E3 press conferences are done! Let’s recount what we saw and talk about what happened…
E3 is probably my favorite time of the year; the hype is high and the excitement is higher. This year’s E3 was a bit different; yes, we got the exciting announcements, the surprising announcements and the smaller, indie games that captivated and excited us. However, each company had different roles and different requirements to fulfill, so let’s look back at what happened during those conferences and how E3 went for them.
First up EA, who had a difficult 2017: They killed off one of their marquee franchises (Mass Effect) and a fan-favorite studio (Visceral Games), as well as having multiple high-profile games that were severely disappointing at best, and downright criminal at worst. From a personal perspective, I really hated what they did with Mass Effect, Need for Speed and Star Wars Battlefront 2, but my breaking point with EA was the end product of FIFA 18, which made me lose interest and faith completely in EA; as a matter of fact, I had written a preview of EA’s conference, but then they unveiled Battlefield V and I had to change some stuff before publishing the article, which I never did because I could not be bothered to finish it. In that article, I remarked that I wanted EA to acknowledge their shortcomings, by focusing more on their EA originals and weakening their push for games-as-a-service, to appease the concern of a lot of fans and drain their anger. In this sense, I found the conference to be a success; Andrea Rene was a great choice as a presenter, the EA original games shown were really interesting, with Unravel 2 seeming like more of Unravel, but more precise and with better platforming and co-op, and Sea of Solitude with a charming and intriguing presentation that certainly made me interested in the game. Besides that, Battlefield V still looks amazing, but not a game I would get into, and likewise Anthem, got an in-depth look, which revealed that this is a shared-world, loot-shooter, with a Bioware story attached to it, and I am more interested in it than before, so good job on that; in general though, the EA conference was boring and forgettable. More sport games that did not have anything exciting or don’t look that better than last year’s iterations, games we already knew they existed and we knew what they were, with no real surprises and no real excitement. So as an E3 conference, where I tune in expecting to learn more details for new games, be surprised by unexpected announcements and be hyped for a full week about this awesome hobby, EA’s conference was a kind of dry and safe conference that was as forgettable and uneventful as it mostly is, year in-year out.
While EA gave E3 a slow start, Microsoft came up next and delivered the best conference of the year, showing 50 games that included exciting first reveals, updates on previously announced games from both 1st party games and 3rd party, as well as showcasing the exciting future of the Xbox platform, in a surprisingly effective way. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Xbox owner and that is my primary platform of playing video games, so I wanted them to have an excellent year and I was already hyped for their press conference, which is why I was very surprised by how satisfied and how close they came to meeting my exceptionally high standards. The games present were treated excellently; most of them had a really effective showing and came at a furious pace, which made the conference exciting and entertaining to watch, but also showed the very healthy range of options coming to the platform in the near future. Then, there were the 1st party acquisition announcements that showed Microsoft’s commitment to their 1st party catalogue and the tease of a new Halo, as well as 3 new Gears of War games, including Gears 5, and new in-depth looks at already announced 1st party games. All of these game announcements and acquisitions were paced superbly and made the conference a blast to watch and left me excited for the future, however it was certainly not perfect; there were a few presentations that could have been trimmed and edited a bit better, as well as a few that deserved a bit more time. I would also have liked to see a bit more from the ID@XBOX team (besides their usual montage), but I get that time was a valuable commodity in this presentation; nonetheless it was by far the best conference and the one that best captures why I love E3 and why I am excited for it each year, while simultaneously serving as a big statement from Microsoft, something they needed to accomplish this year.
Coming right after Microsoft, was Bethesda and I can’t make up my mind on how I feel about their show; on the one hand, they showed off a bit of Rage 2, which looks great and is a dream team-up (with Id taking control of the gunplay and Avalanche Studios taking control of the open world), they revealed Doom Eternal (a proper sequel to 2016’s Doom), a couple of Wolfenstein Spin-offs, a Prey DLC, Quake Champions was there as well, lots of Elder-Scrolls stuff with a tease of Elder-Scrolls 6 (and Starfield but both seem far off) and Fallout 76 was shown extensively; thus it was a pretty packed showing, but my take away was that there really was no need for a conference this year. Yes, Rage 2, Doom Eternal and Fallout 76 are massive games and deserved their spotlight; however Rage 2 did not reveal any new information and Doom Eternal was more of an announcement of the sequel’s existence rather than a full blown reveal, which means that only Fallout 76 had an actually decent and interesting showing. All the other games there were either already released games with updates or DLCs and spin-offs from existing franchises; not counting the teases for games that are probably not coming out in this console generation. This made the conference a bit dull and tiring for me, because I really wanted to know what Fallout 76 was and I was surprised by Doom Eternal’s and Wolfenstein’s spin-offs reveal, but I had to get through so many uninteresting showings and some failed attempts at comedy, which was not worth it; if you have not seen it, you are better off watching the highlights, rather than the whole thing.
After Bethesda was Square Enix, who represented a new strategy for E3 regarding conferences, which was “short and extremely focused presentations”. There were 3 such conferences this year, all with varying degrees of success: Firstly, Square Enix’s conference was probably the worst, as it had games we had already seen and features we already knew that were not given enough time to present anything new or interesting; Just Cause 4, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Kingdom Hearts 3 and the adventures of Captain Spirit were all shown before and we were not shown anything new or exciting from them that we had not already seen. There were a few new games like Platinum Games’ new IP and The Quiet Man which had an intriguing presentation, but overall no real excitement or anticipation was built for their upcoming titles, that was not already there; a poor showing from the Japanese giants in regards to their presentation, but that, hopefully, does not speak to the quality of the games they have coming up.
The second conference to follow the “short and focused” formula, was the Devolver Digital one, and probably the most successful of the three; their surprise conference last year was a joy to watch and a great marketing move from the publisher. This year’s offering followed last year’s blend of showing the most interesting indie games the publisher has lined up, by showcasing them as part of this unique, funny, sarcastic towards the trends of the industry and ultra-violent conference, but it did stumble a bit; for starters, they had the SHS (Surprise-Hit Sequel) syndrome, where the follow up to something surprising feels less good because they lost the element of surprise, which made the conference feel a bit of a rehash. They did not show as many games as last year, besides “My friend Pedro”, which like it’s going to be a cult hit and I really enjoyed its presentation, but their continuing, conference story-line seems like the right kind of dumb and unique approach to a conference on E3, a weird and indie publisher like Devolver should have, in order to offer something different and separate it-self from the other conferences.
Lastly, and possibly least, was the Nintendo Direct, which was extremely disappointing for me, due to more than half of the Direct was dedicated to Smash, a game I have no interest in. To be fair, Nintendo has moved away from traditional conferences for quite a while now, and there were a few announcements before the deep dive into Smash, but last year’s Direct and the growing strength of the Switch made me hopeful for a strong showing. They will have some more Directs as we get into the latter half of the year (like they usually do), so Nintendo did not need to have a strong showing from their point of view, which is a showing of the transitional period the industry is going through right now, in terms of games evolving and changing, thus their marketing will evolve and change as well.
No company tried to push this change as hard as Ubisoft; as a publisher, they have largely moved in to the “games as a service” model for most of their games, and their conference was a very clear sign of this transition; less games were announced and a lot of attention was given to already announced games or games that were released and have been successful as “live games”. Nonetheless, Ubisoft is very capable of putting on a show and they’ve shown this every year; from dancing Pandas to Finnish developers making their entrance on a stunt bike, Ubisoft’s conference was weird, goofy and pleasant to watch. There was the disappointment of not announcing a new Sprinter Cell and there was that gap of the “oh…here’s one last thing” moment (since their reveal of AC Odyssey was unfortunately leaked ahead of time), but overall I thought it was quite fun; Skull & Bones resurfaced and had a good showing, alongside Starlink, Transference and Beyond Good and Evil 2 from last year’s E3 (all 3 had a decent showing, although all of them left me wandering about what their end-quality will end up being), while new games like The Division 2, AC Odyssey and Trials Rising had better and more exciting showings; I’m especially looking forward to AC as finally it will explore Ancient Greece, a setting I have been dying to explore in an AC game! All in all, it may not have been as an insane showing as Ubisoft has gotten us used to, but their E3 2018 presser was enjoyable to watch and intriguing to see how live-games will be treated by publishers in the future; I personally think, a lot of time was devoted to them, without anything significant or entertaining coming out of it, for people like me, who did not care, but it is clearly a transition period for them and they will have to work on it a bit longer.
Another company that was in the midst of a transition and needs to work a lot more on their updated vision of what their E3 conference is going to be, was Sony; their presser was in theory the most exciting, having in-depth looks at the most exciting games, but in practice it was a slow and bizarre conference that was more like a Playstation Experience conference, rather than an E3 one. This transition makes sense for them though; they did not go for the big 3rd party exclusives and have instead focused on their 1st party titles, which would excite fans just because they are present. Sony has worked hard and intelligently to make sure that players know their console is not only a viable option for the 3rd party games coming out, it is probably the best one, thus their decision to focus solely on their 4 big exclusives coming out in the near future, is a sensible and correct one; although they have made sure that their 1st party offerings are excellent, having nearly complete focus on them makes the biggest and strongest push for the PlayStation 4 and for the future of the company. It was nonetheless, a poorly paced and strange conference that had a lot of gimmicks and was surprisingly uneventful and unexciting, considering the high profile of games present; I enjoyed watching it because of the games, but had I been given the option to fast-forward through, I would have fast-forwarded through most of it. Hopefully next year, they realize a better showing, because if they do, that could be the power-showing they need to keep having, in order to keep the PlayStation as the console that is the king (in the public discourse).
Obviously, these are just the conferences and not the games, but if I talked about every game shown, this article would never end! Instead, I just talked about the conferences and my opinions on them but, in terms of games, I am very excited by some games, very intrigued by others, not interested in some and open to the possibility of others to win me over; games are what E3 is all about and there were too many announced-and I want to talk about all of them in some capacity- that it would be too time-consuming and uninteresting to talk about them in one long article. Instead, I’ll wait and let the games do the talking, when they are released and we get to play them. After all, E3 is all about the hype, the excitement and the entertainment; in practice though, it signals the start of the period were the biggest, best and most anticipated games start coming out and that is the most exciting and hype-worthy feature of every E3!