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E3 2019 has come to a close, and amid the usual flood of game announcements, some interesting trends and conversations have cropped up across multiple platform holders, publisher conferences, and interviews. The biggest and most obvious? The advent of game subscription and streaming services.
Just about everyone at E3 who was anyone had something to announce or at least say about the coming wave. On the streaming side, we had Google's pre-E3 announcement of pricing options for Stadia, Microsoft's demonstration of Project xCloud, or Bethesda's supporting Orion technology. On the subscription side, Microsoft went all in on pushing Xbox Game Pass as an option for everything it announced, Ubisoft brought out its own subscription service (that incidentally ties in with Google Stadia), and both Nintendo and Square Enix were caught on record at least talking about either streaming or subscriptions.
It being a transition year between console generations, E3 2019 seemed a bit quieter than usual, with lots of 2020 release dates, not a lot of gameplay footage, and a strong presentation from Nintendo who unlike everyone else is right in the middle of its own separate console cycle. With Sony not present and a less bombastic series of presentations overall, there was room to talk more seriously about the future of E3, and whether it's still serving its purpose as the key marketing moment for companies to share their plans for the remainder of the year.
But of course, E3 is one of the better times of the year to catch the industry's biggest figures for conversations about games, hardware, business models, crunch, and more. The week of E3 may still be the best for gaming announcements, but the weeks following E3 remain fascinating for their picture of where the industry is headed this year, and for several years to come.
QUOTE | "Four years later, compatibility remains a priority for Xbox, for our community and for developers and their games, and preserving the art form of video games is part of our DNA." - Xbox head Phil Spencer emphasized Microsoft's dedication to compatibility across its platforms in the wake of the announcement that the company would no longer be bringing new backward compatible games to Xbox One. The company will be focusing its efforts instead on Project Scarlett, which Spencer says will be backward compatible in some fashion and will have a physical disc drive.
QUOTE | "Plans for exactly what shape Double Fine Presents will take after that are evolving, but there will be no layoffs and we remain committed to our goal of supporting and spotlighting unique and original independent games and developers." - Microsoft's VP of business development Greg Rice confirmed that Double Fine would see no layoffs as a result of its acquisition by Microsoft, and that all currently-planned games for the studio's publishing arm would be released as planned.
QUOTE | "I think it would be nice if we found an Asian studio, in particular a Japanese studio, to add [to our studios]. I liked it when we had some first-party capability in Japan." - Xbox head Phil Spencer again, this time saying that Microsoft will continue acquiring studios where it makes sense, particularly with an eye toward building first-party content for its subscription service.
STAT | $14.99 - The amount subscribers to newly-announced UPlay Plus will pay per month for access to a library of 100+ titles from Ubisoft. In keeping with the theme of streaming and services present throughout all of E3 2019, UPlay Plus will also be available with Google Stadia beginning in 2020.
QUOTE | "We believed we could achieve significant savings and significant improvements and enhancements to the player experience by starting our optimizations at the very earliest literal possible point, which is on the game engine level." - Bethesda didn't come out with its own streaming or subscription service at E3 2019 unlike seemingly everyone else, but director of publishing operations James Altman says the publisher thinks it can improve existing streaming experiences with its newly-announced Orion game streaming technology.
QUOTE | "At present, we are offering our games on multiple subscription services, including Microsoft's. But eventually I do think that we need to get to the point where we have enough insight that we can build our own service." - Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda on the possibility of a subscription service for the publisher's titles, which he has also said would likely be a hub for ports of beloved classics.
QUOTE | "Streaming is certainly interesting technology. Nintendo is keeping a close eye on it and we're evaluating it." - Nintendo of America's senior director of corporate communications Charlie Scibetta explains to TechCrunch why Nintendo was the only major company at E3 not talking about streaming in one way or another.
STAT | 83% - The number of gamers interested in a streaming service like Project xCloud or Google Stadia, according to a study conducted between Broadband Genie and our fellow sister-site, Eurogamer.
STAT | 66,100 - The total number of E3 2019 attendees, down just over 3,000 from last year's show.
STAT | 17% - The percentage of non-violent games out of 239 titles shown at E3 2019's major press conferences and showcases.
QUOTE | "If we are going to do it as an industry, then we need to be into it. We can't have everybody deciding to go off in their own little directions to do this or that." - Bethesda's Pete Hines is aware that there are differing views on the future of E3, but he wants to see the industry come together to make the event a success.
QUOTE | "For us, one of our key tenets is that we bring smiles to people's faces, and we talk about that all the time. That applies to our own employees. We need to make sure that our employees have good work-life balance." - Animal Crossing: New Horizons was shown for the first time at E3 2019, complete with a delay from 2019 to March 2020. But Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser says in an interview with IGN that the reason for the delay is to avoid crunch.
QUOTE | "Instead of being scared, know your enemy, or learn more about something that you think you don't like. I think that video games can help with that. They can talk to things in real life. They can make us better people." - Ubisoft VP of editorial explains why the company's games avoid having explicit messages.
QUOTE | "This game has a message for sure...The message of this game is: ordinary people need to put aside their differences and come together. It's not the politicians, it's not the dude from the mountain who's going to come down and save us all. It's us." - Watch Dogs Legion creative director Clint Hocking explains the message behind the Ubisoft-published title.
QUOTE | "Before I start talking about settling our legal conflict, I'd like to talk about bees." - Star Control creator Paul Reiche III, beginning a phone call to Stardock CEO Brad Wardell alongside fellow creator Fred Ford. Their mutual beekeeping hobby would make its way into their settlement over the Star Control property, which sees naming and IP rights distributed, the original games sold once more, and the original creators assisting on future Star Control titles.
QUOTE | "We are never saying spiritual successor again." - Playtonic Games may have a number of veterans of Donkey Kong Country titles working on Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, but studio head Gavin Price says the creators want to get away from the idea that they're making anything other than their own unique experiences.