GameCentral offers its final thoughts on this year’s video game expo, in which there were few clear winners or losers.
Games Inbox: E3 impressions, swearing in games and Xbox backwards compatibility
And so E3 ends for another year. What started off as a two-and-a-half day trade show has now become an endless parade of press conferences, public events, and constant livestreams. As publishers and console manufacturers become ever more unwilling to share the same platform with each other, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of all the disparate events and announcements. And that’s true whether you’re actually here in LA or trying to watch from home.
E3 week is split clearly in two, with the show itself not starting till midday on Tuesday. Although this year was unusual in that it was the first time that a limited number of the public, paying up to $250 a ticket, were allowed into the event. And although publishers complained at the extra numbers (the LA Convention Center is really not quite big enough) it made relatively little difference from our perspective. Even if there was far less cosplay than we were expecting.
The E3 expo is where we get to go hands on with the games and talk to developers, including a number that would be very hard to get hold of otherwise. But E3 itself is not where the news headlines are made. Instead, that’s what the pre-show media briefings are for, which this year started a day early on Saturday with EA.
The briefings are where all the new games and hardware are unveiled, and where each company hopes they will be proclaimed the ‘winner’ of E3. This year the obvious favourite for the accolade was Microsoft, because they had the Xbox One X to unveil, and looking at social media activity it seems they definitely had the most tongues wagging.
But this was the opportunity for Xbox One to deliver a knockout blow, to finally leave behind the mistakes of the Xbox One’s launch and create a kind of soft reboot for the console. That couldn’t come from the Xbox One X alone, given it costs a whopping £450, but it was hoped that the new console would be announced alongside a suite of new games. But as we discussed with Xbox One boss Phil Spencer, that never really happened – at least not with the sort of big budget first party titles that would be needed to really make a difference.
The Xbox One has some great first party games coming up, such as Sea Of Thieves and Crackdown 3, but neither are the technical showcase that EA’s multiformat Anthem promises to be. The obvious thing for Microsoft to have done was announce new games even if they wouldn’t be out for a year or two; with the assumption that they would work as proof of not only the Xbox One X’s power but of a steady stream of games to come. But for whatever reasons they refused to play Sony’s game.
So while Microsoft’s conference was a positive one, and filled with lots of interesting new games, it wasn’t the defining moment that it could have been. Although perhaps Microsoft were right not to get too ahead of themselves, as after several highly successful E3 conferences Sony was very much brought down to Earth this year.
Many of Sony’s trailers were still only for games released next year or later, and they announced very few new titles of note. That was exactly what most commentators expected they would do, but many fans decided to pretend it was some unexpected betrayal, which resulted in some of Sony’s worst word of mouth for years. That’s unlikely to affect them in the long run, but already they’ve started hinting that they will have new announcements for their PSX event later in the year.
But while Microsoft did manage to beat Sony in the popularity stakes the best-recieved press conferences were held by Nintendo and Ubisoft. In fact, if Nintendo had held their livestream as an actual physical event there would’ve been no question that it was the superior of the three competing console manufacturers. The much anticipated Super Mario Odyssey looks just as good as everyone hoped and yet they also managed a number of unexpected surprises, including the announcement of Metroid Prime 4 and a core Pokémon game for the Switch.
Surprisingly, it was Nintendo, not Microsoft, that followed Sony’s lead in terms of announcing new games long before they’ll ever be out – and again the trick seems to have worked. Ubisoft also joined in, with a second reveal of the eternally delayed Beyond Good & Evil. Although they also had plenty of other surprises including new virtual reality games, a new toys to life franchise, and pirate game Skull & Bones. And that’s ignoring Far Cry 5 and Assassin’s Creed Origins – the latter of which was the most talked about game of the week on social media.
The only real message to take from all this is that at the end of the day the only thing that matters is the games, not the hype that surrounds them. Sony may have got flak for their line-up looking too familiar but at least it looked good. And while Microsoft may have been missing a heavy hitter or two almost everything it did show had an excellent pedigree.
Big name third party titles such as Star Wars: Battlefront II, Call Of Duty: WWII, and Wolfenstein II also all managed to impress, and so did smaller games such as Life Is Strange: Before The Storm, Strange Brigade, and Team 17’s Genesis Alpha One. It will take us several weeks to write up all our coverage of the various games and interviews, but that’s despite the fact that the overall volume of games was smaller than previous years.
That follows a general trend of the last decade, although unlike previous years indie games were given very little prominence at this E3 – with only Microsoft’s press conference making any real effort to promote them. Perhaps that was just a one-off aberration but it helped to reinforce the idea that the video games industry is being dominated by an ever smaller number of ever more expensive video games – which in turn demand ever more of your time to play.
Although 2017 has been an excellent one for games in general, E3 2017 is not going to go down as a classic. There was controversy and surprises, but none that seem likely to be remembered for long. Sony’s misstep and Microsoft’s announcements did prove that this generation’s console race is still wide open, but this E3 probably did little to influence the eventual winner. Only the games themselves can do that, and they’ll always be more exciting than an increasingly bloated trade show.
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