Before E3, everyone gets excited for the big new announcements. But after E3, all anyone remembers—and cherishes—are the kind of screw-ups, misfires and awkward heroism you can only get when corporate executives and video game developers have to get on stage and act like salespeople in front of millions.
This post originally appeared 6/11/15.
This being a site all about the best things, then, here are what we think are the best E3 moments of all time. And by “best”, I mean within the context of how we, as superfans of video games, consume and remember the show. The moments where the show itself became the spectacle, and not the games we were being sold.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like we’ll get a chance to add to this list ever again, as E3 2023 was just canceled after a few years of virtual productions in the face of the covid-19 pandemic. That makes this collection of moments even more poignant than ever before, as we may not get any more. So pull up a chair and bask in all this E3 glory.
SONY 2006: The Sky Is Falling
If I’d broken this conference’s individual highlights into their own moments, we’d be here all day. So here are all your favourites, from $599 to MASSIVE DAMAGE, in the one video.
NINTENDO 2004: Miyamoto’s Finest Hour
Relative to the time, the system and the series, no other E3 trailer in history has made people lose their shit like the Twilight Princess reveal in 2004. Throw in the fact series creator Shigeru Miyamoto wandered on-stage with a quality Master Sword and Hylian Shield and you’ve got maybe Nintendo’s strongest ever E3 performance.
MICROSOFT 2009: Kinect Goes Bam
Microsoft’s Kinect needed to impress in its first major live performance. It did not.
KONAMI 2010: One Million Troops
Tak Fuji enters E3 folklore with this presentation.
BETHESDA 2019: Ikumi Nakamura, That’s It That’s The Tweet
E3 has always been so much about manufactured excitement that in 2019, when Ikumi Nakamura took to the stage to talk about Ghostwire: Protocol, she damn near stole the entire week’s show with some actual, bonafide enthusiasm. This is, of course, as much an indictment on the rest of E3 as it is praise for Nakamura’s own infectious presentation.
NINTENDO 2008: Wii Music
You know how I said up top that 2004 was Nintendo’s strongest E3 performance? This was the opposite.
SONY 2009: The Translator
Gran Turismo boss Kazunouri Yamauchi takes to the stage and, in Japanese, tells the world all about the PSP version of his classic racing series. His translator, meanwhile, gives no fucks (and still does not, even to this day).
NINTENDO 2004: Hi Reggie
As if Miyamoto’s antics weren’t enough, E3 2004 also the public debut of the Reggie Fils-Aime. He’s a part of the corporate video game furniture now, but in 2004, this was a breath of fresh air for a company that was in a bit of trouble!
UBISOFT 2011: Mr. Caffeine
Someone knew about this man. Someone suggested booking this man. Someone approved that suggestion. There are so many people to blame for this.
UBISOFT 2017: Davide-San
Imagine growing up a huge Nintendo fan. Imagine then working for a company that isn’t Nintendo but gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a Nintendo game. Then imagine that, during E3 and with the world’s eyes upon you, Shigeru Miyamoto himself singles you out for praise. You’d cry too. Just beautiful, and a rare moment of genuine warmth from a show that’s otherwise obsessed with the most soulless aspects of the human experience.
SONY 1995: $299
Long before the disaster of $599 or the triumph of $499, Sony made the most memorable price announcement of all time. In 1995, Sony’s Steve Race walks to the podium, says a single word (announcing the launch price of the PlayStation) and walks off to a room full of applause. That’s how it’s done.
NINTENDO 2001: Please, Stop
A writer for Nintendojo—which is still around!—thought it would be a good idea to ask Shigeru Miyamoto a question in Japanese. Bless him for having the courage to try, but it was not. Excruciating viewing, even after all these years.
NINTENDO 2007: His Body Was Ready
If you’ve ever seen the image and wondered where it came from, this is where it came from. From anyone else, it’s a weird thing to say. From Reggie, it’s simply a statement of fact.
MICROSOFT 2007: Rock Band For Beginners
Hey, Peter Moore. I know you were probably super busy in the lead-up to E3 2007, but it couldn’t have hurt to put in a little more practice (BONUS: here’s the story behind this demo).
ACTIVISION 2007: Why
It’s funny, looking back on these and how so many of them are from a very specific point of time, around the mid-2000s, right before and after the show’s great upheaval (younger readers may not know/remember that E3 scaled down then nearly went away entirely around 2007-08).
Over the last decade E3 has mostly got its shit together, or has at least learned to smooth off (or avoid altogether) the rough edges. Which is good for business, but it’s a shame in some ways for the rest of us, since as the show has grown ever more professional we’ve been deprived of memorable/terrible moments like these.
And now, with the future of E3 unknown, we’ll have to turn to shows like PAX and Summer Games Fest to see what ridiculousness we can mine.