Bored by E3

posted 11 Jun 2019 by Ruby

Is it just me, or were the E3 press conferences this year particularly boring? Like not bad, per se, just… uninspired. Part of it might be due to the upcoming console refreshes… perhaps the flashy stuff is waiting in the wings for reveal next year. But there were still a lot of games shown by all the different publishers, and I just found myself underwhelmed.

Opinion warning! I’m rambling about my own personal feelings here. If you don’t agree, that’s great! Go post about it on your own blog.

Buzz Lightyear meme: Cinematics, cinematics everywhere.

Are we afraid to show gameplay now?

Seriously, there was a huge lack of gameplay trailers at E3 this year, even for stuff that’s coming out later this year. Having made a few of these trailers myself in the past, I know more than anyone that these things are 99% smoke and mirrors, and they do sometimes lead to disappointment when the final product doesn’t live up to expectations. At the same time, gameplay is the most important part of the game, and for me personally as a gamer, it’s information I need to be able to have some idea of whether or not this is going to be a game I’m interested in.

Several things I saw this year I might care about… but I don’t know. All I saw was some artist’s impressions of the story and the characters, and nothing relative to the game itself. For several of the games, I’m not even sure what genre the game is just based on the presentations. Is it a shooter? An RPG? Digital mah jongg? I have no idea, and I shouldn’t have to google the press releases or whatever to try and find out more.

Specific publishers: what I liked and didn’t

Ubisoft in particular I think played it too safe, and put on a real yawner of a show. They were probably the single biggest offender of just showing cinematic trailers instead of gameplay. Also, did I miss something or does Ubisoft only make military shooter games now? I swear they used to have a more diverse lineup of games. One thing that did pique my interest: Gods & Monsters. I have a soft spot for stuff that evokes Greek mythology, so I’m curious to see more about that game.

Microsoft was probably the most enjoyable all around. I think they realized how weak their lineup on Xbox One was getting and how much harder they need to sell it to gamers. Their strategy of buying just about any studio that will sell to them seems to be paying off, and we saw a good variety of genres on display, plus you can’t argue with the sheer volume of games they showed. Though that might have also been a weakness: the game trailers flew by so fast, I don’t even remember 90% of them.

I’m a bit mixed on them talking about Project Scarlett, though. If you don’t even have a final product name or box design yet, is that a good time to start talking to consumers about your next console? We’ll see if it gives them any edge on the next Playstation. I think they do need to talk more about xCloud, though—Google already threw down that gauntlet, and if they want to keep up, they’re going to need to get people talking about xCloud before they pre-order Stadia.

EA: Oops, I totally forgot they were doing something on Saturday and didn’t watch it. Did they announce anything? I haven’t even seen any media buzz from their event. Probably not a good sign.

Bethesda apologized in a way for Fallout 76. That’s a good thing, and I’m glad they’re trying to fix it. Like a lot of folks, I’m sad they didn’t talk about Elder Scrolls 6, but that’s a good thing. Probably best not to waste any hype too early on that one. The rest of what they showed was kind of ho-hum. I was confused by the section about Orion—who was that for? I don’t think consumers really cared, and it doesn’t seem to be something they’re offering to other devs, so I’m not sure why it was there. The two guys talking about it even seemed bored.

I purposefully skipped the Devolver Digital show… I watched it in past years, and I just don’t think their brand of humor is for me. So no opinion on that one. The only thing I heard about it afterwards was something about selling bootlegs of their own games which is… weird? I guess it works for them.

Square Enix’s presentation was the most solid, I think. They led with their headliner, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and I was actually surprised to see some honest-to-goodness game play at that point. I never played the original, so I don’t have any nostalgia for it, but what they showed honestly looks fun, and I like the blend of the FFXV-style action combat with the strategic elements. I just hope the characters don’t talk as much during actual game combat as they did in the trailer; after a while I really wanted them to shut up. The rest of their showing was a solid lineup of remasters and new games, and I think most if not all of them showed some clips of game play.

Nintendo is pretty reliable and always puts together some good stuff for their Directs. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is one of the games my wife is interested in this year, and I’m pretty excited about it too now, because they showed actual gameplay! Can’t wait to play Gooigi with her. I don’t think I really ever expected to see Seiken Densetsu 3 released in the west, but here we are.

I was going to say I don’t think there were any huge surprises here (mostly because of leaks and speculations). But then they had to show one more thing, and holy crap was I not expecting that: a full sequel to Breath of the Wild! If you go by hours played, BotW is probably my favorite game of the past couple years, and I am now super hyped to get a sequel. Open world Legend of Zelda is the best thing to have happened recently.

The elephant in the room: subscriptions

This is one subject I’m a little worried about. Microsoft is pushing Xbox Games Pass pretty hard now, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a big part of their xCloud initiative. Ubisoft introduced UPlay Plus. We also learned this week that Google Stadia is going to be a combination of subscription service and one-off purchases.

I worry about this because we already have a model in TV subscription services that we should be concerned about. I don’t think subscriptions in general are bad. Back when I could just subscribe to Netflix and Hulu and get just about everything I wanted, it worked great. That was fairly reasonable, and way cheaper than cable TV. But then the content creators each wanted to cut out the middle-man, and we’re seeing a glut of new services coming online like CBS, HBO, and Disney. And video piracy is back on the rise because of it.

I fear this will happen in a much shorter time period for games. Every publisher wants to have their own streaming/subscription service, and I don’t think consumers are going to put up with it. I know I’m not about to jump into six different subscriptions to play all the games I want to play. What will get real contentious, however, is when the publishers start making streaming only games. I.e., no piracy to resort to because the game never exists on your computer. I’m not sure how the public will react to that, but I don’t think it’ll be pretty.

Tags: e3, game dev, games, streaming, subscriptions, trailers