E3 2018 Press Conference Grades

It is another year and another weekend of E3 Press Conferences. While it feels like everyone is getting some sort of presentation, it is nice to see such a diversity in publishers and titles.

Show “Take-aways”

  • Publishers love the “little people” in the office
  • Most games are nowhere in the neighborhood are finished. Those same “little people” are about to be working 80 hour weeks
  • Developers are really sorry about pay to win, but not sorry about microtransactions and missing content
  • Publishers are really happy to have carte-blanche in the “swear words” department
  • YouTube personalities were a bust last year
  • Battle Royale is the answer to all problems
  • People really love the Nintendo Switch and so too must shareholders
  • I still very much enjoy Andrew W.K.
  • Ubisoft still very much does not have their shit together

Below are the E3 Press Conference Grades for 2018. At least, for the ones I bothered to watch.

EA (Electronic Arts) Press Conference

Snake Oil Salesmen

Somewhere during Cornelia Geppert’s description of Sea of Solitude — a new EA Original tale about depression and the internal monsters it creates — I experienced an unexpected emotional reaction. Geppert, the game’s creative director, discussed the importance of her game about mental illness in a very authentic way, unscripted, and at-length. As she stood, still speechless at the opportunity to get her team’s vision funded by EA, I was overcome with a sense of dread — the sense that soon enough, her studio would be interrogated about poor sales figures and ultimately shut down by the same behemoth that gave them life.

The entire EA press conference felt like a canned apology letter to gamers. Everybody was “so sorry” that they mislead gamers with loot boxes and microtransactions. None of the big titles did anything to wow me and it felt like boxes were checked. The other scary element of the show was EA’s streaming service, which feels devious, only because it is EA.

The aforementioned Sea of Solitude looks incredible, and is the saving grace for an otherwise disingenuous showing. Here’s hoping that EA and its shareholders can embrace the passion of developers like Cornelia Geppert and right the sinking ship.

Grade: D


Microsoft Press Conference

Investing now for a better future

Microsoft had one of the most surprising showings of the year, as it did a lot to prove to me that I should own an Xbox in 2020. Not 2018. 2020. There are a few reasons for this.

For one, Microsoft bought up a bunch of developers, including Ninja Theory, creators of Heavenly Blade and more recently, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. I’m personally excited for We Happy Few, so the acquisition of Compulsion Games was also exciting. No doubt, these studios will build some cool stuff in the next few years.

There is a lot of really cool stuff coming in the next few years from the first party teams, but nothing which seems remotely ready. All of the major franchises appear to be getting some love.

There is a negative connotation to the above message about 2020 as well. There’s nothing to spend my money on in 2018, and even games slated for early 2019 are so behind in development that there was nary an ACTUAL gameplay demo to show. What is Halo Infinite? What’s new in Gears 5? Until I find out, I don’t care.

Microsoft gets bonus points for showing CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. I understand it is not an exclusive game, but the trailer was the best of all of E3. I don’t remember the last time a game trailer got me so pumped for a game.

Grade: B+


Bethesda Press Conference

A publisher at the top of their game

These guys just fucking get it.

I feel validated using foul language, since it ran rampant through Bethesda’s 1.5 hour long, tour de force of game reveals. Where many publishers are reeling at public outcry, Bethesda is in a period of celebration. Doom is getting a sequel. Wolfenstein is getting more games. Fallout is getting a new game. Elder Scrolls VI may actually come in the next 5 years.

Bethesda has taken a very “open source” approach to community outreach, with free content and fan support. Fallout Shelter is now on Switch for FREE. Elder Scrolls is getting a full adventure for FREE. Even freaking Prey, which saw god awful sales figures, is being supported and re-marketed with new content and game modes.

And let’s go back to the aforementioned new Fallout game, Fallout 76. Here we have Bethesda building a Fallout online experience with clans, nukes, and base building. Color me excited.

Finally, I have to give bonus points to a press conference with jokes that actually land. The Canadian Walmart bit and the Skyrim for Alexa commercial were well-executed.

Grade: A


Devolver Digital Press Conference

180 degree turn

The 2017 E3 Presentation from Devolver Digital came out of left field and came at the perfect time. With fun games to show and an energetic performance from the actors, the 2017 Press Conference was a breath of a fresh air for the media.

If satire is lightning, it certainly did not strike twice for the progressive publisher. The jokes fell flat and the production seemed scaled back from last year. Even the best skit, about “Loot Box Coin” was mediocre.

Worse, the game announcements were paltry. As someone who looks forward to Devolver’s refreshingly alternative titles, I left the video disappointed. Three games were shown, and one of them was a remake of “Metal Wolf Chaos.” My recommendation to Devolver is to stop.

Grade: F


Ubisoft Press Conference

Unprofessionally made

It’s probably not a good thing that I always forget about Ubisoft’s press conference before it happens. They are traditionally poorly executed, and this year was no different.

The show started with multiple fumbles from the community managers. Hilariously, multiple segments ended with mics left on. This lead to unintentionally amusing moments, like a woman telling her colleague that they “nailed it” and another gentleman lamenting the organization of the event backstage.

The cold-open, Beyond Good and Evil 2 also played poorly for my tastes. The new direction of the series doesn’t draw me in, and JGL’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for those not in the know) collaboration with Ubisoft to crowd-source music and game art rubbed me the wrong way. While I don’t have all the details surrounding the engagement, the idea of Ubisoft using their fans for free audio/visual asset creation instead of paying employees stinks worse than Pey’j. Again, this may not be how the “Hit RECord” service works here, but this is how I heard it, from the peanut gallery.

Leading back to the poorly executed bit, most of the reveals were spoiled before launch. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey would have been a lot cooler if not spoiled, but it just looked like a re-skin of last year’s Origins.

The highlight on the day was Skull and Bones, a pirate simulator that actually looks like it may have CONTENT and EVERYTHING.

Separately, seeing Shigeru Miyamoto to promote Fox McCloud in a new Ubisoft game was neat, but I just want a good, proper Star Fox game at this point and have no interest in the “Starlink” game he was supporting.

Grade: C


Sony Press Conference

It’s good to be on top

Sony has always spared no expense with their conferences, and this year was no different. Taking place over three venues (the tent for the Last of Us II, Main Stage, and outdoor interview desk) the presentation was spastic. An early flurry of preview trailers had a “blink-and-you’ll miss it” feel.

Props to Sony for showing real gameplay footage for many of their titles. In an E3 dominated by “Game Engine Footage” trailers that don’t tell me what the hell I’m going to be playing, almost everything in the Sony conference was tangible as a gamer.

Sony had some surprises as well, including the new Remedy game Control and a ground-up, retelling of Resident Evil 2.

Generally, the number of games and actual gameplay shown would be enough for an A, but the demonstrations left me MOSTLY disappointed. The Last of Us II was among the most disgusting things I have ever seen. Like, “slicing a hanged victim down the stomach and watching entrails dangle out of their bodies” disgusting. The first gameplay glimpse of Death Stranding felt weak, but I should know better than to distrust a product of Hideo Kojima.

Ghost of Tsushima was the show-stealer though. The guys who brought you Sly Cooper have pivoted to Feudal Japan and something that looks like a cross between Bushido Blade and Dark Souls. The strong visuals also begged the question, “do we really need a new console generation?”

Grade: B


Nintendo Press Conference

Smashing

No opinion is totally biased. In my case, Nintendo stuff simply excites me more than other gaming content. The Switch has become a catalyst to the refueling of my gaming passion. All it takes is a wink from Reggie Fils-Aime to give your press conference a “C.”

In Nintendo’s case this year, their Nintendo Direct highlighted while I love the company. Most of their trailers showed actual gameplay, they had some great announcements (Hollow Knight available today!), and they spent time showing what their games were about. I’m actually a little bit excited for some of the cool features in Super Mario Party, and the connectivity between Pokemon on the Switch and Pokemon Go! on the phone is very cool.

In the absence of a new Mario or Zelda title, Nintendo took a deep dive on Super Smash Bros. Infinite, which is a new series entry that FEELS like an expansion to Super Smash Bros Wii U. That being said, all of the improvements made to the characters and gameplay scream competitive play.

What was most shocking about the video was what wasn’t discussed, namely a true release date for Dark Souls and any details around Nintendo’s coming paid online service.

Grade: B+


So that’s it! Another E3 down. Another set of press conferences.

What was your favorite moment, game, or publisher this year?