2019 is half over and the biggest week in gaming is about to begin. We've seen six months of video game stories develop over the year, and it's time to see how they unfold at gaming's biggest convention.
E3 begins this weekend and USG will be in Los Angeles to cover everything that gets announced. But going in, there are a lot of questions that we'll hope to get answered from some of the industry's top developers and leaders. These are the most prominent storylines we'll be chasing next week.
Epic Games Store vs. Steam
Possibly the messiest storyline of the year so far is the supposed war between Valve and Epic. Normally the launch of a new PC digital storefront wouldn't turn so many heads, but Epic Games launched its new digital games store with its sights aimed squarely at Valve's Steam storefront.
Not only has Epic Games touted its own revenue share model in direct contrast to Steam's, but Epic Games has been securing exclusive games as part of its strategy to get the Epic Games Store on more PCs. While some of the comments regarding the Epic Games Store have devolved into particularly unpleasant territory, the underlying story for any new PC game launching in the future is now, "will the game come to Steam or be an Epic Games Store exclusive?"
Developers are getting in on the narrative too. Some game makers, like Larian Studios, have commented directly about whether their upcoming game will be coming to Steam. This alone is enough to divide readers depending on where they fall on the Epic vs. Steam divide. We expect more developers who announce PC games at E3 to also announce what storefront they'll be releasing on.
Google Stadia may have kicked off the video game streaming debate in earnest, but this is a space that almost all the major video game players are hoping to gain traction in. Microsoft has announced that it will be launching its own xCloud streaming service, and PlayStation has begun focusing on its own PlayStation Now streaming service again. Even Nintendo has a streaming service for the Switch, but so far it's exclusive to Japan.
Google already hosted its Stadia Connect livestream event before E3, but we can expect Xbox to reveal more about xCloud streaming at E3 this year. Maybe Nintendo will also make a surprise streaming announcement, especially given the rumors The Witcher 3 could be coming to the console.
Next-Gen, This Gen, or Cross-Gen?
Both Xbox and PlayStation have openly talked about the next generation of consoles. But the conversation around the PlayStation 5 and next-gen Xbox has been different this year than in previous generations.
While we know there will be a big performance boost with next-gen, developers like Sega's Toshihiro Nagoshi seem to think the current-gen consoles will still be relevant even after the launch of new consoles. And Sony has been talking a lot about how important backward compatibility is with the PS5.
As a result, there's a good chance that plenty of unreleased games could end up being cross-gen games. Death Stranding, to the surprise of everyone, is coming out this year, but it won't matter since the PS5 will still be able to play it. Will other unreleased games like CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 also release as a cross-gen title? Or will there be some decidedly next-gen exclusives?
New Switch Model
The news of a revised Nintendo Switch has lost some traction in the weeks leading into E3 thanks to Nintendo's announcement that there will be no hardware reveal at E3. But that doesn't mean a revised Switch model isn't currently in development.
The new Switch is rumored to be a redesign rather than a sequel, focusing more on portability. It's been reported that the new Switch will not be compatible with a dock, and that the Joy-Cons won't be removable. We'll have to wait to see if Nintendo indeed won't drop a surprise hardware announcement at this year's show.
Anti-Loot Box Bill
An anti-loot box bill is currently making its way through the U.S. legislature and it could impact the video game industry in some big ways. Laws passed in various European countries have already seen games removed from Belgium and the Netherlands. If a similar anti-loot box bill passes in the U.S., who knows how many games could be affected, either intentionally or unintentionally?
We expect game developers will do their best to make sure that if their games to feature microtransactions, to also explain how it could be exempt from any potential legal action by the U.S. government.
The End of The Console Wars
Xbox is well on its path to become a platform-agnostic ecosystem. Microsoft has been the biggest driver when it comes to tearing down console barriers and encouraging cross-platform play. First by bringing cross-platform play to the Nintendo Switch, then by trying to get Sony to join in as well.
What's more, key Xbox features like Game Pass and Xbox Live are probably coming to other consoles and hardware, even to the Nintendo Switch. That's virtually unheard of for a major console maker.
But the times they are a changing, and in the face of growing competition from tech giants like Google, the traditional video game players could be banding together. Xbox and Nintendo already seem to have a close relationship, and Microsoft and Sony recently announced a partnership that could see the PlayStation adopt Microsoft's Azure cloud technology. With so many new developments between the big three, could this be the year the console wars end?
For all our updates on these stories and more, check out our E3 2019 guide for a full schedule of the conference times.