While E3 may be an event where developers, publishers, and gamers get together to show off, play, and perhaps most importantly, celebrate games, E3 is, at its core, a competition between companies who are trying to pull off the most noteworthy conferences and spectacles. By extension, this means that there will be companies who thrive under E3’s intense spotlight, delivering memorable announcements that will be remembered for weeks or even months to come, and companies that will completely fall apart during their presentation, turning into the town fools of the Internet.
Speaking of town fools, EA had the distinction of giving what may be the most awkward E3 presentation of the year. While EA Play started off charmingly enough with a drumline to debut Madden NFL 18, their conference quickly nosedived from there into a mess of YouTube content creators, montages, and just a whole lot of fluff. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t just drag random people off the street to debut major projects, look no further than this year’s EA Play conference; chances are that you may have recognized one or two YouTube personalities during the 90 minute presentation, but it is far more likely that you were asking “Who is this and why should I care?” while EA shoved one Internet celebrity in front of another in an attempt to connect with “the kidz.”
Needless to say, EA Play’s pièce de résistance, the debut of Star Wars Battlefront II’s multiplayer gameplay, wasn’t exactly improved by incessant commentary from two more YouTube personalities and a developer (remember, a good game can speak for itself, and people generally like to hear what their games sound like anyways), one of whom may have caused some people to groan when they publicly announced that they spent over $1,000 on a Star Wars mobile game. That the vast majority of EA Play’s major announcements, with the exception of A Way Out and maybe even Need For Speed Payback, didn’t really offer anything new or unexpected, or worse yet, were shown off at a different conference (Anthem), really brings up the question of why did EA even have a conference to begin with.
It appears as though Bethesda was sharing E3 presentation notes with EA prior to the event as well, as their conference was only slightly more tolerable. While their “BethesdaLand” theme was admittedly rather endearing, they too fell into the trap of showing a montage of gamers reacting to things while presumably hopped up on way too much caffeine. On the bright side, you got to see what some of Bethesda’s employees’ children looked like if you were interested in that kind of thing. For everyone else, it more or less led to one of the following: mild indifference and or boredom, confusion, or a reminder of why you disliked kids. In addition, someone apparently forgot to send Bethesda a memo saying that VR is a bit of a niche product right now for your average consumer, given both its cost and space requirements, not to mention the fact that no matter how much people like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, they generally don’t want to see a dozen different announcements spread out over the entire E3 event telling them that they will soon be able to play Skyrim on every console known to man.
Funnily enough, all of Bethesda’s E3 missteps might have been forgotten by the next day if they didn’t announce the Creation Club. The moment that the Creation Club video mentioned “credits” was the moment that Bethesda’s pet project was doomed to misinterpretation. With a speed that can only be achieved through intense Internet outrage, the Creation Club was immediately decried as a return to paid mods. On the surface, that certainly seemed to be the purpose of the Creation Club: a third party creates content such as in-game equipment or cosmetic items for Bethesda, who hosts it on the Creation Club, which can then be purchased by players. In truth, however, it may be more accurate to describe Bethesda’s Creation Club as a factory for professional mini-DLCs, created by employees of Bethesda, other actual game developers, and even you, in theory, if you can pass Bethesda’s screening and QA process to ensure that your content won’t cause people’s games to crash instantly. Then again that is essentially what microtransactions are, which are only slightly less hated than the concept of paid mods.
There were some (dis)honorable mentions from the other E3 conferences, of course, namely the weird stage performances that accompanied Days Gone’s gameplay debut at the PlayStation conference, the decidedly strange (but impressively choreographed) song and dance routine that follows Ubisoft’s annual Just Dance announcement, and the snicker-inducing Xbox One X name, but they pale in comparison to the flaws in EA and Bethesda’s conferences. Not even the PlayStation conference’s audio issues, which made it impossible for online viewers to hear anything during the Days Gone and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy gameplay debuts, could compete with EA and Bethesda’s E3 gaffes, because at the end of the day, you can dismiss the PlayStation stream’s audio issues as being very odd (but fairly major) technical problems.
Fortunately enough for EA and Bethesda, the Internet’s memory tends to be rather short, and the games that they debuted may end up being fairly good, but it may be a good idea not to make such mistakes during next year’s E3, unless they actually want to be laughed at by hundreds of thousands of people during the gaming industry’s largest and most prolific event.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2017 Coverage Hub.