Another E3 done and dusted. Cringe lines were in excess, fanboys screaming at the various reveals and blood was shed in a year where Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo decided to go in completely different directions. Microsoft had a spectacular presentation with a clear messaging, boasting its third-party showings, commitment to its core IPs with new announcements and investments into new studios going forward. Sony set expectations early pre-E3, and while there were only a small number of third-party games, Sony took a deep dive into its four upcoming exclusives, which all look spectacular. Nintendo always feels different purely because of its online Nintendo Direct format, which I warm up to more and more each time they do it. It keeps the momentum going and while it had a couple smaller reveals at the beginning, a huge chunk of the presentation was reserved for its major holiday title. All three provided a look at what was coming soon with a small peak at the future in completely different ways.
While we could sit here all day comparing the conferences in detail, I wanted to highlight the three marquee titles the hardware publishers have planned for the rest of the year. I found it particularly interesting that all three focused on one large title coming this year with the majority of the rest promised for the following year. What is even more peculiar is that they are completely different styles of games, all set to be benchmarks in their respective genre, which brings a refreshing variety to each platform. We saw comparisons to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn for being open world action games, while Gran Turismo Sport and Forza Motorsports 7 were both gunning for the finish line in 2017. Even Microsoft released Super Lucky’s Tale close to Super Mario Odyssey. However, this year is different. It seems Microsoft is taking a safe bet, by launching its bi-annual open world racing series Forza Horizon 4, while Sony is pulling out all stops for its Spider-Man game. Finally, Nintendo has focused its attention on Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the latest in its arena fighting series. All these games look fantastic by the way, and I think they are all going to score and sell well. So, let’s take a look at how different these games are and how the hardware manufacturer is approaching their release.
Microsoft is ready to test its engines with Forza Horizon 4
“If the wheel isn’t broke…”
Microsoft showed a shit-load of games at its E3 conference this year. I think if I calculated all my favourite reveals from the exhibition, a large amount of them would have been announced on Microsoft’s stage. However, putting aside the plethora of third-party games, indies and games slated for 2019 and beyond, Xbox One owners will only be able to play one of the exclusive games they showed in 2018. In a very expected move, Forza Horizon 4 is coming to Xbox One (and PC) in October this year. I don’t personally like racing games and Forza Horizon 4 isn’t at the top of my most anticipated list, but there is no doubt that Forza is the king of the racing genre this generation. More specifically, the Horizon spin-off series continues to improve with each iteration, with Forza Horizon 3 winning multiple awards and being the highest scoring console exclusive on the Xbox One. Given my preferences, I personally think it’s one of the best racers of the last decade. The latest edition is set in the United Kingdom and has an interesting new season mechanic that changes the way the environment reacts with the gameplay. Playground Games are a very competent studio and that was solidified when Phil Spencer announced that the studio had recently been acquired by Microsoft. Forza sells well every year, so this is no surprise and it would be silly not to follow tradition, seeing as how Microsoft’s exclusive portfolio is barebones without it.
The Spider-Man name sells itself
“Not the hero Sony needs…but we still want it”
Sony has had an outstanding generation with console exclusives that have put it way ahead of its main competitor in terms of hardware sales. So far, 2018 hasn’t proven any different with the critically and commercially successful Shadow of the Colossus, God of War and Detroit: Become Human. Most of Sony’s showings at E3 this year was looking at games beyond 2018. However, there was still one very highly anticipated game that will release this year. Announced on Sony’s E3 stage in 2016, the surprise announcement of Sony teaming up with Insomniac and Marvel to make a Spider-Man game had us all shooting webs at our computer screens. This year, they showed off a big chunk of the gameplay, revealing a bit more of the story while highlighting the combat, cinematic moments and a surprising host of super villains. If I had a checkbox for everything I could want from a Spider-Man Game, they would have all been ticked from that trailer alone. Insomniac’s Spider-Man seems like a match made in heaven. Sony’s prior relationship with Insomniac, combined with their style of games and Marvel’s overt commitment to the game shows a lot of confidence and promise in the open world action adventure. The Spider-Man name sells itself, but a PS4 exclusive Spider-Man that carries the Sony and Insomniac seal of approval will certainly sling the game to new heights. It’s also probably the biggest exclusive Sony has ever released in the second half of the year in any year this generation. This will be a juggernaut come this September.
Given the track record of Sony and Insomniac, Spider-Man should own
Nintendo actually has more than one big exclusive coming out for the second half of the year. Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu are sure to sell well, as well as the recently revealed Super Mario Party. While those games got a shout-out at the Nintendo E3 direct this year, they spent the last two-thirds of the presentation going deep into Super Smash Bros Ultimate. The presentation itself was very directed at Smash fans and making all their dreams came true. This is predominately due to the fact that they brought back every fighter in the franchise’s history, while adding fan requested characters and making meaningful changes to some of the gameplay. The game sounds like a perfect Christmas season title so I personally think releasing in December is smart, while people recovering from the overcrowded October to November period. Smash always scores and sells well but with the momentum the Switch has and the fact that this is indeed the ultimate version of Super Smash Bros. I am sure it is going to be very successful.
Switch sales are going to smash the charts come December this year
It was interesting yet refreshing to see Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo take a dissimilar approach to their E3 conference and their approach to their ecosystem going forward. They have each created a unique competitive advantage for their platforms, which was demonstrated with the games they showed off. Paving the way for their diverse pipelines, Forza Horizon 4, Spiderman and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are kick things off with a bang without stepping on each other’s toes making every console the best platform to play the highest quality titles. A golden age for video games.