As someone who doesn’t/can’t/won’t attend E3, one of the best parts of the annual event is the swag auctions that crop up on eBay. The tchotchkes placed on sale are neat little windows onto the expo, inherently different from the avalanche of news reports, written impressions, screenshots, trailers, and press conference livestreams that are available to anyone and everyone with a decent internet connection. They are trinkets that were actually there, instant collectables that show how an industry markets itself to itself, and to the world at large, in physical form.
The E3 goodies on eBay traditionally take many different forms. Every year, without fail, there’s at least one auction for the daily magazines/guides for the event itself. There are also always auctions for t-shirts, as well as lots containing a variety of items; the latter listings are very hard to find after E3 has come and gone. Other common items that appear year after year include lanyards, magazines, keychains, and, for some reason, Square Enix catalogs.
Other items are more on the quirky side. One of my favorites this year—and not just because I love the character and the franchise—are the patches that were given away to promote Kirby’s Epic Yarn. How better to promote a fabric-themed Kirby game than with a fabric Kirby? Several of these patches, with a Buy it Now (BIN) of $9.95, sold quickly, and at least one that has gone up since then as a regular auction is hitting an even higher price. I thought the initial $9.95 BIN listing was a bit high, but I’m a born cheapskate, and now I’m wondering if I should’ve bit before that same seller doubled their price.
Another item of note this year is the Epic Mickey cloisonne pin. Not only is there a huge Disneyana collecting scene, but there is a subset of Disneyana collecting that specializes in pins. Throw in video game memorabilia collectors on top of that, and you wind up with BIN asking prices as high as $24.99 for these pins. A search of completed listings has revealed that only three of these pins has sold so far, which makes me think that the highest of these BINs are too optimistic.
Two bits of Natsume swag have caught my attention. First is the Harvest Moon: Grand Bazaar plush horse. Since Natsume typically gives away plushes as preorder bonuses, I think we’ll be seeing this specific item again, on a wider scale, in the future. More unusual is this catalog for Natsume’s games. Again, I believe this to be an overly optimistic BIN. Meanwhile, one enterprising auctioneer has combined the two into one lot.
Some things which could become scarce in the years ahead are the Sonic Colors plush and the two Portal 2 t-shirts. There haven’t been many posted, which is always an interesting sign. The Dreamcast shirts are a little bit more common, but seem to be quite popular. And then there’s the Zelda shirts, of which there are a ton, but might also become nice collector’s pieces, given the size of fanbase and the popularity of past Zelda-related swag of all kinds.
Some general shopping tips: swag traditionally starts hitting eBay on the first day of E3, and BINs, if utilized, trend toward the high end. Both starting prices and selection generally improve toward the end of the event and in the days afterward, but bidding can be fierce. Even so, during and after E3 is the absolute best time to get one’s hands on a piece of swag that might be rare down the line. Please note that it’s sometimes hard to know what will be valuable, even for the most seasoned collector; as with any other type of collecting, it is always best to go after the pieces you personally like the most.
In the months and years following an E3, it will, naturally, be harder to track down many items on eBay or other auction sites. However, when older E3 stuff does pop up, it can sometimes be had at a relative bargain, since there isn’t nearly as much competition. Here are the results I got for “E3 2009” in the Entertainment Memorabilia category, which contained the most number of relevant results. Slim pickings, to be sure, but I bet that Left 4 Dead 2 poster was going for a lot more last summer. It should be interesting to see what an “E3 2010” search brings up a year from now.
Company: Microsoft Unofficial Motto:Great, cutting-edge ideas ganked from other companies, without all that fussy “style” and “ease of use” nonsense. Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Throwing lots of money around, making whatever’s on stage look slick and made-for-TV presentable by any means possible. This Year’s Event Details: Kinect event with Cirque du Soleil, 06/13/10; press conference, 10:30am PST, 06/14/10 Did it Start on Time?: Yes This Year’s Players: At the press conference specifically, there was Mark Lamia (Treyarch); Don Mattrick; Hideo Kojima and Shigenobu Matsuyama (Kojima Productions); Phil Spencer; Cliff Bleszinski (Epic); Peter Molyneux (Microsoft/Lionhead); Marcus Lehto (Bungie); Mark Whitten; Laura and her friend; Josh Elliott and Trey Wingo, the hosts of ESPN SportsCenter; Kudo Tsunoda; a little girl and Skittles the tiger; “Shin from Rare Studios”; Felicia Williams (Ubisoft); celebrity trainer Michael George; Naoko Takamoto, Alex Rigopulos, and Kasson Crooker (Harmonix); and Dan Greenwalt and Bill Giese (Turn 10). Whew!
Featured Hardware: Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal; a smaller, slimmer, shinier Xbox 360 Featured Games:Call of Duty: Black Ops; Metal Gear Solid: Rising; Gears of War 3; Fable III; a mysterious Crytek game called Codename: Kingdoms; Halo: Reach; several Kinect games with Wii, DS, and EyeToy analogues; a Kinect Star Wars game; and a version of Forza running with Kinect, now with more lifelike car porn! Featured Features: Kinect’s features covered, including Minority Report menu navigation, video chat a la Skype, and voice control; Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7; ESPN on Xbox Live; the new 360 finally has built-in wi-fi. Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Less of a reliance on mainstream celebrities.
Additional Notes: The structure of the press conference was pretty much unchanged from last year: open with a big, multiplatform title and follow it up with some Xbox-exclusive DLC-related announcement for it. Then, show something else multiplatform before going into the exclusive hardcore stuff before finally setting into Casual Land. Noticeably absent this time around were XBLA games, which is a shame considering that there are some interesting things coming down the pipe, but I suppose that that’s more of a hardcore thing, and since E3’s something of a mainstream showcase, not as important in Microsoft’s eyes.
As for Kinect: first off, it’s going to take awhile to get used to the new name, but at least it’s better than “Natal”; secondly, the launch lineup is about what I expected, coming from Microsoft. The Kinect hardware looks like a solid product, but that’s about all it looks like. So far, the software doesn’t transform it into anything special. If Just Dance hadn’t already existed, Dance Central might’ve been Kinect’s killer app. As it stands… we’ll see. Especially since Microsoft is being so cagey about Kinect’s price; so much so that one wasn’t mentioned during the press conference, even while a release date was.
Company: Nintendo Unofficial Motto:Simultaneously surprising and baffling people, simultaneously lifting the hearts of and infuriating fanboys, printing money, and just generally doing our own damn thing the best we know how for over a hundred years. Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Sincere confidence mixed with the hope of acceptance, executives playing games on stage. This Year’s Event Details: Press conference, 9am PST, 06/15/10 Did it Start on Time?: Yes This Year’s Players: Reggie Fils-Aime, Shigeru Miyamoto, Bill Trinen, Warren Spector (Junction Point), Satoru Iwata, and dozens of women with 3DSes attached to them. About that last bit: if ever we needed absolute proof of the return of the “old E3″…
Featured Hardware: Nintendo 3DS Featured Games:The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Mario Sports Mix, Just Dance 2, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, GoldenEye, Epic Mickey, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Dragon Quest IX, Metroid: Other M, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kid Icarus Uprising, and a slew of big franchise name-drops for future 3DS titles, including Kingdom Hearts and Metal Gear Solid. Featured Features: For the 3DS, an adjustment scale for the 3D effect, the two cameras on the outer case for taking 3D pictures, and the availability of 3D movies on the system, which seemed to me to be a rather pointed jab at Apple, specifically. Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Reggie served as the ringmaster, instead of Cammie Dunaway.
Additional Notes: First off, I’m glad to have Reggie back in the driver’s seat. Cammie probably does a great job in her day-to-day work at Nintendo, but Reggie has a much better stage presence. Secondly, Nintendo was… impressive this year; so much so that all over the internet, hardcore gamers and press types are singing many praises about the 3DS, Zelda, and certain other things they showed. There are the usual spate of whiners complaining about the sole analog nub on the 3DS, just like they did with the original PSP, but such is to be expected.
As for my own thoughts? Zelda looked beautiful and interesting, though the glitchy stage demo was worrying; GoldenEye brought back memories, but I thought the graphics could’ve been better (yes, even “for the Wii”; look at what Capcom and Square Enix have managed to wring out of the system); I am sold on Epic Mickey; Kirby‘s style and very announcement filled me with joy; Reggie’s saying that DQIX comes out in “26 days” had me thinking, “Wow, that soon?!”; the trailer music for Metroid sent chills up my spine even though I’ve never played a game in that series; Donkey Kong Country Returns looks good on the surface, but I’m skeptical about its core; and I don’t have any strong opinions or feelings about the rest. Oh, and like many people, I’m looking forward to learning more about the 3DS, and eventually trying one out for myself.
Funniest bit about the Nintendo press conference: the Vitality Sensor that was introduced last year to much confusion was nowhere to be seen this time around… that is, if you don’t count the devices it inspired from EA and Ubisoft.
Company: Sony Unofficial Motto:You may hate 90% of our proprietary formats, but at least we make some awesome entertainment! Typical E3 Press Conference Methodology: Montages, lots and lots of talking. This Year’s Event Details: Press conference, 12pm PST, 06/15/10 Did it Start on Time?: Yes This Year’s Players: Jack Tretton, Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai, hundreds of 3D glasses, Kevin Butler, new PSP pitchman Marcus, Alex Evans (Media Molecule), John Schappert and Greg Goodrich (EA), Gabe Newell (Valve), and David Jaffe and Scott Campbell (Eat Sleep Play).
Featured Hardware: PlayStation Move Featured Games:Killzone 3; the Move-ready Sorcery, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’11 (uhh…), and Heroes on the Move; InviZimals; God of War: Ghost of Sparta; Little Big Planet 2; Medal of Honor; Dead Space 2; Portal 2; Final Fantasy XIV; Mafia 2; Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood; Gran Turismo 5; Twisted Metal; and many, many more in the montages. Featured Features: 3D gaming, via Killzone 3, and Move’s “1:1 movement”. A new, premium subscriber service for PSN called “PlayStation Plus”. The PS3 version of Portal 2 will have Steam integration, something which I was curious to hear more about, but not much else was said at the event. Biggest Difference Compared to Last Year: Sony formally announced most all of their biggest stuff before the press conference, instead of risking leaks. (And even though Twisted Metal wasn’t one of these, rumors still abounded pre-show.)
Additional Notes: Sony conferences are… problematic for me. Two years ago, it was fascinating (in the same way a trainwreck is) because Final Fantasy XIII had just slipped from their exclusivity grasp. Last year came the much-anticipated Final Fantasy VII-on-PSN announcement, and my preoccupation with that tidbit, both on the FFVII Citadel site and in conversation with Citadel denizens, caused me to miss a lot. This year, a cousin called about three-quarters of the way in, and I was far too polite to ask them to call back later. The call went on until roughly the end of the press conference, and I had to catch up on Gran Turismo 5 and Twisted Metal details elsewhere.
This year’s press conference was kind of dull, as Sony’s tend to be. Sony lacks the Hollywood flash of Microsoft and the warm fuzzy nostalgia of Nintendo, and Tretton likes to drone on and on sometimes. Last year, charts made in LittleBigPlanet broke things up nicely. This year’s similar moments came courtesy of Sony spokesman Kevin Butler, and, in the most authentic moment from any of the three conferences, Gabe Newell, introduced with some help from GLaDOS.
One of the biggest surprises of Sony’s presser was the absence of a game: The Last Guardian. I was also half-expecting/hoping to see a Sly 4 announcement, what with The Sly Collection having been revealed the day before. Oh well, perhaps next year.
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