Time to Play a Game—the Biggest Announcements from This Year’s E312.06.2019
E3 remains one of the most definitive video game industry events. Let’s take a look at the eight biggest announcements made this year.
The inaugural Electronic Entertainment Expo, since abbreviated E3, was held on May 11, 1995, in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Back then, the organizers had no idea whether they were launching a worldwide phenomenon or catapulting themselves into bankruptcy because the event would not pay for itself if no one showed up. In three days, however, nearly 40,000 people would pass through the venue, ultimately making the first Expo a success. Later years brought further successes and spectacular failures—attempts at expanding abroad fizzled out after Sony, Nintendo, and Sega withdrew from the Japanese incarnation of the Expo, a move which effectively killed the plans for future events in Singapore and Canada. Fervent disputes with owners of their fabled LA venue forced the E3 team to relocate the event to Atlanta for two years, which would seriously hurt attendance. After the disputes were settled, however, E3 made its triumphant return to LA and has been steadily growing ever since.
Although it seemed at first that E3 was growing into an unstoppable giant, the game studios themselves managed to halt its inexorable forward march. In 2005, over 70,000 people visited the Expo—and although many companies would be absolutely thrilled with the number, the video game industry began worrying about the decline in Expo quality. Some publishers lamented the fact that many media representatives were just small-time bloggers who limited the studios’ ability to showcase their titles properly to a broader audience. Consequently, in 2007 and 2008 the Entertainment Software Association (the group behind E3—ed. note) decided to limit the ticket pool to 10,000 and 5,000 people, respectively. American analysts pointed out that although smaller crowds at the event have indeed helped showcase upcoming gaming titles, the smaller ticket pool effectively shut out reporters working the lifestyle, film, and culture beats from the event.
Fortunately, the Expo returned to its original formula in 2009 and quickly regained whatever momentum it lost as best evinced by the steadily growing number of attendees—the 2018 edition of the event gathered 69,200 visitors. This year’s event, however, may end up drawing a smaller crowd after Sony announced it was pulling out of E3 to promote its own PlayStation Experience event.
Below, we take a closer look at the biggest announcement from the opening, media-oriented portion of the Expo, during which top game development studios reveal their upcoming AAA titles. E3 attendees will also have the opportunity, until Friday, June 14, to play the demos for some of these titles.
The showcase of the studio behind The Witcher franchise proved such a success that the company’s value on the Polish stock market grew by 1.5B PLN in less than a week. What made it such a triumph? First off, Cyberpunk continues to be one of the most anticipated industry titles, and the release date for the game was unveiled by none other than Keanu Reeves. His presence in the game was a well-kept secret, so when he appeared on stage, the auditorium exploded in surprise and whole swaths of the Internet still have trouble dealing with the fact that John Wick himself will be coming back to the electronic entertainment industry. Reeves’ prior forays into video games, including The Matrix: Path of Neo and Constantine, have managed to achieve cult status despite not being outright financial successes. It seems, however, that this time will be different—the Internet’s boyfriend joining forces with a game studio widely considered the best in the industry seems like a surefire recipe for a blockbuster.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Although some see the LEGO-branded video games as intended for children, the franchise is anything but. Like The LEGO Movie franchise, which has been the darling critics and audiences worldwie, the LEGO Star Wars titles have been an important part of many gamers’ childhood and adolescent years. The Skywalker Saga will reportedly be adapting the whole nine episodes of the Star Wars franchise, but no details beyond that have surfaced. The game is supposedly slated for release soon after the premiere of Episode IX, but it’s still unknown whether the Saga will be built from the ground up or, like the LEGO Harry Potter franchise before it, feature slightly improved and overhauled gameplay we know and love from earlier LEGO titles. One thing is certain—the game will surely be worth every penny and will offer at least a few dozen hours of solid storytelling wrapped in entertaining gameplay.
Project Scarlet has been the talk of the industry for quite some time, given its position as the primary competitor of the PS5 in the latest iteration of the console wars. For Scarlet, Microsoft reused its Xbox One X pitch and called it the most powerful console on the market built with top-notch hardware, offering 8K 120fps video, real-time ray tracing (a rendering technique producing photorealistic imagery), and, most importantly, full backwards compatibility. Will that be enough to vanquish Sony’s offering? Hard to tell at this point. Consoles are bought primarily for games so if Xbox will have enough exclusives after its 2020 release, it might finally win out over the Japanese competition and secure the top spot in the console market.
Microsoft’s new next-gen console already has its first exclusive—the latest installment of the Halo franchise, a cult classic and fan favorite which catapulted Xbox into the big leagues of console gaming. Master Chief will be once again returning as the near-silent protagonist, but the Infinite showcase featured only a brief story trailer and no actual gameplay. Although the premiere is still eighteen months away, Microsoft announced Infinite a year ago, so most fans hoped for something more than just a teaser with no gameplay footage and visuals that seem almost dated, especially in comparison with competing titles, like The Last of Us Part II. That doesn’t exactly bode well for a console with supposedly the most powerful hardware available on the market.
Watch Dogs: Legion
The biggest problem of the two prior installments in the Watch Dogs franchise was the unbearable hype that preceded their release. The final products, however, consistently failed to live up to that hype—although undoubtedly good games, both ultimately delivered a mere fraction of what they promised and flopped, unable to strike Grand Theft Auto from its throne. The third chapter of the saga is set in post-Brexit London and features a bevy of characters—instead of a taking on the role of nerd-hacker and martial arts master, proficient in street fighting, firearms, and archery, the players will now be able to pick more specialized characters with rather specific skill sets, recruiting and deploying them across the city in a manner that best fits their individual play style.
Marvel’s Avengers: A-Day
A-Day’s biggest problem seems to be the appearance of its main characters—or the fact that Marvel fans grew deathly attached to the way the Avengers are portrayed the MCU. This could lead them to reject a game which takes such a different visual tack of Iron Man and his superpowered friends. Furthermore, the visual in the game seem dated at the very least, especially in comparison to the recently-released Marvel’s Spider-Man, a PS4 exclusive. However, Marvel’s direct involvement in the development process of a title that might very well launch a Marvel Gaming Universe, should give us at least some hope as to its final shape.
The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The first Breath of the Wild was a masterpiece which forever changed the way the world viewed RPGs. The latest announcement from Nintendo whipped Link fans into a frenzy. Zelda is one of the most seminal franchises in video game history, so another installment in the series was probably a question of time. However, few could have predicted the announcement coming still this year. Fewer still expected the latest installment to be a BotW sequel. Well, now we know—all we can do now is wait. And given that no release date has been announced, the wait is shaping up to be painfully long.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
For many gamers, Final Fantasy VII has been the most important title released in the past two decades. Its triumphant return has been slated for March 3, 2020. Developers from Square Enix reported that the game would not only be a faithful recreation of the seminal original, but also an excellent introduction for players new to the franchise.
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