Every June, the gaming industry converges on the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, affectionately known to gamers worldwide as E3. The expo has, in parallel to the industry itself, grown from humble beginnings to become a multi-million dollar enterprise, with expectations mounting year after year. Indeed, how a company fares at E3 can make or break them for the year ahead, a fact probably not lost on Nintendo this time around (more on that later). The vastness of the expo itself means that it would be impossible to sum it all up in one article, but I'll do my very best to cover the most interesting announcements from the “Big Three."
Of the big three gaming giants, it's widely believed that Sony “Won” E3 last year, with a press conference and convention floor showing that focused above all else on games, which is exactly what the press and the fans wanted to see. This year saw the Japanese electronic behemoths sticking very much to that winning formula with an expertly paced 90 minute spectacle that was big on gameplay and short of gimmicks.
The conference kicked off with an extensive gameplay clip of “The Last Guardian”
The major talking points of Sony's conference were the official announcements of three games that have been rumoured or teased countless times before, much to the dismay of fans. The conference kicked off with an extensive gameplay clip of “The Last Guardian,” a game in development for almost a decade. The gorgeous looking platform adventure comes from the acclaimed Team Ico, and has been delayed, cancelled and un-cancelled more times in the last decade than I care to remember. The two other major announcements that caused the assembled crowd to go borderline ballistic were an official PS4 remake of the classic JRPG “Final Fantasy 7,” and “Shenmue 3,” a game that I personally never thought would see the light of day. For more on that, however, see the article I posted last week.
Elsewhere there were plenty of bells and whistles to marvel at, including an intriguing open-world space-sim called “No Man's Sky,” which stunned the crowd with it's ambitious scope, and an extended play through of the upcoming “Star Wars Battlefront,” which quite frankly looks like the Star Wars game of my dreams. Sony closed, however (after a slight technical glitch) with exclusive footage of a stunning set piece from Naughty Dog's “Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.” I would say more, but just see for yourself!
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
OK, as a lifelong Nintendo fan I have to admit, even I was underwhelmed by their showing this year. Once again forgoing the expensive spectacle of a full-on press conference in favour of a more relaxed “Digital Event,” there was little shown that we hadn't already seen before, and what little new material there was, didn't just leave me cold, it made me seriously question whether or not Nintendo really knew what they were doing for the first time in almost 20 years of fandom! The idea of turning the company's three most recognisable figureheads into puppets was novel at first, but wasn't particularly funny. In fact, at certain points it all got a little cringeworthy.
Nintendo's games just couldn't match up to the dizzy heights set by Sony and Microsoft
The games, meanwhile, just couldn't match up to the dizzy heights set by Sony and Microsoft, and without any clear details on the NX machine (Nintendo's upcoming next generation console), it was all about the games this year so I'm genuinely baffled why Ninty didn't make more of an effort. The big theme of the event was supposedly “Transformation,” but honestly it all looked like business as usual to me. The new Star Fox game “Star Fox Zero” looks decent, if a little dated, and I'm as pumped for Super Mario Make as the next guy (the chance to make my own Mario levels is something I've dreamt of doing since I was still learning to ride a bike), but there was nothing even remotely transformative about the content.
The Wii U was served poorly, with only a handful of announcements, but the 3DS fared better, with “The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes” and “Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam” both looking great, if a little “Safe.” All that good grace was undone by the announcement of “Metroid Prime: Federation Force” though, which in one short trailer managed to completely soil Nintendo's chances of a 2015 E3 victory thanks to a game that appears to spit on a beloved franchises fan base. Personally I don't think it looks that bad, but the negative press online has been so heinous that a Change.org petition has been set up calling for the game to be cancelled. At the time of writing only 5,732 signatures are needed to take the petition to 25,000. Yep. THAT bad!
Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Microsoft began E3 as very much the runner-up in the current console wars, with the PS4 comfortably beating Xbox One sales in almost every region. So they really had to pull out the big guns for this year's conference, and they really did. Big style. They also seemed to completely leave the Kinect in the dust, which I think is a smart move, given the fact that motion control is now seen very much as last generation's gimmick. This generation's gimmick appears to be VR, and Microsoft played their cards admirably with the Hololens, though compared to Sony's Project Morpheus, it honestly seems a little outdated at this early stage.
Microsoft seemed to completely leave the Kinect in the dust at this year's E3
Before I get to the games, the first announcement that really impressed me was the backwards compatibility angle, with the company officially stating that by the end of this year, at least 100 Xbox 360 games will be playable on Xbox One. That's a huge deal for Microsoft, especially considering Sony have admitted they are not even considering following suit. A new “Elite” controller was also unveiled with slick, interchangeable and mappable paddles, a more defined d-pad, and swappable sticks. The modular approach is a smart one, and I can't wait to get my hands on one!
Game wise it was all about the big franchises for Microsoft this year. A new Gears of War game was finally unveiled, and “Halo 5: Guardians,” of course closed out the show with a bang. “Rise of the Tomb Raider” also impressed with its intense set pieces and particle physics, though compared to Uncharted 4 it couldn't help but fall short. One announcement I wasn't expecting, however, was from Fallout 4 developers Bethesda, who declared that all PC mods for the game will be available on Xbox One. This might not sound like a big deal, but i've been waiting for years for somebody to finally bridge the gap between PC and console gaming, and this is a small, but crucial first step in my eyes!
Halo 5: Guardians
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK. He's not sure who won E3 this year, but whatever your poison, it's a good time to be a gamer!