Posts tagged E3

My E3 findings

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I originally planned to do some step-by-step recap of the E3 conferences, with ratings and stuff. But after Void’s wonderful postings for each show and FireFish’s great (if not exactly mine) opionions (which you can read HERE) I decided to go for a more loose and essay-like recap and what I took away after some days of digesting, dislodging from imminent hype and getting things straight for myself. Let’s go, shall we?

 

Microsoft is trying to catch up…

I think no one watching the Microsoft show got a feeling of confidence from this company that managed to lose the goodwill and following of many million players of the 360 era in merely 12 months. Microsoft has since been unsteady in its decisions regarding the XBox and this was more obvious than ever at this year’s E3 show. It knows the PS4 managed to pull ahead immediately because many player’s (like myself) just wouldn’t buy a less powerful console for $100 more. They thought Kinect and TV functionality would be great technical investments and were all wrong about it. Now they announced what will be the most powerful console on the market but are again $100 more than the PS4 Pro while the redesigned XBox One S and PS4 Slim are sitting comfortably on mass market pricing. They also lost a lot of exclusivity deals with 3rd party developers and because their 1st party output is not even close to what SONY and Nintendo can do (and are doing) they decided to show just a load of games (many of them Indie and AA games) with some sort of exclusivity while trying to emphasize on the message that multiplatform games will look best on XBox One X.

 

…but they are still failing.

The problem with all of that is this: the 3rd party games shown don’t compete with the high production value exclusive games of SONY nor do they look as exciting gameplay wise as the exclusive games of Nintendo. They exist and that’s just not enough. Microsoft is also running into a problem with the XBox One X’s performance. While it manages to have 50% more GPU performance, the CPU is built upon the same bad architecture that PS4, PS4 Pro and XBox One (S) are based on. What does this mean? It means that while 3rd party games may be able to pull of a true 4k instead of lower resolution or checkerboard rendering of the PS4 Pro the results simply won’t be noticeable most of the time. The CPU is just not powerful enough for a 100% framerate increase compared to the PS4 Pro which means you will indeed get similar results in the end. The only games that normally profit from such a supererogation are 1st party exclusives that are built specifically for the platform – of which the XBox One X just doesn’t have that much. Forza 7 in 4k at 60 fps sure does look and will play impressive but a racing game alone won’t sell the console. That’s why Microsoft was trying to explain that any XBox One title will benefit from the performance because XBox One X will render them automatically at a higher resolution. That’s great but honestly no reason even for 4k TV owners like myself to pay $500. What’s also great is the cooling and form factor but I am being honest here: my XBox One S is the slickest and quietest modern console I have ever owned. The XBox One X may be even slicker and quieter but even I as someone who gets bothered by cooling noise easily (why, SONY, does the PS4 Pro need to be so noisy sometimes?) doubt the XBox One X will be a significant improvement over the XBox One S. And so I just cancelled my preorder of the XBox One X. Just now as I am writing these lines. Yup, Cancelled. What Microsoft needs to do is to heavily market the XBox One S as well. That’s a console you can get for $200 to play games like Forza, Gears of War, Halo, State of Decay, Sea of Thieves, etc. if you’re interested in them and don’t want to bother yourself with Windows 10 PC gaming. What Microsoft also needs to do is get some AAA high quality exclusive games again. Not timed exclusives and not with some exclusive content. They are doing a lot right in terms of coss buy (with Windows 10) and cross play (with Switch and Smartphones even), backwards compatibility (how much I wish I could just pop in my PS3 copies of Ni No Kuni and the Metal Gear Solid collection in my PS4), development tool quality and their id@XBox program. But if they really want to be a worthy contender to SONY again, they need to up their game (pun intended) and start getting those heavy hits in.

 

SONY is trying to deliver…

SONY’s show was pretty much what I expected. Many gamers are a bit frustrated because of the great E3s of 2015 and 2016 but here’s the catch: both years SONY announced a lot of titles that are far far away. It’s like a mortage for hype and SONY knows which is why they were focusing on stuff that comes out this year and next year. And that stuff has been announced already. Last of Us 2 is still very early in production and preparing an E3 showing does cost a lot of time and money which Naughty Dog already invested in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. But PS4 is still a great primary platform for gaming with full 3rd party support and a lot of high budget AAA productions. They also try to push VR further (which is completely uninteresting to me at the moment) but they need to keep that going. It felt a little bit like when 3D and the Vita sections started to shrink. I hope I am wrong because VR could get really interesting to me with the next generation of hardware and the experience developers will have earned with VR by then.

 

…but needs to be careful with that rising arrogance.

I feel like SONY should focus more on features that are not only for the majority of gamers. Being able to change the PSN nickname is a feature that people are demanding for years now, backwards compatibility is another. SONY also tries to explain why they wouldn’t allow cross play with other platforms than the PC with reasons of protecting kids which is insane considering both XBox Live and Nintendo are far more protective than Steam or PSN itself (on Xbox One you can set exactly what your kids can play, how they can interact online – on PS4 it’s just all or nothing). Everyone is aware that SONY just doesn’t want the competition to profit from their big PS4 playerbase. That’s nasty and not exactly for the players, but it’s reasonable from a business point of view. Just don’t pretend you have your own player’s well being in mind when that’s clearly not the case. At least be honest so it won’t be as comical when you should need to make some exceptions in the future (because your version of Minecraft will be worst because every other platform – including Nintendo Switch! – is connected and DLC will work across all of them as well).

 

Nintendo learned a thing or two from SONY…

“How to win an E3 in 25 minutes” has already become kind of a meme. Nintendo’s show – 3 months after the Switch’s release – was decent with Xenoblade 2 and Mario Odyseey releasing this year and Yoshi and Kirby coming 2018. But what really excited many fans was a logo and some spoken announcement. Metroid Prime 4 and a main Pokemon game are both coming for the Switch. No one knows when exactly, but they are coming. Nintendo took a page out of SONY’s playbook here because those kind of announcements are very unusual for Nintendo. The company likes to announce games that are already pretty far in development and can be shown off easily, yet neither Metroid nor Pokemon had even some alpha status kind of screenshot or gameplay trailer. Nintendo finally understood that sometimes fans just want to know that the thing they are asking for is coming. Acknowledgement. It’s important.

 

…but will still not compete directly with SONY and Microsoft.

Nintendo is doing a lot right lately, which even got them some praise from 3rd parties. Still, the Switch – with it’s unusual premise – will not be able to compete directly with PS4 and XO. We will certainly see more and more 3rd party games coming to Switch as sales of the system continue to grow (especially from Japan where the Switch is the best selling gaming platform each week since its release) but developers will be very careful which game they will spend their ressources on. Games for Switch need to benefit from the portability so the ports will be reasonable sidesteps instead of unwanted steps backwards. Skyrim is the type of game that definitively makes sense because of all the content that can be leisurely be experienced on the go or at home (like Breath of the Wild). Call of Duty that you really need to focus on and get everything from its blockbuster audiovisual presentation? Not so much. Anthem with its online community focus and high quality graphics? Neither. And the problem is this: as Phil Spencer from Microsoft already mentioned more than once more and more games are planned as a service to keep players engaged and connected and monetized. The Switch is pretty much the opposite of that; sure: games like Mario Kart and ARMS (that I am planning to write a review for artsygamer on) are much less interesting when not played online, but they work great with local multiplayer as well which was one of the Switch’s design goals apart from being able to take it with you and play on the go.

 

For me, nothing has changed.

This year I am coming out of E3 just as I went in. Sure, new and exciting games like Wolfenstein II have been announced. But my gaming setup will not change. The Switch will still be my daily companion and primary platform for all games that are great to play on the go, the PS4 is still getting sweet AAA games exclusive to the platform and Microsoft is still trying to transform XBox to something that goes beyond being a hardware platform while still trying to keep the hardware relevant and competitive somehow. The biggest surprise to me was honestly how much fun Mario + Rabbids seems to be and that Ubisoft is able to deliver a good E3 show in general. Everything else I pretty much knew before. That means not many pleasant surprises. But that also means almost no unpleasant suprises as well. To me, that’s enough to be a good E3. But for next year, I want more again.

Yippie, soon it’s E3! Here are my Top 10 predictions…

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So E3 will take place in LA from June 13th to June 15th this year, but Microsoft will be kicking off the party actually on Sunday June 12th because as more and more companies are starting to have their press conferences and live events, shedules get pretty crowded. There is a German gamer community called Consolewars that I am pretty active on and they are doing some Bingo game every year where every user can pick 16 things that they believe will happen or won’t happen. Inspired by that, here are my Top 10 predictions for this year’s E3:

 

10. Microsoft’s Scorpio will be revealed
I know, that’s kind of a cheap one. Microsoft announced Project Scorpio at last year’s E3 and Digital Foundry already reported on the specs and what Scorpio will be able to do. But when I say revealed, I mean the actual machine, on stage, possibly running some games. We will see the design, get to know the real name and Microsoft will announce the release date and the price for its new console powerhouse. And because – as I mentioned – this one is kind of a cheap prediction, I am giving you a little bonus here: I think the price of the Scorpio will be either $499 or – if Microsoft is willing to take a loss to bump up sales – $449.

 

9. Microsoft’s new games
My next prediction revolves around the games that Microsoft will show off. Here are my predictions on 4 games that I think Microsoft will announce at least 2 of for the first time (so in dev stuff like Sea of Thieves doesn’t count): Forza 7, an exclusive Ninja Gaiden, time exclusive Borderlands 3, Fable Online, Knight of Aegis. Also I hope for another Ryse Son of Rome game (which I kind of liked, similarly to The Order 1886). And Microsoft needs to show Crackdown 3. It’s either completely different than what was announced years ago or it’s dead and burried. If it’s the later, bring on the sequel to Kameo Elements of Power and Panzer Dragoon! Returning already announced games will include Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2.

 

8. Games at the SONY press conference
This prediction is about which games will be prominently shown at SONY’s press conference, and I am talking 3rd party here. I can already see 2 big ones with Resident Evil 2 Remake and Shenmue 3 [Shenmue 3 will not be at E3, confirmed by the dev team]. Destiny 2 will probably also be there with some SONY (time-)exclusive DLC announcements as well as Call of Duty WWII. The one I am not so sure about yet because it would make more sense to show off at Tokyo Game Show is the Final Fantasy VII Remake, but you’ll never know. Oh, and don’t forget that Death Stranding gameplay demo that Kojima will be presenting comfortably between the live demos of The Last of Us Chapter 2 and the new God of War game; because it’s time now. Seriously. Also – I know chances are slim, but: can I please get The Order 1887? I want to know how the story will proceed, how the characters will be developed.

 

7. Ubisoft
With the recent success of Ghost Recon Wildlands and For Honor, Ubisoft is in a strong position and I think Assassins Creed [CONFIRMED] and The Crew [CONFIRMED] will only be two of the existing franchises that will have a sequel announced this E3. Other than that though, I could imagine Ubisoft to either announce a new Watchdogs or a new Division Addon as well. Plus, I expect some Nintendo Switch games, but more on that within the Nintendo predictions. Oh, and FarCry 5 [CONFIRMED] in a kind of Wild West theme [modern Midwest? setting confirmed]. It’s a thing, believe!

 

6. EA
EA has – just like last year – its own event which happens to cross E3 again. The big title this year will probably be Battlefront 2, except for the inevitable new FIFA, Madden, NBA, etc. games. I think we will also see a new Need For Speed announced. But I don’t expect any major surprises from EA. Mass Effect Andromeda went kind of the wrong way, Titanfall 2 didn’t do well despite being critically acclaimed. A new Dragon Age could be announced though. And Medal of Honor is a franchise that’s sleeping for too long now, especially with a WWII Call of Duty coming this year.

 

5. Bethesda
Right before E3, the Morrowind addon for TESO will be released so I don’t expect any announcement there. New Skyrim versions for PS4, XO and Switch are coming this year so I wouldn’t hold my breath for a next Elder Scrolls announcement either. What we know will be coming is a new Multiplayer Quake, but I actually hope that a new Wolfenstein will be announced. I also expect The Evil Within 2 being announced as well as a DOOM singeplayer addon. I mean come on Bethesda, last year’s DOOM sold like hot cake and all we got with DLCs is multiplayer stuff that no one asked for. Got to milk that masterpiece!

 

4. Nintendo
So, after the Switch having a very successful launch and being still sold out in most places (expect to wait 3-4 weeks until you get one if you order now!), Nintendo needs to find a good balance between announcing games that are not too far off and keeping the 3DS platform alive for too long. There is a lot of stuff that Nintendo could announce this E3, and my predictions will be they are most likely some of these: Super Mario Maker for Switch, Super Smash Bros. for Switch, Bayonetta + Bayonetta 2 for Switch, a new Metroid game, the new game by Retro Studios (95 developers that haven’t announced or released a game since February 2014? They will show off something new) and the long time rumored Pokemon Stars. There will also be updates for Super Mario Odysee and Xenoblade 2 but more importantly, I expect at least one exclusive game from Ubisoft (probably the rumored Mario Rabbids crossover [kind of CONFIRMED] and not Zombi 2) as well a Monster Hunter Switch announcement from Capcom [already happened: Monster Hunter XX]. I could also imagine Capcom to be porting either Resident Evil 7 or the Resident Evil 2 Remake to Switch, since they told everyone they were porting the RE Engine to Switch pretty early on. Nintendo will also need to finally disclose some of their plans regarding online service and virtual console.

 

3. What we won’t see
This one makes me sad, but here is what I don’t think we will see: Bloodborne 2, a new F-Zero game, a new Halo game, a Scalebound reboot, a new Syphon Filter, Kevin Butler returning on the SONY E3 stage, a From Software game announcement for Nintendo Switch, a new Diddy Kong racing, a really exciting game announcement from Konami and Mafia 4 (it’s too early, even though Mafia 3 sold extremely well). And Resident Evil 8. I think that announcement’s another year off. Also that return of SEGA as a console manufacturer is not coming. I wish this wasn’t true, but (again) no Dreamcast 2.

 

2. Unpleasant returns
I think there will be two returning franchises that will get an announcement in such a way that most gamers rather would have no announcement at all: Metal Gear Solid and Just Dance.

 

1. Winner of E3 2017
I don’t think there will be a clear winner company wise. I expect SONY to have the best show in terms of show setup and pacing, I expect Nintendo to have a great return to the playing field as a real contender against SONY and Microsoft and Microsoft has the advantage of having new gaming hardware to show and accompany it with new stuff which is always exciting. The true winners of E3 will be us, the gamers. Be excited!

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