With E3 winding down, it tends to be the tradition of gaming news outlets to look back at the show, to reflect on megaton announcements and deride the goof ups and failings. Though this year had its share of both — like many, I fear I may be seeing Mr. Caffeine in my nightmares for a long time to come — it displayed a disturbing lack of the one thing our readers had been most anticipating: Role-playing games.
To be fair, this year’s E3 was not totally devoid of RPGs. We got some new information on Final Fantasy XIII-2, met Dragon’s Crown for the first time, and The Legend of Zelda certainly got a lot of love. However, compared to other years, the information we got was a drop in the bucket. Some of this can be attributed to the vastly reduced presence of many Japanese companies; XSEED and Namco Bandai seem to have skipped the show entirely, and Atlus was evidently reduced to a rather small booth hidden away towards the back of the exhibition hall. Even the companies that did attend seemed to have little enough to show off. Atlus, for example, was focused mostly on Catherine and its newly-licensed King of Fighters title rather than the RPGs they’re more widely known for. Even Square Enix was showing off more action and shooter titles than RPGs, thanks to their subsidiary, Eidos.
So what does this mean for fans of RPGs? In the short term, it means that the hype machine is seriously grinding to a halt. This may not seem like an entirely bad thing, given how overly marketed-to people are, but for news sites that get their content primarily from press releases and announcements directly from the companies in question — and these days, that’s pretty much everybody from GameSpot to Andriasang to us — it’s a bit like being trapped in a bank of fog. The upside of this is that it may encourage more investigative journalism in order to close the content gap, but while investigative journalism is great when you want to figure out what a company is hiding, it’s not much help when all you want to know is when the game you want is coming out.
In the end, it’s more likely that this lack of RPG coverage at E3 is more a result of natural disasters, economic downturns, and the move towards a smaller, less-inclusive E3 than any sort of impending doom of RPGs or the companies that make them. To be fair, it’s a good sign that even the higher ups at Square Enix have noticed their poor showing. So it may be helpful to look upon this E3 as being a disappointment for RPG fans, but hopefully not one that is likely to be repeated.