For the first time in show history, Sony did not attend E3 in Los Angeles, California. With both Microsoft and Sony preparing the transition into a new console generation, developers withheld game reveals. Instead of teasing some games, Sony opted to hold back everything.
The transitional period still didn’t stop some developers from showing fans an exciting lineup of games. Most of the game appearances, like Cyberpunk 2077, Dying Light 2 and Halo: Infinite, setup releases for games sometime in 2020. With the year half gone, the teams at Nintendo, Microsoft and Ubisoft still showed enough for the rest of the year.
Microsoft’s game showcase teetered on the present and future for the Xbox brand. Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, spoke of Project Scarlett, the next Xbox console coming holiday 2020. He boasted a console four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, but he did not explain further. Things like controllers, specifications and launch games should come during the E3 2020 showcase. Game streaming, called Project xCloud for Microsoft, hints at the future we move towards.
The year 2020 appeared often during the showcase. Halo: Infinite, despite a reveal least year, again avoided showing any gameplay. Ninja Theory’s new game, Bleeding Edge – a 4v4 multiplayer brawler – showed no release date. Even Ori and The Will of the Wisps, despite numerous E3s appearances, launches in spring 2020. The future promises new games and expected sequels, but for the present, the Xbox exclusive lineup focuses on DLC.
We saw Forza Horizon 4 reveal a Lego themed DLC alongside a State of Decay 2 DLC pack called Heartland. Both released during E3 week. Even Borderlands 2, yes, the game from 2012, saw a new DLC update to ready players for Borderlands 3. These games aim to bridge the gap until the barrage of 2020’s games and consoles.
Xbox Game Pass also prepares for the future with the service’s expansion onto PC platforms. Although PC Game Pass provides a different library of games due to licensing agreements, it brings similar value and potential. Microsoft and the Xbox brand continue their leaps towards a subscription based future centered around streaming.
To bolster the Game Pass library, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Double Fine, a studio best known for their adventure games. Double Fine and the long awaited Psychonauts 2 join the Microsoft Studios fold. They follow teams like Ninja Theory, inExile Entertainment and Obsidian to build the Xbox games portfolio. But again, these acquisitions and announcements prepare for the future.
The partnerships with Japanese studios to reveal games like Phantasy Star Online 2, Tales of Arise and Elden Ring, mark a huge step forward for Microsoft. The Xbox’s library lacks support from Japanese studios, so every new title moves closer to consistent Japanese support.
Microsoft’s 2019 E3 showcase tried to focus on the present, but new hardware looms. Gears 5 and Outer Worlds, Obsidian’s Fallout-esque game, release this year. And while many other multi-platform games will keep players busy, it’s hard not to look forward. Hype and excitement fuel every E3, and I already can’t wait for next year. It should exceed our expectations.
Bethesda plans to incorporate streaming into the foundation of their game engines. Through a streaming technology called Orion, they aim for a flawless game streaming experience. On the show floor, Bethesda demoed DOOM streamed to phones. Their own progression towards a streaming future validates Microsoft’s vision. Even Google, with their Stadia game service, further validates the reality of game streaming. The Orion reveal found itself wedged between Arkane Studios’ new game, Deathloop and DOOM: Eternal.
Deathloop, a first-person action game, follows two assassins stuck in some sort of time loop. Their unique abilities and their own actions influence events during the loop. It builds off the action stealth series, Dishonored, but promises to hone in on the “meticulously designed levels” the studio thrives on.
DOOM: Eternal, a follow-up to DOOM (2016), looks as fast and gruesome as ever. Dash abilities, new weapons and an unexpected attempt at asymmetrical multiplayer was refreshing. E3 2019 showed many CGI heavy trailers without any gameplay. DOOM: Eternal showed us the game moving at snappy pace through continuous gameplay. It stood out.
After an uninspired content roadmap for Fallout 76 featuring a battle royale mode, GhostWire: Tokyo took the stage. Shinji Mikami and creative director, Ikumi Nakamura, spoke of their first new project since The Evil Within 2. Although short on detail, it showed a neon lit Tokyo emptied by the unexplained vanishing of its citizens. Few people remained amidst the clothes now littering the city.
If Starfield, Elder Scrolls or new IPs appeared at Bethesda’s showcase, fans wouldn’t ask for more. Instead, Bethesda showed a handful of familiar games and new games from other studios. Ultimately, E3 is about surprises.
Ubisoft always does E3 right. Their game reveals blow away audiences, then the games themselves launch flat. This year’s E3 showcase seemed different. Game reveals showed gameplay possible on existing console hardware. A combination of surprise games, small games and big games rounded out a balance E3 showcase.
Watch Dogs: Legion leaked before the showcase, which did not diminish the uniqueness. Legion features no main character as the player can choose from over a dozen playable and voiced characters. The roster includes hackers, protestors and elderly ladies. The elder lady foot stomped, stun gunned and knocked out security guards in calculated, slow movements. Watch Dogs: Legion launches later this year.
Tom Clancy’s brand saw two new games announced at E3. Rainbow Six Quarantine, a 3-player game, expands on Rainbow Six Siege’s Outbreak mode. Players explore quarantine zones to fight off the infected. It accompanied Ghost Recon Breakpoint, the sequel to Wildlands. Although not critically acclaimed, Wildlands became one of Ubisoft’s best-selling games the last few years.
A few missed opportunities and poor sales refocused Ubisoft’s approach as a whole. The Division disappointed fans, but the sequel disappointed Ubisoft. The Division 2 jammed tons of content into its release package with a steady launch, yet it failed to meet sales expectations. Despite under-performing sales, Ubisoft outlined their extensive free content plans. The Division 2 returns to New York for upcoming DLC and brings new raids for players.
If you don’t want to pay for Ubisoft’a lineup of games, Uplay+ adds another reoccurring payment to your credit card. The Ubisoft subscription service boasts over 100 Ubisoft titles, including the “Gold” or best editions for Ubisoft games. Games like Rainbow Six Siege should grant access to all Operators. The service launches in September at $14.99USD/$19.99CAD per month. It’s the most expensive subscription on the market, but for Ubisoft fans, it provides the best value.
The Ubisoft showcase ended with two games: Roller Champions – a roller derby game, and Gods & Monsters. Gods & Monsters looked inspired from Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The main character travels through a mythological environment as he tries to save the Greek gods. Like most of the reveals from E3, we saw a brief trailer and short explanation. It comes the makers of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but that’s all they shared.
Nintendo hasn’t presented on an E3 stage in years. Their livestreams instead manicure and rehearse every statement. It lacks the dynamic crowd reactions or miscues from presenters. I miss those unplanned moments, like the one fan during Bethesda’s E3 showcase. No one matched his unhinged enthusiasm.
The Nintendo Direct did bring us games. It brought us Luigi’s Mansion 3, Fire Emblem Three Houses and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake. Zelda features a dungeon building tool similar to something found in Super Mario Maker. Nintendo’s willingness to let players build their own games represents an uncharacteristic approach for the company.
Astral Chain, Cadence of Hyrule and Fire Emblem Three Houses all arrive in the next few months. Other companies at E3 look ahead to new hardware as Nintendo continues building a library for the Switch. Between Nintendo’s nonstop push for remakes, remasters and ports, we did see some new announcements.
Grasshopper answered fan wishes and finally announced No More Heroes 3. It seems like decades since the Wii games, so its existence brings the weirdness lacking from Switch games.
Absent from E3, once again, is Bayonetta 3 and Metroid Prime 4. Bayonetta 3 has not made an appearance since its initial reveal at the 2017 Game Awards. Interviews indicate smooth development progress at PlatinumGames, but the absence indicates the opposite. Metroid Prime 4 saw its development rebooted with a new team, Retro Studios.
The livestream ended with a tease for a second Zelda game, a sequel to Breath of the Wild. Nintendo didn’t reveal a name or show gameplay. It’s an uncharacteristic move for a company who avoids direct sequels for Zelda games, yet it didn’t feel surprising.