GAX Gabs: The Great E3 2019 Roundtable
Wei Song: E3 2019 was Schrodinger’s conference with it being both underwhelming and mind-blowing at the same time. It felt a little dull without Sony participating, and EA and Activision made the conference even more muted by opting to do a live-stream instead of being at the showfloor.
However, Square Enix managed to wow pretty much everyone with Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy VIII remastered, finally giving fans what they want. They’ve also drawn the curtains on Marvel’s Avengers, which had a mixed reception.
For the rest of the Triple-A games publishers, it was pretty standard fare: Ubisoft had taser-wielding grandmas and Just Dance (again). Bethesda had Doom Eternal and human NPCs (shocking) for Fallout 76, while EA offered more Jedis.
That said, after the debacle that is Anthem and Fallout 76, most publishers seem to be moving away from live service games. Instead, the next gold rush for the games industry seem to be a throwback to MMOs, with subscriptions for game catalogues such as Uplay+, Origin Access and Xbox Game Pass.
Wei Song: EA, where do I even begin? EA was barely present at E3 this year with them opting to stream their presentations. In terms of what they had to show, it was rather lackluster with only Jedi: Fallen Order being their only new non-sports related game announcement.
Ade: Even the FIFA20 reveal seemed disappointing going by community chatter around it. I’m glad to see that things are finally in motion for Apex Legends once again, though I wonder if we’ll ever see a return to the same kind of player and viewership numbers we saw back at its prolific (and expensive) launch.
Tim: I vastly prefer this version of EA, to be honest. Their press conferences were always the worst of E3, but the EA Play format works very well as a stream (although I’ve heard the actual event is hell for media on the ground). A 30 minute deep dive into Star Wars, Apex Legends and Battlefield V was what I really wanted, and I ended up being really satisfied for the most part. Battlefield V in particular has a ton of great-looking content coming, which was must needed by this point.
Wei Song: I’m one of the few people who actually enjoys Fallout 76 for all its bugs. More content is always welcome and it doesn’t matter to me if it comes in the form of human NPCs. As long as there are more quests to do and story to explore while journeying with my friends, I’m all for it.
Ade: I’m more of a single-player mod-it-beyond-recognition kind of guy, so all the updates for FO76 and TES: Online didn’t interest me much. Even my excitement for Blades has waned after the whole loot box upset, though it’s Switch release has brought it back onto my radar. If I had to sum up the Bethesda show (enthusiastic front row aside), it’s that I’m beyond wanting updates for The Outer Worlds — I just want to play it now.
Tim: Doom stole the show from an otherwise disappointing and pretty irritating conference. If it weren’t for Doom Eternal, I would’ve hated that conference. The constant screaming, the video interruptions of fans fawning over Bethesda (made by Bethesda), the non-apologies by Todd Howard and lacklustre reveals made for a pretty terrible conference all-around. Doom Eternal, though. That game is everything.
Wei Song: Ubisoft? More like Clancysoft, am I right? They’re really banking in on the Tom Clancy name this year, which is probably a move to keep their game roster lively without resorting to another Assassin’s Creed entry.
On a more serious note, I’m not a fan of Uplay+. To be more precise: the prospect of having to pay a subscription every month for a catalogue of games I may or may not play. There is also the worry that if this trend continues, more and more publishers might go this route. I don’t fancy being saddled by multiple subscriptions just because it is the only way I can play a particular game from a certain publisher. However, as long as Ubisoft doesn’t remove their games from Steam and other platforms, it might still be something worthwhile. It’s just not for me.
Ade: Steam’s breaking monopoly kind of reminds me of Netflix in a way, as other publishers try to seize a larger piece of the growing online distribution and services market. Whether that winds up being good or bad for gamers… it’s hard to say right now. There’s definitely greater value in a third-party offering like Xbox Game Pass. As for Clancysoft, I think Breakpoint sounds interesting at least.
Tim: I think Uplay+ sounds really fantastic. A subscription service like this really works for consumers with a ton of time on their hands, but not enough cash to buy the games they want. Just get a one-month subscription then, and knock out as many games as you like in that time. Other than that, it was a pretty cool conference. Rob McElhenney from Always Sunny in Philadelphia making a comedy with Danny Pudi from Community was a personal highlight for me.
Kenneth: I’m quite on the fence when it comes to Uplay+, but I felt Ubisoft really came through for their “play as any NPC” claim for Watch Dogs: Legion. The whole concept was impressive on paper to begin with, but when coupled with the gameplay mechanics we saw at E3, suddenly the immersion factor goes through the roof, and that really sold me.
Ade: Activision didn’t have a big E3 presence thanks to Sony’s absence, though they did have a panel for the new Call of Duty — that didn’t turn out all too great on the public image front. A game capturing the horrors of war? Yeah, no. Then again, what are they doing besides the new Modern Warfare?
Tim: Modern Warfare could be really great. Take the series back to its gritty roots, introduce some A-grade storytelling with interesting, unique level design paired with state of the art technology and you got yourself a winner. The question is, can they pull it off?
Kenneth: To be honest, I’d rather they not focus on anything but Modern Warfare at the moment. Like many other people, the original MW was the game which really got me into the Call of Duty series, so there’s a lot of sentimental value attached to it. In fact, even though Activision had a lacking presence, Modern Warfare was still the most pre-ordered game at Gamestop after E3. So, if they’re going to set the bar high by going for a reboot, it’s going to have to be a showstopper in its own right, and I wouldn’t want any distractions in the meantime.
Ade: Honestly, Devolver is kind of a cult thing at this point, though their indie games library continues to be rock solid. Their Devolver Bootleg collection totally caught me off guard and is just the sort of thing I’d want from them. That House of the Gundead cabinet, though? Want.
Tim: Devolver continues to put out the most hilarious conference year after year. Sure, it might not be everyone’s thing, but it’s weird enough to be mine. This year, they spoofed Nintendo Directs brilliantly in a nutty conference – even going as far as to release bootleg versions of their own games! Hotline Milwaukee? Come on, that’s just funny. There were some great games in there too, like Carrion, the ‘reverse-horror’ game. That game looks awesome.
Kenneth: With regard to the conference itself, what can I say? Devolver will be Devolver. Hilariously irrelevant contexts coupled with even more irrelevant gory antics certainly made their one hour show immensely entertaining. Looking at the games, Devolver Bootleg comes across to me as unique, but not exactly a “must-have”. Meanwhile, I think Carrion definitely piques my interest, and a game where you kill for on the whim of a sentient banana? Man, that’s always fun to have around.
Wei Song: Square Enix was on fire this year with Final Fantasy VII Remake and Final Fantasy VIII Remastered. FF8 was my first foray into Final Fantasy and has a special place in my heart. Now I’m hoping we will get a remastered version of Chrono Cross. Unfortunately, they ended with Avengers which looked kinda half-baked if I was being honest.
Ade: I have to wonder what their future plans for Final Fantasy look like, though. Are they all just going to be remakes and remasters? Not that I mind because FF8 is long overdue and Chrono Cross is still missing. A part of me wished Eidos came out with more Deus Ex instead but I’m sure the Avengers license is going to be a huge focus for everyone involved for the next few years.
Tim: Square Enix had a really wild conference. It shifted me from not caring about Final Fantasy VII Remake whatsoever, to maybe making it a day-one purchase. How could you not look forward to that game at this point? It looks fantastic at every level. Avengers looks pretty good as well, although its live service aspects and weird Avengers faces brings it down a bit. Other stuff like Dying Light 2, Kingdom Hearts III DLC and Outriders reminds me that Square Enix has a lot more to come than just Final Fantasy games.
Best of E3 2019: Publishers
Winner — Square Enix
Like Sephiroth agitating Cloud, Square Enix knows a thing or two about whipping their fans into an excitable frenzy. While we felt Ubisoft had a few strong things going for it (their current Clancy crush aside), Square Enix simply had a bursting pop-culture portfolio to swing around and woo gamers with.
There’s no getting around the two big games: Final Fantasy VII Remake and Marvel’s Avengers. Though they are both clouded in a fair amount of uncertainty, they’re simply too big to fail at this point. It’s a good thing then that Squeenix are balancing out those expensive bets with a hand of safer offerings.