2018 E3 Press Conference Scorecard

2018’s E3 press conferences are in the books, and we now have plenty of new video games to look forward to. However, not every publisher was equally successful in their press conference pacing, quantity of announcements, or quality of footage shown. Here are graded scorecards for the eight E3 press conferences from Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Bethesda, Devolver Digital, Square Enix, Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo (in order of appearance).

 

Electronic Arts

To call EA’s press conference underwhelming would be an understatement. It was safe to assume that headlining games Anthem and Battlefield V would take up significant chunks of the show, and only one of them did. There was plenty of time spent on Anthem, but not much of it was of any consequence.

There was a new trailer that looked pretty similar to the previous trailer, a new gameplay section that was confusingly edited and also looked pretty similar to what we saw last year, and a Q&A session that featured repetitious concept art and developers talking vaguely about their process. Some aspects of the game still look cool, but considering it’s supposed to ship early next year, you’d expect some more definitive gameplay and answers to easy questions about story.

Battlefield V was essentially absent from the conference entirely, with just a quick multiplayer highlight trailer and a vague promise that we’d see more at Microsoft’s presser. More on that later, but there still wasn’t much shown. Instead, EA partnered with some larger YouTubers that posted obviously sponsored content following the press conference. These felt like marketing videos more than they did actual reactions from real players, so it’s hard to trust their excitement. Battlefield V is looking solid, but this game comes out in four months. I have to imagine we’ll be seeing more of the game before it launches in October, because we still know relatively little about the single-player story mode or the new multiplayer game modes and features.

FIFA, Madden, and NBA Live were all shown in their expected amounts, as was DLC for Star Wars Battlefront II. I can’t imagine it was fun for that poor DICE developer to get on stage and apologize for the loot boxes that he probably didn’t want to include in the first place. Battlefront II seems to be getting back on track, but it’s too little, too late for me.

The “big” announcements belonged to indie games Sea of Solitude and Unravel Two. Frankly, Sea of Solitude was the coolest looking game at EA’s entire press conference, which says a lot. I loved the style and vibe of Unravel, and the new ability to play co-op seems neat, but I just couldn’t get past the bad platforming of the first game. But hey, that was a fun “available now!” reveal.

EA just seems to be all over the map when it comes to its press conferences. This year wasn’t as bad as 2014, but it reminded me of that year because there was a lot more showing than telling, and not enough announcements considering the size of the publisher.

Final Grade: D

 

Microsoft

Much like last year, Microsoft came out swinging with a promise to show a litany of game trailers and exclusives. My skin still crawled every time they displayed the “World premiere” title card, since that’s more than just a little misleading. All it means is that this is the first time a trailer is being shown. That’s it. But, major props to them, because they did, in fact, bring the games. Most of the coolest looking ones were multiplatform, but they’re now still associated with the Xbox brand. With Sony’s clear focus on their own exclusives this year, that was a smart move.

I’m not going to break down every game shown at Microsoft, because that’s quite a long list. Let’s start with the AAA exclusive games. There’s a new Halo, a new Gears, and a new Forza coming. Duh. My only disappointment with this is that Microsoft seems to be playing it safe with their biggest franchises. Halo Infinite is up in the air on what the game will actually be, but it’s been clarified that this is, in fact, Master Chief’s next big adventure. Is it something new or is it just a different title for Halo 6?

Until now, Microsoft hasn’t had enough studios or enough big-name series to try many new things between the teams. Well, Microsoft will try to rectify that by opening a brand new studio and acquiring four other smaller studios. This was pretty huge news, and pretty great for injecting more creativity into their game offerings.

Crackdown 3 got another showing, and I continue to think this game looks like it is not coming together well. Don’t forget that it was supposed to release over a year ago at this point, and it’s been delayed — yet again — to early 2019. We’ll see if that date finally sticks.

We also saw a bit more from Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which continues to look beautiful and sad and quite difficult. We Happy Few is now a console exclusive, and I was relieved to learn that the game is now more in a Bioshock direction instead of the procedurally generated survival type game. Similarly, Tunic is now exclusive to Xbox after being announced last year. That game looks like an adorable, modern take on a Zelda game.

New content is coming to Sea of Thieves and looks pretty fun. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds seems to be getting a bunch of new stuff. There’s a new playable character and story coming to Cuphead. And hey, they’re working on a new Battletoads! No idea what that game will eventually be, but it makes sense to give it a shot.

From a third-party perspective, we got announcements for Dying Light 2 and From Software’s next game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Contrary to popular belief, Sekiro will be more of an action game than the typical hardcore RPGs From Software has made in the past. Dying Light 2 is adding bigger choices to the game that make changes to the larger world. It’s looking pretty great. I really need to finally play the first game.

Metro Exodus continued to look phenomenal with an action-packed trailer, we got a snippet from Battlefield V’s story mode, Kingdom Hearts 3 showed off some new moves and worlds, and there were shorter trailers for The Division 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Fallout 76.

Devil May Cry 5 was announced via Microsoft, as was Jump Force and Just Cause 4. I’m not sure I want yet another new Dante, but we’ll see how that one comes together. Finally, the biggest hitter for me was a real-deal trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. More to come on that game, but it’s a vast departure for CD Projekt Red in both setting and gameplay systems. I can’t wait to see more.

Like I said, there were plenty of other, smaller announcements, but these were the most impactful for me. Microsoft definitely brought the excitement for new third-party games, but I wish they’d have made a better pitch for why I need to own an Xbox One. With a PS4 and a decent PC, you can play pretty much any game available for Xbox One. Maybe that’s Microsoft’s strategy, but if so, that doesn’t really make sense to me.

Final Grade: A-

 

Bethesda

Continuing the stellar day two of press conferences, Bethesda had far more to show than I would have guessed. We knew we were going to see more Fallout 76 and Rage 2, as well as potential updates for Elder Scrolls Online, Elder Scrolls Legends, and Quake Champions. Just those things would have made for a pretty solid press conference, but Bethesda also announced four bigtime games, in addition to highlighting some DLC that’s coming to other recent releases.

Fallout 76 was the big unknown coming into Bethesda’s press conference, so let’s start there. Todd Howard had quite a bit of tongue in cheek when he introduced the game, but he was also very upfront and honest when talking about what they’re trying to do with Fallout 76. My feelings keep going back and forth as I learn more.

You can play solo, which is nice, but the game is obviously designed to be played with others. You get quests, but there are no human NPCs. Every person you meet in the game is a real person, and there won’t be more than a few dozen on any given server. There’s plenty of customizability in building your character and camp, but will there be much point in that if most of the “content” is player-driven? I’m also worried about the PvP piece, since we all know that people on the internet are the worst and will find any way possible to mess with your stuff and ruin your fun.

I obviously appreciate the straight talk when it comes to Bethesda trying so many new things, but I’m still not sold on whether or not this is actually a game I want to play. But apparently, I don’t have long to figure that out, as Fallout 76 releases in November.

The Rage 2 sequence was opened with a performance by Andrew WK, and while I appreciate his antics, the constant cuts to the audience only highlighted that most people weren’t there for a concert. They were there to see games so they could write about them for their jobs. It was a bit awkward. And boy, some of the developer presenters were even more awkward. But hey, I’m now sold on the aesthetic of Rage 2. That game looks absolutely insane and I can’t wait to play it.

The team at Arkane showcased some details about the Prey DLC, and we’re also getting a new side story in the Wolfenstein franchise. You can play co-op, and the style of it feels very Contra. I can dig it. Wolfenstein and Prey are also getting experiences tailored to VR, similar to what Bethesda did with DOOM.

Speaking of DOOM, we got an announcement for the sequel, called DOOM Eternal. Hell has come to earth and I couldn’t be happier. Elder Scrolls Blades is a new mobile experience that’s supposed to boast console-quality graphics and a robust story, character creator, and town-builder. All of it seemed a bit too good to be true, but reports from folks that played it seem to suggest that it brings the goods. I’m still not sure if I want to play an immersive RPG on my phone, but we’ll see.

Finally, the big two teasers belonged to Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI, the next two games coming from Bethesda Softworks after they finish work on Fallout 76. Starfield is obviously some sort of sci-fi game, and I’m still hoping it has actual spaceships and galactic exploration included. Details on Elder Scrolls VI are very scarce, but judging from the quick teaser trailer, the game looks to be taking place in High Rock. I know plenty of folks are glad that we aren’t getting Skyrim 2, but I honestly would have been fine with either direction. Skyrim is one of my favorite games of all time, after all.

Just like everyone else, I’m insanely hyped for Starfield and the next Elder Scrolls, but it’s important to note that Starfield is likely a 2020 game at the earliest, and Elder Scrolls VI will probably hit another 3-4 years after that. We’ll probably be on new consoles by then. Let’s not get too excited yet.

Final Grade: B+

 

Devolver Digital

Devolver Digital is a bit of an odd duck to include in these scorecards, since its press conferences are more like performance art than they are traditional game-showcasing experiences. But they’re always the best kind of trainwreck you can imagine.

This year’s actually continued from what was set up last year, with the hostess lambasting common video game publisher business practices while simultaneously seeing how many insults and curses she can fit into one sentence. It was great, but maybe not as effective as last year.

From a games perspective, three new games were announced. SCUM seems to be some kind of online competitive multiplayer game in the vein of The Hunger Games. My Friend Pedro was the standout for me, as it’s a highly stylish, highly violent side-scrolling shoot ’em up. You really need to see this one in action. Finally, Devolver Digital is bringing back Metal Wolf Chaos, an old From Software joint that reminds me more than a little of Metal Gear Solid with its ridiculous style.

The crazy impact of Devolver Digital wasn’t quite as big as last year, and at this point, it’s almost weird for them to be actually announcing video games because they do it so sparingly. Though I have to say, I’m quite curious to see the next chapter in this epic press conference story next year.

Final Grade: B

 

Square Enix

I’ll be honest. I’m not quite sure why Square Enix had a “press conference” this year. It was more akin to a Nintendo Direct, since it was obviously all pre-recorded video with no live stage presence. But not only that, they really only had two new games to announce following previous announcements at Microsoft’s presser. I’m still mad we didn’t see more from Crystal Dynamic’s Avengers game, since it was teased last year.

We saw more of Kingdom Hearts 3, but it was mostly the same footage we’ve seen several times at this point. Pirates of the Caribbean is back as a world to explore, but that was really the only new info here. I continue to love how Kingdom Hearts 3 looks in action, and then I immediately tune out whenever a character starts talking about story stuff. I know there are plenty of Kingdom Hearts canon defenders out there, but I am not one of them.

We got a deeper dive into Just Cause 4 and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit than we did at Microsoft, and that was nice. Just Cause 4 looks like more over the top fun, and Captain Spirit looks like something Wes Anderson would put together. I mean that as a compliment. There were additional trailers for Dragon Quest XI and Octopath Traveler, too. I’m more interested in the latter, but both should please JRPG fans.

The biggest gameplay segment belonged to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and I thought it looked kind of rough. Both previous entries in the series have been very solid, if not totally amazing. But there was something about the gameplay in this demo that looked unfinished. That wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the game releases in September. I continue to have mild excitement for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, so hopefully things come together. There’s a ton of potential in the jungle setting and stealth mechanics, and I like the idea of Lara dealing with going too far into “the dark side.”

Square Enix used their timeslot as an opportunity to announce The Quiet Man, which plenty of people seem to believe is an FMV game. My understanding is that it blends both live action and traditional graphics to tell its story, but regardless, it’s an interesting idea to center an action-ish game around silence. To be honest, though, the trailer didn’t wow me. The transition to CG looked pretty corny. Finally, the bigger announcement to me was for Babylon’s Fall, a new game coming from Platinum games. The style and world seem to fit in line with something like Dark Souls, but I’m hoping the studio sticks to its more fast-paced combat mechanics.

All in all, Square Enix’s press conference felt like a bit of a waste of time to me. It was short, it was pre-recorded, and it mostly showed small bits of things we’ve seen before. And its biggest title, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, actually made me less excited about the game. This was a poor showing from a publisher that goes back and forth on whether they should host a conference. If next year ends up being anything like this year, I’m going to advise against it.

Final Grade: D+

 

Ubisoft

Year after year, Ubisoft brings the cringe. You kind of have to respect that dedication to consistent awkwardness. Unfortunately, the shine has worn off on that approach for me, and I actively wanted to turn the stream off on multiple occasions because I just couldn’t take the self-serious silliness anymore. But I stayed the course because this is my job. You’re welcome.

The show opened with a live dance intro to Just Dance 2019, which seems to be the recurring strategy of announcing a new game in that series. I get that watching someone actually dance to the game doesn’t always look great, but it has to be better than a sloppily choreographed and shot dance routine.

To get some DLC out of the way, there’s more content coming to Rainbow 6 Siege and For Honor. I’m sure fans of those games will be pleased. I have to give props to Ubisoft for how they’ve been supporting their games post-launch. Most of those new IP haven’t been awesome at first blush, but rather than giving up on them, Ubisoft is taking the smart route and doubling down — delivering added value for hardcore fans and consistent updates to bring in new and lapsed players. I hope they keep it up.

We also got a music segment for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure, which is a terribly long and annoying name. The music was led by composer Grant Kirkhope, and featured some very attractive musicians if I’m being honest. It was a fun way to highlight the new DLC.

Less interesting to me were the segments on The Crew 2 and Starlink. The Crew 2 looks like a fine racing game; I’m just at the point where they all blend together. Starlink is a game I actively hate now because the initial trailer looked cool until they showed the toys to life crap. I feel like I was tricked. Elijah Wood also came on stage in a poorly practiced intro to his new game, Transference. Even though it was revealed last year, I still have no idea what it actually is.

The four biggest games shown were Skull & Bones, The Division 2, Beyond Good & Evil 2, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

Skull & Bones looks far more interesting to me now than it did last year, but I still don’t know that the ship combat is enough to carry an entire game. Plus there’s the whole multiplayer focus that isn’t all that interesting to me. Still, showing some of the story and set up was a smart move — it gives context to why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The Division 2 is looking great, but I just don’t want to get burned again after being similarly excited for the first game. Still, if I can find some other folks that want to play it consistently, Ubisoft has already proven that they’re going to support the game well with free content updates in the year following release. I really want to like this one.

Beyond Good & Evil 2 continues to be a bit of an enigma. There was a big stink about Joseph Gordon-Levitt coming out and saying they were crowdsourcing art assets and music for the game, but he came to Twitter afterward and clarified that folks were to be paid for their work. It was an unnecessarily messy interlude that only created some negative buzz after the show.

As for the actual game, the CG trailer looked absolutely stunning but didn’t really tell us anything new about the game or how we play it. Pey’j and Jade are back in this prequel (?), and apparently Jade is also evil? I’m very confused. There was some light gameplay shown, but it was more exploration than combat.

The conference closed with a closer look at Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and I’m having a hard time working up significant excitement. I think the game looks very solid, and a smart expansion on Assassin’s Creed Origins, but at this point, I’d have preferred either a direct sequel starring Bayek and Aya, or a larger departure to what we’ve already played. The changes to Origins were very smart, and I’m just not seeing similar innovation going into this release. That makes sense considering it’s coming out a year afterward, but that’s part of what made Origins succeed. Ubisoft took its time to deliver a significantly improved version of the beloved series. You just can’t do that in a year. I know some folks have been complimenting the dialogue options, but they seem to be closer to the ones found in Uncharted 4. I don’t think they’re going to really affect anything that happens.

Bringing Aisha Tyler back probably wouldn’t stop Ubisoft from doing shit that’s too weird and annoying, but at least I could be confident that I’d get a few laughs out of their conference next year.

Final Grade: C+

 

Sony

Every year, Sony seems to do some weird, experimental thing with their press conference and it usually doesn’t 100 percent work. This year was no different.

Not only did they intro some segments with music, but the whole show started in a church designed to match a setting in the demo for The Last of Us Part II. It was cool, but then they moved everyone to another location for the rest of the show, causing an intermission where they cut back to some Playstation employees talking about games in a very prepared, marketing way. It was very tedious for viewers, and I’m not sure the impact of the initial setting was enough to justify the poor pacing.

Like most, I was secretly hoping that Sony’s whole “we’re sticking to Spider-Man, Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima, and The Last of Us Part II” thing was a red herring, and they’d actually come out and announce another exclusive like a second new IP from Guerrilla Games. Heck, I was even hoping to see Rocksteady’s rumored Superman game or Bloodborne 2. But while we did get some big third-party reveals, Sony mostly stuck to its word and delivered deep dives on four big releases coming over the next few years.

First, it’s worth mentioning that there was a brief Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII trailer shown, which was surprisingly the only Call of Duty appearance at any conference. We also got more trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3 and Destiny 2: Forsaken. Cayde-6 is dead and people are bummed.

On the announcements front, Resident Evil 2 is being remade and it looks terrifying. Remedy Games is also working on Control, which seems like a combination of their previous games, Alan Wake and Quantum Break. It looks potentially very cool. Nioh 2 got a title card announcement, which I’m sure made fans of the first happy. That seems like a quick turnaround, so I’d be surprised to see that one ship earlier than 2020.

And now for the meat of the conference. Sony started things off with a haunting banjo performance that led directly into a The Last of Us Part II demo. This is Naughty Dog, so the brilliant facial animations were to be expected, but the brutality of Part II’s combat seems to be going well beyond the first game’s. I was visibly tense and uncomfortable at times, which was obviously intentional. At this point, if The Last of Us Part II isn’t the best game ever made, I feel like people will look at it as a disappointment. All I know is, I can’t wait to play it.

From there, Sony introduced first-time gameplay of Ghost of Tsushima after another musical interlude. I’m a fan of Sucker Punch and I’m glad that they’re spreading their wings after sticking with the Infamous franchise for so long. Ghost of Tsushima’s landscapes looks absolutely stunning, but the gameplay piece felt a bit stiff to me. This game will hit in 2019 at the earliest, so there’s plenty of time to adjust. In theory, though, the more fighting game approach to the combat could be cool. After the press conference, it was announced that you can play through the entire game in Japanese, which is awesome.

I was excited for Spider-Man after seeing last year’s first gameplay demo, but some folks weren’t sold on the fast-paced Batman Arkham-style combat. Well, I think this demo converted some of those people because this game just looks like a hell of a lot of fun. There were definitely more guided, on rails segments than I would have liked, and the boss battle shown against The Shocker seemed a tad repetitious, but the web slinging across New York City brought back amazing memories of the Spider-Man 2 game. The combat also looks frenetic without being overwhelming, and I like that they’re still focusing on some of the smaller villains. I think Spider-Man is going to be the hot summer release.

To me, the Death Stranding segment almost completely ruined the show. Kojima games have historically been narratively messy, with little to no context on what’s happening until you’re actually playing the game. Death Stranding seems to be no different because we’ve now seen multiple extended trailers and I still have no freaking idea what the heck this game is. I’m not a Kojima fan, so maybe it’s part of my bias coming in, but I just don’t get how people are excited about this game. Frankly, it looks stupid to me.

Thankfully, Sony’s other three exclusives all look phenomenal. This still wasn’t a roaring success of a press conference, though. The pacing was bad and I would have like to see some developers on stage introducing and talking about their games.

Final Grade: B

 

Nintendo

I wouldn’t say that Nintendo had a lot to prove going into their E3 Nintendo Direct, but they certainly had a lot they needed to show. Going into the show, I expected to see more on Bayonetta 3, the new Smash Bros, Metroid Prime 4, Pokemon Let’s Go and possibly even the 2019 core Pokemon game, Yoshi, Kirby, and hopefully some other Mario-centric announcements. Well, they showed almost none of those.

To be fair, Nintendo doesn’t commit to E3 like they used to, and they host mini-press conference directs throughout the year where they announce games and show gameplay for upcoming titles. But still, this was an incredibly underwhelming showing from the publisher that arguably “won” E3 last year.

Let’s start with Smash — but don’t worry, I won’t spend nearly as much time on this as Nintendo did. Seriously, this game took up more than half of the press conference, and it was littered with minute details that most folks don’t care about. I’m thrilled that every past Smash character is returning for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and that we’re even getting some new characters. I’m a little bummed they aren’t bringing back subspace emissary, but everything else about the game looks great. But even I was getting bored when they kept going on about tiny things like Marth’s voice changing slightly between versions and Falco having a different final smash. I don’t know how they thought that much information was necessary, needed, or wanted.

There was a bit more context on Pokemon Let’s Go, and I now firmly believe that this game isn’t made for me. Graphically, it looks adorable. But I don’t want to catch Pokemon by swinging my Switch controller and I certainly don’t want to engage with the dumbed down combat mechanics. The wait until “late 2019” gets longer and longer for us hardcore Pokemon nerds. At least I’ll have my Heart Gold PC rom to tide me over…

For the slightly more niche crowd, there are new Xenoblade Chronicles and Fire Emblem games coming out, as well as a sequel to the highly-regarded Overcooked. Some of the folks behind Armored Core are putting out Daemon X Machina, which looks like an insane mech combat game with some rad metal music. Finally, there’s a new Mario Party. The trailer actually didn’t show much, but people that have seen the game in detail say that it’s switching things up more than you’d expect.

Last year, Nintendo announced a ton of big games because they had to prove that they were going to support the Switch more than they supported the Wii U. Now that the Switch is doing well, they don’t have that pressure. And, to be fair, they have Pokemon Let’s Go, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Mario Tennis Aces, and Super Mario Party coming out this year. They also have some third-party games like Octopath Traveler, and Wii U ports of Captain Toad and Okami HD, among others. So it’s not like they don’t have games coming out. Their press conference just didn’t feel as exciting without some larger, tentpole releases in their more well-known franchises.

Final Grade: C-

 

And there you have it, grades for all eight major press conferences! How did you feel about the shows? What games are you most looking forward to? Any interest in ever actually attending an E3? Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to check out all of my video game content!

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