Kermath, The Spinoff’s man at E3, has delivered his thoughts on this week’s briefings offered by some of the main players in the video game industry. Sony, EA, Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft: all have spent serious cash announcing release dates for their forthcoming games and gear. This is how the individual extravaganzas break down.
Every year just before E3 in Los Angeles, major gaming companies put on a relatively expensive show-and-dance before the main event. The idea is to wet the appetite of anyone even remotely keeping tabs on announcements for new titles and hardware that will follow for the next three days.
This year some stuck to tradition, while others took things next level. One great thing that all companies did before kicking off this year was to acknowledge the victims of the Orlando shootings that occurred only a couple of nights before the briefings took place. It was pretty special.
To class these events as spectacular is very much an understatement. For a simple hour the biggest corporations, Microsoft and Sony, usually hire out entire stadiums, pack them full of lights and sound rigs and turn everything up as far it’ll go to announce new hardware and upcoming game titles. Apart from the parties and playing unreleased games, it’s definitely one of the coolest parts of E3, and arguably one of the most important.
A change of venue, and a change of pace seemed to be exactly what Sony needed to pull off the best showcase at this year’s E3, complete with a full-blown God of War orchestra and female beat-boxer, not just for one piece of music, but the entire show, all inside one of America’s most beautiful Auditoriums, the Shrine.
Sony pulled out all the stops, with each announcement more dramatic than the last. The entire stage floor was digitally interactive with the cinema screen in front, including matching physical props that would dynamically change depending on what was being displayed.
Highlights were definitely Hideo Kojima’s light-up walk on stage, followed by his incredibly dramatic new teaser for Death Stranding, Resident Evil 7 Biohazard and of course, the Crash Bandicoot Remaster for PlayStation 4.
Virtual Reality was also massively pushed, with a delivery date of the first commercially available units in New Zealand on October 13 this year.
Not only did they host a masterpiece of a briefing, but their VR showcase and the food they provided was beyond the best thing anything I’d ever put to my mouth. Different trolleys representing various countries, and nothing less than gourmet wasabi salad and other shit I couldn’t pronounce; and then, the final blow of death, an entire wall of donuts each hung up with tiny hooks.
Sony had managed to deliver a knockout press conference, convincing even the harshest of critics through free and alcohol and food that the gaming world was ready for the VR experience.
Go and watch the Press Conference right absolutely now.
Microsoft’s Press Conferences over the last three years have become somewhat of an unchanged ritual, sticking to a pretty concrete format.
The stage and lighting layout was what you’d come to expect at any of their previous briefings: Rotating side stages for demoers to prepare for the next presentation, and awkwardly placed floor seating around the ‘X’ in the middle of the stage. One thing missing from this year’s briefing was the outstanding presentation they usually put together to announce their Forza title for the year. Alas, no Lamborghini was to descend from the heavens for ‘Forza Horizon 3,’ like last year’s Ford for ‘Forza Motorsport 6’.
They did however deliver pretty hard on hardware. Microsoft not only revealed a newer, slimmer and more updated version of the Xbox One – They announced the workings of another next-gen console at the end of the briefing, codenamed ‘Project Scorpio’, and all games will work across these consoles. It seems only the graphical components and some minor items will change, similar to how Apple release their newest hardware, which is pretty fucking sweet. The new Cross-Platform Play will also be a huge tool to market sales of the Xbox in the future.
Running 10 minutes late for the briefing turned into nightmare. On the way, I hit either a feral cat or a racoon in the monstrosity that I rented below. After pulling over and having a sob I finally made it to the briefing, which was being hosted at a warehouse in a dodgy looking neighborhood. The line to get in was at least 200 people deep, with the venue already at capacity with 1000 people both inside and out, half an hour before the show even started.
I did manage to catch a glimpse of a Quake logo through the barbed-wire fence, on the corner of an outside screen that was being used for overflow, and that was about it for one and a half hours.
After the briefing, people started flaking from the line pretty quickly, but as famished and mentally disturbed as I was from the evenings events, I was determined to make it to the showcase filled with upcoming VR titles, Elder Scroll beer and turkey legs, and Blink 182 performing live, which kind of made up for everything.
I had a difficult time choosing between EA and Ubisoft for last placing. Something lacked at both briefings that just made the whole thing feel a bit thrown together at the last minute, not that myself or almost any other NZ media were actually invited to go along.
What I could gather from watching the EA briefing online however, was that they’d strapped themselves pretty firmly to the idea of driving their products through the community of fans and media alike this year, rather than restricting themselves to just the industry that exists behind the walls of the LA Convention Centre. They’ve also cut back on all the fanciness of a big stage and robot plinths from the years before.
This is all well and good, but the briefing opened with Andrew Wilson, CEO of EA, roaming around the stage trying to explain why they’re not on the main show floor, rather than just getting straight into things. My sleep deprivation couldn’t keep up and passed out within 2 minutes of watching the replay. As much as I love what EA are doing, it could’ve been rounded up in 30 seconds and mentioned later in the event.
There’s some great banter scattered throughout the Press Conference, and the celebrity-filled 64 Battlefield 1 Multiplayer is pretty cool to watch, but tread carefully.
It’s Ubisoft’s 30th year in the gaming industry, and if I was CEO, I’d be a little sad at the state of this milestone briefing.
The show started with a cringey performance for ‘Just Dance 2017’, featuring a candy-cane girl and a giraffe, encircled by a lion with sunglasses, and badly dated YMCA-esque dance squad. The stage completely awash with bright light, possibly for broadcast purposes, just made everything feel overly cliché, like some sort of Euro dance show, and really uncomfortable to watch. Possibly, the most offensive part is that the entire thing is to the tune of legendary rock band Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ – A song that’s stood the test of time, and now being broken down into an awkwardly choreographed opening.
Once you get through routine, Aisha Tyler takes to the stage, as she’s done in the past few years with her ‘whacky’ fuck-my-life personality. Don’t get me wrong, that’s probably a very good description of myself, but her constant swearing and dad jokes come across as awkward and dry more often than not. I guess it’s a point of difference, and people were actually lapping it up, so maybe it’s just me. Oh shit, maybe I’m awkward and dry.
On a positive note, there was an abundance of good banter with devs from different games which other briefings struggled with. South Park’s new game specifically was a good watch.
Watch the Ubisoft briefing below. (Skip to around an hour in to get to the actual briefing, and avoid clicking on the millions of captions)
Like all our gaming coverage this report was brought to you by Bigpipe, the ISP who will gladly stream the hell out of E3.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.