The week of June 14 to June 17 was like Christmas for gamers everywhere. Well mostly for the Western timezones, but us Asians could get in on the action too if we didn’t mind sacrificing sleep. It was the week of the Electronic Entertainment Expo – E3 for short – and Day Zero gave us a great mix of tidbits and major announcements that has us looking forward to the coming months and the years to follow.
This year’s E3 had not just the big three making their presence felt, but NINE factions announcing their brands of electronic entertainment goods, each trying to make a more impressive statement than the rest. Following Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo’s footsteps are Bethesda, Oculus, EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and the collective PC industry. For the first time, PC publishers gathered under the PC Gamer banner (technically under Future plc) to talk about the future of the platform.
Okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves: so how did they all fare presentation-wise?
A New Challenger Has Arrived! (A Bunch Of ‘Em)
Let’s start with the E3 “new blood”: Bethesda, Square Enix, Oculus, and PC gaming. They are hardly new to the games industry, but new to the public presentation trade.
Oculus was a precursor for things to come; the appetizer to the visual buffet of explosions and gameplay montages. We got to witness a consumer version of the headset, a huge list of upcoming games compatible with the device, ranging from CCP’s Eve Valkyrie to Insomniac Games’ lovely-yet-scary-looking Edge of Nowhere, and a partnership in motion between Microsoft Xbox and the VR company. It was full of pizzaz, but of a subdued kind, rather than the bombastic no-holds-barred kind – which we’ll get to later.
Bethesda did very good for its first-ever public conference. We got a sneak peek at the fast-paced action of Doom 4 with a surprising amount of gore and brown shades, and the reassurance of a Dishonored 2 featuring the little girl from the first game all-grown up and kicking all kinds of ass. We even got a reveal of an Elder Scrolls card game (Elder Scrolls: Legends), obviously inspired by online fares like Hearthstone and Scrolls.
But everyone was looking for news of Fallout 4, and Bethesda delivered. The extensive Fallout 4 preview hit all the right notes: the showcasing of new features, teases at the beginning without spoilers, and a combat montage playing to the beat of a 30s jingle. All presented with an energy provided by Head of Marketing/PR Pete Hines and Game Director Todd Howard.
The PC Gaming Show was full of information and juicy reveals, our only issue being that it went on longer than it should have. PC luminaries like DayZ creator Dean Hall, Bohemia Interactive, and show sponsor AMD had their say talking about developer problems, new expansions to their franchises, and new graphic cards; the bread and butter of any presentation and talk show-style conference about PCs.
The show did wear out its welcome after 40 minutes but kudos to Sean “Day9” Plott for livening things up with his presence and emceeing. Good effort guys; you just need to work on your pacing.
The only company whose presentation delivery did not do their content any justice was Square-Enix. Sticking to the more traditional format of presenting (akin to what was done in 2010 and 2011), Square-Enix had its top guys and producers go out one-by-one and deliver their points like robots.
These guys made a Just Cause 3 presentation boring as hell; that takes a lot of effort. But the line up they announced were the roses among the thorns: a second NieR is in the works with co-development handled by Platinum Games (the Bayonetta 2 developers) and there was more footage of Kingdom Hearts III. Still no release date but we’ll take what we can get.
Perhaps they should have taken a cue from Nintendo and opted for a direct-to-video scripted presentation?
But How Did The Big Three Fare?
…is the big question you may be asking.
Microsoft went through their usual triple-A checklist of games and while they cribbed off Sony’s indie presentation to showcase their own indie offerings, Beyond Eyes and Cuphead are two indie titles we’re definitely looking forward to. Their line-up brings gems that will appease their core fans – shooter titles Halo 5 Guardians and Gears of War 4, the sixth Forza title, Rare hocking out their old games in a single collection & showing off their new IP; and a new Tomb Raider game locked as a timed exclusive. Our personal favorite? A Keiji Inafune & the Metroid Prime team-led project called Recore.
After a lacklustre two years, Microsoft has improved tremendously, their big win for the Xbox One being their backwards compatibility program with Xbox360 games, happening throughout this year. It was a showcase of killers with little room for fillers.
It should also be noted that Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, had a busy E3, going from Oculus to the PC Gaming Show to make sure the Windows 10 and Xbox One cross-platform dream is realized to the fullest. Hats off to him.
With two great press conference showings in 2013 and 2014, how did Sony intend to follow up on this momentum? Simple: drop a bunch of megaton bombs. A Shenmue 3 Kickstarter announced on-stage, a Final Fantasy VII remake requested/ begged for by fans of the series since forever, a peek at the Last Guardian with a long-awaited release window of 2016. All of this topped off with a bunch of exciting new IPs like the unique-looking Horizon from Guerilla Games and an interactive game creation from the Media Molecule developers.
That stuff the latter company had to come up with that game idea? We want 10 of that. Joking aside, Sony did very, very good.
Nintendo’s E3-specific video presentation exuberated plenty of charm, but there wasn’t much content to get wowed about save for a new Starfox game and the much-anticipated Xenoblade Chronicles X getting a Western release date. A charming personality isn’t much if you don’t have anything else concrete and mind-blowing to show, and Nintendo was dangerously skirting that line between showing off substance and displaying fluff we knew about last year.
We wagered that a number of viewers tuned out when Nintendo president said that NX console news will only be dished out in 2016. However, with everything Nintendo presented being cute and fluffy amidst the gore and explosions from other companies, it was hard not to embrace this positive change of pace. Especially when one of the Big N’s previews include a slew of Yoshi clones made out of yarn.
The one moment we should point out was during the Skylanders/Nintendo Amiibo collaboration segment where Activision said that it was easy working with Nintendo to go “all the way” with the company’s trademark characters. If only other companies could afford this show of transparency.
The Rest Of The Pack
EA did the expected; it pulled off a major showcase of what its target audience expect plus one or two doses of oddities like Unraveled and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst to shake things up even for a tiny bit. Otherwise, the company maintained its status quo at targeting its sports fans and those waiting to see a sliver of Star Wars Battlefront. Business as usual.
Ubisoft did the same, but at least the French-based company put in the most effort with mixing in its casual fares with mainstream-type reveals: standouts were a new Ghost Recon with a focus on drug cartel-busting and open world, and a new IP called For Honor, which focuses on third-person melee swordfighting. Obligatory Just Dance showcase and appearance of Aisha Tyler livening things up meant there was something for everyone.
All In All
Despite a few stumbling blocks, we as gamers and supporters of the medium are all winners. E3 2015 marks a shifting tide from the old generation to new generation. With backward-compatibility pitches, new IPs that showcase the power of their specific platforms and allegiances, virtual reality, and PC gaming getting its on-stage E3 debut, it’s hard not to be really excited about the near future…
We cheered, we smiled, we even got near heart-attacks from certain announcements that we thought would never come true but did. Isn’t that what a giant video game convention media briefing is all about in the end: big promises and dreams of a gaming future that may come true for the benefit of everyone regardless of hardcore levels, race, country, and platform allegiances?
More Points To Ponder
- The big dark horse this E3 was not any of the big publishers’ press conferences; that honor goes to Platinum Games. The makers of Bayonetta had not one secret project announced, but THREE, and they are all currently the talk of the town: the cel-shaded Transformers beat-em-up, Starfox Zero (revealed during Nintendo’s Treehouse video session), and the next NieR game. We do hope they go places.
- There were a lot of women going up on-stage presenting and talking about their works. This is a lovely sea of change that should be the standard for future conventions and game-related expos to come. It’s reassuring to know that Oscar-winning actress Angela Basset wishes to lend her vocal chops for a Rainbow Six game and talk about it with Lana from Archer.
- The less said about Peter Moore’s abrupt EA service shilling during Microsoft’s presentation, the better.
- It had to be said: seeing Shenmue 3’s Kickstarter announced during Sony’s presentation proved that it’s nice to live in a time where gamers can still vote with their dollars and get closure with a series they hold dear.
- Still no Half-Life 3 though. We’re looking at you, Gamescom. And 2016. And 2017.