E3 2016 Autopsy: Winners and Losers

The biggest gaming convention on the gaming industry’s calendar has come and gone for 2016. Whether it was the wee hours of the morning, late at night or during the day, millions of fans across the globe eagerly tuned in hoping to see something that would blow their socks off.

A few members of the Do You Even Game Bro? team braved the cold Australian mornings to hear straight from the horses’ mouths just what new goodies we would be treated to.

So just under a week later, with the dust having settled and our bodies having unfrozen, we’ve taken a step back to assess what we witnessed over E3 2016. Which games/companies reached dizzying new heights? Who outdid themselves in terms of cringe? Who played it safe and broke even? Turns out we all had fairly different opinions looking back on E3. Let us know what you think.

Zach

E3 has come and gone for another year and as usual we were all brought to climax by the impressive showings (for the most part) by all the big-hitters of the industry. However, despite all the sizzling pre-rendered trailers and scripted gameplay sequences, the real highlight was the comedic chaos of the often offensive and unabating Twitch comments. Having watched the previous E3s via YouTube, I was yet to witness the hilarity first-hand despite being aware of its existence, and boy oh boy they did not disappoint. My mirth could have been enhanced as a result of my sleep deprivation due to most of the presentations being held at ungodly hours of the morning here in Australia. Nevertheless, every time RIP something appeared on the screen for a microsecond I couldn’t help but chortle. I’ll most definitely be watching future E3s on Twitch.

Winners: Even though I predicted the announcement of Resident Evil 7 during Sony’s presser, I felt like John Travolta’s wife in Face-Off when Big Johnny T rocks up home sporting Nic Cage’s mug when it did. The franchise has undergone a radical change, so much so that it is practically unrecognisable. I’ve played the demo, and I’m polarised by it; on one hand it I dig the atmosphere and the potential of the premise, but on the other hand it’s not RE to me. Only time will tell if it delivers the goods. Other standouts for me was Bethesda’s announcement of its re-reboot of Prey. While a lot wasn’t given away, it’s hella intriguing and one I’ll be keeping a close eye on. Dishonored 2’s gameplay looked excellent and only heightened my anticipation for my next journey into Arkane’s steampunk-inspired world. Sony’s God of War reboot, Detroit: Become Human and their fresh IP, Days Gone all got my jorts tight as did Mafia III, and as usual Sony’s conference raised the bar for how E3 keynotes should be done.

Losers: Microsoft. Their show lacked prowess; it was borderline boring and lacked any real wow factor. Firstly, the Xbox One S, which to me is nothing more than a cash-grab and then Project Scorpio, which will most likely require a 30-year loan to purchase. Besides, with the news that all Xbox One exclusives will be available on Windows 10, I think I am better off joining the elites of the gaming populus. Adding to Microsoft’s disappointment was just how meh exclusives Scalebound, ReCore and Sea of Thieves looked. And the decision to unveil humdrum features like the ability to play background music and join groups on your Xbox One would have been better served as a standard press release. Despite being teased of its existence, no announced sequel to Wolfenstein was a letdown and gameplay for Ghost Recon: Wildlands looked rather generic.

Ash

Well after the last few E3’s have caused my face to distort into all manner of confused and worried looks, this year seems to have me covered on the front of ‘Generally satisfying’ and ‘Optimistic’. It was nice to see the major companies were not unveiling rival hardwares that were all doomed to fail, and it was particularly nice to get the bingo card for ‘Nintendo will show off the new Zelda to a better capacity and do very little else’, which has eluded me in the past.

Winners: A little harder to actually quantify this year, specifically because the biggest companies really did focus on what people wanted, with Microsoft showing us hardware that will drastically improve the sad state of the Xbox One, and Sony delivering on past rumors in big ways. If I was at gunpoint however, I will still have to side with Sony. Let’s look at the facts:

  • Tons of VR support for their VR offering.
  • Crash Bandicoot Remaster
  • Fully licensed Spider-Man game from an established developer
  • Crash Bandicoot Remaster
  • Horizon: Zero Dumbname gameplay
  • Crash Bandicoot Remaster

Sure, I might be repeating myself – but the bottom line is that after three years of rumours, teasers and ‘my dad works for Nintendo’ playground whispers, they have finally revealed that the Bandicoot of the past will be remastered and re-released. On nostalgia alone, Sony has delivered in a massive way. Their flagship items that were unveiled last year were present this year with some real evidence of development progress on show; nothing felt like a tease with no substance. Real gameplay footage was bombarding our sense and I am all the happier for it.

Losers: I am sorry Bethesda. I watched your presentation live, because I was still riding a massive wave of joy that came with the recent Doom release, and my God you found new and creative ways to leave me wanting. The Elder Scrolls Online was the highest selling MMO in its release year? Now those must be some creative statistics – Don’t quote me, but I will bet dollars to donuts that was measured using a very simple criteria – World of Warcraft expansions don’t count as an ‘MMO’. You sneaky devils. Similarly, the remastered Skyrim was a fairly safe bet, almost too safe in my opinion – And this lead to my big item of contention.

An Elder Scrolls card game. I have discussed this with many a friend, enemy and colleague – but I just don’t feel that the Elder Scrolls has a rich enough cast of engaging characters and lore that I’d feel drawn to it. The system it employs would need to be tight as a drum, because I doubt it can scoot by on its flavour alone. I welcome a contender to the Hearthstone crown, so you better be hitting the gym Bethesda, because that’s a hell of a fight.

Finally, Microsoft openly asked us why we would bother wanting to own an Xbox One (games coming to Windows 10? Sure, I’ll take it). Then they prompted us with the opportunity to buy a new improved Xbox One. Sure, it’s a sexy unit, but as an owner of a gaming PC, it’s a hard sell on my end.

The next 12 months are going to be interesting to see how this all develops.

Kieran

E3 is my favourite time of year, and this year’s show was no slouch. As an Australian, I gladly battled the early hours to get a look at the slew of awesome titles that will be coming over the next couple of years.

Winners: Project Scorpio is a truly intriguing prospect, with Phil Spencer saying that Xbox was looking towards a future that would rid itself of the concept of generations. I believe with rapidly expanding technology and the merciless advance of the mustard race, this is something sorely needed in the console space. Perhaps big Phil is hinting at easily upgradeable components for consoles that will make it able to move with the times as the age of 4K is ushered in. While the games that were shown during the Xbox briefing seemed solid but safe, the new hardware definitely had chins wagging. Sony was definitely a big winner, with a presentation style honed to a fine point showcasing some truly exciting games. With so much information available to us right through a game’s development process, it can sometimes be difficult to be truly excited for some games, or at the very least you can spoil your own excitement by exposing yourself to too much coverage. But much like last year, anyone who watched Sony’s show couldn’t help but get those seeds of joy planted in their minds. Sony’s new IPs and bold new entries in established franchises look incredibly promising; innovation and diversity was the order of the day, and Sony delivered that in generous servings with little to no filler getting in the way. I’d also like to tip my fedora to Twitch chat (whose virtues I espoused to Zach). When any of the conferences got a little boring, the Twitch chat was there to lift the experience. With over 100k people talking at once, it’s a beautifully confusing mess of ultra-sarcasm and evil wit that moves at overwhelming speed. Reading the chat is like witnessing the physical manifestation of gamer mind vomit, and somehow it is awesome. Type F to pay your respects.

Losers: I don’t think there were any real losers at E3. Anywhere you cared to look there were fantastic experiences on display, no matter the type of gamer you are. I primarily play on consoles, and am both interested and invested in all the major platform’s futures, and as I suffer the inevitable E3 comedown I can rest easy knowing those futures are bright indeed. Competition breeds excellence, and the people who ultimately stand to profit from all these publishers and developers vying for attention are gamers. My wallet says no, but my heart says yes. All in all, it’s a good time to be gamer.

Aza

Well, that was certainly an E3. Sure, we got lots of new games and hardware…but did we get anything truly new? We got games that are recycling mechanics for the sake of newer players who haven’t used them before, we got promises that are bound to be mostly empty and sequels that nobody really asked for. I realise that E3 has been just an advertising show for a long time now, but I can’t help but feel like it gets more shallow each year. Do we have ‘winners’? Sure we do. ‘Losers’? We’re all losing.

Winners: One company I’ve had my eye on for years is Nintendo. I grew up with them, I love the majority of their franchises, and they’ve always had a knack for trying new stuff with their hardware. So to see Pokémon and Zelda was nice to my bitter and cynical mind. Pokémon is still more of the same, but it’s done in such a light-hearted and fun way that it never really feels stale. It’s the same game we’ve been buying year after year, but at least it’s not lying to you. It knows that you know what it is, so it doesn’t bother masking itself with buzzwords and just invites you to have a good time. Zelda blew us all out of the water with how different it was compared to other games in the series, and it’s a change that should breathe new life into the series. Skyward Sword was a game that was middle ground for critics, but universally hated by fans of the franchise. As a great man who’s making more chins than cartoons these days once said, Skyward Sword was “like a rich spoiled brat that expects you to love it because it’s a Zelda”. Breath of the Wild is a fitting subtitle, because it’s returning us to the original NES game that loved its own world so much and embraced the exploration factor. Combine that with mechanics that have been done before but doing them with such polish that you don’t care if they’re dated or not and you have a game that’s bound to inspire many an aspiring game developer.

Sony’s conference was quite enjoyable as well. With an in-house orchestra to provide music for its showings, Sony showed off its games and only its games. It celebrated video games and reminded us all why we watch these things in the first place. Yeah, needless sequels were a given, however Sony was damn proud of what they were showing you and it showed. At only an hour it was the shortest show of the expo, but that was the beauty of it. It wasn’t buffered by mindless corporate talk like the EA conference was, it was a company in financial strife putting its head up high and saying: ‘We’re proud of these games, and we’re confident that you’ll like them’. It’s refreshing to see games that are older than ten years getting remastered versions, especially Crash Bandicoot. I don’t usually succumb to blind nostalgia, but I feel like we’ve earned this. Just this once, can we be mindless drones and just be happy?

The PC show was full of games I genuinely want to play. Dawn of War III looks a bit too much like Starcraft at the moment, but with more tweaks it could become a fine game indeed. Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlords is shaping up to be a fine addition to the proud family as well. Lots of good looking indie games, too. Everything’s coming up PC.

Losers: To talk about losers would imply that anybody can ‘win’ E3. If we start treating it like some kind of spectator sport, we lose touch of what we watch it for in the first place. But we all like some tribalism, so here goes. Microsoft’s show was nothing really special: Games that didn’t excite me, hardware that was presented like a goddamn Apple commercial and vague promises of new hardware with all the hype-building that comes with it. We don’t know what Project Scorpio is yet, but get hyped anyway! As for the games themselves, Scalebound looks too slow to be a Platinum title (more gameplay may change my mind), Dead Rising 4 is simply a return to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the series that Dead Rising 3 tried to deviate from (sure, it didn’t do very well but at least it tried), my boner for Halo Wars 2 was killed nearly immediately by the lack of actual effort put into it, Gears of War 4 was virtually just Gears 3 with a fresh coat of paint and some slightly better enemy design, and Forza looked really pretty.

Ubisoft, what are you smoking? You started piling on the cringe and didn’t stop. Just Dance 2016? Watch Dogs 2? The fucking Assassin’s Creed film? And don’t get me started on how you blatantly cockteased us with Blood Dragon. You brought those two guys on like it was some kind of rap battle, so I thought they were going to try and do some really shit rap debate about what game was more ‘awesome’. One guy was from Trials. Yawn. The other was from Blood Dragon. I flipped my shit. I was so damn excited. I was literally screaming and jumping for joy, and the people watching it with me told me to calm down. But ooooh no I didn’t. You gave us Trials of the Blood Dragon, a game with a really bad pseudo-90s trailer. It looked less like the tasteful tribute of Turbo Kid and more like the ‘lel so randum’ Kung Fury. I was really mad, and I wasn’t done yet. What you did to Ghost Recon was unforgiveable. Gone was the tactical special operations, and in came Just Cause. You even threw in that obnoxious “real player” VOIP shit that nobody believed. NOBODY TALKS LIKE THIS. STOP IT. The Division was an MMO with boring loot, and more boring loot isn’t going to fix what’s a dull game. Watch Dogs 2. Oh boy. How do you follow up a sequel to an overhyped game that failed to please anybody? You make a game that panders to the only people who played it for more than an hour: Neoliberal millenial fucksticks who wanted to feel like a rebel but didn’t want to throw away their iPhones. And you’re giving it a movie too, as if the franchise wasn’t being shoved down our throats enough. But you did give us Star Trek: Bridge Crew, which is looking like the game I’ve wanted since I was ten. Even if it’s the JJverse.

EA, we need to talk. I understand that EA Sports pays for all the other stuff you give us. That’s fine. I understand that Battlefield 1 won’t be completely accurate to the history it draws inspiration from, and that’s fine too as long as you don’t go overboard. But why replace the French -the biggest contributor to the Allied war effort and the nation hardest hit by the war sans Germany- with the United States, a nation that entered the war late and did fuck all except boost Allied morale by entering the war after the Russians left? Oh, and the Russians are gone too. Great. This is my inner neckbeard talking, but goddamn. I can accept the lazy inclusion of experimental weapons that never actually saw combat for the sake of your precious Battlefield formula, but not including vital elements in the base game? That’s just disrespectful (the French are paid DLC, because fuck you). Star Wars Battlefront stuff is neat, but that doesn’t stop the game being really boring after a couple of hours. And still no space battles. Yay. No, we don’t give two shits about how you’re connected to London via satellite. Fuck off and show some actual games.

Bethesda didn’t lie nearly as much as they usually do, which is a plus. I’d say more, but they lost me after the needless Skyrim remaster and the fact that you think a DOOM demo is worthy of E3. Fallout content being back in Obsidian’s hands is a big step in the right direction though. Credit where credit is due. But where’s my Nazi killing? Where’s more DOOM single-player content, and why are you still pushing the game’s really bad multiplayer? Why is Quake now another class-based team shooter? That’s a word I said to myself a lot this year: Why? I hope I say it a lot less next year.