- Now that the major publishers have had the chance to speak their piece at press conferences, the greater narrative of E3 2015 is starting to be written. Overall, there’s a sense that this was a particularly strong year for trade show, with numerous surprises managing to survive the usual deluge of pre-show leaks. But now that we’re past the hype and stage shows stage of things, the following 7 trends look to be what E3 2015 will be remembered for.
Betas Are the New Exclusive ContentWhether it speaks to the poisoned well of add-on content, or the lack of appeal a vague promise like “60 minutes of exclusive content” has, early access was the big hook console manufacturers used to sway multiplatform owners one way or another.
The new Hitman, Street Fighter V, and, in a big reversal, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will all have playable betas on PS4, while Tom Clancy’s The Division was the only major multiplatform release to get pre-release access on Xbox One.
Headsets Are Coming to a HeadThe best way to convince people of the leap virtual reality technology has taken is to stick a headset on them, and the show floor of E3 provides one of the biggest venues out there for consumers to finally lay their eyes in an Oculus Rift, or Sony’s Project Morpheus.
Both streams of VR tech announced recently that consumer versions will be available in 2016, but Microsoft’s ARG equivalent, Hololens, made a big show of its capabilities at their press conference. Release windows for Hololens, and alternate VR option Vive (co-produced by HTC and Valve) are still unknown, but this will almost certainly be the last E3 without a modern gaming headset on the market.
Kickstarter Is Only Going to Get BiggerEven with conservative estimates putting its budget at $47 million, the original Shenmue was a hugely expensive title for both its time, and now. So when fans had the chance to Kickstart Shenmue 3 for the low asking goal of $2 million, there came the question of how creator Yu Suzuki planned on continuing his storied franchise on so little dough.
The answer came shortly after Shenmue 3 hit its goal in under 9 hours, as Sony will be providing further funding for the project. In essence, the developers found a way to “gauge audience interest” at the same they could (as of this writing) offset more than $3 million of the cost. Don’t be surprised if other large-scale developers follow suit by teasing risky dream projects they’ll only make if fans put up a down payment first.
Kinect and Vita Have Run Their CourseA dearth of Kinect offerings at the Microsoft press conference won’t surprise anyone familiar with the Xbox One peripheral, but that it went almost completely unacknowledged at the show might indicate Microsoft is as done with the add-on as players are. Meanwhile, Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida has come out and said not to expect anymore AAA first party titles for Sony’s struggling Vita handheld. Though third parties will still be developing for the platform, its absence from Sony’s stage show, like the Kinect’s, bodes ill for the device’s future.
MOBAs Are Making Their MarkMultiplayer Online Battle Arenas like League of Legends have some of the biggest and most active player bases in gaming, and while fewer competitors are entering the genre (many having tried, and failed already), the genre itself is finding more room at E3 than ever.
Blizzard released a new trailer for their Heroes of the Storm expansion during the show, while Ubisoft’s new title, For Honor, adds the A.I. minions and control point objectives that characterize a MOBA’s competitive multiplayer action. Perhaps the biggest adopter of MOBA conventions was Halo 5: Guardians, which has a new multiplayer game type that incorporates the blended PvP/PvE combat of the genre, as well as an in-match path of progression.
The Face of Gaming is ChangingThe Ubisoft press conference featured a rare sight for E3: two women of color commanding the stage. Angela Bassett’s inclusion in Rainbow Six Siege is more about setting the tone of the game than anything, but all around E3 this year were signs that the push for greater diversity in gaming is being taken to heart by some developers.
Dishonored 2 introduced a female protagonist without first having to get raked over the coals like the Assassin’s Creed series, FIFA 16 lets you play as the Women’s National Teams, and Guerilla Games is launching a major new IP with a female lead in Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s encouraging to see the normally risk-averse gaming industry make efforts towards greater inclusivity.
What’s Old Is NewE3 is rarely heralded as a place for originality, despite the entire affair being dedicated to informing the public of what’s new in video games. The number “4” ran rampant through the show, showing up in the titles of Uncharted and Fallout, and more subtly in Mass: Andromeda and Doom. Between the rapturous reaction to news of Xbox One getting backwards compatibility, and the collective freakout over a Final Fantasy VII remake, it’s not as if publishers aren’t giving players what they want by playing to their nostalgia.
But what they also want, and what the industry needs long-term, is a healthier selection of original titles that can go and be remade/sequel-ized ad nauseam a decade from now.