It’s once more the most Videogamest time of year!
Regular readers will know that I’m hugely into following videogame news, and E3 is the Christmas of videogame news, so I get very excited indeed every time it rolls around. The festivities commence in just over a week, but before that here’s my vague rambling about the state of the industry and what we can expect/ what I’m hoping for.
The press conferences (or “pressers”, according to journalism outlets) are split into the three console manufactorers (Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft), which are seen as the main event in a lot of ways, and slightly smaller conferences hosted by major publishers like Ubisoft and EA. This year they’re joined by Bethesda, who typically doesn’t go in for such a lavish E3 presence because they release comparatively fewer games on a longer timescale. The fact that they’re spending the money to put on a conference means they’ve likely been sitting on a lot of announcements.
We already know what two of those are: Fallout 4, which got a trailer a few days ago and which will likely be shown more in-depth, and the Doom reboot, which thus far has been kept pretty tightly under wraps apart from a Comic-con video a while back. I have almost no interest in Doom as a franchise, but the Bethesda-published Wolfenstein reboot ended up being surprisingly compelling, so I’ll likely check it out.
The actual reason I’m excited about Bethesda’s conference is because of the tantalizing promise of a sequel to Dishonored. The first game is one of my top ten all time favourites, and I would absolutely love to play another one. The current pre-E3 rumours indicate that Dishonored 2 isn’t ready for a gameplay unveiling yet, but we might get a basic announcement/a CG trailer. There have also been steady rumblings about some sort of “enhanced” re-release of the first game for current-gen consoles to tide people over. I’m not entirely sure what that would actually consist of in terms of graphical updates, so I’m taking it with a grain of salt for now.
Final Fantasy XV will apparently not be coming to E3 this year (they’re saving it for the Tokyo Game Show, probably because it will have far less competition for people’s attention there), but Square Enix will be showing off the awkwardly titled Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
Some day I should write a post on Human Revolution- I liked it a lot but also had major problems with aspects of its storytelling. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel in the hope that it will play just as well and be better written, so getting a proper look at it will likely be one of my E3 highlights.
Microsoft and Sony
The race between the Big Two console players seems to have mostly settled, with Sony taking a clear but not overwhelming lead. Despite a lot of hand-wringing at the end of the last generation over the continuing viability of consoles, it’s clear that there is in fact a market for both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4.
Microsoft has had to make a lot of mea culpas by walking back their more unpopular decisions, a no-doubt painful process that seems to finally be complete; this is the first E3 since the Xbone’s launch that they haven’t gone into needing to aggressively win back their audience, and I’m curious to see what they do with that clean slate. We’re apparently going to see a new Gears of War, but that doesn’t personally interest me, which just leaves the usual slew of multi-platform games that Microsoft always seems to trade in. I’m quite looking forward to finally seeing substantial gameplay of the new Tomb Raider, even if it is sort-of-bot-not-really exclusive to a console I don’t own.
As for Sony, I expect them to keep doing what they’ve been doing: a big focus on indie games (hopefully including Rime, a very promising-looking game that’s been in development for a while, along with the timed exclusive No Man’s Sky) and a few heavy-hitter announcements. A leak* has revealed the existence of Dark Souls 3, which may be officially unveiled at the Sony Conference since that franchise has always had a certain brand connection to Playstation.
Might this be the year where The Last Guardian is finally re-introduced? Sony has consistently and loudly insisted that the game is still in active development, even renewing its trademark a few months back after it was accidentally allowed to lapse. The common assumption is that it vanished so it could be re-engineered for the ground up for the PS4, which has now been out for several years. If they really do intend to finish this game at some point, they have to show it to people fairly soon.
I’m also looking forward to seeing more of Persona 5; if it’s going to show up at all it will almost certainly be at the Sony conference, since it’s a playstation exclusive.
*Nintendo is the only company that seems to be able to reliably stop their E3 announcements from getting out two weeks in advance
PC games have always had a bit of an odd relationship with E3. There’s no single PC manufacturer to host a conference, and cross-platform games tend to get snapped up by one of the Big Two and showcased in a way that highlights the version on their particular platform. E3 tends not to be a place for PC exclusives; there just isn’t a venue there to unveil them with a big splash.
Except this year, where there totally is! AMD and PCGamer are putting together a PC-only conference, made up of a bunch of developers and creators. I think this is a cool idea, even if it’s not entirely clear that we can expect to see at it. 2K recently announced XCOM 2 as a PC exclusive, and I’d bet money that will be featured prominently, but other than that, who knows?
Nintendo recently confirmed the existence and code name of their next hardware platform, the “NX”. Alongside the NX they are working on the following things:
- A new Zelda game for the Wii U
- Mobile games in partnership with DeNA
- Some kind of quality of life product focusing on sleep or something
Here’s the catch: we have confirmation that none of these will be shown during their E3 livestream, which begs the question of what the fuck they are going to talk about. The new Starfox they sort-of announced last year? Probably, but that’s not going to carry them through the dry spells between now and Zelda’s release, or indeed between the release of Zelda and the NX, which is likely at least two years away.
Nintendo is an extremely unenviable position right now. They’ve recovered profitability, but the Wii U is destined to be seen as a failure; the announcement of the NX has effectively killed the console in a lot of people’s minds. Splatoon recently confirmed that a good, creative Wii U exclusive can still generate buzz, and they’re going to need more than one to counteract the pall of death hanging over their console.
Over the last two generations’s worth of E3s Nintendo have ridden triumphantly into the show on clouds of money and shuffled on-stage like a convict heading for the gallows, often on consecutive years. This year’s show doesn’t coincide with their most tenuous position yet (that was probably the one after the launch of the Wii U, when the console was hemorrhaging money), but they’re wandering in a desert right now and I’d really like to see them find a way out.