As the dust settles on yet another marathon week of gaming reveals, the age old question will be thrown around from pillar to post: who won E3 this year? As time goes on it’s a question that is starting to have smaller significance, because, let’s face it; whether you loved or loathed Sony’s E3 conference this year – you’re still buying Spiderman come September 7th, right?
That’s not to say that all of a sudden E3 bares no significance on the gaming sphere, it’s still the time of the year where gamers congregate in the hopes of being blown away for what awaits them further down the line. The size and scale of social media is starting to detract from E3’s relevancy though, if Nintendo were to upload a trailer for the next Zelda across their social media platforms today, they’d have every chance of reaching a million people by tomorrow lunch time – and it’s clear companies are becoming more and more aware of this.
Regardless, E3 2018 did its usual job of still giving us plenty to criticise, lush, and wonder over. Here’s what the event tells us about where Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are heading.
Meant in the most complimentary was possible: things were very much ‘as you were’ for Nintendo. It speaks volumes of the success that the Switch has proved to be, and the Japanese giants deserve all the plaudits that they have received for sticking to their ethos of knowing what their core audience will want, and giving it to them. Back in March of last year you wouldn’t have had to look far for doubters of the sustainability of the Switch – they’ve all since been silenced with sales nearing 20 million, and some mighty strong first party exclusives, oh; and the newly dropped Fortnite.
The ‘Nintendo Direct’ style presentation that the company tend to opt for also speaks for the way that E3 is shifting. A 40+ minute trailer reel with occasional input from developers or Nintendo America CEO Reggie Fils Aime is the kind of showreel that could be released at any point in the year and still get the same traction, and you have to wonder whether Nintendo will find it worthwhile taking part in E3 in future years, especially since the company are so clear on their objective of offering the charming, friendly alternative to Microsoft and Sony.
In terms of what was actually on show though: Nintendo gave credence what a strong position they’re in. There was no new Metroid, Animal Crossing or heaps of new details announced on the new iteration of Pokemon Go; but there was Super Mario Party, Fire Emblem, and of course: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. The final 25 minutes of the show was dedicated to Smash Bros – showing just how important the franchise is to the Nintendo faithful. The game will go on to sell millions, get people huddled round their friends with Switches in tact, and continue to boost Nintendo’s family, and gamer friendly trend. Nintendo continue to be the quieter but deadly army.
As the pressure continues to mount on Microsoft to deliver a AAA exclusive capable of capturing the zeitgeist, the Americans set out on a near two hour slog of world premiere’s and exclusive reveals. It was the tried and tested formula of having a spokesperson stand on a stage with a multitude of screens behind him/her while they tell you about why every game on show should be on your wish-list. The format is a little mundane by this point but Phil Spencer has enough charisma to not make it a snoozefest within 20 minutes.
The biggest and most telling story to come out of this years E3 though is one that sums up the “console war” of Playstation 4 vs Xbox One. Microsoft’s most exciting announcement wasn’t Halo Infinite, it wasn’t Forza Horizon 4, and it wasn’t Gears 5; because while respectfully all three of those franchises have a large audience and will receive strong sales in their own right, the Xbox One fanbase is crying out for new IP’s to invest within.
Announcing the purchase of Undead Labs, Compulsion Games, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, as well as new studio called ‘The Initiative’ was Microsoft’s “hang with us” powerplay, and it was one they desperately needed to make. While it may still have seemed disappointing to some fans that Microsoft don’t seem to have a major exclusive to land this fall – the American titans have certainly bought some good will with their studio initiative. An exclusive Ninja Theory title on the Xbox One X sounds incredibly tasty; all eyes on E3 2019… yeah?
Away from the studio news, Microsofts bombardment of world premiere’s backed their often reiterated motto of “this can be played everywhere but will be best on the X”. Sekiro, Cyberpunk, and Tomb Raider were amongst the cross platform games that stood out, but as previously mentioned – it looks like we’re gonna be waiting another year to see if Microsoft can blow us away.
There was a charming level of arrogance to the way that Sony approached the showcase this year. Announcing several weeks in advance that their main focus of the show would be on four games: Last Of Us 2, Ghost Of Tsushima, Death Stranding, and Spiderman seemed like Sony’s leap of faith into the visions of their partners – and their ability to leave people reeling over what they’re about to see.
It wasn’t just this faith that was telling of Sony’s confidence though, having a whole theatre/church set out and dressed up to mirror the opening scene of The Last Of Us 2 trailer was smug genius. And while the intermission between the end of TLOU2 trailer and moving people across to the arena where the rest of the show would take place was odd – Naughty Dog have more than earned enough stripes to warrant such a bold move. The game itself look shudderingly excellent, and if there’s one team on this planet that can create something to beat the original Last Of Us – it’s most certainly Neil Druckmann and co.
Death Stranding continued to deepen its intrigue factor (does anyone know what that game actually is yet?), Spiderman looked like beautiful chaos certain to sell copies in the millions; and Ghost Of Tsushima was the kind of vast, exquisite looking samurai adventure which finally explains why Suckerpunch went quiet for so long. It’s easy to look at Sony’s conference and scream “THERE WAS NOTHING NEW!” but look deeper and you find a company with 100% belief in their studios, their ethos, and their plan going forward.
With Sony also putting on their annual ‘PlayStation Experience’ event every December, it makes much more sense for the blue brand to save a lot of their new big hitters for their hardcore audience that will attend, as opposed to the heaps of journalists that parade E3.
Whether this time in five years there is still an annual showcase for all gaming powerhouses to come and show what they’ve got in their locker remains to be seen. But this year certainly painted an interesting landscape for gaming to go forward over the next 12 months, we haven’t even mentioned Battlefield, Call Of Duty, Destiny, or Assassin’s Creed here – which speaks volumes for where the impact of this years gaming expo really landed.
Going forward, all three of gamings biggest hitters left us with more questions than answers, though that is usually the case for this type of event. The term “console war” seems to get more dated every day, especially when each company seems to be particularly adamant in offering something in alternative to the other. As Nintendo continue to make waves, Microsoft build bridges, and Sony reinforce theirs; one thing is clear: it’s a great time to be a gamer.