Microsoft Corp. has the most powerful box. Nintendo Co. Ltd. still has the momentum of a new console launch. Bethesda Softworks LLC, Ubisoft Entertainment SA, and Electronic Arts Inc. are all churning out software in a manner befitting their status as some of the world’s biggest game makers. Yet it was incumbent Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc. that once again owned the pre-show festivities of the 2018 edition of the Electronic Entertainment Exposition, the game industry’s biggest annual event. If just barely.
Held, as usual, at the sprawling, multi-halled complex that is the Los Angeles Convention Centre, this year’s show – which runs June 12th through 14th – was preceded, as always, by a series of marathon press conferences held by some of the best known companies in the business. These showcases tend to spill the beans on major products before the show even begins, revealing just about everything anyone is interested in prior to the official opening of E3’s doors. And Sony’s presser, held Monday night, was the climax of these events.
It began with a lengthy look at The Last of Us, Part II, a highly anticipated sequel to one of the most acclaimed games released for Sony’s previous generation console, PlayStation 3. It started off with a beautiful and extended romantic moment focused on the game’s protagonist, Ellie (pictured above), before moving on to provide a good glimpse of the game’s tense and terrifying post-apocalypse action.
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The event went on to dole out information on several other PlayStation 4-exclusive games, including: legendary Japanese game maker Hideo Kojima’s mysterious-looking sci-fi action game Death Stranding, which stars The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus; Insomniac Games’ epic superhero role-playing game Marvel’s Spider-Man; Sucker Punch Productions’ cinematic stealth action game Ghost of Tsushima, which is set in a gorgeously rendered feudal Japan; and an enigmatic new game from famed Finnish studio Remedy called Control.
Sony’s presser suffered a few momentum-killing moments of live music, and some of the reveals went on a little too long — Sony’s strategy was clearly to focus on a handful of key games rather than flatten watchers a barrage of titles — but by the time things wrapped up it was pretty clear that Sony still knows what gamers want.
Microsoft’s event took place the day before, and while it had its share of exciting announcements, it felt a bit more like it was setting the stage for the company’s future.
Executives talked briefly about a next-generation console already under development, and announced that Microsoft Studios had acquired several accomplished developers — including Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), Undead Labs (State of Decay franchise), Montreal’s Compulsion Games (We Happy Few), and Playground Games (Forza Horizon series) — and opened a big new shop in Santa Monica dubbed The Initiative headed up by former Crystal Dynamics boss Darrell Gallagher to increase its output of high-quality exclusives, though the fruits of these labours are likely still years away.
The rest of the conference was given over to revealing new entries in company’s big three Xbox-only franchises — Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 4, and Gears of War 5 — and showing off new third-party games that may (or may not) be headed to Xbox One first before eventually launching on other platforms, including CD Project Red’s next RPG Cyberpunk 2077, From Software’s new Japanese history-themed stealth action game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Eidos Montreal’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
The message? There’s going to be lots of fun stuff to play on Xbox One, but if you’re looking for much in the way of original, non-sequel console-exclusive experiences, the cheque is in the mail.
Nintendo was the last of the big three to deliver its presentation, which, as has been the case for several years now, came in the form of a pre-recorded video presentation just before the show doors opened Wednesday morning.
Still revelling in the success of last year’s launch of the Nintendo Switch hybrid console, which was supported by several popular games, pressure has been on the storied Japanese game maker to ensure that the software keeps coming. And Nintendo did its best to show that it has things well in hand.
Its presentation dove straight into upcoming Switch exclusives, including a stylish looking mech action game called Daemon X Machina, a pair of new Pokemon adventures, the local, social Super Mario Party, and fantasy strategy extravaganza Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Nintendo followed these trailers up with major news that the popular free-to-play battle royale game Fortnite was launching on Switch right after the presentation, then provided a look at some of the characters coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the latest entry in a series that has historically driven Nintendo hardware sales like few others.
Unsurprisingly, given Switch’s graphical limitations, it looks like some of the biggest multiplatform games coming to other systems will be passing over Nintendo’s console. But Nintendo’s roster of exclusives – made both in-house and with partner studios – should provide plenty of selection for Switch players over the next year.
Looking beyond the hardware makers, Bethesda Softworks put on an impressive show composed of a mix of sequels and original intellectual property. Fans received confirmation of new content coming within the publisher’s bread and butter franchises, including Fallout 76, a new Doom game, Wolfenstein Youngblood, and The Elder Scrolls 6, and we learned that Bethesda Game Studios is working on a brand new – and apparently enormous – sci-fi role-playing game called Starfield.
French game behemoth Ubisoft followed suit, showing off footage for games within some of its key properties, including Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, and The Crew 2, while taking the opportunity to promote some original, non-sequel projects, including Ubisoft Toronto’s toys-to-life game Starlink: The Battle for Atlas and the pirate adventure Skull & Bones.
Square Enix and Electronic Arts, meanwhile, seemed at times more interested in keeping secrets than revealing information. While both companies gave audiences a look at some of their important impending games — Square Enix showed off Just Cause 4, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, while EA devoted a big chunk of its event to Battlefield 5 — they also said strangely little about some games many consumers want to know about, including Square Enix’s long-in-the-works Final Fantasy VII remake and EA’s still cryptic Star Wars game.
Still, E3 2018’s pre-show press events managed to fulfill their purpose of stoking players’ excitement for what’s going to arrive on their game machines in coming months. And while Sony might have done the best job, it seems likely players of all stripes and brand loyalties will be amply served over the next year.