go on to fully decaffeinate their press conferences from then on, ditching Priceman in favour of the much more easygoing Aisha Tyler, who has been hosting the show each year to this day.
Ninety-Nine Nights 2 / Dance Master (Konami, E3 2010)
“…Hi.” With this one word, Tak Fuji ushered in what would be the most excruciating, toe-curlingly uncomfortable E3 conference in industry history. In what sounds like an interesting idea on paper, Konami opted to forego a professional host and just let the game developers speak for themselves. Unfortunately, no one had trained Fuji or anyone else in the art of presentation, marketing or even basic social skills, and the results were catastrophic. Tak Fuji, Naoki Maeda, and Thomas Nagano together delivered on a trifecta of incomprehensible presentations, filled to the brim with quotable lines like “Extreeeeeeeeme hack-‘n’-slesh tattle,” “You will be sucked,” and “One million troops… WOW.” It was almost so bad it was good, but those of us who came for deftly delivered announcements instead found ourselves in a sinking ship of dysfunctional drama.