With the release of Prey, DOOM, and Dishonored 2 within the last year, Bethesda has proven that it is more than just a one (or perhaps more accurately, two) trick pony that only knows how to create Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. This year, at E3 2017, it is once again up to Bethesda to show gamers everywhere that it is a slow but irresistible force that focuses on delivering fairly unique, high quality experiences that you can’t find anywhere else, even if you must wait months or even years between releases.
Fortunately enough for those who just can’t wait to see what Bethesda has in store for their E3 conference, their showcase invitation has quite a number of not so hidden clues about what they’ll be putting on display. It also serves as a bit of a reminder that Bethesda, being relatively “controversy” free, has quite an advantage over virtually every other non-exclusive developer who is going to be at E3 2017, what with EA being popularly viewed as the microtransaction devil and Ubisoft being considered to be the worst non-American developer and all.
Unfortunately, Bethesda is not widely known for developing or publishing a large number of games per year, which means that there will be greater scrutiny on each individual game or major announcement in their presentation. While other presenters can try to anticipate what parts of their conference will fall short and throw in something right after to try to impress the crowd, every single aspect of Bethesda’s E3 conference must resonate with the audience if they wish to win the adoration of the Internet, and thus, win E3.
That this is the situation that Bethesda is in makes it rather odd that Bethesda’s VP of PR and Marketing, Pete Hines, has explicitly stated that The Elder Scrolls: Legends is going to be part of Bethesda’s E3 2017 presentation. Showing off a card game at E3 when everyone else is presenting “super action packed” games like Star Wars: Battlefront 2 or Call of Duty: WWII is a rather risky move, but Bethesda seems committed to promoting their new(ish) free to play card game whenever and wherever they can (you can read more about it here). In any case, the main problem with card games is that they simply don’t have the ability to appeal to a general audience in the same way that an FPS does, which is hardly much of a surprise, but Bethesda could potentially turn this fact around if they play their cards right (pun not intended).
Given that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is still a very popular game despite its age, perhaps it would be a good—if obvious—idea to lead into Legends with a Skyrim themed expansion pack. While Legends enjoyed an uptick in popularity thanks to its recent Steam release, E3 2017 gives Bethesda a chance to reach an even larger audience, but only if they can drive the point home that Legends is part of the same franchise that Skyrim is part of. The best case scenario is that Bethesda pulls off a Fallout Shelter-esque presentation for Legends whereby they say that you can play the Skyrim expansion the night of the presentation, but this may not be realistically possible. The importance of being able to link Skyrim to Legends cannot be understated though, seeing as how there is a seven year gap between the releases of Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, and a five year gap between the releases of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Skyrim; any new games in these franchises will not be coming anytime soon, no matter how much you pray to/how many sacrificial offerings you make to Todd Howard, but pleasant surprises are always nice.
Similarly, while it would be fun to tear demons apart with your bare hands again, DOOM’s developer, id Software, is currently working on Quake Champions. If someone from id Software got on the stage, said “We’re working on DOOM 2,” and then got off the stage while doing some kind of jig, that would already be more than what can be realistically expected. On the bright side, at least you’ll probably be able to play DOOM 2 before humans actually colonize Mars, so there’s that, right? That being said, Quake Champions has a chance to impress if Bethesda can woo audiences with the same kind of gameplay trailer that DOOM enjoyed at E3 2015. Everyone loves gratuitous violence and all, so Quake Champions should be a rather safe “anchor” for the entire presentation if nothing else manages to connect with the audience.
Speaking of safe bets, Arkane Studios may have just released Prey, but that doesn’t mean that parts of the development team couldn’t have been working on Dishonored 2 DLC at the same time. There’s also the fact that the first story based DLC for the first Dishonored was released roughly seven months after the game’s release, and it just so happens to be close to seven months since Dishonored 2’s release. It certainly doesn’t hurt that there’s allegedly a beta testing CD key in Steam’s database for something called “Blacksparrow,” though in all fairness it could just be Dishonored 2’s pre-release project name. A Prey DLC announcement would likely be received well but considering how the game came out a month ago, DLC is probably not going to come out anytime soon, and even if it is, it’s unlikely going to be substantial story based DLC.
A good E3 presentation can’t revolve around card games and DLCs, however, so it may be interesting to note that while MachineGames’ reboot of the Nazi-slaying simulator that is Wolfenstein proved to be a critical and commercial success, the developer has been rather quiet lately. Considering that it took four years to develop Wolfenstein: The New Order and one year to release Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, it isn’t that much of a stretch to think that a new Wolfenstein is in the works. Coincidentally, a new Wolfenstein could steal some thunder away from Call of Duty: WWII, if Bethesda’s feeling lucky anyways, but it would depend entirely on how ridiculous this hypothetical new Wolfenstein would be. There is a time and place for more serious games of course, but Wolfenstein has historically been rather light hearted considering its subject, and being able to show an over the top gameplay trailer would, practically by default, allow the game to stand out among its E3 peers.
And what E3 presentation would be complete without something completely unexpected? If you look at the list of games that Bethesda has published over the past decade, though, you will notice that there are quite a number of games on there that people have more or less forgotten about by now, whether it be due to time or mediocre reviews. However, there is one game that stands out from the rest in that it was fairly well-received, and the possibility of it having a sequel has yet to be explicitly squashed, and that is The Evil Within. Given the recent uptick in horror game releases, Bethesda may want to get in on the action by offering a superior product to all the usual jump-scare games, though Bethesda could just tease a new IP instead, which would be rather refreshing (and frankly, probably for the best) considering the large number of sequels that are going to be at E3 2017.
Bethesda may not be able to shock audiences with a new console or somesuch, but they can, for now at least, concentrate on their greatest strength: their relatively pristine reputation. Developers like EA and Ubisoft may have a harder time winning E3 2017 due to how certain vocal people perceive the quality of their sequels, but Bethesda is in a somewhat unique position in that people seem to actually want them to make sequels of certain games. By building upon this, Bethesda can win not just this E3 but also future E3 events, as they can use their name to push both the games that everyone is waiting for and the games that people would otherwise have no expectations of.