All right, all right, all right!
We’re right in the thick of E3 and we figured now is as good a time as any to go deeper on what we can expect this year, not just for the expo but for the gaming industry as a whole. Of course, there’s only so much you can cover in an article before eyes start to glaze over so, for more discussion, be sure to tune into R9Cast, Horseplay! LIVE, Gaming History 101, The B-Team Podcast, 42 Level One, and other great shows on the AllGames and GeekyAntics networks.
This E3’s theme is Inspiring Worlds. I’m ready to be inspired.. But I’m not holding my breath. If the past decade or so has taught us anything it’s that the big brands driving the industry just want to collect easy paychecks. They’ll keep regurgitating the same old crap so long as we buy in.. But maybe we will be surprised – hey, there’s always hope!
…Inspire my world, BABY!
…And, now, the obligatory E3 presser schedule, in case you missed it:
E3 2016 Livestream Schedule (Corrected)
Sunday, June 12th 2016
EA – 1PM PT / 4PM ET
Bethesda – 7PM PT / 10PM ET
Monday, June 13th 2016
Microsoft – 9:30AM PT / 12:30PM ET
PC Gaming Show – 11:30AM PT / 2:30PM ET
Ubisoft – 1PM PT / 4PM ET
Sony – 6PM PT / 9PM ET
Tuesday, June 14th 2016
Nintendo – 24-Hour Gameplay Bonanza
Other – Random surprises from Activision and others?
Since 2015, Twitch has been open with event coverage, allowing broadcasters to co-host and crowdchat E3 pressers. Sharing is caring, which is a lesson Nintendo should pay attention too.. But more on that later. Don’t forget to use the proper tags when chatting about the event! #E3onTwitch
E3 Highlights, Hopes & Predictions
EA – Outside of Mass Effect, I’m not expecting any “drop your pants” moments from Electronics Arts. It’s a shame because we continue to see the old guard becoming less and less relevant. I mean, just look at Konami and Capcom. Expect sports, racing, and Battlefield.
Okay, to be fair, I think Titanfall is an under-rated franchise and from what I’ve seen of Titanfall 2, I am eager to play. The multiplayer is fun and fast-paced.. Plus it has mechs. You can’t go wrong with that combo.
Now, if you want to really have a drop-the-mic moment, EA has a few options. They can announce a deep discount on the year-long EA Access. They’ll likely announce new games in the vault which is cool but not earth-shattering. The only way EA will get my jollies all tingly is if they bring back Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer with more polish or dust off one of their classics. Maybe General Chaos or Mutant League Football? Yeah, I know: wishful thinking.
Oh yeah, e-Sports will be a big thing. I’ll give EA that: they at least are bolstering competitive gaming but I wish they diversified beyond the typical sports and shooter games. A new (and good) Burnout would be great. Heck, I actually liked Burnout Paradise – call me crazy but… Crossing my fingers!
Bethesda – At the top of everyone’s list is Elder Scrolls 6 but I wonder if it’s too soon. People are still playing Skyrim and it’s endless mods; furthermore, Elder Scrolls Online fills the void quite well. Then there’s the elusive Elder Scrolls: Legends TCG/CCG set to release on PC and iOS. I think they have Tamriel covered for now and should lean towards delay another major Elder Scrolls installment to get it right.
Looking at the most recent releases and buzz, we can expect new announcement regarding Dishonored 2, Wolfenstein, and The Evil Within. The latter is interesting because the game got mixed reviews yet it sold quite well. The Evil Within is a reminder that, even when people ask for something, they remain unhappy; after all, it’s as close to classic Resident Evil survival horror as we’ve seen in recent times.
A new Wolfenstein would be interesting but I would like to see announcements about significant expansions to DOOM and plans for the franchise as a platform. Since ID is under the Bethesda umbrella, I wonder how soon before we’ll see a new Quake game but, again, it’s familiar territory. Still, it’s what the people want. New DOOM modes would be awesome and that’s highly market. As for forgotten games, the fans seem to want a new Prey so maybe we’ll see that, too!
I’m curious to see if Bethesda can lead the way with a new IP as it seems all the big studios and publishers are sticking to safe plays. I’m surprised they haven’t jumped into the sci-fi arena beyond Fallout. Something less.. Dystopian? Oh yeah.. Everyone has been begging for a remastered Skyrim so I’m sure that will be announced in place of a new Elder Scrolls game.
Ubisoft – Rainbow Six: Siege has been a real treat, as much as people like to poop all over it. It’s an unapologetic, pure multiplayer experience and they keep building upon it by adding more customization and characters. I’d like to see new gameplay modes and I’m hopefully they’re committed to the game as a platform and not a one-and-done release.
Any announcement related to Assassin’s Creed will make me eyeroll. The series went from being one of my most beloved to a crapfest of regurgitated junk. I’m hoping they dedicate enough resources to Ghost Recon. In fact, call me crazy, but I wouldn’t mind a remastered GRAW. Those games were great for competitive play, as much as people laugh at the possibility that they’ll become forgotten pack-ins.
The Ubi Art division has the potential to churn out more quality, unique games. Child Of Light, Valiant Hearts, and Rayman are a good start. Let’s see more. This is one of those few times where I’m okay with artsy-fartsy in my games.. Because the gameplay is FUN!
Nintendo – We’ve been promised anime shows, mobile games and deeper online experiences for 2016 but so far we haven’t gotten many specifics. Nintendo seems to be hanging their hopes up on Zelda for now and they’re hoping that the anticipation will be enough to bridge the gap before they make the next major announcement.
There’s no Nintendo NX demo yet so what we really need to hear about are some compelling partnerships and maybe some surprising new IPs (yeah right). The reality is that Nintendo remains a toy maker and can’t seriously compete with Sony and Microsoft directly.. Right now.
On the bright side, they’re finally opening up and playing nice with others. Games will be ported to mobile. Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem will be the first free-to-start offerings on iOS and Android. Miitomo also shows promise of a world where Nintendo realizes that this Internet, community building, and social media stuff is not a passing fad. I think they’ve also learned that you need more than a gimmick to be relevant these days. Anyone remember Wii Fit?
Sony – We can expect more ports and perhaps more revivals of old games. Sony has been “leading” this generation in terms of console sales but they’re lacking in the variety department. With that, I think they’ll hope that PS Neo and VR hype will be enough. Perhaps we’ll have an immediate launch and price announcement?
VR has some momentum still so I’m sure Sony will announce more about their offerings thereof. Hopefully, this will be a platform they will stick with as we all know how bad of a track record they have with new formats (Blu-Ray was a rare win for them). That said, No Man’s Sky still has people hyped but you can play that on PC so it’s not exactly a secret weapon. More on that in a bit!
At the risk of sounding like a total anti-Sony fanboy, I feel they’ve become too complacent with their lead. Having marginally better hardware and capitalizing on poor timing / bad wording is not enough to maintain a lead. I have yet to be even mildly tempted by anything the PS4 is offering so we shall see. I wonder what they can do to top last year’s Shenmue announcement. Some may say the game is over-rated but there is great potential with the franchise.
Microsoft – XBox One Scorpio & XBox Mini talks are all the buzz right now. I believe these are two very different offerings than what people expect. One is a significant upgrade, a huge leap rather than a mere iteration like PS4-Neo is compared to the base PS4. The slim XBox One people are expecting I believe will be more of a budget media-focused device comparable to Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, etc. This makes sense because then the devices are not fighting against each other. Of course, this is more than what I hope for but leaked information points to a more questionable direction…
It’s likely that Microsoft will announce a formal partnership for VR content delivery but I would avoid investing in that mess of a space. Sadly, VR is one of those things you can’t ignore, though it’s a niche thing and will likely go away again. Let’s see if the porn industry makes a strong push for it. Again, I do not claim to have inside sources but, logically, this is what I believe makes the most sense. While everyone is wasting time on VR, I’d like to think Microsoft will pursue better things.
What I’d like to see from Microsoft is a concerted effort to give their game studios creative freedom and put those acquisitions to work. There’s a lot of wasted potential there. The Lionshead thing was unfortunate, to say the least. Cross-buy, cross-platform, and cross-play are all things I’d love to hear more of. Get these studios involved and don’t force Windows 10 or a new marketplace down our throats as it limits the community, IMHO.
PC – Nvidia will talk about their latest proprietary circle jerk. People who have the money to buy their stuff will get free gear. The 10 people there will climax about all the big numbers. Everyone else will go grab something to eat. I love PC gaming but the elitism of it makes it rather disgusting. What’s more: PC gamers spend lots of time online so are we going to REALLY learn anything from the PC gaming show? I’d like more of a focus on software rather than the hardware crap.
Evolution Of Video Games: The Road So Far
I believe to truly appreciate where things are heading and what we hope for, we should look at how the video game industry has evolved/devolved over the years. Video games were originally marketed as toys or novelties. Games used to be extremely challenging and the reward resided in fun gameplay and the sense of accomplishment you got from discovery and perseverance. Nowadays, they seem to pander and focus on mass appeal rather than provoking and inspire us in fresh, new, and FUN ways.
During the 16-bit era through maybe the sixth/seventh generation of consoles, there was a big focus on couch experiences. Cooperative games were a huge thing and I’m surprised there are few coop experiences on console. It seems like a HUGE missed opportunity. On PC, you have games like Risk Of Rain, Gauntlet, and Rampage Knights. Why can’t we see those concepts developed on a grander scale for consoles?
For a while, FMV and point-and-click adventures ruled because the story was at the center of experiences. Sadly, many of those games do not hold up well because the gameplay sucks. Ironically, now we’re moving back to the interactive movie format. Games like Life Is Strange, The Last Of Us, and anything Telltale releases have amazing stories and/or character development yet the gameplay is mediocre at best.. Yet these are the games people are talking about all the time.
There are so many opportunities for amazing things to be done with video games. I’m not saying narrative isn’t important but it’s not required, just like singleplayer campaigns should not be a requirement either. There’s something to be said about a game that commits to a pure core experience but I digress… Personally, I’d love to see an FTL-style game with higher production value and online play. Let’s start there and, no, not Star Citizen – that game is WAY too ambitious for it’s own good!
Mass Effect Andromeda
I can go on and on about why Mass Effect is one of the best series ever made. Andromeda is one of the few games I’m actually looking forward to. There’s just not enough sci-fi gaming content out there so I’ll be a sucker there. I can’t wait to see the worlds they craft with the extra power of this current generation. I want to get lost in that world and fall in love with all the characters. Simply put: there’s something special about Mass Effect to be able to pull me away from my usual multiplayer games. 2017 will be a great year!
What little we’ve seen about Andromeda seems to revolve around concept art and behind-the-scenes production stuff. I’m fairly certain Shepard will only be mentioned in passing and this will be the start of a new epic. Not much has been revealed regarding the narrative and I think it will stay that way.
While the game is set for 2017, I feel like they are still very far away from a finished product and may push it again. Maybe next E3 we’ll be lucky and see a firm holiday release date. For now, we’ll be lucky if we can see more character models and actual in-game footage. Either way, count me in!
No Man’s Sky
After over a year of lofty, vague descriptions and dodgy rhetoric, we’ve finally seen substantial gameplay for No Man’s Sky. I still believe this game has great potential but it may be too auspicious or at least amibitious for it’s own good. Let’s face it: the more we anticipate and hype something up, the more we are likely to be severely disappointed.
Upon watching more of the gameplay, I am very impressed. Everyone starts from a different corner of the universe and can name a planet they discover. Hello Games’ Shawn Murray believes that 90% of the planets will never be discovered. It very much seems like a sandbox experience aimed at immersion and deeply personal connections.
In spite of all the reveals, I still feel that the game doesn’t offer a strong core experience. Is the focus on combat, exploration, crafting, or all of the above? From what we’ve seen, the game does all of the above to great effect so many of us remain hopeful, though apprehensive. I personally worry that the multiplayer and supposed lore will be shoe-horned in as the focus seems to be on getting lost in the world by yourself and interacting with NPCs.
The game is set for an August 9/10th release, depending on where you are in the world but rumors have surfaced that it may be delayed again, this time until December. While Hello Games denies this, it’s very likely the game still needs more rounds of polish and tweaks to fully support VR.
Recently, Shawn Murray attributed the delays to “key moments needing more polish”. This leads me to believe that they are trying to sell us a story, which is confusing. Narrative and sandbox mechanics usually don’t play well together. You usually have to commit.. But we shall see!
Whilst I write this, some interesting developments have already been announced!
Titanfall 2 – Singleplayer campaign has been teased and I am facepalming. I’d rather see Titanfall 2 come out at a lower price point and focus on the multiplayer but enough people whine about the lack of singleplayer content and you get this sort of thing.
EA Vault – Free play days are back! Hopefully, it’ll be a week-long affair as doing it for two or three days is a bad deal for those of us who have to actually get some work done. Still, it’s a nice gesture, I suppose. EA Access is a great deal but EA needs to stop nickle-and-diming folks.
XBox One S (Codename: Edmonton) – Leaked information about the XBox One slim is running rampant. I’m still hoping there’s a smart play here. If this comes out this year, there needs to be a trade-in program and Scorpio should be held off. Then this can be a strong stop-gap. The slim model is 40% smaller than the original Xbox One, has a 2TB HDD (which should have been standard to boot), streamlined controller (whatever that means), and can play 4K UHD (Ultra HD) video.
EA Originals – The promise to re-invest in indie developers and small studios sounds really great but it’s all about follow-through. I love the idea but the lack of traction with ID@XBox makes me sad. Still, the potential is there as indies are the only people with the balls to try new things.
eSports – There’s lots of buzz about EA and other companies implementing native support for tournament hosting, ladders, and the like alongside the
Final Thoughts: State Of The Gaming Industry
I know my thoughts may come off as zany or hipster. I feel like there has been too much focus on singleplayer content and it disappoints me. There’s something to be said for dedicated experiences; of course, they should be priced accordingly. I get that there’s still plenty of people that avoid online all together but, for the rest of us, this whole “there needs to be a story/campaign” stuff does not sit well with me.
DerrickH (All Games Radio Network) and other peeps I have talked to say that a game is not a game without a singleplayer component. He equates it to a car’s engine. I’d say singleplayer, the way it’s often executed, is more like a cupholder, especially if the main attraction in a game is the multiplayer. Cupholders are nice to have but, really, they’re not worth paying extra for unless they’re something you’re REALLY into. Similarly, some people will make a big stink about not having the cupholders but, when it really comes down to it, how much value is it really adding versus the effort involved to get them? Take, for example, the latest Call Of Duty games: most multiplayer gamers I know don’t bother with the campaign unless they are really bored, have nothing else to play, or somehow lose Internet access. I rather not pay extra for content I’ll likely not finish or care about. Again, I’m in the minority.
I find we’ve become complacent, perhaps apologetic. We’ll say things like “the first 10 hours are rough but the last hour makes up for it”. We’ll ignore that the gameplay is mundane and controls clunky just because a game is “visually stunning”, gives you the feels, or has lovable characters. Life Is Strange, again, comes to mind. Great interactive movie or experience, not much in terms of a game but there’s something there and it can round out the space if we tap into other genres and ideas.
There are so many concepts that have yet to be executed or expanded upon yet it feels like 99% of video games fall into the same three boxes: interactive movies, competitive shooters, and sports. I know many folks out there are reading this and rolling their eyes because gamers tend to say they want something new but then they don’t vote with their wallets. I agree: we enable big studios to keep peddling us the same crap… But I know, deep down inside, we are craving for much more.
Cross-platform, please. This has been the outcry of the gaming community for a long time. With exclusives being all but completely irrelevant this generation, I feel that the big players would do well to not just say cross-platform is cool but actually make a push for it. For example, there’s no reason Rocket League can’t play nice with PC, XBox One, and PS4 at the same time. Furthermore, even if you have the money, there’s very little reason to get all the consoles beyond being able to play with your friends.. And that money is better spent elsewhere. Call me a cheap bastard.
Overall, I hope companies with the money to bring about change grow some balls and do new things. EA plays it really safe because people keep paying for their iterative crap. Why are their sports games annualized? Why don’t they build games into true platforms and skip the cash grab? They’re not alone in these practices and this E3 may not prove any different.
Regardless, this is a pivotal year because there is momentum across all fronts of gaming. I feel like the VR and other gimmicky stuff is taking the focus away from where it needs to be but what do I know? What I can say for sure is that I see how restless some of my closest friends are getting. It’s not a matter of quantity but, rather, quality. We want options and every big brand announcement in the video game industry is predictable. I can already hear the crickets in the audience. I hope we’ll be proved wrong!
BTW, we’ll be in the AllGames.com IRC chat through Tuesday with live reactions, mostly snark and translations just because. Leave your comments with your best/worst of the show, how you feel about the state of the industry, or games you’d like to see. Are you ready for change or are you happy with the state of things as they are currently?