Everyone seems to have a different takeaway from E3 2014; some think it was the best showing the games industry has put forward in years, while others regard it as a total dud. Even here at stately USgamer Manor, the residents are of two minds.
Kat Bailey has called the show a massive letdown and has wondered aloud where the new ideas are and why the console cycle seems to be spinning its proverbial wheels this year. Almost every game of interest we saw last week had a 2015 date attached to it, even though the newest consoles will all be a year old this fall. Surely the new generation of software should be further along, Kat posits, and we should have something more to look forward to in 2014 than a few annualized franchises and last-gen carryovers.
On the other hand, I think the current generation is tracking quite favorably to the last. The real riches didn't hit last time around until those consoles approached their second birthdays, too. The difference last time was that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 launched a year apart, whereas Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched within a week of each other.
In other words, last generation had a staggered launch, whereas the current gen came off the starting blocks at, effectively, the same time. Looking back, the Xbox 360 didn't have much going for it a year after its debut — Dead Rising was the big one, but the really interesting stuff didn't hit until 2007, beginning with Crackdown in February 2007. Meanwhile, PS3 was basically a wasteland until 2008, with nothing much turning heads besides Uncharted in that tearful freshman year of its existence.
In that light, 2014 should track more like 2006 did... and that's exactly where it stands. We're less than one year into the current console generation, and it'll be that second year where the good stuff starts to show up.
As I watched this year's E3 trailers, I really was taken back to 2007. I think the Crackdown announcement cemented it for me. As I mentioned above, Crackdown was, for me, where the last generation truly began — it came out of nowhere and gave me a game experience I never could have had on older consoles, not only streaming a massive, vertical, open world but opening the door to cooperative play as well. So good!
Of course, the new Crackdown isn't a game out of nowhere; it's another reboot. But the press conferences for both Microsoft and Sony's upcoming offerings gave glimpses of many things just as far out of left field as Real-Time Worlds' parkour adventure felt seven years ago. Scalebound! Bloodborne! No Man's Sky! Ori and the Blind Forest! And plenty of others. Even Ubisoft, a company that's become the poster child for annualization and franchising, has The Crew and The Division inbound alongside their many and sundry sequels.
And speaking of sequels, tons of old reliable franchises will see promising-looking updates next year. Everything from Tomb Raider to Metal Gear Solid is in the works, and a lot of it probably won't even slip to 2016. Probably. Even a cursory list of titles slated for launch next year paints a picture of a spectacular year to come, one that just might hit the highs we experienced in 2007 with genre-defining classics like Gears of War, Mass Effect, Persona 3, Halo 3, Portal, BioShock, and more.
And that's not even counting Nintendo's offerings, which look absolutely stellar. Even if The Legend of Zelda doesn't make 2015, the other games slated for Wii U next year make a compelling case for turning it into the household-standard second console that its predecessor was. And then there are all the little indie releases, so numerous and scattered that they're almost impossible to track individually, instead simply guaranteeing a steady diet of creative excellence.
Ultimately, I confess that my optimism about next year amounts to nothing more than a gut feeling. But isn't that really what keeps us interested in the medium — a visceral, instinctive response? All I know is that I haven't come away from E3 feeling this positive about the next 18 months of video game releases since, well, 2006. Certainly there's room for skepticism, and I can certainly understand where Kat and others who left E3 full of doubt are coming from. For my part, though, I see in the games industry signs of a massive behemoth that is correcting a dangerous course before running its keel around on pure disaster.
Who knows what the future holds for the medium at large? But through the end of 2015 (and into 2016, when you factor in the inevitable delays), at least, I foresee a lot of excellent games.