E3 2015: Best and Worst of E3
It’s probably ever so slightly late for us to have a best and worst or winners and losers of E3 post but it’s my hobbie so I’m going to do it a bit late to be of much use to anyone. Well, that’s not strictly true. The shortest wait until a major game from E3 comes out is some three months so that means that there is plenty of time for us to reflect on the state of gaming in the wake of the biggest games industry show of 2015.
Games that were long thought dead or non-existent certainly made some surprise appearances at E3.
Sony scored the lion’s share of nostalgia points with the reveals of The Last Guardian and the Final Fantasy VII remake as well as the Kickstarter announcement for Shenmue III (which Sony is helping to fund). Bethesda scored some points with Doom 4 (now just Doom) and Square Enix had the long-awaited debut footage for Kingdom Hearts III.
I keep trying to apply themes to everything (but mostly Game of Thrones episodes) and I think that E3 2015 might be what’s old is new again. While we might complain that we want new IPs and an end to HD remasters of old games, when games are brought back through necromancy and blood magic, the whole gaming world goes nuts.
The problem with nostalgia is two-fold.
First, you always want what you can’t have. Until this year, it looked like we might never get a full HD Final Fantasy VII remake. Shenmue III was a game that was on no one’s radar. The Last Guardian, Doom and Kingdom Hearts III were in development hell for years before they got big “they’re not dead” videos at E3. With all these games confirmed as happening… Now what?
While it’s not always a bad thing, developers and publishers just keep retreading the same intellectual properties and the same concepts and the same gameplay until we get bored and stop caring altogether. While getting some of these new old games is novel for a period of time, how long will it be until we all get bored with this and check out until something properly new and exciting comes along.
The second problem is that going back to these wells of old games being remade or revived is that it just keeps taking the focus off anything new. Quick. Name a completely new IP that was announced. Horizon was announced… For Honor which looks like another take on the Ubi formula… It’s hard isn’t it?
New is a good thing but new doesn’t mean just a new disc. How much hype did Ubisoft and Activision put behind Watch Dogs and Destiny in claiming they set sales records for new IPs? It was their way of selling to investors that they can pour money into new IPs and get a return on that investment. This year, we saw the exact opposite. No one was pushing anything new outside the indies and like two triple-As.
Best: Nintendo Muppets
Yes, muppets. Nintendo recruited Jim Henson Productions to help them produce the puppets that you saw during Nintendo’s E3 Direct video presentation. I don’t think that Nintendo could have imagined how well muppet Miyamoto, Iwata and Reggie would have gone over but they very well could have been the collective highlight of the whole show.
Also, Miyamoto got a tour of the Jim Henson shop as part of the deal. So the dude got his own muppet and to see real muppets. Lucky bastard.
Nintendo came into E3 in a very rough spot. They weren’t going to be talking about the upcoming NX hardware nor were they going to mention what DeNA was planning on the mobile front. The former wasn’t a big deal. The latter might have helped them drum up a little more interest. The biggest blow might have been that Legend of Zelda Wii U wasn’t going to be shown and, aside from Star Fox, there weren’t any crowdpleasers left in Nintendo’s arsenal.
So what new games did Nintendo show off for the Wii U? Mario Tennis and an Amiibo-based Animal Crossing thing that looked like a board game. How exactly will that sell more consoles? Has Nintendo given up on the Wii U and are going to throw everything at the NX for a 2016 or 2017 release? Is it going to be a future-proof beast of a console with 32 GB RAM, a 4 GHz processor, a whopper graphics processor, a Blu-Ray player, a 1+ TB hard drive and backwards compatibility all the way back to the Wii while staying under $400? Otherwise, they may want to salvage something from this generation.
All the interesting games for Nintendo consoles are going to the 3DS. If you’re on the Wii U and hoping for something new from the multitude of legendary Nintendo franchises, it would seem that the little handheld has you trumped. Remove the games announced for the 3DS and you still have Kirby, Donkey Kong, Pokemon and F-Zero sitting on the bench and waiting to get put it. Three of those franchises don’t have games on the Wii U yet. Teasing one of those franchises coming to the Wii U certainly would have given fans a boost while they wait for a new Zelda game.
Best: Nintendo 3DS
But I suppose Nintendo’s handheld console is deserving of a best. After all, with the DeNA deal coming, the 3DS is still getting plenty of games.
There were new entries in the Animal Crossing, Metroid Prime, Legend of Zelda and Mario franchises announced for the 3DS at E3. So the 3DS is missing out on a new Star Fox. Considering what the handheld got instead, I’d go so far as to suggest that it might be Nintendo’s lead platform at the moment. Granted, that might have to do with the fact that there are over five times as many 3DSs in the wild as there are Wii Us.
If nothing else came out of Nintendo’s E3 Direct, we can be certain that the 3DS isn’t dead yet.
Worst: PlayStation Vita
While the 3DS got a whole pile of games, PlayStation’s handheld has been all but taken out behind the woodshed. There was maybe one new game announced at E3 (World of Final Fantasy) and it was also described as a legacy system. So much for being a companion device for the PS4.
Perhaps worst of all for the Vita, it didn’t get the rumoured price drop. It’s still priced at $199 despite a rumoured price drop to as low as $99. Hell, even a bundle with the PS4 would have been a great idea. Imagine how much they would move with a PS4, a Vita (with, say, a 16 GB memory card) and a game for each (like the Uncharted collection for PS4 and Uncharted for Vita) for $499. You wouldn’t be able to keep that in stock at Christmas. But somehow, I’m the blogger and not the marketing guy.
Best: Backwards Compatibility
When Sony announced the PlayStation Now cloud gaming service that was going to bring classic PlayStation games to the PlayStation 4, it looked like Sony came up with the great idea to help them win the console generation. Then they came up with that rental and pricing model and pretty much killed all the momentum that PlayStation Now could have had.
This year, Microsoft fought back with their own form of backwards compatibility. It’s not a 100% fool-proof solution but it is console-based backwards compatibility through Xbox 360 software emulation. Sure, Microsoft is rolling out games for backwards compatibility in stages because of reasons but you can still pop a disc into your Xbox One or download your digital purposes and play your old games. Who knew that this was such a revolutionary idea.
Sony says that they can’t do the same thing as Microsoft because of the massive change in system architecture from the PS3’s cell processor to the PS4’s PC-based architecture. They do, however, have that PS Now thing lying around that isn’t being used as much as it could. I wonder how much thought that Sony is putting into popping a disc into a PS4 and initiating a PS Now stream. I suggested that ages ago. I bet they’re going to seriously consider it now.
Worst: Annual Franchises
How the mighty have fallen. Call of Duty: Black Ops III had a big exclusive DLC announcement at the Sony press conference which should have been a big get for Sony considering CoD’s historic close relationship with Microsoft. Of course, this year, they were probably looking to make the switch because Microsoft’s multiplayer FPS focus would be on Halo 5. Anyway, the announcement of the deal with CoD was met with general apathy by attendees at Sony’s press briefing. I’m not sure that any announcement at any point on Monday was given such a quiet reaction.
Meanwhile, I’ve never seen an Assassin’s Creed game met with such disinterest as Syndicate is. Sure, people are excited about the Victorian London setting but that seems to have been the selling point of the last four AC games. America in AC3, the seas in Black Flag, Paris in Unity and London in Syndicate have been all that people were focused on because the gameplay has become disappointingly formulaic. Sure, there are minor tweaks here and there but this franchise will just slowly die a death until Ubisoft stops and re-evaluates the franchise so that it gives gamers a reason to come back. Right now, I can pop in Revelations and still get the same experience I’d get in Syndicate. The only difference is the location.
For what is really a small publisher in terms of volume compared to the usual E3 fare of Ubisoft and EA, Bethesda leveraged their small offering of games to make a big impression in their first appearance at the big show.
While everyone is impressed by Fallout 4 and Doom, both of which had their first significant gameplay footage and details shown at E3, I was impressed with their style of presentation. While the publishers were, for the most part, rapid fire with their press briefings, Bethesda took a much slower and more deliberate approach with their presser. The majority of the time was spent talking about and showing off Doom and Fallout. I felt like I actually saw the actual game rather than being whisked through a vertical slice.
That being said, I wouldn’t expect anyone else to try that soon. With everyone trying to show off as much as they can in 90 minutes, I’m not sure that any of the traditional E3 big four can afford to block off 20 minutes to talk about and show off one game (conversations with Pele notwithstanding).
Worst: Take Two / Rockstar / 2K
So apart from XCOM 2, did anyone hear from Take Two Interactive? I know that Battleborn and WWE 2K16 were on the floor at E3 but I didn’t see any coverage of those games. I saw a quick blurb about WWE 2K16 having the biggest roster in the franchise’s history but that’s literally the extent of coverage I saw about Take Two this week.