From the USG Notebook is a weekly column dedicated to rounding up rumors, tidbits, and commentary that didn't get full coverage on the site.
E3 once played host to showdowns between giants. I've been to E3 three times now, and during two of those years, you could define one of the Los Angeles Convention Center's halls by the foreboding standoff of two major consoles: PlayStation and Xbox.
Things have changed, though. E3 2020 will mark the second time PlayStation has skipped the show entirely, declining to have a presence at one of the largest gaming events of the year. And while it's a sign of the times, it also marks a shift in how the console war is playing out. Companies are hosting their own events and broadcasting on streams. They don't necessarily need to one-up each other at one show, if they can each go to their respective corners and deliver their message unabated.
Such a shame, an entire generation of games journalists will grow up without ever getting to walk the nightmare alley between GREEN BRAND and BLUE BRAND. pic.twitter.com/ytoP2MxBWd- Hayden Dingman (@haydencd) January 13, 2020
The infamous E3 corridor wasn't an actual throwdown, but it was a physical representation of the duel for attention at E3. Both companies were one-upping each other; moments like the Xbox One reveal and subsequent PlayStation 4 reply happened at E3. There was a sense of a real rivalry embedded in the facing logos, creating a hallway with an unusually foreboding aura.
We've chewed a bit on the changing console wars at past E3 events, and the gaming convention itself is proposing more public-oriented revisions. E3 has changed; the era of Nintendo vs. Sega, PlayStation vs. Xbox, all seems distant. Now, the duels between the modern console makers feels like they're playing out at a distance, even as they both prepare for next-gen console launches this holiday season. Not exactly two gunslingers showing up to high noon, staring each other down across the hall.
When Phil Spencer lamented Sony's absence last year, he said, "I wish Sony was here. E3 is not as good when they're not here." And it's true. There was a noticeable hole in the hall, a gap in the schedule, and a little less of the fire that's kept the show lively all these years. We won't have that this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is just confirmation we won't have it again. Goodbye, console rivalry road. We'll always have PlayStation Romeo and Xbox Juliet.
From the Rumor Mill
A few rumors and leaks have pointed towards a sequel to Nintendo DS classic The World Ends With You, which got a Switch port of the phone version last year. It's one of my favorite games of all time, so I'd be thrilled, but this one should be taken with cautious optimism at the very least.
Smash fighter speculation is at a fever pitch, thanks to the announcement of a new fighter reveal tomorrow. I've seen mention of just about everything, from Devil May Cry's Dante and Doom's Doom Slayer to Lloyd Irving, protagonist of Tales of Symphonia. With the abundance of leaks, social media is pretty much a circus right now, but indications that the reveal has been intentionally kept deep under wraps has me very intrigued.
Retailer listings have pointed to upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles news (via GameXplain). This, alongside a ratings board listing for Tales of Arise, could mean we're seeing some more RPG news sooner rather than later.
News and Tidbits
The Epic Games Store has been thriving despite users throwing a lot of nay-saying its way. Epic recently announced its online store had topped $680 million in player spending, and it will keep the free games coming in 2020. Even if you don't like booting up two launchers to play PC games, it's hard to deny this swath of games isn't a big plus to downloading Epic's client.
Riot Games has continued building up the rollout of its various games in development, separate from its MOBA, League of Legends. An open beta for its card game Legends of Runeterra hits early access on January 23, and the company is targeting March 2020 for both the mobile version of Teamfight Tactics and the game's third "set."
PlayStation has launched a site that lets you see what your most-played games of 2019 were, as well as additional neat tidbits about your playtime. I learned that I didn't play much PlayStation 4 in 2019, with Mass Effect: Andromeda and Death Stranding topping my list. Others, meanwhile, spent entirely too much time in FIFA.
One last note: In 2018, I wrote about a neat indie game called Marie's Room, an atmospheric adventure game you had to play in a single sitting. That team is now working on a game called Ghost on the Shore, and I'm already into what it's showing in the first trailer:
Our team is hard at work on E3, we look forward to sharing with all who love to play what's ahead for us. Our artform has consistently been propelled by the cross-section of creativity and technical progress. 2020 is a milestone year in that journey for Team Xbox. #XboxE3 #E32020- Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 14, 2020
One juicy tidbit I heard last year was that Sony's main reason for skipping E3 was disagreement/tension/conflict with the ESA, which is likely the driving factor here as well.- Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) January 13, 2020
In terms of hardware sales? Sure.- Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) January 15, 2020
In terms of software sales? Not at all.
Sony and Nintendo have reported full game sales are up in 2019 vs 2018.
DLC / Add on Content spending is up YoY.
Subscription and Services spending is up YoY.
GameStop is losing market share here. https://t.co/SRyKwB9BP3
A big response at E3, or missing E3 entirely, has no impact on sales expectations or forecast for a particular title or platform. So, shrug.- Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) January 13, 2020