E3 2017 was probably one of the most middle-of-the-road E3’s we have had in years and I don’t mean that as an entirely bad thing. While I wouldn’t say any of the press conferences were a clear “winner” of this year’s E3, all of them were quality contenders, which isn’t something I can remember EVER saying with an E3. While people often debate about who won, usually determining the loser is far easier and this year, I just don’t think there really was one.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from this year’s E3.
A Way Out
While EA’s was easily the most boring press conference of the show, I have to give them credit for giving us a relatively large look at what is my Game of the Show for this year, A Way Out.
This game from the developer of the phenomenal game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons looks to bring back local co-op in a big way. Demoers have said this is far from just a multiplayer Telltale game as they have referred to the numerous methods for solving problems and allowing players to fail by giving their actions real consequences.
Not only was the game exciting but like the rest of EA’s conference, we got to see some real gameplay for the game and can expect it early next year.
Expansions vs DLC
While you can always rank individual announcements and games from each year’s E3, sometimes the most interesting details are more subtle. This year, I noticed something subtle that almost every company except Nintendo participated in: they used the term “Expansion” and not “DLC”.
While this could prove to just be a terminology reaction to the growing distaste for DLC, I think it could mean something more. In the coming years, we could be seeing a return to the older style of creating large, meaningful expansion packs rather than piecemeal DLC that add little bite-sized chunks for mass consumption.
The announced DLC seems to support that with Battlefield 1: In The Name of the Tsar being a large expansion containing not only new maps but new weapons, a new faction and a new class of soldier. Steep announced Road to the Olympics which doesn’t just add new areas to play in but seems to be creating a whole competitive side to the game that previously was more for sandbox players only.
These are substantial upgrades that make core changes to the gameplay of the base game rather than simply adding more of the same. Both methods have their merits and sometimes, more of the same is exactly what you want. Still, I think this method is helpful for the industry and I’m excited to see how the player base responds to more premium DLC in the future.
Xbox One X and the Console Iteration
2016 was an interesting year as it introduced a new idea to the console gaming industry: console iterations. Basically, rather than creating a whole new console generation every 4-6 years, they would create a central platform or brand that they would then iterate in smaller doses every couple of years. Xbox One comes out and then, a few years later, the Xbox One X comes out, keeping the same format of games but running them better. Next, they would come out with the Xbox One Z (or whatever) which maybe would play games along with the Xbox One X but it would make the original Xbox One obsolete. So on and so forth, slowly eliminating the very idea of gaming generations in favor of a central gaming brand that constantly evolves.
We could devote a whole feature to talking about the pros and cons of this change but the fact is that console makers and game developers seem to want it while consumers have not been responding favorably thus far. The fact is, despite technology wanting to move everyone up to 4K resolutions, people haven’t adopted the tech as rapidly as the industry wants. So basing a console entirely around its 4K capabilities is rather presumptive and isn’t going to convince non-4K owners to drop another $499 on a new box.
The Playstation 4 Pro has had some mild success, to put it generously, but it’s hardly changing the face of the industry. We’ll have to see if the Xbox One X can change people’s minds and get them to invest in the elimination of the gaming generations.
The Future (or lack thereof) of VR Gaming
We got to see a little bit of VR from Sony and Bethesda but despite rumors, it doesn’t look like Microsoft or Nintendo will be jumping on-board that slow-moving train just yet. Even Ubisoft, who has published several VR titles this year, didn’t bother bringing it up at all during their press conference. VR was also noticeably absent from the PC Gaming conference.
VR-enthusiasts may have to look to the East for the future of VR as Playstation VRs are still selling out like crazy over there. The West, on the other hand, doesn’t look like it’s moving on the technology and it can be easy to see why: the enormous price tag. Most gamers don’t even have a rig that can run VR, let alone the $800 to drop on a headset that barely has any decent games available. The Playstation VR makes that price more manageable by attaching the VR to an already available console but it’s still a hefty price tag for casual gamers.
While the VR train still has its momentum and companies like Oculus aren’t going anywhere just yet, it’s also hard to see a future for the tech if something doesn’t change soon.
eSports Growing Pains
eSports, on the other hand, are looking to have a bright future with many companies trying to cash in on the burgeoning pastime. Several games announced such as The Darwin Project, Lawbreakers, and EA’s sports titles looked like they were just begging for the eSports treatment. Even Nintendo has setup invitational competitions for Splatoon 2 AND Pokken Tournament DX this week. The games aren’t even out yet! How do you get invited to something like this???
eSports are here to stay and that’s not a bad thing but the industry needs to figure out how to handle it. Obviously, having everyone and their mother pump out eSports-bait on a daily basis isn’t sustainable and without centralized leagues or teams, eSports can be pretty hard to follow for casual fans. Finally, they bring up issues with how to deal with multiplayer games in general because casual players are loathe to join games like Overwatch knowing they could be matched against literal professionals at any time and the more eSports grows, the more those casual fans could be alienated if developers don’t plan accordingly.
While eSports are still very much in their infancy, E3 2017 just shined even more of a light on the questions that will need answers from the industry and the player base in the next few years if it wants to continue to thrive.
3DS is Out, Switch is In
Most people probably saw this coming, despite Nintendo’s statements to the contrary, but it does look like the 3DS will likely be dying out very soon. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to hear that Pokemon UltraSun and UltraMoon will be the last notable games released for the popular portable.
It makes sense as Nintendo is marketing the Switch as the successor to both the Wii U and the 3DS. Also, it’ll be good to unify Nintendo’s fractured attention moving forward. Still, with the New Nintendo 2DS on the horizon and Pokemon Sun and Moon still fresh in gamer’s minds, this may be a rough transition for some Nintendo fans or parents who will feel burned by the sudden drought of titles and lack of support from retailers.
What may be even more of a casualty are the unique and truly bizarre games that have thrived on the portable’s relaxed marketplace. Honestly, even Steam would have a hard time competing with the 3DS eShop in terms of weird hits. Who would have guessed that one of the best rated eShop games of last year, Pocket Card Jockey, would be a game about a horse jockey brought back from the dead who needs to play solitaire to make his horse run faster? Fan favorites such as Phoenix Wright, Zero Escape or Professor Layton would have a tough time surviving outside of the portable environment and we have yet to see if the Switch will embrace those strange yet lovable titles. If not, it will be a sad loss for gaming. However, if it does, it will be interesting to see how titles like that can take advantage of home console power!
Regardless, with the 3DS in the midst of its death throes and the Vita already comfortably in the ground, we may be seeing the quiet end of dedicated portable gaming consoles after almost 30 years of continuous support.
Games to Be Most Concerned About
Every year, E3 manages to hype some games that don’t deserve it. Whether it’s because the game winds up actually being terrible or actually has little hope of ever being released at all, each year brings about some new disappointment. My intent here is not to hate on games or rag on small details but rather to point out red flags that may signal not all is as it should be. Art can be born from strife but so can cancelled games and heartbreak. Here is my personal list of games that you may want to take with a hefty grain of salt.
- Skull & Bones – This upcoming pirate game from Ubisoft turned a lot of heads but it’s worth keeping in mind, the pre-alpha gameplay was cut with numerous cinematic interludes and the actual rules of the game seemed vague at best. It’s also hard to not see the Assassin’s Creed IV origins of this title. While the ship combat in that game was fun, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend it as it’s own stand-alone game. I’m not saying this can’t turn into something great but it’s still pretty early to get your hopes up.
- Beyond Good and Evil 2 – It shouldn’t need to be said but we’ve been burned before. While this has been our best look yet at the game, with an extended cinematic trailer, it was still just a cinematic trailer. We have yet to see any gameplay and not even a release window was given. Based on later interviews, the game is also wildly ambitious, perhaps unrealistically so, and may not even be what players of the original were hoping for. Even with all the best intentions, the future of Ubisoft is also still very much in jeopardy right now. A Vivendi buyout could possibly cancel the project, considering the original’s distinct lack of sales. All I’m saying is I want BG&E2 as much as anyone but we’ve been burned before.
- Metroid Prime 4 – Nintendo doesn’t usually keep players hanging but their opinions of Metroid are very well known and clash pretty heavily with the west. Also, with a new studio working on the project, it’s hard to say what this will wind up being. It’s possible it may resemble Metroid Prime in name only. Remember Metroid Other M? All I’m saying is wait for more details before assuming this will be the Metroid Prime we’ve always wanted.
- Life is Strange: Before the Storm – Life is Strange took an established style and perfected it to tell one of the most emotionally-driven stories I’ve ever experienced in a game. It’s a premise that had no right to be as good as it was coming from a developer known for a game with awful storytelling and yet, Life is Strange is one of the best games I’ve ever played. So, as much as I’m looking forward to a follow-up, it’ll be insanely difficult to catch lightning in a bottle twice in a row, especially from a different developer, known for such emotional gut-punches as Neopets: The Darkest Faerie or Cool Boarders 4. Since it will also be a prequel, will it even have the mystery so prevalent in the first?
- The Crew 2 – The Crew was a solid racing title held back by its broken servers and always-online requirements. Because of this, sales were lackluster and the fanbase all but revolted. You’d think that, because of this, the sequel would do away with the always-online requirement. Maybe it has but the fact that they didn’t mention it at all doesn’t give me hope for that. The game itself is likely solid but I’d stay away from a pre-order until they give a definitive answer on the game’s online requirements. No point paying 60 bucks on day one if the game doesn’t even work until day 30.
- Anthem – BioWare’s new IP looked gorgeous and as a fan of BioWare since their Baldur’s Gate days, it’s great to see them really thriving in today’s industry. It’s too bad that they still have a lot of problems they need to work out, as proven by Mass Effect: Andromeda. EA’s over-reliance on the Frostbite engine is problematic and now they’re trying to force it to do even more things it was never designed for, namely drop-in, drop-out instanced multiplayer. That’s not even mentioning the obvious inspiration from Destiny, a deeply-troubled game in itself. Anthem seems on track to either be one of the biggest hits of 2018 or one of the biggest disasters.
Best of Show
After that real downer of a topic, I want to highlight some of the most exciting games from this year’s show for me personally. Note, this is not a comprehensive list of every game that seems good nor does this include every single game you should keep an eye on, just the ones that look the most promising or exciting to me. Also, yeah, some of these games were in my last list too. Even when I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up, sometimes I do anyway. Whatever, I’m human! So, in no real order, here’s my list:
- Beyond Good and Evil 2 – Unknown Release Date
- Assassin’s Creed Origins – October 27, 2017
- Metro: Exodus – 2018
- Sea of Thieves – Early 2018
- Tacoma – August 2nd, 2017
- Life is Strange: Before the Storm – August 31, 2017
- Middle-Earth: Shadow of War – October 10, 2017
- Far Cry 5 – February 27, 2018
- Shadow of the Colossus – 2018
- Spider-Man – 2018
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – Holiday 2017
While I said earlier that my Game of the Show would have to go to A Way Out, I want to give special attention also to Spider-Man, coming out on the PS4 next year. The game looked absolutely incredible and it is one I will definitely keep an eye on as potential motivation to finally pick up a PS4. We’ll have to wait and see if it can live up to its enormous promise.
So that about does it for my E3 coverage for 2017. I know TB will be writing up his thoughts on all the new announcements in the near future so look forward to that. In the meantime though, what did you all think? What games are you looking forward to? What games are you pissed at for not showing up (*cough cough* The Last of Us: Part 2 *cough*)? How about all that drama around The Last Night, huh? Let us know all your thoughts in the comments below!