E3 2014: Aftermath
With E3 2014 about to wrap up the fourth and final day, it’s safe to say that most, if not all the big news has already been made. This year’s edition of E3 was well-executed across the board. None of the press conferences contained a single embarrassing moment worthy of an internet meme as we’ve seen in previous years. Unlike last year’s event and the year before, it isn’t clear who “won” E3 as just about everyone had a strong showing.
E3 opened with Microsoft’s Media Briefing with debuted the first gameplay footage of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and while it was no means groundbreaking, for a game that’s slated for both current-gen and last-gen consoles, it sure looked impressive. Phil Spencer, the head of the Xbox Division at Microsoft, then came out and briefly talked about the Xbox One being shaped by gamers, no doubt referring to the Xbox One’s recent departure of the Kinect and the DRM-Reversals due to the overwhelming criticism of these features from fans. Then for the rest of the briefing, Microsoft focused entirely on games which was a welcome change from the television-focused nonsense of last year’s event.
We saw gameplay for Sunset Overdrive, Assassin’s Creed: Unity and Fable Legends among others. We also got announcement trailers for Rise of the Tomb Raider, Phantom Dust and a new Crackdown game. Perhaps the biggest news from Microsoft was the announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection which will bring together all numbered games in the Halo series, including remastered versions of Halo and Halo 2, to the Xbox One on one disc with every Halo multiplayer map and single-player mission available immediately.
Microsoft’s Media Briefing was one of the strongest of E3 as the focus on games allowed the value of the Xbox One to speak for itself. Microsoft did this year what they should have done in the beginning, they appealed to their dedicated audience as the Kinect was almost completely absent from their briefing save for a quick stage demo.
The only thing lacking from Microsoft’s Briefing was a shocking game announcement, Phantom Dust is a bit too obscure a title to really surprise people though I imagine fans of the original will be thrilled. Halo: The Master Chief Collection is going to sell a lot of systems so expect the gap between the Xbox One and Playstation 4 to decrease. The briefing was strong enough to convince me to buy an Xbox One sometime in the near future, hopefully in time to play Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2.
Next up was EA, who gave the weakest media briefing of the show. The main flaw for EA’s briefing aside from half of it being dedicated to showing off sports games was that they had little gameplay to show outside of Battlefield: Hardline. Instead of gameplay trailers or cinematic teasers, EA went to town on the developer diaries. We saw diaries for Mass Effect, Mirror’s Edge, Battlefront and an untitled game from Criterion. While it doesn’t make for much of a conference, I can’t be too hard on EA. While the lacklustre briefing was probably a result of poor planning, game development shouldn’t revolve trade shows and press events. When EA has something more substantial to show, I’m sure they won’t hesitate to show it.
We then got a media briefing Ubisoft, which for the third year in a row was led by Aisha Tyler, who seemed very comfortable on stage and as result was an effective host. Ubisoft showed off gameplay for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4 and The Division. All three games looked impressive aside from the Paris setting in Assassin’s Creed: Unity featuring British accents. However, the strongest moment of Ubisoft’s show was the absolutely stunning gameplay début of Rainbow Six: Siege. While it’s hard to take anything Ubisoft shows after the downgrading of Watch Dogs but Ubisoft had a relatively strong showing at E3.
Sony entered E3 riding high on success. The PS4 is the best-selling current-gen console on the market and after utterly destroying Microsoft at last year’s event, all Sony had to do is not mess up this year and for the most part Sony did well. When looking at Microsoft and Sony’s media briefings in comparison, it seemed a bit backwards. Microsoft kept the executives off stage and focused entirely on games. Sony did the same, laying down game after game and seemed poised to steal E3 with an amazing trailer for No Man’s Sky and the surprise announcement and gameplay début of Little Big Planet 3, both which were arguably the most memorable moments of E3.
Then Sony stumbled. SCEA President and CEO Shawn Layden stepped on stage and spent twenty minutes of the conference talking about Sony’s plans for future software such as Playstation Now, Project Morpheus and Playstation TV. Unfortunately this segment of the show was devoid of any charisma and fell into the classic trap of talking a lot but saying very little. Then another 15 minutes were spent talking about a TV show that few people have heard of and even less care about. Sony ended the conference strong with trailers for a current-gen port of Grand Theft Auto V, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
Admittedly, Sony had the strongest moments of the entire show but their media event was the most inconsistent. Playstation Now was obviously going to feature but far too much time was dedicated to merely talking about Playstation’s success, something that gamers either are already aware of or simply don’t care about. It all sounded like executive-speak aimed at shareholders and not gamers. It’s baffling when such a move is made at the biggest gaming event of the year. None of this will matter however.
When you break it all down, Sony’s conference showed just as many great looking games as Microsoft so don’t expect PS4 sales to go down anytime soon. Sony still has a slight edge on exclusive games over Microsoft and they’re catching up with Microsoft in terms of platform-exclusive content with premium beta access for Destiny being made exclusively to PS4 owners. Sony needed to protect their lead going into E3 and regardless of what you thought of their briefing, they accomplished their objective.
That brings us to Nintendo’s Direct Media Event, which was the strongest showing Nintendo has had at E3 in a long time. It opened with a Robot-Chicken style spoof that quickly turned into a riff on Super Smash Bros. with Nintendo President Satoru Iwata and Nintendo of America COO Reggie-Fils-Aime duking it out in an over-the-top fist fight. Nintendo followed up with the reveal of playable Miis in Super Smash Bros. and the introduction of amiibo, NFC-enabled figurines similar to Disney’s Infinity and Activision’s Skylanders series. Amiibo isn’t tied to any one game in particular will be available for mutliple Nintendo games.
Nintendo then showed game after game with stunning gameplay reveals of Yoshi’s Wooly Worlds, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Splatoon and the first look at a new open-world Zelda game for the Wii U. A new StarFox game was also announced by Shigeru Miyamoto though no gameplay was shown. The presentation from Nintendo was both the most entertaining and the most impressive in terms of gameplay showings. For these reasons, I will be picking up a Wii U at the end of the month.
The strongest moment of E3 however, was the Super Smash Bros. Invitational Tournament, which had 16 professional Super Smash Bros. players competing for glory in one of the most entertaining E3 segments ever. The tournament felt straight The Wizard and was a huge success for Nintendo. There was even a guest celebrity round featuring Zelda Williams (that’s Robin Williams’ daughter for you cave-dwellers). The final match of tournament was one the most intense moments I’ve ever experienced watching someone else play a game over the internet. It’s uncertain whether or not this will help the Wii U turn itself around in terms of sales but there are very few things Nintendo could have done better. If this doesn’t help the Wii U, nothing ever will.
Overall, just about everyone left E3 in a stronger position than when they entered. It was all-around one of the best E3s in recent memory mostly do the unanimous focus on games after the hardware-centric E3 of last year. While there were some disappointing exclusions (The Last Guardian and Metroid come to mind) there was a good balance between games coming soon and games coming in 2015. The present of gaming is bright and so is the future.