E3 2017 – Predictions/Anticipation

E3 is still probably the biggest annual event in video games despite a lot of developments that have made it far less important than it used to be. Those in the games industry and commentators adjacent to it have been asking “is E3 still relevant?” for years now, but the conference persists and I’m certainly still interested.

Getting excited about things is fun. Watching big new announcements and seeing how the big companies in the industry react to one another is fascinating and E3 is a concentrated dose of both. I would lament the loss of it.

While I’ve never been to an E3 and likely will never go, watching the press conferences (sometimes with commentary, sometimes not) has become an annual ritual. I guess it’s sort of the same as people who watch the NFL draft or the Grammys. I donno.

EA

This is one of the conferences I’m always least excited about, but at least this year there’s a clear game I’m interested in. That is, of course, Star Wars Battlefront II (not to be confused with Star Wars: Battlefront II, ugh.)

I share the general opinion that Battlefront the first was a beautiful, well realized modern Star Wars game – there just wasn’t enough of it. And even with the additional maps from the DLC, I don’t think it’s a great game. DICE is keenly aware of the reaction to the first game so I’m curious how they’ll course correct.

star-wars-battlefront-2-theed-frostbite-engine
Feels like it’s been awhile since a big Star Wars multimedia property has acknowledged the prequels, but at least that means there’ll be more stuff in this one

This game is going to sell a bazillion units no matter what, but it’s important they get it right this time because the general public will eventually catch on if mediocre Star Wars games become a trend… again.

Other than that, it’ll be a lot of sports games which I have less than zero interest in. Possibly BioWare will talk about their new IP, but I’ve also got very little interest in BioWare these days. They could really use a winner after Mass Effect: Andromeda so I hope it’s good for their sake.

Microsoft

Microsoft has arguably the most to do at this year’s show. They’ve got to make the case for their Xbox One revision Project Scorpio. We already know the system specs and they’re mighty impressive. So what’s it going to cost and what games will really take advantage of it?

Microsoft’s achilles heal this generation has been games. There aren’t many exclusives for either Sony or Microsoft anymore, but Sony’s had some real winners like Bloodborne, Uncharted 4, and Horizon Zero Dawn while Microsoft’s former heavy-hitters Halo, Gears of War, and Forza haven’t landed with the same impact they once did.

It’s games that move systems. Well, that and consumer-friendly practices and pricing. Microsoft really shot themselves in the foot with their initial Xbox One announcement years ago and they’re still recovering. While Scorpio will put them on top in terms of raw power, they need the games to draw players back to their platform. With most Xbox exclusives also coming to the PC, I personally have no reason to even consider an Xbox.

The next Forza will likely be there to show off Scorpio’s power, but Gears and Halo almost certainly won’t be. Microsoft needs a new killer IP like Horizon Zero Dawn.

A lot of people are jazzed about Sea of Thieves, a co-op pirate themed game from Rare. Nothing I’ve seen from this game has hooked me so far, but I’m ready to have my mind changed.

Bethesda

I’ve really enjoyed Bethesda’s output as a game studio (Elder Scrolls and Fallout) and as a publisher (Wolfenstein, DOOM, Prey, Dishonored) despite some of their less-than-awesome business moves. Most of those franchises I listed aren’t ready for additional installments. We just got new DOOM and Dishonored last year and Fallout the year before that. Elder Scrolls VI is still probably in the thick of development if it’s even out of pre-production.

The rumor is Bethesda Softworks has a new IP to go with Fallout and Elder Scrolls – an open world space game called Starfield. That sounds pretty awesome to me even though I’ve gotten kind of sick of the Bethesda open world format. Space travel and visiting different planets could really shake up the formula nicely.

I could see Wolfenstein making an appearance with a spring 2018 release. The New Order was released back in 2014 and was surprisingly good. Apparently this one’s going to be even crazier. I’m all for it.

I don’t think we’ll get anything from id Software, but my hope would be a standalone expansion or DLC single player campaign for DOOM (my 2016 game of the year!) There was a bunch of multiplayer DLC for the game, but that’s not the killer part of that game. They’re probably working on a full-fledged sequel instead, but I can dream, can’t I?

Crazy surprise prediction: Bethesda announces they’ve bought IO Interactive makers of Hitman – a developer recently dropped by Square Enix as punishment for making an fantastic game (Hitman 2016 was my number two game of the year) that didn’t sell very well. Bethesda might actually be a good home for IO as they seem to do a good job letting developers do their thing with seemingly little interference.

But I super doubt that will happen – at least not at E3. I want Hitman Season 2 though!

Ubisoft

Similar to EA, I don’t care for a lot of Ubisoft’s games and expect this to be a less personally interesting conference than most. Probably what Ubisoft expects to be their big game is the new Assassin’s Creed set in Egypt. AC finally took a year off in 2016 so the return will doubtless be proclaimed with fanfare. It’s Ubi’s biggest franchise. I could not care less, personally.

What I do care about is Far Cry. Those have been fun games in the past – probably some of the best open world shooters out there. The recently-revealed Far Cry 5 puts me off a bit with it’s explicit use of Christian and white supremacist imagery around the villains of the game which is set in rural Montana. Because what we need is to further drive the wedge between rural and urban America.

FC5 art
Far Cry 5: I’m not sure about this, you guys

Ubisoft’s no stranger to this sort of insensitivity. Just this year, they released Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands which portrayed a drug-cartel controlled Bolivia. The very real country of Bolivia wasn’t too thrilled about that portrayal.

Far Cry 5 is closer to home, of course, so it bothers me more personally though it’s probably not the worst thing the company has done to seem relevant and edgy. And Far Cry 5 will probably be fun game to play. Whether the story stuff will be easy to ignore isn’t clear yet. I’ll reserve judgement, but I have my concerns.

One of the worst-kept secrets is Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle – a strange crossover title coming to Nintendo Switch. I’ve never played a Rabbids game, but have heard them compared stylistically to the Minions from Despicable Me so I want absolutely nothing to do with this game, I think.

Open world racing game The Crew is apparently getting a sequel. I tried the first game because I was curious about its open world – a deformed, shrunk-down version of the continental United States – but the actual racing was extremely boring.

Sony

Sony’s already announced and released their more powerful mid-generation hardware and their VR solution so this should be a show about games except that Sony has to defend the Playstation 4 Pro as a viable 4K platform against the more powerful Scorpio from Microsoft. Game demos will likely focus on Playstation 4 Pro enhancements.

We’ll almost certainly see a demo of The Last of Us Part 2, a game I’m not totally comfortable with existing, but am willing to give a chance. After all, Neil Druckmann found a reason for Uncharted 4 to happen and that game was the best in the series in terms of story.

SCREEN_TLOU2_Teaser_05
The first game ended so well that I’m skeptical about The Last of Us Part 2

We’ll also see some more of that other zombie game, Days Gone, which needs to give us a reason to care about yet another post-apocalypse. Maybe that new Spider-Man game will make an appearance?

I have a PS4, but haven’t used it much in the past year aside from the aforementioned Uncharted 4 and Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s a fine system with solid exclusives, but Sony needs to keep that up in order to stay ahead of Microsoft.

Nintendo

Nintendo will once again eschew a press conference in favor of a pre-recorded presentation. It really cuts down on the nonsense and shenanigans of a stage show which are often amusing, but also painful to watch.

The rumor is Nintendo’s “Spotlight” presentation will only run 30 minutes which is disappointing for those of us who hoped Nintendo would finally have a big show again. That likely won’t be the case.

There’s are two Nintendo presentations in my head: the one I want to happen and the one I’ve got a pretty strong feeling we’ll get.

The realistic prediction is that they’ll show a lot of Super Mario Odyssey. It’s the main feature like Zelda was last year. I kind of don’t want to see anymore of that game though. I want to be surprised when I play it. The initial trailer was delightful and more than enough to sell me on the game. I don’t need a deep dive at E3.

SuperMarioOdyssey_CapShop1
This game looks insanely charming and fun – I’m already sold

Splatoon 2 will also be hyped as that’s Nintendo’s big summer game. They’ll have to touch on Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or else admit that it will miss this year.

Indie games will fill the gaps between Nintendo’s big releases. That’s fine. I said in my review of the Switch that it will likely become my go-to platform for indie games.

I’m 50/50 on whether they’ll talk about bringing retro games to Switch – what was formerly known as the “Virtual Console” but is a brand I suspect they’ll do away with. I lean toward them saying nothing because I want it very badly and Nintendo are good at disappointing me with their lack of games lately.

I think Nintendo’s E3 will be very modest and their sales numbers with the Switch allow them to get away with that for now. If they don’t talk about 2018 games, they’ll have to have a presentation later in the year to assure their customers about future games. Knowing Nintendo, that’s probably the approach they’ll take.

What I’d like to see from Nintendo is a very different story.

Nintendo’s begun a trend of porting/updating some of its Wii U games for Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was so good I didn’t really mind paying full price for the game again. I hope we get more DLC for the game. It sold very well so it would make sense to capitalize on that success.

I would love for Super Mario Maker to be ported to Switch or a full sequel. I think it’s too soon for a sequel, but I’m hoping for a “Deluxe” version with added features. I think this will happen eventually, just not now.

Pikmin 4 has been rumored for years now. That would be an excellent Switch game and I could see that being a fall release.

And of course I want a new Metroid game. But we almost certainly won’t get one. We may get to see what Retro Studios, makers of the Metroid Prime series, have been working on. Their last game was the phenomenal Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in 2014. I highly doubt they’ve been making another DKC game, but I also don’t think they’re doing Metroid. It could be an original IP which would be really cool to see.

Nintendo’s newest IP Splatoon and Arms are both very much Not My Thing, but I appreciate the creativity and I like that Nintendo is trying some new things rather than just relying on what’s worked before. Retro is Nintendo’s only western studio so a new franchise from them would be fascinating and probably quite a bit different than what we’d normally see out of Japan.

Everything Else

Destiny 2 and Call of Duty: WWII are probably the two biggest games that I haven’t mentioned. They’ll slot in at either Microsoft or Sony’s conference – or both. I’m definitely curious about both, more from an academic perspective right now. I’m not sold on either.

There are also smaller press conferences – one from Devolver Digital and the PC Gaming Show put on by PC Gamer. Even though I’m primarily a PC gamer, I’ve never watched this show. It’s always seemed disorganized and lacking participation from people with the power to make truly big and exciting announcements. But that’s not to say there won’t be plenty of good stuff outside the big press conferences. We’ll just have to wait and see what that ends up being.

I’ll be back next week after these conferences are behind us with reactions and impressions.


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