E3 2015 – Thoughts on the Big Video Game Show: Before #E32015

  Ever since 1995 there has been E3: the Electronics Entertainment Expo. E3 is a video game industry trade show, for professionals only, primarily used for companies to show off new products, make deals and to impress shareholders. In it’s hey day, E3 was where the big game publishers would make shocking previously unannounced product reveals that would send fans into a frenzy. Now, with the advent of the Internet, and the widespread usage of smartphones and tablets, the big reveals are fewer and farther between.

I use to love E3 time. I used to get super hyped for it. Now, more than ever, it feels like E3 is more of an industry vacation, where the hard working developers can have a few days to hob knob, drink, and enjoy time away from their cubicles. The big game reveals happen online, via exclusive blog articles, Facebook, and Twitter on a weekly basis nowadays. So many games get announced on the run up to E3 that there’s hardly any games left to announce by the time the show starts. With so many fans hoping for the next big thing, a lot of the time we are given previews for sequels to existing games, services that hardly anyone will use, or extended previews of new TV shows exclusive to XYZ console. In many regards, it feels like the days of the big reveals are gone.

Let me break my predictions down by publisher:

  1. Nintendo: they will be attempting to ride the wave of moderate success they have had this year relaunching a new 3DS and with general sales of the Wii U. They will announce some new DLC for popular titles, as well as release dates for long gestating titles: i.e. Mario Maker, Star Fox U, Fire Emblem IF, etc. I expect no less than 2 first party surprise announcements, an announcement for what Retro Studios has been developing the last few years, and at least one major third party exclusive. No word on the NX yet, they are going to ride the Wii U till the wheels fall off, especially since they have achieved profitability again. Likely, they will talk a smidge about their mobile game development strategy, with a few game announcements there as well.
  2. Sony, the once and future king will play it safe. Forget about the Vita and the Vita TV, they already have, and you are not likely going to hear much about them at E3. At best, the Vita will get more niche Japanese titles announced for it. Sony will tout the PS4 as the king, and it is, but they will primarily show off 3rd party support and a handful of exclusive previews of known games: i.e. Until Dawn, No Man’s Sky, Tearaway Unfolded, Uncharted 4, etc. I expect maybe one decent new exclusive revealed, likely the title that Guerrilla Games is working on, although I’d like to see what Sucker Punch has been working on as well – but I don’t think we’ll get both. Morpheus VR will be a big deal at the presentation, as well as indie game development. They will show off more video streaming, game streaming, and TV viewing services. Their presentation will be serviceable but kinda boring.
  3. Microsoft will stick to what works, namely Call of Duty, Halo and Forza Motorsports. Much like Sony, they will play it safe as they try to jockey fans to by the Xbox One over the PS4 (a battle they still aren’t winning right now). I mostly expect some timed exclusive games (think Rise of the Tomb Raider – which will come out on PS4 as well, just a few months later and probably with most of the bugs patched) and DLC content for multi-platform games. We will likely find out what Rare Games is up to (hopeful not another sports/Kinect title), and some updates on Crackdown and Quantum Break. We might get one decent reveal from them and of course VR support. 
  4. Ubisoft will show off a whole lot of Assassin’s Creed stuff, and that’s about it. Just kidding. We will hear about plans for another Far Cry, Watchdogs and what’s up with Rainbow Six. Likely also to see an extended preview of the Division. I hope we see a sequel to Zombi U announced, but have accepted that we will actually get a shooter of some sort announced for the PS4/Xbox One.
  5. EA – sports titles, Battlefield, Star Wars, and mobile games. What else do they have, other than angry customers? Also, Bioware will likely show off the next Mass Effect and hopefully their new IP.
  6. Square-Enix – all Final Fantasy all the time. FF XV, Kingdom Hearts 3, mobile FF games. We may receive one decent reveal from them. Also, I’m hoping for the announcement of a second season of Life is Strange.
  7. Capcom might bring some interesting games to the party. They have a strange capacity for showing off cool new games from time to time. They may have one or two new games of note at the show. For sure they will show off Dragon’s Dogma Online, Deep Down and Street Fighter 8 million – hyper super milk your wallet edition!
  8. Activision – Call of Duty, Skylanders, Destiny and Blizzard games. We may get a reveal of the new Tony Hawk game, and provided that it does not require a balance board or play anything at all like 8, it should be cool. That’s about it.
  9. Because I’m cruel: I’m predicting that one of the following 3 games will be announced and/or confirmed as still actually being in development – Shenmue 3, The Last Guardian, Half-Life 3.

There may be a few surprises along the way, but probably no game changers. I truly think that everyone will play this E3 safe and stick to their greatest hits. This E3 will focus a lot on Virtual Reality stuff like the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Morpheus. Frankly, I feel like VR is a sucker’s bet, as we are still nowhere near where we need to be technology wise to make it all that immersive. Also, I’m not sure how practical it is in general, I already hate wearing glasses, and I can’t imagine wearing some goofy contraption on my head for multi-hour gaming sessions for very long. Much like 3D TVs, it will have a niche market, but it won’t catch fire with a mass audience, at least not right now. Perhaps in another decade from now it will be more viable, but for now I think VR is just another gimmick that won’t really enhance gameplay or force it to evolve in any meaningful way.

Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong about E3. Maybe this year it will be the amazing spectacle it was in years gone by. If I’m proven wrong, I’ll admit it. Until such time, I will believe it to be what it has been for awhile, the big budget Hollywood equivalent of an office Christmas party that lasts 3 days.

Do it developers and publishers. Prove me wrong this year. Not many things would make me happier.

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