It’s hard to believe that this time of year has come and gone once again, but here we are. This week saw yet another iteration of the annual Gamer Superbowl, otherwise simply known as E3 2018. Over the weekend and up until Wednesday morning, the biggest studios in the industry gathered to showcase some of the biggest games of tomorrow and beyond. Some of these games are anticipated sequels of major franchises, while others are completely new IPs. Some represent major franchise returns while others set out to establish an audience for the first time. Nonetheless, all of these games will be competing for our hard-earned dollars in due time.
That means that if these companies want to impress, they’ll have to give us their best. And what better way to impress us than to set out to “win E3”? Question is, how did these companies do, and who exactly won this year’s E3? To answer this question I’m here to do what I always do this time of year and discuss the big three press conferences of E3: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. However, to mix things up just a little bit, I’ve decided to forego my usual “one post per show” model for an all-in-one E3 conference round-up.
For clarity, this won’t be covering every game that was shown at each show. Just the main highlights, with some of my personal favorites getting expanded coverage in the upcoming “Best of E3” post coming this weekend. Also, for your viewing pleasure, I have sectioned off each show’s impression so you can skip around to just the stuff you want to hear about. With all of that out of the way, let’s dive in!
You know, if Microsoft wanted to win me over, all they’d have to do is announce that Scalebound is back in development. Just that announcement would warrant an instant A+ from yours truly, but alas. It’s not meant to be. May Scalebound rest in peace… I digress.
Over the past couple years, I’ve always found Microsoft an assuring presence at E3. Since 2014 their shows have been exactly the same and their performance has been exactly the same: solid, but fairly predictable. It’s clear that Microsoft has developed a formula for these E3 shows and have yet to deviate from it. Although, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Change is exciting, sure, but if shows like this are the new norm then I’m not complaining.
To Microsoft’s credit, however, what they lack in variety of format, they do make up for with varying themes. For instance, last year’s theme was highlighting the Xbox One X. Almost everything about the show was built around that theme, which begs the question: what is Microsoft’s theme for this year? The answer not only shocked me, but also made me give a big sigh in relief.
Ladies and gentlemen, Microsoft after all of these years have realized that 4 exclusive franchises are not enough to keep competitive. In my major highlight from the show, Phil Spencer announced that Microsoft is adding 5 new first-party development studios, one of which is an entirely new developer, The Initiative. The other 4 acquired studios include Undead Labs, Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games and Playground Games. This is huge news for the Xbox brand and something I’ve been hoping Microsoft to do for years.
To be fair, this move isn’t going to do mean much in the short term. When your acquired studios include the developers of We Happy Few and Forza Horizon, you know the effects aren’t as massive as it appears on paper. Plus, it will take a while for us to see what this new studio will have to offer, given that no game announcement was given the entire week. This really won’t mean much for at least the next year or two. However, as Microsoft is gearing up for the Xbox One’s successor in the coming years (which they even teased towards the end of the conference), this move will be instrumental in keeping Microsoft competitive in the 9th console generation. Consider State of Decay and Hellblade may now be Xbox exclusives moving forward, and yo can imagine a pretty good launch for whatever Microsoft has next.
But that’s just one highlight. What were my runners-up? Well, considering I’m not that huge on franchises like Halo or Gears of War, I didn’t care much for Halo Infinite or Gears 5. What I was into was their announcement of Devil May Cry 5 and a new Battletoads. Even though one of those two games aren’t Microsoft exclusives, they both of took me completely off guard. Good to see I’ll have no shortage of beat ’em ups to play in the coming year. Along with those two in thesecond place slot, I’ll also include Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which looked very promising in both artstyle and gameplay. Other than that, tied for third best highlight is a tie between Dying Light 2, Ori 2, and Kingdom Hearts 3 (granted, this was shown three times total throughout E3). There were also two honorable mentions I have trouble praising too highly since they’re just non-gameplay trailers. Nonetheless, I do see the potential in both and look forward to talking about them further next E3: a skateboarding game called Session, and a futuristic, seemingly sandbox game called Cyberpunk 2077.
Overall, Microsoft’s conference was very solid, all things considered. I can’t honestly claim that this was anything extraordinary. In particular, I’m hoping future E3’s will have them include more Xbox exclusives in the wake of their updated first-party stable. Though, I do give them credit for showing us that their trying to actually have a more substantial first-party and that they had the most games to show out of everyone at E3 this year. That’s why I’ll say that Microsoft’s press conference this year was, if nothing else, satisfactory. Just what I expected and just what I wanted.
As some of you may know from last year, I was less than impressed by Sony’s performance at E3 2017. Their choice to basically create a glorified, impersonal, and seemingly thrown-together clipshow of trailers with nary a surprise in the mix left me a bit disappointed; and I wasn’t shy about saying so as I recall. I understood why they did it that way since they also have to save some announcements for their own convention, PSX. I just wished they’d give us a bit more, especially after killing it at the previous E3.
That’s why for this year’s outing, I chose to keep my expectations low. I’ve made peace with the fact that Sony will have to divide its announcements evenly between both conventions, and just had one single expectation: show me The Last of Us Part II, and we’re all good here. Bonus points for actually giving me a surprise.
So how did they do? Well, it’s hard to say whether or not I would’ve been underwhelmed if I didn’t go into this year blind, but all things considered I’m satisfied. It definitely beat last year for a handful of reasons. One is that there was clear effort shown throughout. Say what you will about their method being a bit unorthodox, and believe me it was a strange show. The lengthy musical performances, the almost 10 minute intermission towards the beginning, the skits, the interviews. It was so strangely put together. Then again, it was actually kind of fun because of that.
The second reason is that the show actually gave me what I wanted. Last of Us Part II gameplay, check. A surprise I didn’t see coming with Resident Evil 2 remake, check. With just that, my expectations were officially met. Luckily the announcements shown on top of that were not only further bonuses on their part, they were all solid.
My highlight of the evening was Ghost, a game that was apparently announced prior and somehow slipped my radar. I was blown away by the gameplay trailer. The entire time I was awed by how beautiful the game looked and how fun the combat system seems. My second favorite, is was of course, Last of Us Part II with its first gameplay trailer. A little disheartening that the game still seems a bit far away, but at least I have a little something to hold me over until then… whenever that is. Third best is actually a 3-way tie between Spider-Man, the third KH3 trailer, and the aforementioned RE2 remake that caught me off guard. Death Stranding deserves an honorable mention as well, because it actually gave me more than just surrealist imagery, Kojima’s name, and Darryl’s weird hand tattoos to go off of. We finally got gameplay and it looks fairly cool so far. Still have no clue what’s going on, but I’ve given up on trying to understand the game long ago.
Sony’s E3 show may have been different, but it was different in a good way. A good way to sum it up is that it was “quirky”. Another perfectly acceptable word for it is “good”. It was a surprisingly solid show with a lot to look forward to. In fact, if Sony wants to go this route for future E3s, I actually think this can work with a little tweaking here and there. On the whole, Sony did very well for themselves.
Part of me finds it strange that I get arguably the most excited about Nintendo’s E3 when all it really is these days is yet another Nintendo Direct. When you think about it, it’s not even that special of a Direct compared to the others that come at least 4 times a year. Granted, the major reason for my excitement this time around is probably the same one 80% of you were excited for: Super Smash Bros 5/6/some-such-number! There were of course other things I was looking forward to seeing, but that was the big one, since I’m absolutely enamored with the series.
Lo and behold, that ended up being the main event of the entire show. This is excellent, though at the same time a bit disheartening. Why? Well, not only did that game overshadow just about everything. There were almost no surprises this year, let alone games. Unbelievably, I’m left having a very similar problem with Nintendo’s performance this year that I did with Sony last year. It may not be exactly the same thing… but it’s close.
Nintendo had by far the least amount of games to show this year, something not helped by the fact that they decided to announce Pokemon Let’s GO Pikachu/Eevee two weeks ago. They also made the jarring choice to omit one of their big game announcements of last year’s E3, Metroid Prime 4. And yes, to their credit, the announcement last year was that the game was in development; not that it was ready for release. However, if Nintendo is truly not that far into the development of MP4, the I believe that they should’ve reserved that announcement for this year as opposed to last year. Because as it is now, the ONLY true surprises of the show was Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Super Mario Party. 2 games. That’s it. And the rest was 25 straight minutes of Smash Bros goodness, which brings me to my major highlight (both as expected and by default).
I’ll talk more about this in my “Best of E3” post this weekend, but Super Smash Bros. Ultimate definitely surprised me when they said every single fighter is back for this game (even Pichu and Young Link). It also shocked me that they finally caved to fans’ requests and brought Ridley AND Daisy into the fray. Well played, Sakurai, well played. My second highlight of the show is Super Mario Party, which I’m really hoping is something special given its recent track record. Looks fine as is. And my third highlight of the show is… tricky. I’m tempted to give it to Pokemon Let’s GO, but since there was literally no new information about it since last week, it doesn’t feel right. Instead, I’ll give it to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, a game I’m not looking forward to personally but was actually a surprise.
Funny thing about Nintendo’s E3 Direct is that I’m of two minds about whether or not I liked it. On the one hand, the show gave me real Sony E3 2017 flashbacks by feeling thrown together and as if nothing else is even on the agenda for the Switch’s future. On the other hand, I’m tempted to liken this show to Microsoft’s show. I went in wanting Smash Bros and a couple surprises, and that’s exactly what I got. And given that 25 straight minutes of Smash Bros goodness is great on any occasion, should I just cut Nintendo some slack? Ultimately, I feel the only fair way to go about this is to discuss the show as it is. As it is, Nintendo’s E3 2018 Direct was decent for a Nintendo Direct yet disappointing for a E3 show.
Conclusion (Who Won E3)?
And now comes the ultra fun part of comparing the big 3 E3 shows to each other. Of these companies, who had the best announcements and who had the best show?
I think it’s fair to say that none of these companies put on an extraordinary show. There were certainly flaws in all of them, whether it was lack of experimentation, a bit too much experimentation, or potential overemphasis on one game. All of the shows are in my estimation in the B or C range, which isn’t bad. It just means that no one blew me away this year. Which begs the question: how would I rank each show? I’ll go from worst to best.
In third place, I think it’ll come as no shock that I’m giving that to Nintendo with an overall grade of a C-. While the lack of surprises is one thing, the lack of games was my true issue this year. Between blowing their load early by not saving Pokemon Let’s GO until now and completely omitting Metroid Prime 4, Nintendo just didn’t live up to my expectations. The only reason this wasn’t a D rank show was because Super Smash Bros Ultimate looks so damn good and focused on so much that it slightly propelled it.
That only leaves Sony and Microsoft. I had to think long and hard about who I was going to give the edge to this year, but ultimately I decided to give my second place slot to Microsoft, who earned a C+. Microsoft is demonstrating slight linear growth from the past 4 years, even giving major implications for future shows providing more exclusive content. However, that doesn’t change the fact that this year features a lot of the same beats and (in some cases) games they’ve been showing off for years. It also didn’t help that for this year they still have way too many mulitplatform games compared to exclusives.
With that said, my first place winner for E3 2018 is none other than Sony, who scores a respectable grade of B. The structure they chose is a bit questionable, though I was most certainly entertained. Plus, I can see how a little bit of tweaking to that format of show could benefit Sony’s future performances. Other than that, they managed to surpass expectations just enough to keep me excited. They didn’t leave anything out and they had solid surprises. Definitely a major comeback from last year. (Thank God).
Those are my thoughts on E3 2018’s major conferences. Now. I wanna hear from you! Let me know in the comments below what you thought of Microsoft Sony, and/or Nintendo’s conferences this year. Also let me know who you think won the convention and why. And if you enjoyed this post, make sure to follow The Ranting SBox through WordPress or via email to keep up with future movie, gaming, and TV related posts like this!
I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!