The big publisher press briefings have concluded as of today, and while I’m sure there are no doubt a few more announcements that will be made over the coming days as E3 proper begins and comes to a close, the storm has passed and we can now nail down who exactly came out on top in this years battle of the publishers. So first we’ll go over each of the conferences from first to last to get an idea of what happened.
Like every year before, EA had a fairly average conference. There were a lot of sports games to be seen and in between those sports offerings there were a few big AAA titles such as Need for Speed, A Way Out, Star Wars: Battlefront II, and Anthem. As a whole, there was something for everyone. Sports fans get what they want, Star Wars fans got their best look yet at the next Battlefront game which looks spectacular, racing fans get a Need for Speed that looks like it takes cues from Fast and Furious, and if you like cooperative games then A Way Out is probably to your liking. And of course, Bioware fans got their first glimpse of Anthem Bioware’s new shared world action RPG.
So did they stumble? Yes. Overall there was just generally a lack of excitement during the conference. It’s hard to get excited about yet another sports game and of course the wacky comedy duo didn’t help things. Need for Speed, while certainly action packed, didn’t hold my interest and many others seem to share the same sentiment. A Way Out was a surprise and many are certainly excited for it, which is a plus in EA’s favor. However, then there was a lull in the action until Anthem finally showed up, and all we really got a short tease with the promise that a full gameplay reveal would happen on Microsoft’s stage. Way to go EA, you moved one of your most exciting bits out of your own conference. And then it wrapped up with Battlefront II. At first they played a hype trailer which did just that, got everyone mega hyped for Battlefront II which looks like the game we should have gotten before. And then they sat down and played a one-sided multiplayer match that deflated all that hype.
And thus, EA’s conference was average at best. Certainly nothing to watch over and over again.
Microsoft had a lot to show this year. That included 42 games and a brand new console, the Xbox One X formerly known as Project Scorpio. The initial reveal of the Xbox One X was surrounded by thunderous applause and hype. This slowly deflated as game after game was shown and a large chunk of them were indie titles with timed Xbox exclusivity. Forza Motorsport 7 looked stunning, but the fact is that it releases before the Xbox One X, meaning the game you get will not look the same as what you saw if you buy day one. Metro Exodus and Anthem looked more like tech demos than actual games and of course neither of them are actually exclusive to Xbox. Assassin’s Creed: Origins was officially revealed on Microsofts stage, but what we got honestly didn’t look all that different from the Assassin’s Creed games of the past, well, except that it now has a loot system, because you know that everything has to have a loot system these days.
And what of first party? If it weren’t for the fact that they did have a few games on the stage, I’d have said “What third party?” But I obviously can’t say that. Crackdown 3 was finally given a release date of November 7th, 2017, the same day that Xbox One X officially launches. The problem is that the Crackdown 3 trailer did not impress. Don’t get me wrong, it looked like it could be fun, but it felt like something was missing and it certainly didn’t hype. Then it was revealed that State of Decay 2 had slipped into 2018 to join Sea of Thieves which also releases in 2018. So what else does Microsoft have for 2017 other than Forza Motorsport 7 and Crackdown 3? Super Lucky’s Tales. Yep. Needless to say it wasn’t a very enthusiastic part of the conference. And of course they ended the conference by announcing the Xbox One X’s price: $499.99. The price is fairly fitting considering all the power under the X’s hood. It’s far more deserving of that price tag than the Xbox One was, but it still isn’t gonna have an easy time selling. And of course I can only assume that they saved it for last because they hoped that showing off games that utilized the X’s power would make the price more palatable.
The real highlights of Microsofts conference, other than the initial system reveal, were Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest, and OG Xbox backwards compatibility for Xbox One and Xbox One X. So now you’ll have access to the libraries of every single Xbox device, on one console. That is fantastic and I wish Sony offered such comprehensive fanservice. Nintendo can also take a few cues on how to handle selling these old games to consumers rather than cherry-picking titles and not allowing gamers to carry them over to the next platform.
However, despite those highlights, Microsoft had a great beginning and a good back half. But the middle could put someone to sleep. Better than average, but Microsoft really need more first party power to kick things up a notch, like even a glimpse of Halo 6 would have been fine.
Bethesda has had two great E3's in a row. So how did the third one go? Well, it was shorter, and almost made me fall asleep. I’m not sure whose idea it was to host a conference this year, but when the only real substantial reveals you have are The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus? Best to throw those to the big publishers and not spend the money. The first half of Bethesda’s conference was dominated by DLC, Skyrim Switch, VR updates to DOOM and Fallout 4, an expansion for Elder Scrolls Legends, and mentioning The Elder Scrolls Online - Morrowind expansion. I’m sorry, but this was just their worst conference and even Pete Hines, Bethesda Softworks PR guy, looked like he didn’t even want to be there. The Evil Within and Wolfenstein look great, but they are not enough to redeem this conference. And considering they followed up just today with word that The Elder Scrolls VI hasn’t even entered production yet, these two new IP’s that Bethesda Game Studios are working on better be damn good and ready for next year.
And I wish I could stop there, but there’s one more thing to mention: Creation Club. Remember when Bethesda tried to do paid mods in 2015? Yeah, me too, and I remember exactly how it burst into flames within a week due to stolen mods, mods that suddenly went from free to paid because the free versions were pulled or gimped, etc. And now Bethesda has returned for round two, this time with measures in place to prevent mod theft and improve mod compatibility. Commendable. There’s just one problem: The bar is seemingly very high for entry, modders get an initial payment, and gamers buy credits that are then used to purchase the mods. But it gets better, this system will work alongside the free mod systems that we’ve come to know and love like Nexus, Steam Workshop, and even Bethesda’s own mod hub. So what’s stopping people from making their own free versions of paid mods, that are also superior to what the paid version offers? Nothing that’s what. It just feels like a pointless endeavor to me and I’ve already seen people grabbing their torches and pitchforks.
Ubisoft was the beginning of the upswing for E3. Before this I was ready to give up on this year being good because it sucked in comparison to previous years. But then Ubisoft surprised me with a pretty solid conference despite all the leaks they’ve had. They started with Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, an XCOM-esque RPG that I thought I would hate, but now want really, REALLY badly. And of course Miyamoto himself came out on stage with Yves and it was this magical moment that I’m sure probably reminded people of when Miyamoto unveiled The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The passion was clear. And then they followed that up with another Assassin’s Creed demo, The Crew 2, a Steep expansion, a new game called Starlink, more South Park including a mobile game, Far Cry 5 gameplay, and then they came out and announced that the ship combat from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag had been turned into a full-fledged pirate game called Skull & Bones. That was a huge moment that impressed people and it looked really good. They answered fans dreams with that one.
But the real heart of the show? The final reveal of Beyond Good and Evil 2. I never played the first one, but I was really intrigued by the trailer for this one and just the pure heartfelt joy of the creator was enough to convince me that there was something special about all of this. And then I realized that the Ubisoft conference had one thing that the others didn’t: heart. It felt like I was watching a show put on by a tight-knit family that was passionate about what they do and what they want to give people. I loved it.
For the last two years, Sony has had a consistently great E3 showing. Typically one of the best of the show. People even refer to them as the “year of dreams.” So did they do it again? Almost, but not quite. The show was an hour long and Sony did what they did last year, just showed trailer after trailer with no input from developers. Just games, games, games. And what did they show? Uncharted: Lost Legacy, God of War, Days Gone, Detroit: Become Human, some PSVR games, maybe one or two that I can’t think of off the top of my head, Monster Hunter World, and a freaking remake of Shadow of the Colossus. Oh, and they ended with Spider-Man. So out of all those games, what was new? Monster Hunter, Colossus, and the PSVR games. PSVR games are hard to get excited about, but an absolutely gorgeous Monster Hunter game and a freaking remake of Shadow of the Colossus are phenomenal reveals. And yet, it couldn’t stop me and many others from feeling like we’d seen all of this before. Oh wait, we have. We saw almost all of these games last year. The kicker? Other than Uncharted, none of them are releasing in 2017, Detroit didn’t even have a year attached to it. They pulled a Microsoft. The main difference was that they have a higher first party output, but practically all of them are for next year. The fall and holiday of 2017 are practically devoid of Microsoft and Sony titles, probably much to the relief of third parties.
What sucks is that they probably could have had a lot more. Knack 2, Gran Turismo Sport, and a game from the developer of Until Dawn(Different from the one shown during the PSVR portion) were shown off BEFORE the conference. Kingdom Hearts III? Square Enix dropped that trailer over the weekend. Final Fantasy VII Remake? No show. Shenmue III? Skipped E3 to work on the game, no HD remasters announced. Death Stranding? Also skipped E3 due to work on the game. Sucker Punch? They weren’t even mentioned. Danganronpa? Ys? Dragon Quest? Yakuza? DotHack G.U. remaster? All shown separately. This years Sony conference was practically more of the same and it was disappointing.
Nintendo’s E3 Spotlight was all about the Nintendo Switch and man did they deliver. They started off with a good trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 which looks fantastic and will be out in “Holiday 2017.” Then they followed it up with the announcement of a new Switch Kirby game slated for 2018, and then a Switch Yoshi game also slated for 2018, followed by a quick reminded about Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle which everyone is now excited for because it actually looks good. They touched on Skyrim Switch and announced Rocket League for Switch(I thought it was already announced, but maybe I was wrong.). They also revealed all the DLC for Zelda, including DLC Pack 2 which contains the Ballad of the Champions story expansion which is set for “Holiday 2017.” They ended the show with Super Mario Odyssey which is looking spectacular and it is slated to release on October 27th, 2017.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
During the conference, the president of the Pokemon Company appeared and mentioned Pokken Tournament Deluxe, and ya know, in typical fashion that made people think that’s all he was there to talk about. Wrong. He then followed up by announcing that a core Pokemon RPG is in development for the Nintendo Switch. This might have been a last minute video that was made as a response to fan disappointment that the rumored Pokemon Stars was not revealed and that instead we got UltraSun and UltraMoon. This core game is not Stars, and that is a good thing. It’s likely the first Gen 8 Pokemon games. He was quick to say, however, that it will be a year or so until the game releases.
And of course, practically following on that announcements heels, Nintendo finally announced that Metroid Prime 4 is in development for the Nintendo Switch after all these years(Side Note: After the E3 Spotlight video ended, it was announced during the Treehouse segment that a second Metroid game, a remake of Metroid 2, is also in development and will release in September.), though it was nothing more than a teaser with no actual game footage or even CG and no release year was attached, meaning it’s probably still early.
I realize I’m probably gonna get flack because Sony didn’t win, because by all accounts they also had a good conference, but at the same time I could not in good conscience choose between Nintendo and Ubisoft. Ubisoft’s conference was just so full of love and commitment and they had nothing, but great things to show and excited fans all over the place because they made dreams come true. And, according to Yves and Miyamoto, Mario + Rabbids is a partnership that was preordained decades ago when Miyamoto and Yves first met and became friends, finally culminating in this game. So it’s only fitting then that Nintendo had an equally great showing that made dreams come true and gamers everywhere happy. If that E3 Spotlight had been live, I can guarantee you that the sound of applause would have been a lot louder and more consistent than it was at Sony’s conference. Nintendo is back in top form and their pushing Switch hard and fast.
This E3, in my opinion, goes to both Ubisoft and Nintendo, with Sony as the clear runner-up, followed by Microsoft, EA, and Bethesda in that order.