A whole year has gone by and E3 has rolled around again; just like last year I paid attention to the press conferences. Instead of writing a blog post per conference, like last year, I decided to just write a single post and only talk about the things that I felt were really important to me. The live streamed press conferences were from Bethesda, Microsoft, Electronic Arts (EA), Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo and Square Enix. Two of these press conferences were done by the major platform developers, Microsoft and Sony. Because these two press conferences had some roll over with the others I will not talk about a specific game or item more than once.
I can’t speak about many previous press conferences, because I have not seen them, but when compared to last years press conferences I could see that there was an increased focus on upcoming games, which is impressive because the conferences last year were largely about games. Every company seemed laser focused on talking about all of the games that they have coming out. Since these events are now live streamed to the public, I suspect these companies want to keep their fans happy and they do not seem as concerned about the opinions of the Wall Street Journal and other “mainstream media outlets”. Even the worst offender of last year, Sony, had reduced the amount of time that they spent synergizing.
To Sony’s credit, the very little time they did spent talking about things other than games was about topics of great importance to me. Talking about their À la carte television service and the switching of their music service from PlayStation music to just supporting Spotify on the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately the television service isn’t available in Canada so I will not be able to check it out for myself as of yet.
Both Bethesda and EA seem to be chasing after Blizzard really hard because the parallels between them are uncanny. Both companies talked about expansions to their Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, Elder Scrolls Online and Star Wars The Old Republic, but the thing that really frustrated me was that both of these companies seem to be chasing after Blizzard’s Collectible Card Game (CCG) market. Bethesda and EA are both releasing CCGs set in their own respective intellectual properties, The Elder Scrolls and Star Wars. I have not really seen how Bethesda handles a free to play business model but I already know that EA abuses the Free to Play business model, so I am probably going to be giving the Star Wars CCG a pass and recommend that others do the same.
Doom looked very pretty, but I am hesitant to believe that the game will look like what was shown in this demo. It didn’t seem like a real game play demonstration but I could be completely mistaken. I actually hope that I am incorrect. I like it when games are as good as advertised. Fallout 4, the game that was announced before E3 even began, made an appearance at both the Bethesda and Microsoft Events, keeping up with the perception that Bethesda cares more about the Microsoft crowd than the Sony one. This is a game that looks really impressive and I am looking forward to playing it, I suppose I should probably finish Fallout New Vegas.
Speaking of Microsoft, their press conference displayed quite a lineup of games that are going to be released in 2016. Microsoft also had a large amount of content that I don’t care a lot about because I have never owned a Microsoft console. One of the coolest things that they announced was that they Xbox One was going to have backwards compatibility with the full Xbox 360 lineup, but the developers and publishers of individual games need to sign off on having their game be approved for backwards compatibility. A limited number of titles are going to be available when the feature is launched.
The flip side to supporting older games that have been confirmed to work is the announcement of the Xbox One Game Preview program, which takes the horrible idea of Steam Early Access and brings it to your video game console. Now you too can have the privilege of paying money to be a beta tester and hand over your money for broken and incomplete products. The difference with this service and Steam Early Access is that each player will be able to try the game before they are required to pay for it, so that if a game is horribly broken and doesn’t work, then the player has not been cheated out of their money. This tiny, and logical, improvement may be the thing that changes my mind with Early Access.
The big surprises, for me, was the Dark Souls 3 trailer being at the Microsoft press conference, and the announcement of Microsoft partnering with Valve and the Steam Virtual Reality system, when they had announced a partnership with the Oculus Rift, a competing Virtual Reality system, the week before. I have always associated From Software, the developer of Dark Souls, as a PlayStation focused company, after all two of their most popular titles, Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne have been exclusive to the Sony consoles, but looking at their full development history they have been all over the map. Dark Souls 3 has been confirmed to be a multiplatform title and I will probably play it on my PC anyways so the console turf war won’t even matter.
The breakout game for Microsoft, in my opinion, is Sea of Thieves an upcoming game from Rare. This game came out of nowhere and it is probably one of the coolest looking games I have seen and it has me the most genuinely excited to play it than anything else that was shown in all of the press conferences. Thankfully this is a game that will be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10, so I will be able to play it when the Windows 10 free update rolls out in July.
The only game of note that I can recall from the combined Ubisoft and EA press conferences is the follow up to South Park: The Stick of Truth, cleverly titled, South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Other than that lone game, it was just a collection of previously announced games, another Assassin’s Creed and Just Dance were also announced but those are not really interesting because each of these franchises releases one or sometimes more than one game a year. EA spent a large amount of time talking about their sports franchises, and every so often that would display a graphic reminding you that they are the exclusive developer of all things Star Wars which actually seemed desperate to me. The only game that EA seems to have coming out that I am interested in is Mirrors Edge Catalyst.
Sony’s press conference seemed to be completely about pleasing their fans and nothing was going to be getting in their way. Sony showed demos or trailers for huge games like The Last Guardian, a full remake of Final Fantasy VII, and the announcement of a Shenmue 3 Kickstarter campaign. Sony released the only other new game that I am genuinely excited about, and that is the robot dinosaur hunting Horizon Zero Dawn.
With all of the multiplatform games that Square Enix develops they still seemed to manage to save some surprises for their own press conference. Larger games like Hitman and Rise of the Tomb Raider were shown previously at Sony and Microsoft respectively but they started off by showing a lot of material from the upcoming title Just Cause 3 and what they showed just looks like pure madness and lots of fun to play. Square had some titles that were in such early stages of development that they didn’t have a lot to show like the unnamed new RPG and the follow up to Nier. A focus of Square seems to be the great original games that they are developing for mobile platforms. With the success of Hitman: Go they seem to want to bring that type of game to other franchises with the announcement of Lara Croft Go. Before they showed any footage of Kingdom Hearts III, Square also showed some footage of a Kingdom Hearts mobile game that is currently in development.
The most unique, clever and original press event was the Nintendo Digital Event. The entire event was framed with a skit involving the Nintendo Executives being portrayed as Muppets. The skits were clever, charming and entertaining to watch. Woven between all of these Muppet skits were the announcements of all of the upcoming games. Star Fox Zero was the first game to be announced and was accompanied with Shigeru Miyamoto talking about his ideas for the game. A new Zelda game was announced as well as the announcement of bringing Zelda: Hyrule Warriors to the Nintendo 3DS. Probably the coolest looking game that Nintendo announced was the upcoming Mario and Luigi Paper Jam, a mash-up between the Paper Mario series and the Mario and Luigi series. I can’t want to get my hands on that.
The only negative thing I can say about all of these cool games is that the overwhelming majority of these announcements are for games being released in 2016. I have no idea what to expect for the rest of 2015 but we have games that are on the horizon and will be coming our way soon and we just need to be patient. I can’t want to see what will be coming after this. It is really refreshing to finally see some new ideas and franchises coming instead of the sequel fever that seemed to be weighing down the beginning of this brand new console generation.