It’s that magical time of year again, the week where the biggest companies in the gaming industry start trotting out their best and brightest new projects for the world to look at. From Bethesda to Sony, everyone who is anyone is going to try to pull off that perfect E3 presentation that will drum up excitement from gamers new and old. Some may succeed, and for the next few weeks or so, everyone will be busy speculating about the next potential Game of the Year.
Of course, we can’t all be perfect, and some things sound way better in rehearsal than they do in front of an audience of millions. However, some presentations fall flat because someone decided that it would be a brilliant idea to basically run a marathon while wearing a blindfold. This year, at E3 2018, there were a few big-name stinkers that, like a fiery car crash, are irresistibly bad to the point that they may even be amusing.
Historically, Microsoft’s E3 presentations could be considered fairly average to a bit above average. They typically didn’t steal the show, but they were solid and to-the-point showings that gave fans a reason to be excited for one or two games and then that was more or less about it. This year, Microsoft basically said: “Screw that, we’re showing off every game under the sun for the next year and a half.” You’ve got sequels to some of the most recognizable titles in gaming history like Gears of War 5, Crackdown 3, Halo Infinite, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider leading the announcement blitzkrieg, and that’s barely scratching the surface. Want to see third party AAA games like Fallout 76? Go look at Metro: Exodus and The Division 2 while you’re at it. How about turning your dreams of Kingdom Hearts 3 and Cyberpunk 2077 into a reality? “Sure, why not,” says Phil Spencer, “I’m going to spoil you harder than a trust fund kid.”
All in all, there were somewhere around 30 substantial announcements that came from the Microsoft E3 conference, just under a third of which are probably going to be Xbox exclusives or possess Xbox exclusive features. Needless to say, if you were an Xbox fan before or wanted to consider signing up for something like Game Pass, Microsoft made a very strong case for it at at E3 2018.
Bethesda rose to fame for their ability to make you sink hundreds of hours into their games without realizing it, and this ability apparently translates to real life. Their conference was not brief by any stretch of the imagination, and one could argue that if you were to cut all the (somewhat painful to sit through) filler stuff out of the presentation it would only be half as long, but by the end, it would be safe to say that most people were reasonably satisfied. True, no one knows exactly how Fallout 76’s single player component will work (or mods, or Creation Club), and The Elder Scrolls VI announcement was hardly much of an announcement when it was literally just the debut of the title (not even the subtitle mind you), but Bethesda undoubtedly got people talking.
Even if Fallout 76 turns out to be a purely multiplayer game filled with degenerate griefers, you’ve got DOOM Eternal, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Starfield, Rage 2, and Prey: Mooncrash for your somewhat immediate long term singleplayer needs. In terms of raw announcement quality, there is little doubt that Bethesda’s E3 presentation knocked it out of the park this year, and it certainly didn’t hurt that at least some of the filler material (i.e. Skyrim: Very Special Edition) and small quips about Walmart was quite entertaining.
Honorable mention – Todd Howard
Based on his E3 appearance, Todd Howard’s Charisma stat is probably set to 30. The man was making a mobile Elder Scrolls RPG sound appealing when in all likelihood it’s just going to cause a record number of phone battery explosions. Trying to sell Fallout: 76 to overly zealous fans of the franchise on the other hand is going to be a whole other issue.
After an eccentric E3 2017 conference, no one really knew what to expect from Devolver Digital other than another crazy presentation. To no one’s surprise, Devolver did just that. As far as entertainment value goes, Devolver Digital’s E3 conference was quite amusing, perhaps not for everyone, but definitely worth watching for the Lootboxcoins announcement alone. Also, some games were announced. Oh and SCUM looked cool, if you ever wanted a game that lets you re-enact your wildest Hunger Games/The Most Dangerous Game fantasies.
Putting aside the traditional Ubisoft song and dance segment (which, at this point, is starting to get somewhat endearing), there was little to complain about. Sure, a ton of the games announced at the conference were sequels, but at least Ubisoft did a good job of making the games look promising. For example, Skull and Bones is basically a modernized version of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, but the way that Ubisoft presented it made it seem like the pirate game that everyone wants. Massive ship battles, broadsides everywhere, pirates, what’s not to like? Simple, but effective. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Beyond Good and Evil 2 trailer was unique without being too crazy, offered just enough information to keep you on the edge of your seat for the next big announcement, and even had a bit of a plot twist at the end. Plus, seeing an excited Miyamoto is always a treat. A solid E3 conference for Ubisoft all around, perhaps even their best yet.
While the PC Gaming E3 conferences have rarely been considered must-watch events, this year was a very solid year. As far as the presentation was concerned, it was very to the point and even quite fun to watch at times, with a good number of announcements that showed off something for everyone regardless of your gaming preferences. There weren’t any bombshell debuts, but there weren’t any real stinkers either. Needless to say, the Star Citizen announcement should be treated with heavy skepticism, but other than that, everything else from Just Cause 4 to Don’t Starve Hamlet to Ooblets and even the VR games (though the price tag associated with VR is still quite discouraging) looked like they could be genuinely fun games to play.
While Microsoft was evidently focused on the sheer quantity of announcements, Sony devoted all of their efforts to the quality of each individual announcement. Generally speaking, there were some fairly in-depth presentations for the games shown off at the Sony conference. Unsurprisingly, the heavy hitters of the show were The Last of Us Part II and Death Stranding, both of which left audiences wanting more. People still don’t really know what’s going on in Death Stranding, but it should be seen as a good sign that people are interested in the game based primarily on the fact that Kojima is involved in it. Very strong conference overall, hampered only by technical issues that may as well be a yearly tradition for Sony at this point.
It is quite fortunate that Nintendo traditionally has their conference near the end of E3. After all, it can be quite tiresome to get bombarded by one major announcement after another, all of which focus on the same things: cutting edge graphics, revolutionary gameplay, and so on and so forth, filled with buzzwords that are presumably impressive to investors and other fancy-suit people. By comparison, Nintendo’s presentations possess a far more relaxed atmosphere. Practically every game shown off at the conference had cartoonish aesthetics in some form or another or were party games that you could play with your friends. Of course, it certainly didn’t hurt that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stole the show by revealing the fact that the game features every character ever (except Waluigi).
Almost a Winner
EA Play started off decently with a new Battlefield V trailer that showed off some of the more interesting parts of DICE’s trip back to World War 2, but if you missed the trailer, the only notable things to take away from the Battlefield V segment itself was that it was incredibly short and that the game is going to have a battle royale mode (undoubtedly to the chagrin of some). EA undoubtedly missed an opportunity to put the fears of longtime fans of the franchise to rest after the game’s controversial debut trailer, but at this point the less that is said by EA regarding the issue, the better.
Fortunately, the rest of the conference went by relatively smoothly, featuring a mix of AAA heavy hitters and smaller, more welcoming games. Unravel Two and Sea of Solitude both looked like charming little adventures that you can pick up and play with your friends, and if it weren’t for the fact that they debuted at EA Play, you’d probably forget that EA had anything to do with the games at all. Anthem’s appearance was rather run of the mill, but considering its genre, that is to be expected. The biggest teaser came from a small interview with Vince Zampella of Respawn (the developers of Titanfall and Titanfall 2) who revealed that they were working on a Star Wars game that is going to take place between Episode III and IV, though little more was said.
Other than that, a relatively safe conference for EA, and somewhat mediocre and perhaps even boring by most standards, but considering EA’s reputation, EA Play 2018 was an astounding success.
There is beauty in brevity, but someone at Square Enix apparently took this saying a bit too literally. The entire conference was over within the span of half an hour, and most of the information that came from the presentation wasn’t of the variety that would cause people to lose all sense of self control and rush to preorder random things. In all fairness though, at least Square Enix didn’t fill their conference full of boring and or awkward filler material.
Sony’s audio team
One would think that a company like Sony would be able to avoid major audio issues at the most prolific gaming event of the year at least two years in a row, but alas this is evidently not the case. On the bright side, at least the stage looked nice.
At the end of the day, when you put aside the factionalism and petty rivalries that inevitably rise up during E3, the real winners are the consumers, gamers like you and me (disregard how cliched that may sound). Competition is always a good thing, and for the next two years, there is going to be a ton of competition between all the major developers and publishers as they try to make their game the next big game to play. Regardless of your gaming preferences, there’s going to be something for everyone, and who knows, we may even be at the dawn of a new age of gaming if this year’s E3 is any indicator.