Who is a press conference for? I ask that because I honestly don't know anymore.
Here's Microsoft at E3, the video game industry's brightest spotlight, hawking Usher on stage for a multi-song performance. He's promoting—loosely, mind you—Dance Central 3 from Harmonix, but doesn't do anything directly associated with the game itself on stage. I'm sitting here wondering, as Usher begs the journalistic crowd to stand up and join in while they're working, who this is directed toward.
It's not journalists. That's no slap against those working the event, or the ones who had to sit through the show. It's not shareholders. They have a vested interest, sure, but it's not a make-it-or-break-it on Wall Street.
It's the general public, which has game trailers effectively IV'd into their veins on Spike TV while these topics fill the top eight or so spots on Twitter. I don't know why we call these pressers or keynotes anymore, because that meaning has been lost.
They don't need to be suit and tie affairs with stuffy execs spouting off numbers. It's a fun, casual industry, and that should be embraced. But, it should still be about business, and that's not what the event has become. For an industry that shills hype every day of the year, there's no containment anymore. Microsoft shuffled in games that were already announced, either days before the show or even last year. It became less about the games and more about reaching out via social media.
The whole thing feels like a shielded ploy to market products in an indirect way, or via means that people won't even grasp they're being marketed to. The show shoveled in a clip from the upcoming film Prometheus, billed as an excuse to show off new search technology. No, it wasn't, because Microsoft could have searched for a Wikipedia page on Ben Franklin, but the money trading hands behind the scenes dictated otherwise.
That type of material not only adds a sense of artificiality to the program, but a dishonesty. Don't claim you're directing comments at the press in attendance. They're the least of your worries. Don't claim Usher is on stage—this after promoting a Grammy Award-winning artist before the show aired—to highlight his involvement with Dance Central. He's in it for a paycheck too. I'm imagining a future where these events are hyped like the Grammys with months of build-up.
The “press conference” had a single moment of honesty, that coming from Matt Parker and Trey Stone, creators of South Park. They riffed on Microsoft's push for cross-platform technology, discussed what they added to the video game, and wandered off-stage not with a smile, but to get back to work.
Usher was heading to the bank to cash a check, and Microsoft's social media team smiled. They won, the press lost.