Opinion: Which major video game conference won E3?


Cameron Hoover headshot

Cameron Hoover

Ah, yes, it’s that time of year again. A time for the world’s biggest dorks to join hands for a week of video game announcements, teaser trailers, gameplay reveals, ridiculous spectacles and the ungodly amount of hype that comes every year from the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3.

The seven biggest video game publishers and developers from around the world have completed their 2018 press conferences showing off the newest, biggest, best games coming up on their release schedules, so now it’s time to dissect. Which companies set themselves up for a flourish as this console generation winds down, and which demonstrations landed with nothing more than an unceremonious thud?

Join me as we dive deeper into all six of these conferences, figuring out what went right, what on earth Square Enix was doing, and what that instrument was the guy played during Sony’s conference. Merry nerd Christmas, everyone.

No. 7: Square Enix

What in the name of Sam Hill was this? Whose fault is this? I refuse to lay my head to sleep every night for the rest of my life not knowing who I can blame for this putrid excuse for an E3 conference. Not only were hopes high — expectations were. This was Square Enix’s first conference at E3, so they had to have had something to show us, right? Right?

Wrong. Square Enix showed us a total of two new games. That’s it. Two. And both of those games were announced by teaser trailers that basically told us nothing of the games they were showing off. Those games were “Babylon’s Fall,” what we can only assume will be a new action game from genre veterans Platinum Games, and “The Quiet Man,” something Square described as more of an interactive movie that you can complete in one sitting. Blech. No thanks.

We got to see more stealthy gameplay from what I hope is the finale to one of the best game series on this console generation, “Shadow of the Tomb Raider,” which hits shelves on Sept. 14. We also got to see some more balls-to-the-walls gameplay from “Just Cause 4,” which I’m very excited to say looks just as splendidly stupid as the previous editions. That all sounds great, but we literally saw those the day before at Microsoft’s presser.

No mention of the “Final Fantasy VII Remake.” No mention of Square’s “Avengers” project. Next.

No. 6: Electronic Arts

I really don’t like Electronic Arts, mostly because they found some way to take the childlike joy out of the “Star Wars Battlefront” series with some of the most vile anti-consumer practices ever seen in the medium. They needed to impress me if I was to look past the unregulated, glorified gambling that they infested my childhood love with earlier this year. They didn’t.

EA showed off the newest entry into one of their flagpole franchises, their newest first-person shooter, “Battlefield V.” It looks great, which is what we’ve come to expect from developer DICE, but it’s adding a battle royale mode, for some reason. It comes across as a desperate plea to appeal to the “Fortnite” craze sweeping gaming. I hope it’s more than just a Flush Factory flash in the pan as more games jump on the battle bus bandwagon.

EA continued to show a lack of respect for “Titanfall” developers Respawn Entertainment, giving them literally 30 seconds to sit in the crowd — not even on the stage — to announce their new “Star Wars” game. They announced “Star Wars Battlefront II” will be going to the Clone Wars, which I’m sure is lovely news for the 25 players EA didn’t chase from that game.

EA showed off two lovely indie games, “Unravel Two”and “Sea of Solitude,” and turned another beloved title into a mobile game with “Command and Conquer: Rivals.” They closed the show with a look at BioWare’s newest action role-playing game, “Anthem,”releasing Feb. 22, 2019. The game looks fine, but a little bit too much like Bungie’s “Destiny”for my liking, and it seems ripe for more microtransactions and shady business practices. Ugh.

No. 5: Sony

This one hurt me. I am a PlayStation 4 fanboy, and that’s because the PS4 has just had an objectively better and more expansive lineup of exclusive games than the Xbox One. But I have to admit it: This year, they beat the brakes off of us.

Sony decided that instead of bombarding us with dozens of game announcements, they’d focus on their four biggest upcoming titles: “The Last of Us Part II,” “Ghost of Tsushima,” “Death Stranding” and “Spider-Man.”The show was a logistical nightmare, as attendees were sheparded to two different locations to watch the show, with a cringeworthy, unfathomably awkward vamp session in between.

All four of those games looked great: “The Last of Us Part II”looked gritty and brutal, even if a kiss between Ellie and another character is getting all the attention — I mean, come on, that moment was so sweet; “Ghost of Tsushima”looks like a Kurosawa film you can play;
“DeathStranding”is still an LSD fever dream from Hideo Kojima, one of the greatest minds in game development; and “Spider-Man”looks like an Arkham game where you can play as your favorite, friendly neighborhood web-slinger. The problem was three of these four game trailers wrapped up without even so much as a release window. Not even a year we might see them. A big disappointment.

No. 4: Ubisoft

“Beyond Good & Evil 2”exists, and it is going to be freaking glorious. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt thinks so, apparently. Ubisoft seems to be taking a bit of a planned hiatus as the current console generation winds down, and didn’t bombard us with new game announcements, but what they showed was solid.

“Skull and Bones”looks like it has the makings to be a very solid action pirate game, something the world sorely needs — especially me. Elijah Wood came out and showed us another look at the creepy VR game “Transference,” which I’m glad I won’t be able to afford to play, as it seems like it would spook my socks off. “The Division 2” will be getting eight-player raids, a very good idea, and free episodic chapters of downloadable content, a necessary apology for the first game in the series. We’re even getting a new “Trials”game, “Trials Rising,” one of my favorite games growing up.

Honestly, Ubisoft might’ve crept higher on the list if it weren’t for “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.”What was once one of the great franchises in gaming has been turned into an annually churned-out cash cow, and my goodness does the newest one look bad. The setting, ancient Greece in the 400s B.C. has so much potential, but the facial animations and dialogue options are reaching “Mass Effect: Andromeda”levels of bad. I’m very, very pessimistic about this one, unfortunately.

No. 3: Bethesda

Bethesda won me over once Andrew W.K. took the stage. Once the “Rage 2”gameplay started, I was even more hooked. That game is going to be outrageous. It’s like if “Bulletstorm”had a baby with “Mad Max: Fury Road”but neither of them felt comfortable with a child so they let it be raised by wolves.

They went on to announce hotly anticipated sequels to two of the best first-person shooters ever made — go debate someone else — “Doom Eternal,” which promises players Hell on Earth, and “Wolfenstein Youngblood,” which you can play in co-op with one of your friends as the twin daughters of the protagonist of the first three games. Yes, please.

“Fallout 76”was shown off in detail, as it will be released in November. The newest game in the series is an online role-playing game. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. I’m not the biggest “Fallout”guy, but online games really depend entirely on the player base. Too much or too little and everything turns to ash. It’s a dangerous line Bethesda is walking but I commend them for it.

Bethesda finished the conference by alluding to two new single-player story games, which will most likely be released on the next generation of consoles, “Starfield”and “The Elder Scrolls VI.”That last announcement damn near broke the internet.

No. 2: Nintendo

Nintendo is weird, man. While Microsoft and Sony fanboys claw at each other’s throats over console supremacy, Nintendo just keeps to itself, playing to their rabidly devoted player base and churns out quality products time and time again.

Nintendo started the show with some of the lighter fare: new downloadable content for “Xenoblade Chronicles 2,” a new “Mario Party”game, a new “Fire Emblem”and the announcement that two beloved third-party games, “Fortnite”and “Hollow Knight,”would be available for download on the Nintendo Switch right after the conference.

But then, Nintendo brought the funk with a “Super Smash Bros.”conference that almost shattered the sun and the stars. The beloved fighting game series will be making its debut on the Nintendo Switch on Dec. 7 with “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.”The game features literally every character from “Smash”ever from Pac-Man to Mr. Game and Watch to Daisy to Wario.

They announced 65 characters, by my count, including actual meme Ridley from the “Metroid”series. Just looking at that roster will make you go cross-eyed, not helped by the return of eight-player matches. That, my friends, is awesome. No “Metroid Prime 4,”though, he says with a frown.

No. 1: Microsoft

Like I said before, this hurts me to type, but damn it, Microsoft won this year’s E3. They announced so much, and it all looked good. There was no filler, no throwaways. Let’s get into it, he says with a deep breath.

They announced “Halo Infinite,”which might suck, but hey, it’s a “Halo” game! They showed “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” a game so stupidly named that it almost overshadows how freaking awesome this game from “Dark Souls”developers FromSoftware is probably going to be. They gave the first look into the online world of “Fallout 76,” a delightfully dreary peek into the world of “Metro: Exodus” and, for the first time on Xbox, a trailer for the wait-this-game-actually-exists? “Kingdom Hearts III.”

“Forza Horizon 4” looks offensively beautiful. “Session”could tap into the desperately underserved skateboarding audience. “Devil May Cry 5”looks like it’s embracing the silliness without mocking itself. “Cuphead”is getting an expansion. There’s a new “Battletoads,”for some reason. “Dying Light 2”looks like it’s going to embrace branching storylines and legitimate consequences for gameplay decisions. “Cyberpunk 2077”is a real video game we’ll be able to play one day!

All of that without even mentioning “Gears of War 5,”which looks like a more grounded, emotional story.

Perhaps most importantly, though, Microsoft announced the acquisition of four game development studios, which can now work to bolster the lineup of console exclusives for years to come. Take it from this Sony and PlayStation 4 fanboy. Congratulations, Microsoft and Xbox players — you won.

Cameron Hoover is the managing editor. Contact him at [email protected].