So far, only two days of E3 have passed—but there's a ton of stuff worth talking about in those first 48 hours. And while we still have a few more days of E3 action ahead of us, that doesn't mean we can't weigh in with the hits and misses of this year's event thus far. So read on, and add your say in the comments section!
Hit: Sony's "Big Three" Announcements
Adam Boyes couldn't keep the smirk off his face. The Sony executive had three huge announcements, and he reeled them off one after the other, shocking the audience and wiping away much of the memory of Microsoft's strong press conference from that morning.
There was the Last Guardian, which most had written as dead and buried long ago, apparently alive and well. There was the Final Fantasy VII remake, which has been an industry unicorn for as long as I've been covering games. And then there was Yu Suzuki standing on stage and promoting Shenmue 3, crashing Kickstarter and raising $2 million almost overnight. By the end of the conference, everyone was joking that Sony should just announce Half-Life 3 and get all of the industry's holy grails out of the way.
In a way, "The Big Three" was the video game industry in a nutshell. It showed that for as much as we protest that we want something new and interesting, we'd really rather have our comfort food. Sony had the biggest and best helping of that comfort food, and so they "won" E3.
Easy as it is to be cynical, though, the excitement for these games is contagious. And as Bob said, Shenmue may be boring as sin, but it's great to see an industry great like Yu Suzuki redeemed after all these years. In that, Boyes' smirk was well-earned.
Miss: The Pele Interview
It seemed like the EA press conference would never end, running for more than 90 minutes and focusing on sports, sports, and more sports (and yet somehow not saying anything meaningful about of the games on display). But the nadir was the appearance of Pele, who rambled about the beauty of soccer to a disinterested audience for what seemed like interminable amount of time.
Alas, celebrities and on-stage presentations rarely go well, with the best result usually being some awkward time spent demoing the game and an endorsement. Even by that low standard, though, EA's Pele interview was the worst of all worlds, wasting the time of a true soccer legend without even the benefit of gameplay footage. What a strange decision.
Hit: Nintendo's Lovely Romp Through History
I hear that Nintendo's direct stream yesterday really made a lot of people angry, but I can't say I share the indignation. All I'm mad about is the lack of a book compiling all those amazing original drawings and sketches Tezuka and Miyamoto shared for the original Super Mario Bros. That's vital video game history! It belongs in a museum for sure. Or a book. I love the fact that Nintendo is so willing to capitalize on its own heritage -- seeing those little snippets of history, or the SMB creators jamming on guitar, really reminds you not to take games so seriously. Especially if you're the type who thinks it would be a good idea to start a petition to keep companies from making games for people besides you.
Miss: The PC Conference
I didn't attend the PC press conference, and thank god. It sounded interminable. And I'm the kind of person who loves to see interviews and commentaries with creators! The idea of a PC conference kind of misses the point of E3 anyway, which remember is about putting retail products in front of retailers. PCs have become a mostly digital business, which made the stream last night feel like an awful lot of nothing. I can see potential in focusing on the PC business as a complement to the console conferences, but this wasn't the answer.
Hit: Platinum Games' Status as a Secret Weapon
Even if Platinum isn't working on their own IP, they're certainly busy these days: This E3 brought the news that Hideki Kamiya's studio would be working on the unexpected Nier sequel, a Transformers game, and Star Fox Zero. As someone who followed this crew through their critical hits and financial failures, it's fantastic to see them transition to being the pinch hitters of the games industry—developers called in to knock a project out of the park when no one else can. (That's how baseball works, right?) Heck, with Bayonetta 2 director Yusuke Hashimoto heading up the newest Star Fox, it's safe to say this is the first time I've been excited about the series since 1998—and with its status as a spiritual remake, hopefully this new installment will be just as fantastic as Star Fox 64. For a while, i wasn't sure if Platinum would make it, but I think it's now safe to say that they're not going anywhere.
Miss: The Continued Vagueness of No Man's Sky
I attended last year's Sony conference in person, where Hello Games' No Man's Sky was revealed, and it seemed like a cool idea, rife with potential. A whole year later, and my perspective hasn't changed one bit. Listen, I love Hello Games, and I think their Joe Danger series is criminally underrated. Still, I'd love to know what you actually do in No Man's Sky that provides an incentive to explore its vastness. Though they're much different games, the promise of No Man's Sky reminds me a lot of the creation aspect of Little Big Planet: sooo much ambition, but really, who could be bothered? It's certainly pretty, but at this point the actual play isn't really grabbing me—right now, NMS looks more like an art installation than a video game. Hopefully, Hello Games will prove me wrong!
Hit: Bethesda's Fallout 4 Presentation
Of all the games presented to me during the big pressers on Sunday and Monday, the one that really stuck out was Todd Howard spending more than 30 minutes (take note, EA Sports) giving us details about Fallout 4. We saw concept art, companion apps, a standalone mobile game, actual Fallout 4 gameplay, and a collector's edition that seemed like it might be worth buying. The entire presentation felt much more transparent than many of the games I would have revealed to me over the next two days.
Miss: Microsoft's Underwhelming Presser
While I completely agree that backwards compatibility and a huge library of indie games are fantastic features, I'm not sure it's enough to convince your average gamer to run out and buy an Xbox One. I think that these two announcements are signs that Microsoft is realizing that going head-to-head with Sony isn't working (this generation), and they need to shift their focus.
I also noticed that Microsoft didn't have a Call of Duty: Black Ops III reveal at their presentation. That was saved for the Sony presser. Whether you're a CoD fan or not, it says something when the FPS giant that is Activision jumps ship to partner up with your competition. I've felt for some time that Microsoft was struggling to keep pace with Sony this generation, and I think this E3 leaves them even further behind.
Hit: Final Fantasy VII Remake Bombshell
For years, Square-Enix told us not to look forward to a Final Fantasy VII remake. "Uh huh," we said. "Sure." We knew a Final Fantasy VII remake was as inevitable as choking up during Barret's meeting with Dyne in the ruins of Corel prison.
And yet there's something life-affirming about seeing the reveal trailer itself and listening to those small, sweet opening bells and strings that signal the beginning of Cloud's journey. I suppose we should be a little irritated that we've only seen a teaser so far -- the game is supposed to be out in 2018, but only Shinryu Himself knows if we'll see it by then -- but just knowing it exists is good enough to make my E3 2015 a sparkly one.
Now: Follow up with some gameplay footage in 2016, Square-Enix.
Miss: Animal Crossing amiibo Festival
I have nothing against amiibo. They're well-made, they're affordable, and they're implimented into games in fun, clever ways. I'm glad they exist, and I'd happily collect them all if acquiring the blasted things didn't require suiting up and going to battle.
Nintendo apparently took the wrong message from the cries of "We need more amiibo!" Instead of making more of previous releases, they're just making more amiibo, period. I'm tired of the weariness and heartbreak on my Facebook wall -- all those war-stories from friends who camped out in the rain at Wal-Mart just to be denied a Wii Fit Trainer at the last possible second.
So, a game based around amiibo -- and a whole new set of amiibo at that? Not enthused. Not even for a game starring sweet little Isabelle. Until Nintendo does the smart thing and makes amiibo available on their online storefront, I'm done with the little bits of plastic. This is the straw that broke Saharah's back.
Hit: HoloLens Halo 5 Guardians: Warzone Briefing Demo
If you want to read my full thoughts on the exceptionally impressive HoloLens briefing demo, check the article I wrote about it. But for a quick recap, Microsoft briefed us on the demo of Halo 5 Guardians: Warzone using a HoloLens to explain the game. It's an augmented reality device that worked so well, it almost felt like something out of a sci-fi movie. You know the bit in Star Wars when R2-D2 projects the holographic display of Obi-Wan Kenobi into thin air - it basically was like that, but instead of a holographic Obi-Wan, it was a Spartan soldier doing the talking. It was really impressive, and showcased technology that I firmly believe will become an intrinsic part of gaming in the near future. Absolutely astonishing stuff!
Miss: Oculus Rift press conference
Before anyone starts yelling at me, I'm not saying Oculus Rift is a miss. It isn't. It's an exceptionally cool piece of technology that works very well indeed. No. What I'm talking about is the press conference the company had just before E3. They simply didn't take advantage of the showcase to really demonstrate just how good the kit is for gaming. Just three basic games were shown, and that was it. At E3, there's so much more interesting stuff being displayed, and I can't for the life of me understand why they didn't show us more. It just seems like an opportunity missed to me, and they should have done a lot better. Particularly as they stressed that the technology is being made by passionate gamers that want to change the way we game. If that's the case - show us what it can do!
Hit: The New Generation Begins to Come of Age
Outside of some titles, it's feels like developers are finally coming to terms with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this year. Previous games have been the last generation plus some new bells and whistles, but I'm starting to see games branching out in how they utilize the new consoles' power. It's not just better graphics and higher fidelity, though that helps. We're starting to see the scale of game worlds grow. Metal Gear Solid V brings the series into the open world, but it also adds a host of new interactions and smarter enemies. Fallout 4's crafting system is simply amazing. Rainbow Six Siege uses the stronger consoles for enhanced strategic destruction. Yes, the PC probably could've done most of this if it was the only platform out there, but it's not and home consoles set the average.
Miss: The PC Gaming Conference
This is something I really wanted, as PC gaming is something near and dear to my heart. Seeing PC-centric developers take to the stage and show off their wares is something E3 has needed for a long while. The problem here was one of execution, not of intent. For one, the show was entirely too long. I understand having a wide breadth of content to show everything the PC platform can do, but three hours is far too long. Around half of the PC gaming show needed to be cut. I love Chris Roberts for example, but content is key; if there's nothing new to show off, skip it. Second, the format isn't the best. The host did his best, but the talk show lite presentation didn't really service what we were there for... the games. The point is that less is more. Looking forward to PC Gamer learning from these mistakes for next year though.