If I ever find the event manager for E3, we’re going to have a long talk about their scheduling. It’s university exam period, and what does my phone keep buzzing about? Press conferences, game announcements and trailers galore! I have exams to study for, man, and all this news has been very distracting! “But Nick,” I hear you condescendingly whine like a smartass with an excellent point, “Why don’t you just catch up after exams?” Why don’t I eat raw fish? Why don’t I own a games console? Because I’m not a savage, that’s why. Like hell I’m going to miss the PC Gaming Show because some academic told me I need to write 15 pages of drivel in 2 hours! I wouldn’t say it was a fantastic substitute, but at least the PCGS was more entertaining than reading up on procurement management planning techniques… Ish.

Right from the overly-serious intro montage that tried to crack a joke about Battle Royales, I knew what I was in for. The format of the show was almost unchanged from last year, with Sean ‘Day[9]’ Plott acting as MC alongside seasoned eSports commentator (aka, Daisy Ridley’s doppelganger), Frankie Ward. I knew Sean would be a reliable host, as always, but Frankie Ward was a hell of a better choice than Sonja Reid from last year. It was clear that these two knew how to work and control a crowd, even if their jokes seemed inappropriately cringe-worthy. Despite some experienced presenters, the show itself left much to be desired.

No PC onstage? A sign of a clearer direction? Eh.

Once things got going, the interview-trailer-trailer-repeat formula kicked in. I’ve taken issue with the interviews in the past, and shockingly, I still hate them. It rarely felt like Sean genuinely wanted to discuss the points being discussed, and half of the developers looked like they were reading off a teleprompter. No one wants to hear interviews for games they don’t care about. Now is the time for showing off unique selling points to a mass audience, not delving into details like that one parent in every teacher-parent meeting whose kid MUST be considered. Interviews took too long for a compelling press conference, but devs didn’t have enough time to go into satisfying depth, which also helped keep things moving.

One of the things I noticed was how little time each interview went for compared to last year. Every discussion lasted all of 5 questions, so even though you had to sit through stuff you didn’t care about, it didn’t last too long. Best of all, there was no lecture shoved down your throat by some colossal sponsor like Intel or AMD, so the show never got bogged down in obvious marketing. The closest we got was a Drake’s Cakes duck showing up, but that orange-beaked cake-flinger was off the screen as quickly as everything else. There was a consistent and driving pace to the show, so we got to see plenty of games, but never anything more.

Newman would be pleased.

The same pace driving us forward throughout the show made delving into games impossible. Devs were interviewed all the time, but there was never a chance to play the games being talked about. Very rarely did we see gameplay footage, and there were no live demos whatsoever. Cinematic trailers are pointless in my eyes (yes, people hate watching E3 with me), so the near total lack of actual gameplay shown was hugely disappointing. Mind you, this has been a problem every year with the PC Gaming Show, but at least there wasn’t a PC onstage for me to scream at this time around. As for the announcements themselves, well, it was pretty hit and miss.

You can’t separate a show from the games, as evidenced by Sony last year. Some games piqued my interest, like Satisfactory, Ooblets and Noita. Others were more forgettable, like Night Call, Stormland, Genesis Alpha One and Star Citizen (seriously, is it even a game anymore?). There were games I don’t remember because they didn’t leave enough of an impression on me to warrant the extra brain matter, like… Uh… Yeah? Then there were games that I almost fell off my chair for, like Yakuza coming to PC, and Manhunter: the Shark RPG! There was plenty of variety, but it didn’t feel like a curated lineup jumping between genre and degrees of quality. Regardless of what you’re into, there was probably something to get keen for, but the format of the show didn’t let you stay excited.

Interviews, interviews, INTERVIEWS!

It’s great when a game pops up that grabs your attention, but a minute or two of interviews buffered every announcement. Whatever hype was being cultivated was immediately deflated by awkward developers or forced commentary. Every year, it’s the same issue, and I feel like I’m repeating myself over and over again. The show needs to decide what it’s trying to be because flicking between a press conference and interview stream just isn’t working. However, I can’t deny that this was the best year yet.

I could list off a thousand other problems with the show, but this was genuinely the best presentation PC Gamer’s pulled out its exhaust fans. Mind you, they call it rock bottom for a reason, but there were obvious steps in the right direction. No lecture, minimal marketing nonsense, a consistent pace and better hosts. Dare I say that the PC Gaming Show this year was watchable? Yes, I would. So is the sun if you’re wearing glasses, but the point is that there’s suddenly a glimmer of hope for this abysmal trainwreck of a show. And where all else failed, Sean still managed to bring a sense of fun to an otherwise bland presentation.

Because when the mic suddenly dies, you can always speak into his tie.

I don’t want to say the PC Gaming Show show was good, but it was at least tolerable this year. The announcements were hit and miss, the jokes didn’t always land, but at least we didn’t have to sit through another lecture about VR eSports. It was still far from a brilliant outing, reeked of amateur organisation and couldn’t seem to decide what it wanted to be, but it was watchable! Can one more year bring this disaster back from the pits of despair? Probably not, but at least I’m willing to tune in again, even if I should be studying… Grade: C-

Nick Ballantyne

Nick Ballantyne

Managing Editor at GameCloud
Nick lives in that part of Perth where there's nothing to do. You know, that barren hilly area with no identifying features and no internet? Yeah, that part. To compensate, he plays games, writes chiptunes, makes videos, and pokes fun at hentai because he can't take anything seriously.