A bunch of leaks and generation-end blues have led to a muted E3.
E3 2019 has been a weird one. EA decided to not hold a conference and instead share updates on some of their biggest games – from Apex Legends to Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – through livestreams from their own EA Play event. Sony, meanwhile, decided to skip E3 altogether, and not have any presence at the expo at all, making this the first E3 ever to not have Sony involved. Meanwhile, with the next generation of consoles right around the corner, it also felt like conferences this year were almost winding down, by either holding back on new announcements, or not sharing a lot of details on the announcements they did make. That, plus the fact that a lot of the most major announcements got leaked beforehand, dampened a lot of the excitement.
Microsoft were the first to take the stage. With Sony not in attendance and Microsoft having been making all the right moves with Xbox over the last couple of years, they were well-positioned to steal the show and deliver an absolutely stellar showing. In the build up to the Xbox E3 briefing, Microsoft confirmed that they’d be bringing fourteen first party games to their showing, and it certainly felt like they were ready to pounce and hog the spotlight in the absence of their biggest competitor. Sadly enough, that turned out to not be the case.
On paper, if someone were to list out that Microsoft’s conference did show off and reveal, it’s sound like a dream E3 presentation- Gears 5, Halo Infinite, Ninja Theory’s Bleeding Edge, FromSoftware’s Elden Ring, Tales of Arise, Cyberpunk 2077, Borderlands 3, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. That’s an impressive list of games, and that’s only scratching the surface of what was present at the Xbox presser. But the thing is, a lot of it seemed like it was present at the show just to check boxes.
Because none of those games showed any gameplay at all, and if they did, it wasn’t very substantial. Fallen Order received a very short trailer that showed very little that EA hadn’t already showed the day before. Bleeding Edge was explained to us, and there were snippets of gameplay in its reveal, but it needed far more attention to really sell us on it. Gears 5 is a game we’d seen nothing of since E3 2018, and Microsoft bafflingly decided to show no campaign footage at all, instead focusing on multiplayer aspects- and we didn’t even get to see gameplay for that. Cyberpunk 2077 received a CG trailer, which was not bad as trailers go, but didn’t really do what we needed it to- show us the game in action (though I have to admit, seeing Keanu Reeves and that April 2020 release date sure was hype as heck).
At least Halo Infinite looked good. It showed off an excellent in-engine trailer that really sold the game’s excellent new narrative direction, and seeing Chief back in action was a delight to one and all. At least as far as Halo is concerned, not seeing gameplay was somewhat understandable- this is going to be their tentpole release for 2020, the game that they’ll be selling Project Scarlett on the back of- so sure, it makes sense that Microsoft wants to wait till next year to do the big gameplay blowout.
And that brings us to Scarlett, of course- the biggest news to come out of the Microsoft press event. Microsoft spoke about the next generation of Xbox, speaking about the things we can expect to see from its hardware side of things- a custom processor, ray tracing, GDDR6, an SSD. It’s all very impressive, but also about what most of us had been expecting from a next gen console (especially in light of confirmation of the PS5’s specs). This was also accompanied with the announcement that Scarlett will be releasing Holiday 2020, with Halo Infinite as a launch title. Which means we’ll be getting a lot of concrete information on both of them around this time next year- so we definitely have something to look forward to at E3 2020.
Microsoft’s E3 briefing was also a victim of leaks. There’s no doubt that a lot of the announcements and reveals we just spoke of would have been a lot more impactful and gratifying if we hadn’t known about them beforehand- but sadly, we did. Elden Ring? Leaked. Tales of Arise? Leaked. Bleeding Edge? Leaked. Halo Infinite’s 2020 release? Leaked. Project Scarlett’s specs reveal? Leaked. Sure, that’s not Microsoft’s fault- and I’m not faulting them for those leaks. It’s just worth mentioning that if not for all these leaks, the conference probably would have been a lot more impactful than it ended up being.
Bethesda’s conference had a lot of the same problems as Microsoft’s presser. The highlight of the show was obviously DOOM Eternal, as we had all been expecting in the build up to the show. Bethesda showed off a sizeable chunk of gameplay from id’s upcoming shooter, and it looked exactly as good as it needed to, and exactly as good as we’d known it would. The announcement that the game would be releasing in November of this year was also certainly a crowd-pleasing moment.
They had a couple of new games to announce as well. Industry legend Shinji Mikami took the stage to announce Tang Gameworks’ next project- the horror title, GhostWire: Tokyo. Arkane Studios also unveiled what they’ve been working on- a first person action game called Deathloop. Both were exciting announcements because of the developers that are attached to them, but really, we don’t know much about either of these games. We know their names, yes, and we have a rough idea of what they’re about, conceptually. But again, we got no gameplay. We didn’t even get release dates, or information on what platforms the games are launching on.
And yes, leaks ruined plenty of surprises here as well. Fallout 76’s expansion and battle royale mode got leaked. GhostWire Tokyo and Deathloop got leaked. Hell, even the stuff about The Elder Scrolls: Blades coming to the Switch and RAGE 2 DLC got leaked. Essentially, there was very little in Bethesda’s show that came as a surprise- which would have been fine if their showings had been good. Except they weren’t- they either felt muted because of having no gameplay footage whatsoever, or not very substantial because of being updates on games that are already out.
At least as far as the issue with gameplay is concerned, Ubisoft’s conference was a bit better. They kicked things off with a thoroughly impressive reveal for Watch Dogs Legion, showing off the game’s impressive and ambitious idea of being able to play as any and every NPC in the game. After that, though, things kind of tapered off. Ubisoft shared updates on For Honor and Rainbow Six Siege, while they announced Rainbow Six Quarantine, a sci-fi co-op PvE shooter that looks interesting- but again, we saw next to nothing of it, so it’s hard to say for sure either way right now. That said, Gods and Monsters, their new IP which they announced right at the end of their conference, looks absolutely beautiful, and is definitely one of the more intriguing announcements to come out of E3 this year.
Square Enix smartly got ahead of the leaks by confirming long before their show that they’d be bringing both Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Avengers. Those two were obviously the pillars holding up their briefing, and there’s no doubt that they both didn’t disappoint. Final Fantasy 7 Remake especially looked exceptional, and is probably going to be the game of the show for many people, and though we’re going to need to see and hear a lot more about Avengers before being sold on it, at least we’ve finally seen it in action.
Both those games bookended Square Enix’s press event, and while they both had good showings, everything between those two felt like a lot of fluff. But hey- Final Fantasy 7 Remake alone made Square Enix’s show one worth watching.
With the likes of Microsoft and Bethesda having disappointed with their conferences, Ubisoft presenting a very muted show, and Square Enix going all in with one or two games but letting the rest be a dull affair, it fell to Nintendo to salvage something out of this E3- and boy did they deliver.
Nintendo’s E3 Direct presentation was just a barrage of one major announcement after another. Long awaited games that we already know about like Animal Crossing and Luigi’s Mansion got gameplay reveals (with Animal Crossing: New Horizons getting a release date as well). The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening looked excellent in its gameplay trailer, with Nintendo confirming that it would be launching in September (funnily enough, that also got leaked). There were new trailers for imminent releases like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Astral Chain.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate revealed two new DLC characters in Dragon Quest 11’s Luminary and the long-requested Banjo-Kazooie, which is one of the most crowd-pleasing announcements to come out of the entire Direct. There were also plenty of major third party ports announced for The Witcher 3 (which, yes, got leaked), Alien: Isolation, Resident Evil 5 and 6, Spyro Reignited Trilogy, and many more. Finally, there were a couple of new announcements as well, with Travis Touchdown returning in No More Heroes 3 next year, and Nintendo confirming with an excellent and cryptic teaser trailer that a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was in development.
Nintendo’s Direct didn’t lack for gameplay either. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Luigi’s Mansion 3, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening all showed off plenty of gameplay, and they all looked good. Best of all though, the presentation spent exactly as much time on every single thing as it needed to, never lingering on any one announcement for too long, and keeping things moving at a steady clip. It was a fast, packed show, and though there weren’t many groundbreaking moments in there, it was entertaining to watch– which is more than what can be said for almost all the other press events.
So yes, Nintendo had the best E3 this year. A lot of that is down to companies taking things easy as the generation winds down and holding back their best stuff for next gen. The lack of gameplay footage in many other conferences also definitely hurt, as did the overly abundant leaks. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Nintendo’s Direct presentation was a solid one. Not an excellent one, sure, but solid.
One thing’s for sure- with next gen inching closer and everyone gearing up to reveal their big guns for what they will be bringing to newer hardware, E3 2020 is going to be a doozy.