Day two of E3 2017 has ended for gaming fans and members of the media. The majority of the press conferences have come and gone, and while some managed to bring strong praise, for the most part this year, the showings fell surprisingly flat. A lot of the mistakes this year were due to crude, unfunny humor or simply having such a long outlook in release that it just feels odd to announce now.
These showings, while good, were not great as they have been in previous years. They feel like STAR ratings for Medicare insurance. What are STAR ratings? If you’re wondering, I’m currently a student pharmacist, and a lot of what happened in these conferences were projections of what would come two or more years from now. In the healthcare insurance system, Medicare STAR ratings data are reported in two year intervals. Data from 2013 would be reported in 2015, 2014 data obtained reported in 2016, and so on. Everything that we as gamers want to see, well, they’re going to be out in 2018 or beyond. Games like Kingdom Hearts III or the remake of Final Fantasy VII? Not going to be for a while.
I am not going to claim that I understand the complete ins and outs of the system but I will do my best. For the STAR rating system, a lot of the effects revolve around consumer satisfaction. To me, these E3 conferences represent consumer satisfaction, and those reported results are translated into sales upon the games’ release. The higher the STAR ratings a company receives, the better their benefits and esteem. During the press showings this year, the applause and approval felt notably dimmer than it has been in previous years. In the STAR system, if your ratings are bad, you can get all kinds of notices and end up getting canned – to translate in the gaming world, nobody’s going to want to buy your games and you’re just going to be a laughingstock.
This year, everything is being projected as something far beyond in the future, instead of focusing on the holiday season. Sony has a particularly and peculiarly empty holiday ahead of them. While many had strong hopes for their conference showing, this year, the showing was noticeably tame, with none of the wild fervor that came back in 2015 and 2016. The information shown this year from Sony had been mostly demonstrated last year, with little new information added to the table. Their media showcase, though? Top notch. I will give them credit for that one.
Microsoft had a huge event for themselves with the reveal of the project Scorpio, now called Xbox One X. Even that fell flat with much of the information leaked out and the price made known by industry veteran Geoff Keighley. Microsoft won points and praise with Anthem, the new Bioware IP (not the insurance company!), but other than that, their conference was “expected,” and mostly with releases in 2018. The main problems here stem not from bad looking games, but from a far away release date. Microsoft had some good stuff, but it wasn’t great. Their onslaught of titles announced weren’t really that exclusive, either. The idea of backwards compatibility getting a standing ovation just falls flat in comparison to what has happened in years past.
On the other hand, there’s the showings from EA, Bethesda, and PC Gaming Show. The EA show felt awkwardly paced and poorly done, with much focus being put into Star Wars Battlefront II, which actually does have some promise. With an off-site event at EA Play happening again this year, it’s the highlight game with more sports games on the side that feel a bit jaded at this point. Bethesda had an incredible exhibit in the form of Bethesdaland, but their showing during their conference was a painful one to watch. Not only was the conference at an awful time slot, with a good size of their gaming population unable to watch since it was 5AM local, but their presentation was poorly paced and had some rather insignificant revelations with nothing of exceptional value added to the table, with a potential exception in Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch, but we knew about that. Don’t even get started on PC Gaming, which felt awfully paced. The presentation felt oddly cluttered and all over the place, with sound issues. Intel’s showing, which was supposed to be a 45-minute showing, went for half of that time, and the PC Gaming portion dragged on with little substance.
The real winner this year was Ubisoft, who brought the much-desired Beyond Good and Evil 2 to the table alongside a genuinely good press showing. Despite the absence of host Aisha Tyler, Ubisoft headlined with a brilliant and hilarious opener with a Super Mario and Rabbids crossover. Compounded with the on-stage presence of Shigeru Miyamoto himself announcing the joint partnership with Ubisoft, they had a real gift and with the presence of enthusiastic developers on stage passionately displaying their games, the show had heart for the first time in a long time, compared to the rather stiff readings from other showings. Some of these anticipated titles were also coming out this year as well, with games like Mario + Rabbids coming in later this summer. While there are some 2018 and beyond titles, this showing was actually a powerful and good one.
Did I enjoy the E3 showcases thus far? I did, but I didn’t leave feeling thoroughly impressed. Nintendo has the floor tomorrow, and with the gap that the other companies have left, it’s going to be interesting to see how Nintendo plays its long con, even with only 25 minutes to announce material as confirmed by Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime. While this is the new norm going forward from the industry, it’d be great to see what the future brings in the shorter term.