Wednesday, June 13, 2018

E3 2018 Presentation Overview - Would I Watch Them Again?

The big question of the week that's on every gamer's mind: Who Won E3? Lots of speculation and debate have broken out on which developer or console maker held the best event for E3 2018.

When you get to the core of it, it's a silly question. Every developer is a little different. They produce content their way. They have games that don't compete with other companies. People who are loyal to the brand are already invested in the product. The presentations are about engaging new customers while reminding current buyers that more content is on the way. And trying to compare a Nintendo presentation to EA doesn't work. What Nintendo provides to it's audience will never be the same as EA.

Instead of trying to rank the presentations on "who won" or "who was the best," I'm going to review each event, provide pros and cons, and note if I'd watch the presentation again. If the event was engaging enough to re-watch it, then I think the developers did their job. So! Here is the grand overview of every E3 2018 presentation - a link to my full write-up will be accompanied with each event:

Electronic Arts - EA started the event 3 days early (per the new tradition) and highlighted the games that they felt best represented their brand. While the hardcore gamers may not believe this, EA Sports is a huge division of their gaming empire. So of course a portion of the program was going to focus on Fifa and Madden. But we did get some helping hands from BioWare and EA Originals to pad out the event.

Pros: The event went along at a steady pace and never felt too long, or too rushed. We got a little taste of everything that EA is working on. While we knew a new Battlefield was on the way, the additional content was nice to see. The small breakouts with the smaller studios under the EA Originals umbrella was quite refreshing. For all of EA's ire and ill-will, they are trying to be better with providing a platform for indie developers that may not have been seen by the general gaming public. Even allowing BioWare in was nice. Stage set-up was direct and not over-the-top on the flash and cheese. From a format stand-point, EA did what it always did - it's a tried and true method.

Cons: Awkward host and developer interactions. Some of this is first time jitters. Other times it's developers who have no right to be on a stage introducing content, and allow their nerves to get the best of them. Dudes - Please learn from Ubisoft's mistakes and never go into the crowd to hold breaks/interviews/memes. It ends up bad. The other con is that the event was very predictable. There weren't any new surprises or unexpected news. The choice of streamers to test out the mobile Command & Conquer game were random (people I never heard of), or borderline offensive (the Madden tournament winner is not the bastion of good sportsmanship). It was a flat presentation all around that left the crowd muddled (so little applause throughout).

Would I watch again? Nope. Not even a little bit. I'll wait on the Anthem videos to slowly upload on BioWare's channel and I'm already playing Unravel 2. That's all I needed.



XBox/Microsoft - Breaking with the traditional format that so many developers stick with (play a trailer, get the dev to talk about the game for 4-5 minutes and/or show off a questionable demo), XBox decided to throw a lot of games at viewers. For 1 hour and 45 minutes. It was a lot of content to absorb and more than what most would have expected from the company trying to rebound from slow console sales.

Pros: If there was an award for best stage set-up for the modern era, XBox would probably win it. Big. Bold. Lots of screens. Lots of computers. Shiny. They did good on the presentation of their stage. And provided some seamless transitions between the event stage and the video feeds with little interruptions to those watching the event online. In spite of the number of games, it was nice to see that Microsoft is trying to push to have more content on their system. Though it's not all exclusive, it does give gamers more options. It was nice to see a working version of Forza and that more content is being driven to the XBox Game Pass. We saw a first conformation that Devil May Cry is back, and we're getting some strange games like Gears Pop. Again...it was a lot of content. But, I think gamers appreciated the content and not the fluff.

Cons: It was a lot of content. I have a difficult time remembering the number of games that were dropped at this event and I'm continually going back through my notes. The problem with having so many games and little down-time between the trailers for an hour and 45 minutes (I'm not letting this go - there was no reason for the event to have been so long), is that our brains can only absorb so much information. We're going to start forgetting things that we were informed about a moment ago. That's not fair to the games being showcased, nor to the developers who have been working on the product. There needed to be more spacing between the content or a much shorter event. Nintendo and SquareEnix did a similar concept this year, but limited their events to 30 and 45 minutes respectively.

Would I watch again? Not a chance. I felt like I needed to take an Adderall after this conference.


Bethesda: With only recently dropping the news that another Fallout was in the works, a lot of eyes were on Bethesda to deliver the goods. Having been to QuakeCon, I know that their presentations can be quirky. Good, but unique. But it's also Bethesda, with a known history of being super quiet about everything they do until the last moment. So how will they handle an E3 event?

Pros: Being Bethesda, they did not do a traditional stage set-up. Instead they opted for a cat-walk like runway with stadium seating on both sides. Projectors lined the top of the stage for the audience to view content. It made for an interesting streaming experience - thank you to the camera operators for not breaking the 180 degree rule. There was much more talking here than the previous presentations, but the focus was on content. It wasn't fluff. We got more details about Fallout: 76 than I could have imagined. Very clear info about the future of Quake Champions and unexpected teasers for a new IP and The Elder Scrolls 6. It was worth-while content that was directed to the Bethesda fans. Also, Andrew W. K. Thumbs up.

Cons: Bethesda is the king of the awkward presenters. Some of those developers looked downright terrified to be on that stage. While some are fantastic, others looked like they needed to be consoled afterwards. They need to come up with a better vetting system on who should and should not present. I also found that some of the presentations were long-winded. Prey and The Elder Scrolls card games didn't need to be so long. Yes, it was nice to hear about updates, but the bantering and weird in-jokes could have been nixed.

Would I watch again? I think I could sit through the awkwardness for another go. In the end the presentation was fun. I was engaged enough to consider a second viewing.


SquareEnix: After a three year absence, SE came back with the intent to try and prove that they could continue to make a dent in the Western gaming market. Given the continual, and confusing, success of Final Fantasy XV, what does SquareEnix have in store for it's fans?

Pros: It was short and made for the home audience. Instead of wasting time and resources on creating a stage set-up to appease a few hundred people, they knew most of their fans would be watching from home. So the focus was on entertaining the people streaming the event. Which meant 30 minutes of trailers, with a few breaks from developers to provide more details about certain games, and lovely voice narration by Keith David. Good call there, SE. There was more depth provided to the new Tomb Raider title and Just Cause 4. We saw some gameplay and at least 2 new games, though no details on what they are going to be about.

Cons: It was dull. The content they highlighted were games we already knew were coming out or had been announced by Microsoft the day before. The trailers they played were the same ones shown the day before. Most of the updates listed for FF14 and Brave Exodus have been out for nearly a month. We got nothing new from this presentation. Short is fine, but if you're going to bring the goods, then why bother? And this is not about the FF7 remake. Anything else could have made this presentation better. If this is suppose to be the "future" of SE, they did not impress.

Would I watch again? No.


Ubisoft: If you had an Uncle Eddie, he is Ubisoft. This developer is full of crazy ideas that don't always come to fruition. They try so hard to do fun things, and fail at it spectacularly. They are a fun event to watch because they never seem to quite get it right.

I know that's a horrible way to look at a conference, but that's the joy of watching Ubisoft!

Pros: Ubisoft did what it did best and did not listen to the voices of gamers. Instead of opening the show with the latest Assassin's Creed game, they gave us a dancing panda. At least they followed it up with a nearly 4 minute cinematic trailer of Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Cons: The problem with Ubisoft's goofyness is that they are so predictable with their showcase. We knew before the stream began that they would talk about their banner franchises: AssCreed, Rabbids, Tom Clancy. We didn't have to bat an eyelash. And you could tell by the lack of reaction from the audience that they expected the same as well. While the opening was silly, it didn't make up for the rest of the ho-hum presentation.

Would I watch again? Nope. But thanks for giving us something with BGaE.


Sony: Sony would like to remind you that they are still very much in the game, want you to buy a PS4 even as the console nears the end of it's life cycle (already? I know!). But they took a very different approach from past years. One that will have polarizing opinions from gamers. You either liked this set-up or hated it.

Pros: The event began in the "Church of Sony" as I dubbed it. A large barn, wood walls, drop lights hanging along the beams, a simple stage, and one projector in the back. Very simple. This ended up being a replica of a room in The Last of Us 2 - which took us through a new trailer and in-depth gameplay. The idea of the presentation was to provide a "deep dive" look at 4 big titles coming to the PS4. Initially I thought "oh great, we're only talking about 4 games" but it ended up providing new announcements. The event was kept to under an hour and there was an intermission while attendees moved from the church/barn to a planetarium with super wide-screen views. The games highlighted were bold and unique. No two titles were the same and could capture someone's attention. We also got more answers and even more questions for Death Stranding. I'm all in for this.

Cons: While the concept was cool, the journey wasn't fully fleshed out. It ended up only being 2 rooms, not 4. Given the anticipation of Spiderman, I would have loved to have seen the audience in a crowded cityscape that replicated New York. Or in the mountains/vacant beach of Death Stranding. Stopping at 2 rooms gave unnecessary length to the presentation. My other big issue were the vignettes between some trailers. They were random and nonsensical. Created by Media Molecule (Little Big Planet) they purpose was unknown. It was never explained. Even they didn't know how their animations would be used (they spoke about their involvement on the post-show). Combined with the awkward pauses between trailers, it was an odd showcase.

Would I watch again? Maybe. I'm torn on this one because I think the concept of the presentation could have worked if they expanded it. Either go all in on the creativity or don't do it at all.


Nintendo: The last in the show typically goes to Nintendo. They have been tweaking their format over the past few years to shift towards an online audience (which is funny given how anti-online they have been for years until the Switch...even that is limited). Like SquareEnix, instead of creating a presentation for a few hundred people at E3, they tailored the content for the majority of people watching at home.

Pros: 45 minutes and they used every second of it quite well. While the focus was mostly on Smash, the balance between Reggie's segments and the games provided a good flow of content. You didn't feel overwhelmed by the gaming news, nor board by the talking. It helped maintain a modest feeling throughout the presentation.

Cons: The presentation was very predictable. Looking back at my notes, I found that nearly everything I had guessed was shown during this event. New peripheral/accessory? We're getting a GameCube controller for Smash. Pokémon repeats? Yep. Mario Party? Ding. Fortnite on Switch? Bingo. You didn't have to be a mind reader to know what Nintendo was going to focus on. They gave their fans what they wanted, and nothing more.

Would I watch again? Probably for the Smash Bros. content. A lot of details were provided and I think a second viewing is needed to absorb it all.

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