In the Limelight

Another year down, and another E3 complete. What is still essentially “video game Christmas” managed to be an absolute onslaught of new content being announced from the biggest developers and publishers in the business. So let’s get right down to it – how did everyone actually do this year?

Electronic Arts – C+
For many, EA’s predictability means they feel safe; they know what games will be coming out every year, especially when it comes to sports and shooter titles. But it doesn’t make for a good presentation. EA had a lengthy presser this year where very little in the way of actual new content was announced – the only big one was Anthem, from BioWare, and that only got so much as a little teaser here. The company chose to save the full gameplay trailer for the next day, instead. We saw a lot of Star Wars: Battlefront II, which was okay (though they only showed off multiplayer instead of single player story stuff that people have been clamoring for), as well as snippets from their various big sports franchises. EA knows what works for them, and they’re obviously successful at it – but it made for a painfully dull and completely predictable press conference.

Microsoft – B-
Microsoft had what I would call the single most “traditional” E3 presser this year. They brought up a bunch of developers and representatives from the company to discuss upcoming hardware and software. They debuted the Xbox One X (previously referred to as the Scorpio), which is… not a name I would have chosen, but okay. The console itself is being hailed as the “most powerful home console ever,” and its certainly got the tech to back up that claim – unfortunately for Microsoft, putting it at a $499 price point ($100 more than the PS4 Pro, their main competition), will hinder it a bit.

Microsoft has also struggled in recent years to get a healthy library of console exclusives. Many of the “exclusive” games shown off at the presser are also going to be available on a Windows 10 PC, meaning that people who have a good gaming PC rig will have no reason to go out and buy an Xbox console. One of their bigger exclusive franchises, Forza Motorsport, was shown off by having actual race car drivers play the game (neither of whom seemed like they wanted to be there) and by showing off an actual new Porsche. It was just a little over the top, a little too bombastic with no actual gaming content. There were a lot of games shown off at this conference though, and while many of them are not exclusive to Microsoft, it still provided a good look at a lot of things worth getting excited about.

While a few new games got their world premiere at this show (namely Metro Exodus and Assassin’s Creed: Origins), Microsoft’s presser largely proved that they continue to struggle to find a solid foothold in this generation. They are still playing catch-up to Sony as far as the console sales are concerned, and there wasn’t anything in this press conference to boost consumer confidence in regards to buying an Xbox One over another available console.

Bethesda – B-
Look, I love Bethesda games. I’ve put more hours into the likes of Skyrim and Fallout than I’d ever really care to admit. But this presentation was largely a disappointment. Much as I enjoyed the framing of the conference itself – the “Bethesdaland” stuff was witty and clever – there wasn’t enough actual new gaming content to really warrant a full press conference.

What we’re mostly getting is add-on content to existing games (Dishonored 2: Death of the Outsider, Elder Scrolls Legends: Heroes of Skyrim, etc.) and a couple of ports of big games to virtual reality headsets (Fallout 4 VR, DOOM VFR). Only two entirely new games were announced, with The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Both of those genuinely look really good, but neither of them were what the fans were hoping for – namely, a new Elder Scrolls title.

Ubisoft – A
I was pleasantly surprised by Ubisoft this year. The company managed to show off their range as far as gameplay styles and genres are concerned. They opened on Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, a Nintendo Switch exclusive, which also managed to provide one of the more fun moments of any presentation when Shigeru Miyamoto himself took the stage to discuss the game (and pose with some fun props).

Some big entirely brand new titles announced were The Crew 2, a huge open-world racing game; Skull & Bones, a pirate adventure that can be played with friends; Transference, a truly creepy virtual reality experience; and Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which looks like what would happen if you slammed together No Man’s Sky with Skylanders.

Other major Ubisoft titles that had already been announced were Assassin’s Creed: Origins, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and Far Cry 5, all of which got big time trailers and gameplay demonstrations at the show.

But by far the best moment of their presentation (and perhaps one of the best of E3, period) was the reveal of Beyond Good and Evil 2, a prequel to the cult-classic hit. Michael Ancel, the game’s director, was clearly visibly moved by the reception the trailer got, and after struggling to get this game made for more than a decade, he deserves the praise.

Sony – B+
There was a ton of content in Sony’s E3 presentation, but I think the sticking point for me was the fact that some of their biggest titles won’t even be seen in stores this year. Sure, some of their big first-party titles are getting big-time expansions (Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds), but most of the new stuff shown won’t be arriving until 2018.

There was a good bit of new content announced for PlayStation VR (good news for those who spent several hundred dollars on that thing), including Skyrim VR, Final Fantasy XV: Monster of the Deep, and The Inpatient. It’s nice to see a company as large as Sony promote virtual reality as a truly legitimate form of video gaming, especially when it’s still so remarkably niche.

There was a lot to look forward to from this presser – Shadow of the Colossus getting a full remaster, Spider-Man looking excellent, God of War looking fresh – but none of those are headed our way until 2018, so it’s hard to get excited about them yet. The fact that Sony’s press conference really ended up boiling down to “an hour of trailers with cheering” didn’t help them here, either.

Nintendo – A-
Once again Nintendo decided to forego the typical stage presentation and opted for a pre-recorded one instead with their “Nintendo Spotlight,” which focused entirely on content coming to the Switch. They just briefly touched on big summer releases like Arms, Pokken Tournament, and Splatoon 2 and instead looked further into 2017’s release schedule.

Fortunately, everything looks really good. Xenoblade Chronicles 2, the only JRPG featured by any of the pressers this year, looks to be continuing that series’ standard of success; Fire Emblem Warriors is a fairly standard twist on regular Dynasty Warriors gameplay that focuses on some of the most popular characters in the Fire Emblem franchise today; and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s DLC packs finally got detailed. Plus, Super Mario Odyssey is coming out in October, and it looks really, really good.

Nintendo had originally said that the Spotlight would only be focusing on 2017 titles, but we did get a couple things to look forward to in 2018 and beyond. New Kirby and Yoshi titles made their debut, and both of those look delightful. Metroid Prime 4 was announced, sending the internet into a tizzy. And a “core Pokemon RPG” is in the works for the Switch as well.

Basically, Nintendo did exactly what they needed to do with this presentation – they needed to formalize their plans for the remainder of the year and then start planning out a roadmap for 2018 so that Switch owners could feel as confident as possible with their purchase. My gripe here is that they chose to save big 3DS announcements, like Metroid: Samus Returns, for the Treehouse show that followed. I think a bigger splash could have been made if they included 3DS things in the Spotlight.

Overall, it was a really good year. As a big gamer myself, this year’s E3 has given me a lot to look forward to on all of the platforms that I play on. Here’s hoping everything releases on time and with no game-breaking bugs!

-Carrie Wood