7. Square Enix
Dear lord, what on earth happened with Square Enix’s conference? In the build-up to this year’s E3 it really felt as though 2018 might be a vintage one for the publisher, but it ended up as one giant disappointment. Void of any notable new game announcements it was lacking in excitement, with only a trailer for a strange interactive CG experience called The Quiet Man the only noteworthy new reveal.
Strangest of all, the most hotly anticipated of its latest games were most substantially featured in the conferences of both Microsoft and Sony. In the case of the former, that meant that we’d actually seen the best of Square Enix’s hand before the conference had arrived. Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Just Cause 4 were already given reveals during the slew of new reveals on the Xbox Stage. And when Kingdom Hearts 3 finally showed up at Square Enix’s stage, all we got was the same trailer we’d already seen a day earlier. Of course, Kingdom Hearts 3 did end up stunning us with an awesome new trailer showing off the Pirates of the Caribbean world, but bizarrely, that was done so on Sony’s stage.
Quite honestly, Square Enix’s E3 2018 conference was borderline a waste of time and effort.
EA might be the biggest third-party publisher in the world, but it isn’t very good at press conferences. We’ve become painfully used to seeing some horrendously awkward E3 moments courtesy of EA over the years. Last year’s conference, if you remember, was full of them (poor old Jesse Wellens). E3 2018 was a slightly different sort of mediocre, though – less dramatic cock up and more dreary and boring. For once, it was actually presented rather well, but there just wasn’t anything notable to announce.
Anthem, of course, was the hotly anticipated title that everyone was looking forward to seeing, and we did get a fairly deep dive into gameplay. I can’t say that it really blew me away, though. Despite my every confidence in Bioware’s ability to deliver a sound narrative and compelling gameplay, Anthem felt a little hollow and generic for something that totally stunned us at last year’s Microsoft presser.
Battlefield V looked as one would imagine Battlefield V would look – every bit the solid FPS mutliplayer experience that we’ve come to appreciate over the past decade. Despite the silly controversy around its reveal trailer the other month, our hands-on session at this year’s EA Play suggested it’s well on its way to defining itself as one of the series’ best. Still, though, it’s presence at the conference wasn’t surprising or particularly engaging.
It says something about the quality of the conference that arguably the most compelling announcements were the reveals of its EA Original titles, Unravel 2 and Sea of Solitude.
Ubisoft’s conference finds its way well down the ranking this year, but don’t think that means we didn’t enjoy the presentation. On the contrary, of all of the pressers at E3 2018, it was perhaps the most pleasant to watch. Ubisoft is a huge publisher, but there was a really intimate family vibe to the whole presentation. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Nintendo is so willing to nurture its continued partnership with the publisher. And on that note, how cute is the bromance between Yves Guillemot and Shigeru Miyamoto?
In fact, the revelation that Ubisoft’s Toys-to-life title Starlink would feature Starfox as a playable pilot was arguably the biggest climax of the conference. It was a great moment, but also telling of the fact that there wasn’t too many new game announcements to really stir things up.
Sadly for Ubisoft, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey leaked in the build-up to E3 – not their fault, but that really took the gloss off the big reveal, even if it did look terrific. Elsewhere, Skull and Bones, and The Division 2 had already had their reveals. And so despite the feel-good ambiance of the conference, it all felt a little just like going through the motions.
Bethesda’s conference was a real mixed bag this year, and it certainly didn’t get off to the best start. Don’t get me wrong, Andrew W.K rocked the stage with his Ready to Die Rage 2 theme song, but it slightly outstayed its welcome as we twiddle our thumbs waiting for news on Bethesda’s games. Then we were made to wait even longer with as Tim Willits and Magnus Nedfors – two developers of comically different proportions – exchanged awkward jokes for an uncomfortable amount of time. But importantly, the deep dive into Rage 2 they were there to showcase did look stunning, and that was all that mattered in the end.
Later, both Wolfenstein and DOOM returned in style to reveal the next chapter of their respective stories – a new spin-off called the Youngblood for Wolfenstein, and a full sequel to the critically acclaimed DOOM reboot titled Eternal.
Todd Howard’s arrival on stage signaled the crescendo of the conference as he gave us our first proper look at Fallout 76. But the real show-stopping moments were the conformations of Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6. Sure, all we got was a logo reveal for both, but it was enough to send the crowd into a frenzy. Honestly, we’re not quite sure it deserved that much excitement minus any actual gameplay (or even a CGI trailer… or anything, for that matter) but the statement of intent was enough to reassure fans that Bethesda has its ear to the ground.
After the slew of get-hyped moments that highlighted Nintendo’s E3 2017, it was always going to be a tough ask to top things this time around. Last year was, of course, the console’s year one, and Nintendo was intent on coming out swinging with some surprise announcements. We definitely didn’t get anything that matched a Metroid 4 Prime or Pokemon announcement this year, but we did get a really good look at Smash Bros. for Switch, and boy is it looking sweet. That roster is absolutely mind-blowing, and it’s teeing up what is surely going to be the definitive and potentially most long-lasting iteration of the franchise ever.
There were some interesting new game announcements peppered in as well. A new Fire Emblem game, Super Mario Party, and all new IP called Daemon Ex Machina, as well as Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC – there was plenty of substance beyond the lengthy focus on Smash.
Possibly the biggest announcement was the confirmation that Fortnite is now available on the Nintendo Switch. That’s surely going to be absolutely huge for both Nintendo and Epic Games, as the hottest free-to-play battle royale game comes to a platform that provides a genuinely tactile handheld gaming experience. We’re expecting to hear some pretty big numbers in the coming months celebrating that inevitable success.
It might not have quite had the shock announcements to raise the roof this time around, but it was another solid Nintendo conference that showed compelling exclusive content for the Nintendo Switch platform.
Phil Spencer promised that Microsoft’s E3 2018 conference would be the biggest ever, but you could have been forgiven for chalking that up to typical pre-show hype. This time, though, he really meant business. The two-hour showcase was the most substantial showing from Xbox this generation, and the slew of new game announcements did a great job of road mapping the future of the brand. After this conference, Xbox fans can rest assured knowing that Microsoft is determined to push the console right back into contention as gaming’s hottest hardware. It’s also a super attractive proposition for potential consumers, too, that might finally have reason to consider the Xbox over Sony for the first time in years.
The momentum has been forged not just on gaming announcements, of course. There was the news of studio acquisitions and new Game Pass features that really reinforced the message.
However, it wasn’t all rosy. As fantastic as it was to see the return of Halo and Gears of War, and what a boon it is for Playground Studios to finally be a Microsoft first-party, we’re once again back to leaning on a holy trinity of tried and tested IPs as the main punch of the Xbox’s future library. Weren’t we all hankering for a new AAA exclusive IP? How is it that of Sony’s big four shown off this year, three were brand new IPs, and the only sequel was a hotly anticipated second entry in the franchise (The Last of Us Part II). Why is it that Microsoft still has nothing in the pipeline other than sequels and third-party multiplatform titles to showcase?
There’s no question that Microsoft did a superb job with this year’s conference, and there’s also no doubt that its serious about the Xbox One keeping pace with its rivals. Yet there were some awkward truths that the company tiptoed around, perhaps somewhat deflected by the sheer volume of content it showed. For the lack of exclusives actually arriving on Xbox One in the next twelve months, even a show as impressive as that didn’t quite win us over.
It’s Sony, then, that once again takes out E3, winning our hearts by showcasing quality exclusive games. Yes, there was “only” a handful showcased… but what games! The dark and edgy tone of its latest round of exclusives continue to demonstrate that Sony’s first party studios are pushing video games into bold and exciting new territory. They all offer a point of difference from each other, and they all look set to continue this wonderful streak of acclaimed titles that has seen Sony dominate the generation thus far.
Aside from the actual titles themselves, the presentation itself was marvelous. Sure, the odd pacing that slightly spoiled the start of the show didn’t quite have the wham-bam intensity of previous conferences, but there was a palpable atmosphere that pushed it to another level when the show hit its stride. And it easily had the most ‘get-hyped’ moment with the long-awaited reveal of Resident Evil 2 Remake. That sublime trailer sent the crowd into a frenzy, and it was actually one of the few genuine surprises of the entire E3 conference lineup. That was then backed by yet another slam-dunk with the announcement of Nioh 2 – a sequel we all saw coming but definitely not this quickly.
A sizzle reel of PSVR titles finished off the presentation to confirm Sony is intent on supporting the hardware into the future. Although if we were being honest, we probably would have liked to have seen something a little more definitive to reaffirm Sony’s confidence in the peripheral.
Still, we feel that overall Sony’s E3 package delivered the gameplay we wanted to see from the exclusives that continue to make PS4 the must-own platform in the eight generation. It was close, but Sony edges out our E3 2018 conference showdown.