After back-to-back years of Sony absolutely crushing E3 with the announcements of some major fan-favourite games in development (Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Shenmue HD, The Last Guardian etc.), audiences anticipated that E3 2017 would be a quieter year for the annual video game trade show. And they were right.
Long before the week of the show, several studios doused cold water on expectations of seeing the latest footage of some highly anticipated titles. There would be no Red Dead Redemption 2. No The Last of Us 2. No Cyberpunk 2047. No Elder Scrolls VII.
What audiences could look forward to was a new console unveiling from Microsoft and an opportunity to see if Nintendo could capitalise on their unexpected momentum built up by the early success of the Nintendo Switch.
Here’s my two cents on the three major conferences and my top ten favourite games from the show.
Microsoft’s conference was my most anticipated of the entire show because they had the least to lose and the most to gain. The Xbox 360 was easily my most played console last generation. But the horrendously misguided launch of the Xbox One in 2013 has lead to the system falling out of favour with many people, myself included.
Today, there is a glaring lack of attractive first party titles or exclusive third party content on the Xbox One. Franchises such as Gears of War and Halo are beginning to feel tired and their popularity is on the wane. The cancellation of publicly announced exclusives such as Fable and Scalebound have left Microsoft’s portfolio looking a little lacklustre. By comparison, Sony and Nintendo are both far more appealing options.
An opportunity to right the ship was with the launch of their new console – Project Scorpio – which was unveiled at E3 as the Xbox One X. As promised, it will be the most powerful home console on the market when it launches. Handily, it will also come with a 4K disc drive (a feature omission that I was pretty miffed about with the Playstation 4 Pro).
I think Microsoft did a reasonable job talking up the console from a hardware perspective but things fell apart when it came to pricing and software. Unfortunately for Microsoft, there were rumours swirling of an aggressive launch price of USD$399. As it turns out, those rumour mongers were $100 off the mark. USD$499 (or AUS$649) was the actual price. Ouch. For that money, you would want a killer app on Day One. A game that looked so spectacular, that it would be an offer you couldn’t refuse.
Microsoft turned to Forza Horizon 7, Crackdown 3 and…actually, that was it. They also leaned heavily on showcasing Bioware’s new IP Anthem with a trailer that didn’t appear to show any gameplay. Anthem isn’t exclusive to the Xbox One X and nor is it out in 2017.
The lack of first party content once again proved to be Microsoft’s undoing when it came to generating buzz about their console. It was nice to see Cuphead get a release date and I appreciated the announcement of a new Ori game but that was about it for me. It’s nice to see them continue their ongoing support for backwards compatibility (original Xbox games will soon work on the Xbox One) but those feature updates are the side dishes to a largely absent main course.
At this stage, I don’t think there’s much Microsoft can do to close the gap on the runaway popularity of the Playstation 4. But its important that they keep their existing customer base happy and continue their work rebuilding the brand integrity of the Xbox name which took a serious hit back in 2013 and has yet to fully recover. The focus must surely be on building a stable of first party games and great third party content. It’s hard to think it could get much worse than where it is today.
Summing up Microsoft’s recent run of poor luck, one of the few games they showcased that generated some genuine interest was the slick looking cyberpunk game The Last Night. But just as the hype was begining to build around the game, tweets from creator Tim Soret back in 2014 revealed him to be a Gamer Gate sympathiser and that the vision for the game was apparently portraying a dystopian future caused by the rise of feminism. All the goodwill surrounding the game quickly soured. For what its worth, Soret has responded to the controversy by distancing himself from those tweets and he says he is a much different person today.
After several years of utterly dominating E3, Sony finally came back to Earth with a less grandiose 2017 show. But despite a fair bit of public chatter about them having a disappointing show (it was lacking in surprise announcements and heavy hitters), what they had on offer was still pretty positive. A big budget Spider-man game has been something I’ve been wanting for ages and the new spin-offs/DLC content in the Uncharted and Horizon series are a welcome sight.
Likewise, there was half a dozen VR games unveiled which was great to see. Moss, a VR title featuring a pint sized mouse protagonist, looked particularly adorable.
Of the other big flagship titles, God of War looks genuinely intriguing thanks to the new direction the series is taking with the inclusion of Kratos’ son as a prominent (and apparently playable) character. I had less interest in Days Gone, a zombie apocalypse game that looked seriously derivative and lacking in self-awareness at how cringy its tattoo sleeved, backwards baseball cap wearing, denim clad lead character came across. Likewise, David Cage’s latest project Detroit, looks like an equally cringe-worthy and clumsy sci-fi parable about racism.
The lack of any new footage of Red Dead Redemption, The Last of Us 2, Final Fantasy 7R or Shenmue 3 didn’t matter to me so much because of how strong the rest of the Playstation ecosystem is. There just seems to be a never ending stream of great games in the pipeline. Although they didn’t feature in Sony’s press conference, I can’t wait to get my hands on Hidden Agenda (a multiplayer game that uses mobile phones), Yakuza 6, Ace Combat 7 and Superhot VR.
Nintendo only needed 24 minutes with their E3 Spotlight video and that was all it took for them to be the talk of the town and most people’s pick to be the ‘winner’ of E3. In that short period of time, Nintendo continued on their recent run of positive press by dropping one major new game announcement after another. Best of all, that new Mario Odyssey trailer looked seriously amazing and was my favourite game of the show. The amount of creativity and charm it packed in a 2 minute show reel was simply absurd.
The hits kept coming. A mainline Pokemon game was confirmed for the Switch. Metroid Prime 4. A 2017 release date for Xenoblade 2. A new 2D Metroid for the 3DS. New Kirby and Yoshi games. More Breath of the Wild content that is only a month away.
The only real downers was the lack of any news about a Mini Super Nintendo or Virtual Console on the Switch. But given the terrific press that Nintendo has already built up for themselves, they seem well positioned to continue dolling out these updates over the coming months to keep the positive word of mouth going.
Time will tell if they’re going to hit the heights of the Wii or the original DS in terms of sales but regardless, it seems like Nintendo is returning to form and the fans are returning in droves. The train wreck that was the Wii U is well and truly behind them and the future looks bright.
Top Ten Games of E3 2017
Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo, Nintendo Switch
Game of the Show
Super Massive Games, Playstation 4
Uncharted: Lost Legacy
Naughty Dog, Playstation 4
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Moon Studios, Xbox One
SEGA, Playstation 4
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Machine Games, Multi
Insomniac, Playstation 4
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom
Level-5, Playstation 4
Beyond Good and Evil 2
Ace Combat 7
Bandai Namco, Playstation 4 VR