Archive for the ‘ Video Games ’ Category

E3 Reaction Day 4

Nintendo

Nintendo did their usual E3 Nintendo Direct presentation online rather than the on stage presentation other companies go for. They kicked off their presentation with a rather stylistic looking mech game that, of course, reminded me of a Gundam influence called Daemon x Machina due out in 2019.

Next up, they had a trailer for a Xenoblade Chronicles 2 addition – Torna – The Golden Country. I assume it’s a DLC expansion and still haven’t played the Xeno series. One day…. One day.

Reggie Fils-Aime talked a little about Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon Let’s Go Evee. The Pokeball Plus was shown and announced that Mew would be included with each controller. Available November this year.

The next new reveal was a Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch called Super Mario Party. Two Switch systems can be set next to each other to create maps at different angles depending on how they touch. Available October of this year.

The next Fire Emblem game was presented, Fire Emblem Three Houses, which will be available Spring of 2019.

Fortnite was given a short trailer and available the same day on the Switch.

They moved to looking at some indie games being spotlighted for the Switch with Overcooked! 2. Fil-Aimes gave an overview as footage played. Killer Queen Black got the same style presentation. Hollow Knight was the third indie game spotlighted in this segment, available same day in the eshop.

Octopath Traveler, a Switch exclusive from Square Enix, got a brief mention with a new demo being available later in the month.

Starlink, Arena of Valor, Minecraft, Mario Rabbids Donkey Kong, Just Dance 2019, Splatoon 2, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Crash N Sane Trilogy, Ninjala, FIFA, Ark, Wasteland 2, Paladins, Fallout Shelter, Dark Souls Remastered, Sing Heroines, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, Wolfenstein II, Mega Man 11, Mario Tennis Aces and a few more were presented in a montage trailer.

The centerpiece of Nintendo’s presentation was the full reveal of the Nintendo Switch’s Super Smash Bros. entry. The big reveal for the presentation was that every single character that has appeared in all the Smash Bros games of the past, from N64 to Wii U, would be included in the new installment. They did a video of all the characters, showing when they were introduced. Link was shown in his Breath of the Wild tunic and Mario’s Odyssey pal Cappy appears with Mario as well. They also spent some time looking at how some characters who haven’t been in the series in a while have changed or been updated. A GameCube style controller with Amiibo support was announced with Switch compatibility for the game’s release. A final reveal was that Ridley (not Ripley as I initially wrote. Watch your typos when you’re trying to get something out quick, though she’d be cool to see teamed up with Samus) from the Metroid series would be making his Super Smash Bros. debut. Rumor is there may be a few more new characters to reveal before launch. It definitely looks like a good entry in the series.

Overall, Nintendo didn’t do what I normally expect in showing me something I didn’t know I wanted, but they did give a decent line up. Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a Pokemon gap-fill, Super Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros. all by end of this year maintains the momentum for Nintendo’s first party titles on Switch and their much more solid line up of third party games coming to the system suggest they’ll maintain their strong sales going forward.

Grade: B, but some might argue it’s a solid A with that Smash Bros. line up (and others might give if an F for lack of Waluigi).

Games I’m interested in: Starlink, Mega Man 11 (I’m planning to get the Mega Man and X Legacy collections along with this on Switch), Super Smash Bros.

E3 Day 3 Reaction

Square Enix

Square Enix didn’t have a large presentation, lasting only 30 minutes and mostly just showing some videos of games coming out.

Starting off with their closest release, they kicked off with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third game in the rebooted Lara Croft’s origin trilogy. I was happy to see Jonah brought back for the third adventure, though I hope he pulls through the plane crash shown in the trailer. The gameplay footage looks great and Lara looks like she’s become seriously dangerous. No longer fighting for survival, she seems more like a predator in the jungle more than ever. I also really dig the muscular definition they’ve given her. The mud camoflage is a cool thing that gives me a Predator Schwarzenegger vibe. I still wish we’d get the dual pistols, though, and releasing right after Spider-Man is really painful.

The Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood patch trailer didn’t do much for me since I’m already playing Final Fantasy XIV and love it already! However, a Palico in FFXIV with a Monster Hunter World crossover? Heck yeah! I definitely want a Palico buddy in FFXIV! I still need to give Monster Hunter World a try as well.

Another look at The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit didn’t tell me much more than was previously shown, but I do like the idea of them treating the Life Is Strange world as an anthology setting allowing them to tell stories of completely different characters unrelated to one another’s stories. Kind of surprising that the game will be free.

Dragon Quest XI is another series I never got into (but will someday, right?). The trailer doesn’t look too bad, though the graphics style makes it feel a little dated. I think that’s just a matter of maintaining the aesthetic of the series, though, and I’m sure playing the game would settle into them not feeling off at all. Nothing particularly commanding interest, though.

The trailer for Babylon’s Fall told me absolutely nothing, but I want to know absolutely everything about the world’s lore based solely from the trailer. It looks really cool.

Nier Automata Definitive Edition on XBox One was already announced at Microsoft.

Octopath Traveler interests me, but I’m interested in the RPGs Square is developing for Switch as they feel very retro SNES era RPG. It was an extremely brief trailer.

Just Cause 4 isn’t a series I’ve played, but the fourth entry looks as over the top and crazy as the others. I’d love to try it someday.

I have no idea what The Quiet Man is from the teaser trailer.

Kingdom Hearts III, of course, got a little more shown, but mostly I felt like I’d already seen it from the previous trailer. I’m a little disappointed there is not one single glimpse of anything remotely Final Fantasy. Kingdom Hearts has become pretty much entirely a Disney property game and though the series has always been Disney worlds with Disney party members, I would have liked to see a few cameo teases from Final Fantasy cast members.

Overall, the biggest disappointment was not one single glimpse, tease, or hint about the progress on Final Fantasy 7 remake, which I’m starting to think will be shifted to Playstation 5 since there’s no way for 3 episodic entries to release prior to that console. It would, however, be interesting to see the game release on the exact day of the 25th Anniversary. I’m also personally disappointed we’ll never likely see a sequel to Sleeping Dogs.

Mostly, I didn’t feel like Square showed anything we hadn’t already seen, making for an unimpressive presentation, even if there are a few games I’m interested in.

Grade: D+

Games I’m interested in: Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Octopath Traveler, Kingdom Hearts III, more info for Babylon’s Fall.


Ubisoft

I liked kicking off with a slight jab at GameStop employee leaking Assassin’s Creed Odyssey with the keychain joke.

A lot of people likely didn’t care for the start of the presentation beginning with the dance routine outside, but I thought it was amusing. It was, up to that point, by far the most entertaining performance of all the presentations. With a mascot panda leading a marching band parade and dancers in colorful and weird costumes making their way from outside into the building and then down through the crowd to the stage, I couldn’t stop watching, all while thinking “wtf is even going on right now” before I finally realized it was their annual Just Dance performance. Major credit to the dancers, who apparently put the whole thing together last minute and are on the E3 floor dancing damn near nonstop all weekend. Sure, it wasn’t showing a game, but it was certainly more entertaining than Andrew WK’s performance for Bethesda. It also got much more of a positive crowd reaction as an opening act than Bethesda’s look of confusion from their crowd.

They went straight into one of their heavily anticipated titles with a long trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2. No game play presented, but the trailer did give a look at the setting and first glimpse of the characters. A friend of mine who knows absolutely nothing about Beyond Good and Evil was intrigued and interested in the game just from half of the trailer, so they certainly accomplished their goal in that regard. I was rather surprised by the ending reveal of Jade. It definitely feels like an HD facelift for the original PS2/GameCube release would be nice to accompany the sequel (actually prequel). After a few words from the developers, they showed a look at pre-alpha footage with the two explaining a few details, such as solo and co-op play. The game looks to be massive.

An interesting addition is the Space Monkey program where fans can create ideas, music, artwork, and original content to be added to the game. Murals, street art, music, radio content, and more can be submitted to be used in the game through a partnership with Hit Record, founded by Joseph Gordan-Levitt. It’s really cool to see celebrities brought into E3 because their projects or companies are actually partnering with the developers rather than just being brought on stage as a celebrity for some stilted pre-scripted dialogue. The cynical will see it as a way to crowd source free assets, but it’s a cool collaborative project for fans to have their creations in game.

After they went off stage, their mics were still hot, and the excited “we nailed it!” back stage was the cutest part of the presentation. That’s genuine excitement.

Rainbow Six Siege holds no interest for me, but it clearly does for 35 million players. They talked about upcoming esports competition tournaments, but didn’t go too long. They gave a first look at a documentary titled “Another Mindset” about Rainbow Six Siege esports gamers. Normally I’d complain about this being a detraction from showing games, but I understand why they showed it when they did. It allowed them to set up the stage for their next presentation.

Coming into the theater in an Evel Knievel suit on a motorcycle sporting the game title for Trials, we had Antti Il Vessuo, creative director of Ubisoft Redlynx, come on stage to “accidentally” trip and crash through a podium with a TV on it, breaking the whole thing to pieces. Getting up with a simple “oops,” he explained: “Trials is all about crashing with style and getting up again.” He also claimed to be the Prime Minister of Finland before presenting the video for Trials Rising. It was brief, but it scored with the crowd. A camera pan showed people laughing at the crash and “oops” and the applause was there for it. I hadn’t heard of Trials, but it looks like an absolute insane and infinitely more hilarious version of a childhood favorite in Excitebike. This is absolutely not my type of game and I still think it looks like it would be fun to play. After the video, the crew was already on stage cleaning up the set up “crashed podium” and he gave a little aside “sorry about that” which scored another noticeable laugh with the audience before talking more about the game.

By this point I had noticed that Ubisoft was doing something the other presentations had not done – it was connecting with their audience in the theater. Jokes were landing, the little performances and shows were entertaining, and they weren’t overly long before showing and talking about the games they had to present.

I wasn’t impressed with The Division 2 footage from Microsoft, but Ubisoft’s presentation sold me on the plot for the sequel. As it gets closer to release, I’ll see what the gameplay additions are like and make a decision on it. I played the first one with friends and might be happy to do so again with a sequel. Ubisoft has a proven track record with Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs of the sequels having vast improvements over the first game, so I hope that’s the case for The Divison 2 and I just haven’t seen it yet with the first release of gameplay footage. The crowd certainly liked the idea of 8 man raids in the game. Frequent, major content updates were promised with 3 DLC episodes with new story, areas, and activities all free in the first year.

I still haven’t found time to play Mario + Rabbids, but the Donkey Kong + Rabbids was fun with live music played over the video.

Skull & Bones looks like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag without the Assassin’s Creed backdrop and polished and refined with better graphics. The gameplay looks like it was taken right out of Black Flag with ship combat and base captures. They’ve added a multiplayer component with other players joining together to take down ships and then potentially fighting each other over the loot as well. I loved Black Flag, one of my favorite in the series, so I’d be interested to see more details on this in the future.

Elijah Wood was brought out for Transference VR as his company is involved in working with Ubisoft on the game. I’m not too clear on the game, but it seems creepy as hell.

The next game, Starlink, did a complete 360 for me. The initial trailer interested me with its sci-fi setting and the ship combat looked interesting, though I wasn’t crazy about the character designs and art style. Then I saw it was a toys to life game and I quickly lost interest. I do think these are the best “toys to life” iteration to date, though. Where Skylanders and Amiibo were mostly just little statue figurines that had a chip in them, Starlink toys actually are space ships that can be changed with different pieces to alter them in game. That also makes them genuine toys for kids to play with after turning off the game. They can run around the house with their toys shooting down imaginary enemies and narrowly dodging enemy fire, recreating epic space battles in their imaginations.

After a brief bit of information on the game, however, it was revealed that the good guys in Starlink would need all the help they can get and the video started again. Pursued by five enemies and taking fire, the pilot says “could use a little help here” and the video cut to a ship console. Then I heard it….

At first, I thought “Tell me I didn’t just hear that.” Then I thought “Did Ubisoft leave placeholder sounds in their trailer!?” Then I saw the green eye, clearly surrounded by fur, and covered by a green lens and I thought “HOLY CRAP WTF WTF WTF!?”

Ubisoft had strengthened their partnership with Nintendo and Star Fox, or at least Fox McCloud, would be in Starlink Battle for Atlas. Multiple arwings were seen as Fox took off, so I’m assuming the full team may be present.

Just like that, they sold me on buying a copy. I’ve wanted a model Arwing to put on the shelf for years, but the only one I’ve ever seen is about $500, so a $75 bundle of a toy version with game included is close enough for me. Shigeru Miyamoto was even on hand and seated in the front row of the audience to see. They gave him a first prototype of the Arwing and Fox McCloud figure for the game. It looked pretty cool on the display stand they had mounted it on.

I was surprised to see the next game, For Honor Marching Fire, as from my understanding the first game hadn’t done that well. Apparently, however, it was enough to warrant a new addition. However, this goes to Ubisoft’s credit of maintaining majority control of their company and the benefit of games like Rainbow Six Siege and Assassin’s Creed being tentpole games that help finance smaller projects throughout the company. They’re not exclusively bound to focus purely on profit, profit, profit.

The Crew 2 got a presentation and open beta announcement before showing the video. I’m not too interested here either. Give me a Smokey and the Bandit game, instead, Ubi (I’m kidding….. or am I?).

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was the closing presentation and it definitely looks good. Based on the trailer and presentation, the game looks good and they’re moving even more in an RPG direction. I was surprised, perhaps a little disappointed, to see Assassin’s Creed return to an annual release as I was hoping Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs would start taking turns leapfrogging each other in every-other-year releases.

I have the Ezio statue from the Brotherhood Collector’s Edition and have thought the others were cool since then, even sometimes thinking they would have definitely looked cool with every one of them together on a shelf, but with multiple statues in the new one, I’m glad I didn’t go down that path (though they do look awesome). I’m still hoping Ubisoft goes back on their word and ventures to Japan with the series (as they did with Egypt), as well as back to China and into India, at some point.

I also liked their show conclusion bringing the entire team, both presenters and so many who were back stage, back on stage for a final curtain call. The final note of working more with you, the gamers which makes everything better was a great note to conclude Ubisoft’s E3 presentation.

Grade: A

Games I’m interested in: Beyond Good and Evil 2, Starlink, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, possibly The Division 2 and Skull & Bones once I read up on more information.


Sony

Sony had announced ahead of time that this year would not be announcing new games at E3, but focusing on four pillar games with deeper looks and more information.

They started off their presentation in a room that had been built to look like a church to resemble the one they had not yet seen in the upcoming trailer. I saw a number of people didn’t like the banjo performance to start the presentation, but I liked it. I immediately knew it was kicking off the show with The Last of Us 2 just based on the early bit of that performance, though I’m in agreement that the church replica was rather silly and completely unnecessary. It caused a weird intermission right at the start of their presentation and broke the flow of their games being shown.

The Last of Us 2, however, looked absolutely fantastic. The detail in the character models and motion capture, the footage shown for gameplay looked very smooth and even more cinematic than the first game did. The focus of the trailer was on the greater danger in any zombie post-apocalypse: other humans. That always seemed like the more dangerous part of the first game, so I like seeing that aspect as the spotlight in the sequel. Ellie laying down in foliage and sliding under cars adds expanded ways to use the environment than just ducking behind things as well. I also found it interesting that the enemies seem to be calling her “wolf” as if she’s earned a title, possibly from hunting their group in the past? I’m a little disappointed we don’t see Joel at all, only getting a hint of him mentioned.

During the intermission while the crowd moved from the first room to the main theater. It took 13 minutes while they talked about Last of Us part 2, Horizon, God of War, and Detroit: Become Human with Worldwide Studios. New Game + coming to God of War was brought up and confirmed as happening. Black Ops remastered maps were announced for Black Ops IIII. Black Ops III was also announced as a free game for PS+ members.

Tetris Effect for PSVR was shown. A short video for Days Gone. Twin Mirror. Ghost Giant for PSVR, Beat Saber for PSVR. Basically a compilation sizzle reel.

Destiny 2‘s new expansion got a featured trailer.

Finally going back to the main stage, Sony presented another musical performance with Cornelius Boots playing the shakuhachi (a Japanese flute instrument) in front of a screen showing hills of grass while dressed in Japanese clothing. Much like the Andrew WK performance, this would have been more interesting if they had some slow paced game footage to show behind him rather than just the grassy hills. Once he was done, we got our first look at Ghost of Tsushima.

This is one of my most anticipated games that was teased at E3 in 2017 and the new trailer did not disappoint me at all. I’m a sucker for samurai and ninja films, so a game set in this time period grabs my attention and an open world style game in this time period is a must have. I’m hoping, really hoping, the final game is playable with Japanese voice acting and English subtitles, though. I even saw a later comment imagining a black & white mode, which would be ridiculously hard to imagine them pulling off, but would definitely be interesting.

The combat looks interesting. It’s definitely not fast paced hack and slash. There are some very Akira Kurosawa moments with the face off and the sudden draw-strike of the katana killing the opponent before regular combat starts. It looks like it’s focused on reaction, blocks and dodges and counter attacks rather than mindless button mashing.

Between games, there would occasionally be weird things like a CG banana playing electric guitar. It was for Dreams, but that game was never really shown.

I have no idea what the game is about based on the trailer, but Control looks like you basically get to play as Jean Gray/Phoenix (but also with a gun), so that looks pretty cool.

Next up was the surprise trailer that almost managed to steal the show: Resident Evil 2 remake was presented from a rat’s eye view. I liked the added touch of an original Playstation controller next to the pizza near the beginning. As the camera moves around, a struggle is heard, the two people fighting knocking things over and eventually falling on our rodent for the camera to shift to a different view to show the killed rat before moving to a zombie biting the sheriff he was fighting before we get our first look at Leon Kennedy.

Expected to have been a remake much like the Resident Evil REmake on GameCube, the footage is above and beyond that in terms of what I expected graphically. The detail is amazing and the crowd loved it, especially when a Jan 2019 release was revealed.

Squanch Games presented Trover Save the Universe from the creator of Rick and Morty. I’ve never watched the show, but if the humor is like this trailer, I do not remotely see the appeal.

Another look at Kingdom Hearts III showed more gameplay and focused on the Pirates of the Caribbean world before showing a lot of what was seen in the previous presentations. The big addition was the reveal of a Kingdom Hearts III PS4 Pro Limited Edition as well as a 1.5/2.5/2.8/3 all-in-one package for PS4.

Death Stranding gave us a long look at the game and its gameplay while still managing to show almost nothing. We know Redus’ character is essentially a delivery courier, seeing a wide number of terrains being traversed while wearing ridiculously large backpacks. There appears to be acid rain causing burns, hence needing the suits they wear. One of the “packages” appears to be a dead body wrapped up or in a body bag. Others are large crates, sometimes with robots coming with them, other times just carrying everything. Scaling a mountain seemed reminiscent of Breath of the Wild. Though towards the end, we see a village and he pulls out a rifle, so there does seem like there will be combat. It seems like whatever the creatures we’ve seen hinted at have human hand shaped feet, leaving hand prints where they walk. Breathing seems to attract their attention. The woman that meets up with Redus’ character has a suit with FRAGILE on the back (possibly the company they work for). The time fold fast forwards whatever it touches, but the past can never let go. If one of the things eats Redus character, he’ll come back, but the area will be a crater. There are humanoid shapes floating in the air as black smoky clouds, tethered into the sky. They catch Reducs and pull him down into an oil puddle to end the trailer. Ultimately still no clue what the game is about… We probably won’t entirely have an idea when it releases.

Give me your hand in death
Give me your hand in flesh
Give me your hand in spirit

Nioh 2 got an announce trailer, marking the third samurai game for E3 this year!

Finally, Sony wrapped up with an extended look at Spider-Man. The game still looks fantastic visually. Previously, it seemed Mr. Negative was the primary focus of the game, but this kicks off with Electro breaking prisoners out of the Raft and webhead chasing him through fighting low tier super powered criminals in the prison while running into more notable Spider-Man villains Rhino, Scorpion, and Vulture. It’s clear the Sinister Six are featured villains here. The sixth, who masterminded the break out and brought the above five together confronts Spidey at the end, but we’re not shown who it is. Norman Osborn is known to be mayor in this setting, so it could definitely be Green Goblin leading the Sinister Six, but Doc Ock is just as possible. Of course, it could be a surprise rather than an obvious choice.

The game definitely looks amazing. Spectacular even. It even looks Web of. Wait, that last one doesn’t work.

Grade: Absolute A++ on the games themselves, but…. B- for the presentation. I’d even hear out arguments for a grade of C.

However, I feel Sony did what they said they were going to do: showed a closer look at the four big games they wanted to showcase with no muss or fuss. The long intermission was the only real problem I had with their conference. If they had kept everything in the main theater, the shakuhachi before Ghost of Tsushima would have been more of a palette cleanser between the two games rather than feeling like we were stretching on far too long without game footage at a game presentation.

Games I’m looking forward to: Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man, Resident Evil 2, Death Stranding, Ghost Giant, Beat Saber, possibly Control once I know more about it.

E3 Day 2 Reaction

Sorry I’m late getting these up as we’re now 5 days past Day 2. I’ll get the final Day’s reactions up tomorrow.

Microsoft

Note: I still hate Microsoft’s E3 approach of “Exclusive” and “World Premiere” announced at the start of every video….

I don’t own an XBox and have never been an XBox gamer, but I do tune in to their E3 presentation to see what they’re up to. With most of their games being on PC and console now, they sometimes have things that pop up I’m interested in.

Their opening trailer looked absolutely gorgeous even before having any idea what it was. Rather short, it wasn’t until the helmet reveal to realize it was a Halo game, Halo Infinite. I’m sure many Halo fans got excited, but anytime I see “infinite” or similar subtitles these days, I feel apprehension for an online quasi-MMO game that’s the big trend these days. It turned out the announcement was more for the engine they’re using and it sounds like Halo Infinite is absolutely nowhere near the horizon. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a 2020 release.

Phil Spencer specifically used “gamers” when speaking to his audience, which I liked after the past few years of the games press acting like that’s a tainted identifier. The crowd was hyped to be there, which says something about XBox’s fan base. Whether that’s good or ill is a debate I’ll leave for others. Spencer briefly touched on Gamers Outreach (a charity that lets kids in children’s hospitals game with friends) being supported by Fanfest ticket sales before giving the absolute best opening speech of the weekend.

It’s absolutely ridiculous that not one games press has written anything about this speech.

“Gaming brings us together. Gaming connects us. It inspires our truest cooperation. It creates some of our fondest memories of competition and our deepest conversations about the stories within games. Most of all, gaming fosters real community. It reaches across age, ability, race, gender, and geography. This is why I’ve always believed and will always believe that gaming is the great unifier. And what unifies us is our shared love of this art form. Legendary characters who captivate us. Not just for 10 hours, but for 10, 20, 30 years. Bold stories that inspire the hero within us. Iconic worlds that are so richly imagined, we feel excitement in the air and danger on the seas. As gamers, we are at a momentous time. Where creative vision and cutting edge technology together are delivering the art form we love.”

50 games, 18 exclusives, and 15 world premieres to be shown set the tone for the show. There wouldn’t be much talking as they showed game after game after game.

They certainly started off with a bang because after that speech they showed the trailer for Ori & The Blind Forest’s sequel. I still haven’t played the first, but I own it and it’s one that’s high on my wishlist to play through. The sequel looks beautiful as well, titled Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and if it plays like the first game was reported, it will be fantastic. No release date announced beyond 2019.

FromSoftware’s new title looked interesting, but I’m a sucker for samurai games. It looked like a new Onimusha game, but it was the previously teased Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Apologies to those who thought the original tease of the game was going to be Bloodborne 2. Release in early 2019.

Todd Howard from Bethesda took the stage to announce Fallout 4 on Xbox Game Pass and give the first look at Fallout 76. I absolutely love the Take Me Home, Country Roads cover they chose for the trailer and from the first look, it felt like a great Fallout game to jump into for those of us like me who never actually got into the series. It’s definitely a cool trailer. (More on the game itself in Bethesda’s review.)

The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, a game set in Life is Strange‘s world, doesn’t really interest me. I thought Life is Strange was alright, but nothing amazing, so another one doesn’t really do much for me. However, the premise is pretty neat and for the right price there’s a chance I’d check it out. Much like Life is Strange, the trailer seems like my favorite part about the game would be the music. Available June 25th.

Crackdown 3 is another series I’ve never played, but let’s face it – this game looks interesting for Terry Crews alone. On the other hand, wasn’t it supposed to be a launch title with XBox One? Instead it’s been delayed to 2019.

Metro Exodus had a cool trailer and I’ve heard the games are fun, but they also look like most every FPS game to me, which aren’t really my cup of tea, so there’s that. Release sometime in 2019.

Kingdom Hearts III on Xbox is another first and while Sony later revealed a PlayStation exclusive of 1.5, 2.5, and 3 all-in-one edition, I’d hope the 1.5 and 2.5 releases are released separately on Xbox as jumping into the third game of a trilogy seems like it would be jarring. The main song for Kingdom Hearts games used in trailers is always so oddly out of place. January 29th release.

Sea of Thieves is getting an expansion, but doesn’t particularly interest me. The trailer was fairly amusing, though.

Forza Horizon 4 doesn’t interest me either, but the game looks good graphically. The weather changing effects that alter the world and impact gameplay is pretty cool, though. They actually showed the gameplay as the differences and changes were described.

Phil Spencer returned to the stage to talk about The Initiative, a new studio Microsoft has established as well as Undead Labs, Playground Games, and Ninja Theory as having been acquired by Microsoft. The crowd was certainly excited to hear the last one, but I’m uneasy about studios being purchased by larger platforms. We’ll see how long before Microsoft shuts someone down. Compulsion Games was the last studio announced as having been acquired, citing We Happy Few as their notable title with a trailer shown afterwards.

PlayerUnknown’s Battleground was the next game shown and despite it being popular, I’m still not interested.

Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition was a bit of a surprise, but good to see an RPG on the system, even a HD release of a 360 game. Nier Automata Definitive Edition is available June 26th for another RPG on the system.

The Division 2 was shown next. I enjoyed the first game up to the end of the initial release. I never played the expansions and DLC. The plot for the sequel, set six months later, seems interesting, but the gameplay didn’t look different from the first game, not enough to warrant a full blown sequel. The presentation was fairly bad with the very unnatural dialogue between “gamers” playing. Not only is the script weak and even cheesy, but the voice actors just feel like voice actors. Can’t really fault Microsoft and their conference since this is Ubisoft’s video.

However, they stopped the roll of games to talk about Xbox Game Pass and “Fast Start” though I didn’t really get any impression of what Fast Start does. Game Pass will have games available the same day as global release. I can’t see how this helps the developers and publishers if thousands or millions of people are playing for free through a subscription paid to Microsoft. The segment, from the presenter to the audience reactions, felt almost like it was scripted for Devolver Digital’s presentation.

After that was a montage video of games at the 1 hour mark with a lot of cool looking games in there.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider got its full trailer presented, which looks amazing. As the final game of the origin trilogy, there’s definitely more of the adventuring tomb raiding bad ass in this trailer than she was in the previous games.

Devil May Cry 5 trailer was a surprise to see. At first I was a bit confused if it was a DmC sequel since Dante (turns out that’s not Dante, it’s Nero, but I haven’t played the games in a while) has short hair. But Dante does show up by the end.

Also, what’s up with all the robot hands lately? Battlefield V, Sekiro, and Devil May Cry 5 all have one!

Cuphead was also revealed to be getting a new game.

Tunic was revealed as well, which was first shown last year, but this gave a deeper look at it. It looks like an isometric Legend of Zelda starring a fox, so of course I’m interested in it. This one is a console launch exclusive, aka timed exclusive, so I’ll wait for the PS4 release.

Bandai Namco revealed a Naruto/One Piece/Dragon Ball Z/Death Note set in the real world crossover fighting game called Jump Force.

Dying Light 2, another first person game, didn’t really interest me. The premise and setting looks cool. Maybe I’ll eventually give the first one a try to decide on this one.

A new Battletoads was teased, but nothing shown.

Gears of War POP was teased more than shown. I guess it’ll be a quirky game for fans of the franchise. No release date given.

Gears of War 5 had a decently lengthy trailer, but no hint when it will be released.

As Phil Spencer wrapped up to close the night, he was interrupted by the stage being hacked and taken over for the world premiere of the trailer of CD Project Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. Nothing is really shown, just a trailer showing the premise, but gamers have already analyzed it, particularly all the computer code (and it’s double layered) to decipher a lot of information about the game from the trailer. It’s a cool looking setting, but until there’s more information, it’s hard to say. I know it’s apparently going to be first person perspective, so it’s going to likely be one that doesn’t really interest me too much.

The disappointment for Microsoft’s presentation was how few of their big titles are nowhere near the horizon and the vast majority of what was shown are third party titles that will be not just on PC, but even on PS4 as well. Despite that, their presentation itself was well done with focus on the games, which Microsoft has been needing to do. Only the one break to discuss Game Pass broke their momentum. Still, they did show a lot of games, which is essentially what people tune in to E3 to see.

Grade: B+

Games I’m interested in: Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Sekiro, Tunic, and possibly Devil May Cry 5.

 

Bethesda

Hoo boy, I’m going to get some hate for this one.

Bethesda started with a 2 minute video of the diversity of their employees. I’m not sure if the voice over and the final woman shown was really the receptionist at one of their offices, but if it was, I dig that. I know a lot of gamers were griping that they started off with something not games, but it was 2 minutes. Not that big a deal to kick off a presentation. Unfortunately, the presentation itself followed…

After the Bethesda President talked a bit, we then had to sit through an Andrew WK performance for Rage 2 rather than actually showing Rage 2. If it had been a live performance while crazy footage was showing, it would have been a lot more fun. Camera pans across the audience showed people that just looked confused. It was 10 minutes into the presentation before we started to hear or see anything about video games.

I don’t know anything about Rage, never played it, but it looks like a crazy Mad Max worthy setting kicked up a notch with mutants and monsters. Though it took almost 15 minutes, at least they finally started to show gameplay with this.

Elder Scrolls Legends, a digital card game, is a relaunch with new visuals.

Elder Scrolls Online update detailing some DLC coming in the rest of the year.

Doom Eternal got a teaser announcement, but no footage, no date, and again, “Eternal” is an title I don’t trust to not be a quasi-MMO shared world type of thing like Destiny or Division.

Quake Champions is basically Quake Overwatch.

Prey DLC was announced with a cheesy video and awkward presentation.

Wolfenstein The New Blood was revealed well. Briefly talking about the previous entry and thanking fans for their response as well as the game coming to Switch, then revealed the new game’s trailer featuring BJ’s twin daughters in the 1980s in Paris. They didn’t drag it out and were to the point in their presentation.

Prey and Wolfenstein VR entries announced.

Todd Howard was brought out to present more information about Fall 76. Instead, he talked about E3’s history and then presented Skyrim A Very Special Edition to play on the Amazon Alexa. It was a funny video expected to be a gag, but it turns out it’s actually available. The Etch-a-Sketch, Motorolla Pagers, and Smart Fridge editions are likely just jokes, though. It’s good to see them embrace the Internet meme of Todd releasing Skyrim on everything, though. Nice to see a sense of humor about themselves.

Next they did go into detail of Fallout 76.  I was interested based on the trailer from Microsoft, but as more information was presented and it was shown to be a more multiplayer focused game (you can play solo if you like, but it’s designed for multiplayer to be the intent), likely another quasi-MMO style game, I pretty much lost interest. People point out that gamers only have a limited amount of money, but more than money, I feel that gamers have a limited amount of time. Numerous “games as a service” are not sustainable because you can’t dedicate your time to all of them at once. You’ll have a situation similar to traditional MMOs where WoW took the lion’s share and anyone else in the market shriveled over time until there is very little competition left in the market.

Elder Scrolls Blades was then announced – a mobile game.

And to close their presentation, they announced they’re working on an all new next generation single player game, their first new franchise in 25 years. What they showed was a lens flare behind a planet and a space station seemingly going into hyperspace with a title: Starfield. That’s it. They announced a “next generation” game and showed a title and this is a big deal.

Oh but wait, we can beat that! The ‘the game after that’ was announced with nothing more than a typical pan across a fantasy land with the Elder Scrolls theme showing “The Elder Scrolls VI.” Nothing else. Not even a title.

They literally said “we’re working on Elder Scrolls VI for someday” and people flipped their lids.

I have absolutely no clue why people have declared this to be a killer presentation for the year. They showed:

Three full blown games: Rage 2, Fallout 76, and Quake Champions.
A digital card game relaunch. A mobile game. An MMO DLC/Expansion.
A living meme with Skyrim Alexa.
DLC and a couple of VR announcements.
And they announced, but showed absolutely nothing of the next Doom, Wolfenstein, as well as the big reveal of nothing but a title for Starfield for some time in the future and the Elder Scrolls VI for some time farther in the future!

People are going crazy because they showed a generic fantasy landscape pan with the series title, not even the title of the game itself, which will come out probably around 2025.  You’re quite literally proving Devolver Digital’s 2017 “sell games before development even starts” gag would be a valid business model.

Grade: C, maybe a C+ for bringing a meme to life.

Games I’m interested in: None at the moment.

 

Devolver Digital

I’m not even going to give a full break down of their presentation because one must experience it. Go find it on YouTube.

Grade: A, much fun, would Devolver again. Looking forward to DEvolv3r 2019 to see the next entry in the Devolver E3 Cinematic Universe.

E3 Reaction – Day 1

EA

I had no real expectations from EA with nothing in their catalog being of particular interest to me. After just a trailer to tease Anthem, which they’d talk about later, they kicked off the show with Battlefield V, which is particularly a game I’m not interested in.  Credit to EA for keeping it simple, though. They showed some footage, had the developers talk about some details fans were wanting to know, and concluded in just 10 minutes.

They followed it up with FIFA current year, which I’m equally not interested. Not to say either of these being presented is bad – Battlefield and FIFA have absolutely huge followings who love the series. I was, however, a little confused why they spent the money getting Hans Zimmer to score the music….for the trailer. Just the trailer? After showing off their trophy, they talked about the Champions League. They talked about the importance of gameplay (saying “gameplay” 4 times) and how the bar for said gameplay was raised, but without showing any gameplay. They then talked about the trophy again, as well as the World Cup in their tournament. It was a dull presentation with nothing really shown and felt like a waste of time that offered nothing to FIFA fans.

They burned more time talking about gaming on phones and tablets via the cloud as well as their subscription service with Origin Access Premiere. Nothing of interest for gamers so much as for shareholders and investors. Next to no applause or enthusiasm from the audience here. Even the courtesy applause when he left the stage was muted.

20 minutes into the show and they had only shown a little bit of footage from Battlefield V when they did the very forced, and very awkward “just happen to find a Respawn developer Vince Zampella in the crowd” to announce Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Zampella said they didn’t have anything to show this year, but were ready to talk about it. All they actually did was give the title and when it takes place. The worst part here, for me, was Andrea Rene, the show’s host. After the title is revealed, Zampella awkwardly states, likely intended to be humorous, “that suggests you’ll be playing a Jedi” to which the Rene asks “does that mean I get to hold a lightsaber?” It was a dumb question and I don’t even know what EA was going for (I fully assume Rene’s questions and lines were mostly scripted through the whole presentation, so I don’t actually blame her for the awkwardness).

But that wasn’t the worst part. After Zampella notes that it takes place during “the dark times, when the Jedi are being hunted,” Rene asks “So for all the hardcore nerds out there who want to know like where in the timeline, between which episodes is it?”

“Hardcore Star Wars nerds” already know exactly where it takes place just based on saying it was during the dark times when the Jedi were being hunted! Stop having these forced, painfully awkward scripted dialogue at your presentations! It’s only 2 minutes and I’d forgive you if you were setting something up on stage, but it was just nothing with no purpose and a horrible back and forth.

Star Wars Battlefront II got next to no reaction. Dennis Brännvall was sent out to deliver EA’s official E3 mea culpa for the game, acknowledging the failure at launch and detailing the overhauls that were done after the launch as well as the recent hunt mode (which admittedly I think sounds hilariously great with the Ewoks hunting you). They showed gameplay while he talked about the new additions in their next update, but they had such a short clip it looped through twice and was starting its third round before he announced the addition of Clone Wars content (which did get a positive reaction from the fans).

25 minutes into the show was a surprise reveal for Unravel two. Personally, this was my favorite part of their presentation, with the crowd reaction and even a “Yar-ny, Yar-ny” chant from a couple guys in the audience. Martin Sahlin’s presence on the stage was so much more comfortable and confident this year than when he first introduced us to Yarny. Wasting no time, he talked about the new addition (a blue character) while video played showing Yarny finding said character. Footage played behind while he described the two character experience. The game was described as more friendly, but more challenging, but most of all, more playful. After this 3 minute intro, and showing us info, they jumped right into gameplay in single player approach with Michael, the team’s Producer, playing live on stage. After a bit of this, Sahlin joined him to demonstrate 2 player gameplay. Honestly, it was just well presented with introduction, live single player gameplay, and live 2 player gameplay. No awkward “gamer talk” just communication between them of what they would do/what the other should do. The laughing at close calls felt genuine because it was genuine.

The presentation was only about 7 minutes long from start to finish and gave more impression of the game than the big budget AAA presentations. The big surprise, however, was after thanking his team, the final trailer showed more of the game and turned out to be a launch trailer when it was announced that the game was available immediately. The reaction from the crowd was the most lively with that announcement.

Continuing the tradition of Unravel’s original reveal, another EA Originals title, Sea of Solitude, or S.O.S was shown next. The trailer looks interesting, but the developer talked about it for 5 minutes before showing anything. It would have arguably been better to show the trailer first and then talk about it. I don’t fault her for talking a little long as she seemed just as nervous as Sahlin was when Yarny was first introduced to the world.

I had no interest in EA Sports presenting NBA Live 18 and even less in bringing out two E-sports competitors for Madden. It was almost 10 minutes spent on sports, with a bulk of that being talking to an e-sports player. Even for Madden fans, there seemed very little shown for them to enjoy.

Next up was the return of Command & Conquer… as a mobile game. A simplified mobile game at that, which dragged on far too long with a “professional shoutcaster” over a live match. For 8 minutes, we saw Command & Conquer Rivals – a mobile game – played over uninteresting commentary before seeing a trailer for the game afterwards. After seeing the gameplay and how completely unexciting it was, the trailer just left you realizing how much the game didn’t match the trailer.

During the closing speaking segment, when they were talking about choice – players choosing what,when, where, and how they play. That they feel they’re treated fairly and no one is given an unfair advantage or disadvantage for how they play. That they are given value for their time investment and for games to be fun, for experiences to truly enhance lives. That they want to be better and make great games, but there is something greater. It was basically a lengthy “please forgive us” before they transitioned directly into their Play to Give charity program for social impact benefiting He For She, National Bullying Prevention Center, and Ditch the Label with 1 million dollars in the last Play to Give campaign. To me, it just felt awkward to go from doing better and giving gamers a choice straight to it’s more important to give money to these charities.

They concluded with Anthem and the Bioware team for about 20 minutes. Honestly, it feels like Iron Man suits (even the theme at the end sounds just a teensy bit like the Avengers theme) with Destiny or The Division style gameplay. Feb 22, 2019 will be the launch date for the game, but what was shown didn’t particularly interest me. They talked about the Bioware conversation choices being an element when you go to the base camps that are single player, but all their footage was the multiplayer combat, which was disappointing. I think that’s a bit of the problem with the game feeling like a Destiny clone. They need to focus more on what’s different rather than what looks the same.

Even the closing “are you guys ready to download some games” from Rene got little reaction and little applause to close their show.

Grade: D

Personal Interests: Unravel 2, Sea of Solitude

E3 Excitement and Anticipation

E3 kicks off this weekend with EA on Saturday, Microsoft and Bethesda on Sunday, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Sony on Monday, and Nintendo on Tuesday. While some have begun to bemoan E3 as an unnecessary and antiquated thing no longer needed in the industry, I look forward to watching the presentations every year and would still like to go just once someday, same with SDCC, just for the one time experience.

Sony is always my main interest for E3 as I’ve been a Playstation gamer since the first console and as I’ve said in the past, I never really got into Xbox. Nintendo is the console of my childhood and I have each system they’ve released, but I’d be lying if I said it’s still my primary gaming device (though I wish I had more time to split between PS4, Switch, and MMO gaming).

Here’s what I’m looking forward to and my expectations for each presentation this year:

EA – Saturday, June 9, 11am Pacific Time

Anthem is probably the only thing I’m curious about from EA right now. Unlike some, I enjoyed The Division as a story play through with friends, but didn’t have the interest in grinding endgame. Anthem seems like it will be a similar game and I have one friend who’s very interested in it. If the final product looks to be like a better version of The Division + Destiny, I’ll probably use the same approach of playing through the main story and then leaving endgame behind. I only have time for one MMO at a time. Even with this in mind, Anthem is only a passing curiosity right now and less something I’m truly looking forward to.

 

Microsoft – Sunday, June 10, 1pm Pacific Time

I don’t have an Xbox One X and I’m admittedly not a PC gamer (at this time), so there’s not much I’m particularly interested in seeing from Microsoft. That said, as a Playstation fan, maybe even a mongrel hybrid of Sony Pony and Nintendrone, I still watch Microsoft’s presentation every year out of interest in what the competition is offering. While Microsoft still has yet to offer anything to make the Xbox One appealing, particularly with everything being on PC if I truly wanted to play it, I still give them the respect of paying attention to their efforts. Cuphead looked fantastic and was a game I would have bought on release day if I had the console. Ori and the Blind Forest as well as its sequel are games I’d buy without hesitation as well. All of these I can, and Ori I have, buy on PC, though. So I’ll be watching this to see what Microsoft has in the works to try and fight back as the underdog as this console generation enters the later rounds of the fight.

Bethesda – Sunday, June 10, 6:30 Pacific Time

Honestly, I’ll watch just to watch, but I really don’t care. Despite loving RPGs, I’ve never gotten into Fallout or Elder Scrolls. Fallout 76 and Rage 2 aren’t my areas of interest.

Square Enix – Monday, June 11, 10am Pacific Time

The first stand-alone press conference from Square since 2015, I’m definitely looking forward to this presentation. Of course, I’ll be at work, so I’ll just have to listen to it and sneak a peek at the stream when possible.

Kingdom Hearts III will likely get a release date. I haven’t played any of the Kingdom Hearts games, but a release date on the final entry will give me a time frame to finally play through them with the HD releases on PS4.

I’m also looking forward to Shadow of the Tomb Raider and hoping reboot Lara finally steps into her own. I’ve enjoyed the reboot with the first game being the formation of the character, Rise being about tying up loose ends of her past, and hopefully Shadow being where she finally starts setting a path for herself in her life. It’s time for reboot Lara to grow into the twin pistols of classic Lara. We already have pistols for her, there’s no reason to not get some bow is for stealth, twin pistols are for gun fights, rifles & shotguns are for situational selection design established now. With them teased in the first game, I honestly think the twin pistols are going to happen, but are being held possibly even to the finale of this game. The developers have said this is the final game of Lara’s “Tomb Raider origin” trilogy and I really expect the twin pistols are the equivalent of her graduation ceremony “Tomb Raider Diploma.” Once she has the twin pistols, she’ll fully have transitioned into the role of the bad ass globe-trotting adventurer everyone expects her to become.

I’m expecting to see a first tease of the Avengers game Square is working on and possibly a new trailer for Final Fantasy VII remake. While some rumors and supposed leaks suggest a demo for FFVII with a possible release date on the horizon, I don’t think that will happen. I think this year is largely going to be about Kingdom Hearts III. I also think Final Fantasy VII remake is going to wind up being a PS5 game simply because PS4 is indeed entering the later years of its life cycle and there’s no way Square Enix is going to get all three episodes out before PlayStation 5. Now, PS5 may be backwards compatible, so it won’t matter too much, but I really expect to wait a while longer for VII Remake, even if we get a new look at it.

Final Fantasy XIV will have a live letter during E3, but the only thing I expect to come from it will be a little more info about upcoming patches – things like the new Deep Dungeon – and likely the long awaited Final Fantasy XV crossover event.

I’d love to see a teaser announcing Final Fantasy XVI is in the works as well, but I don’t think that’s likely. Between Kingdom Hearts III, Final Fantasy XV, and VII remake, I think their heavy hitters are tied up for the moment. That said, if XVI is in the works, I’d love to see them offer a more high fantasy sword & sorcery with just a touch of steam punk harkening back to IV, VI, and IX in style. I personally divide the Final Fantasy games into fantasy and sci-fi with recent installments of XII, XIII, XV all falling more in the sci-fi (or more appropriately science fantasy) side of things. Airships and advanced moon civilizations aside, the more modern and futuristic the technology, the less of the high fantasy that Final Fantasy built its kingdom on.

Ubisoft – Monday, June 11, 1pm Pacific Time

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has already been confirmed, which is a little disappointing for me. I was expecting the break that Origins saw to signal a shift for the series to a 2 year cycle with Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed leap frogging each other as alternating releases. After Watch Dogs 2, I was hoping that franchise would continue its trend with a new location and new characters each game with just some cameos from the previous games’ members. Especially with the notion of DedSec you could easily have Marcus Sitara, Wrench, and Josh consulting via video conferencing with DedSec members in another city.

I’m admittedly struggling through Assassin’s Creed: Origins. The games were always vast, but the shift to even more open world RPG design lost a little motivation for me in the story. I need to knuckle down and just commit to chasing the main story quests rather than get distracted with side quests, but I’m a habitual side quester. Once I finish Persona 5, I’ll try to finish off AC: Origins and see if my interest is renewed for Odyssey, but Rome/Greece isn’t particularly a setting that really interests me. I’d rather see China, Japan, and India entries in the series.

The Division 2 will be revealed, which does interest me. As I said, I liked the first one with my friends and I’m expecting we’ll hop in for the sequel together for the same style play through as well.

Skull and Bones is another one I have a passing curiosity for. The ship sailing in Assassin’s Creed III was a highlight for me and Black Flag is probably my favorite entry in the series, so Ubisoft has a solid foundation for ship based piracy. Depending on what else is in store for gamers with that title will determine just how interested I get. If it doesn’t offer enough new or interesting aspects, I could just replay Black Flag.

Sony – Monday, June 11, 6pm Pacific Time

Sony has stated there won’t be a lot of new games announced this year and instead they’ll be focusing on more information for what’s been announced and is now on the horizon. This is the conference with the most announcements I’m looking forward to. Before touching on anything I’m interested in game-wise, I really hope this is finally the year, after waiting so long, that Sony will finally, FINALLY, let users change their PSN name. I don’t even care if I have to pay for it, if there’s a time restriction on frequency, whatever. I don’t have an embarrassing PSN name and still I really want the option to change mine.

Death Stranding – As a huge Metal Gear Solid fan, I’m obviously interested to see what Hideo Kojima has planned with his first Konami-free game. As fans expect, everything about the game has been strange, confusing, and tell us almost nothing. This year is expected to be the first real look at the game, possibly with actual gameplay and some more cryptic clues as to just what it’s all about.

Spider-Man – I’ve already pre-ordered the collector’s edition, though I’m still on the fence about keeping that order in place. I’m just not a fan of the costume design, so a statue of said costume has me on the fence. It would be cool to have a statue of classic Spidey, MCU Homecoming Spidey, and PS4 Spidey all together, though. Decisions, decisions. Regardless of that, I’m looking forward to this game and with its launch only 3 months away, we’re sure to get a good final look at the gameplay here.

Ghost of Tsushima – Despite only an initial announcement trailer, this game is a bright, burning spot on my radar. An open world game set in feudal Japan with a samurai turned ninja? This is everything I want in a game. I’m hoping it’s surprisingly further into development than we might expect and we’ll see a full presentation with gameplay to give an idea just what sort of game it will be. Perhaps this will replace my desire for an Assassin’s Creed set in Japan.

The Last of Us, Part II – I loved the first game and I’m looking forward to the second, even though I’m a little on the fence about a new story with Joel and Ellie. I liked the world the first game established and was more interested in seeing The Last of Us becoming an anthology franchise with each game following different characters completely unrelated to the previous game.

Nintendo – Tuesday, June 12, 9am Pacific Time

I never have anything to really look forward to with Nintendo so much as tuning in to find out what I didn’t know I was be looking forward to. Nintendo seems to pull a few cards out that nobody knew were in the works such as last year’s Metroid Prime 4 announcement. This year, I’m hoping for a little of said Metroid Prime 4 information. I’d like to see some surprises from Square Enix on Nintendo Direct since they’ve established a division working on Switch games and I like the SNES era throwback RPGs like I Am Setsuna.

Best Buy Apparently Ends Gamers Club Unlocked

News broke today that Best Buy has suddenly, and without any warning, pulled the plug on the Gamers Club and Gamers Club Unlocked programs, causing a wave of disappointment on Twitter.

For those unaware, the program cost $30 for a two year membership and gave a 20% discount off any and all new games. So long as it was still sealed, you got 20% off. Games on clearance were 20% off. Collector’s Editions were 20% off and it even extended to amiibos and strategy guides.

By all measurements, the program was far superior to Amazon Games’ Prime discounts and many speculated it helped drive gamer traffic into stores where they’d also get points on purchases with Reward Zone memberships and could price match other items to Amazon. This theoretically could have contributed to the company’s strong fourth quarter performance that saw 14% increased sales with 7% increased sales for the year.

I understand there’s not a large margin on games and Best Buy may have been bleeding money with a program as aggressive as this was. But rather than eliminate the program entirely, I would have hoped to see it adjusted to better benefit the company while still offering incentive for gamers to shop in stores. 20% off pre-orders would match Amazon while extending just 4 weeks after release, and still including the offer on Collector’s Editions, would have kept the program well above Amazon. From my understanding, Prime’s discount only counts towards pre-orders now, so even a 2 week post-release period would keep the Gamers Club Unlocked program a clear winner.

Hopefully, Best Buy will reveal a new program, but for now current members have until their membership expires to take advantage of the discounts. At the time of this writing, membership for purchase can no longer be purchased on the website and cards in store are reportedly no longer functional if taken to the register. Discounts also no longer show on item pages on Bestbuy.com, but still appear in the cart at check out.

It was the best program for gamers while it lasted. Good night, sweet prince.

NYT Gives a Fair Article a Bad Tweet

This past week, Nellie Bowles wrote an article published by the New York Times titled “All We Want to Do Is Watch Each Other Play Video Games” but the publication’s Twitter account ran with the tweet:

“America’s 150 million gamers want to gather. They want to sit next to each other, elbow to elbow, controller to controller. They want the lighting to be cool, the snacks to be Hot Pockets, and they want a full bar because they aren’t teenagers anymore.”

As one might expect, gamers began mocking the tweet and, by extension, the article itself. Yet there’s a problem with a lot of the responses I saw: They didn’t read the article. If they had, they might have found that Bowles writes a rather positive description of gaming and its future as a centerpiece of American culture. The article goes so far as to comment on Hollywood’s decline during gaming, streaming, and esports’ continued rise. The article’s message is fairly clear: Gaming is no longer a hobby just for kids and teens and is growing exponentially. Not only is it not going anywhere, but it’s going to become even more of a standard staple in entertainment and may even be the savior of some struggling industries.

Let’s evaluate the article itself:

The headline, “All We Want to Do Is Watch Each Other Play Video Games,” is referring to the meteoric rise and record setting shift witnessed with YouTube and Twitch. No gamer can deny that the old new media – gaming magazines/now gaming sites – has been upended by YouTube reviewers/critics and Let’s Players with streaming on Twitch an even newer factor.

Ninja’s 635,000 consecutive views playing Fortnite with Drake made headlines. Streaming and esports are, essentially, watching others play video games and it’s appeal has proven massive. This is noted further with the sub-headline: “Gamers are the new stars. Esports arenas are the new movie theaters.”

If there was any doubt on the direction this was going, the first sentence should set the stage: “Video games are beginning their takeover of the real world.”

The article describes how malls, movie theaters, stores, parking garages, and more locations are converting to esports arenas and content farms are popping up to generate content with the same level of management as a major studio production.

Football teams are celebrating wins with dances from Fornite, which the article notes has racked up 129 million hours viewed on Twitch in under a year. That calculates out to 2.48 million hours a week. If Fortnite was a weekly television show, that might translate to 2.48 million viewers per week. That’s half of what The Simpsons pulls in. Yet that’s not a valid 1:1 comparison. In February alone, Bowles notes that Fortnite received 2.4 billion views on YouTube.  Billion, with a B.

After establishing all this, the article states a very real fact that ESPN broadcasters were adamantly against just 3 years ago: “Esports are, finally, just like any other sport.”

eSports Saving America! (‘s malls)

 

As the online presence is growing more dominant on the streaming and review side, physical space is being taken up by esports arenas and gaming bars. However, here’s where that tweet quote comes in and even within the article where opinions may diverge.

“Those 150 million gamers in America want to gather. They want to sit next to each other, elbow to elbow, controller to controller. They want the lighting to be cool, the snacks to be Hot Pockets, and they want a full bar because they are not teenagers anymore.”

Commenters are correct – not all gamers are alike and the huge growth of eSports turn outs doesn’t mean all gamers want to squeeze into a room to watch others play games. Some don’t even want to be in a crowded place to play games together.

But I don’t think that’s really the full intent of the article and I think we, as gamers, should be a little more tempered in our reaction. “They want to sit next to each other, elbow to elbow, controller to controller” isn’t necessarily a literal statement. Nobody literally wants to sit with elbows touching and there’s no logical scenario that controllers would be. It’s more of a gaming iteration of “stand shoulder to shoulder.”

Considering the past number of years have primarily had journalists depicting gamers as anti-social goblins living in shadowy rooms despising human contact, I really think it’s reasonable to accept a claim that gamers are, in fact, normal people who want to gather with friends and enjoy a shared hobby. As the article notes, it’s a natural extension of the already sociable aspect of gaming as we chat on headsets while playing even when we’re not together in the same room.

Breaking down this contentious paragraph, simply think of it as such:

150 million gamers aren’t antisocial, they enjoy interacting with fellow gamers.
There’s a demand for public venues where the hobby can be enjoyed alongside fellow gamers.
They want these venues to have a comfortable atmosphere, not the dark basement stereotype.
The average gamer isn’t a kid anymore.

A Live Example

The article then shifts to describing a new esports arena in Oakland and its pre-opening party. 4000 people inside, a line stretched around the block right in the middle of a tourism hot spot. That’s a good turn out by any stretch and the fact that a game related venue is approved for a major tourism traffic area is more important than the gamers present.

The Co-founder is cited as saying he had to speak at four community meetings to convince the community it would like having the arena present. That means it took effort to get gaming in this location, to have it be present in the community. It also means it was successful. For all the complaints that gamers voice about how politicians, business executives, and everyone calling shots don’t get it, here you have a community that was convinced it was just as beneficial as a grocery store (the cited alternative that was initially desired). That’s a big deal.

Regarding that poorly chosen tweet, some also complained that it suggested gamers were stunted to associate “I’m grown up” exclusively with “I can drink alcohol.” That’s not accurate either, as the article notes the Oakland eSports arena faced challenges with getting a liquor license as the misconception was present that teenagers were the majority demographic when in actuality is cited with 25 being the average age. It’s a fact that most adults want alcoholic beverages as an option in public venues where they congregate.

The article has quotes from gamers in attendance, appreciating a larger venue than the typical back room in a gaming store or commenting on the layout. What caught my interest was that Bowles interviewed 77 year old designer Herb Press who may offer the most positive comment in the article:

”This is an audience involved in this particular time in the computer age, but I’m amazed how critical they are,” he said. “They do have serious concepts and tastes. I heard one come out of the bathroom and say it looked cool in there.”

Actual importance of bathroom ambiance aside, it’s worthwhile to note that it’s a tangible realization that gamers have “serious concepts and tastes” in a major publication like the New York Times. That’s a far cry from the Dorito gremlins we’re frequently written to be in clickbait articles. It suggests that despite the best efforts of certain groups, gaming is growing too big and all-encompassing as a cultural past time to be ignore and dismissed as nonsense that the kids do.

Dorito Gremlin

Even if we still find this amusingly valid in our hearts.

E-Celeb Dread

The next portion of the article is where the real concern should settle. Discussing eSports organizations and the industry that’s growing. As Bowles writes, “Their job is to be cool gamers.” The very notion sounds less like a gamer growing popular for their natural personality and connecting with an audience and more like manufactured gaming celebrities akin to the latest pop idol churned out by American Idol year after year.

It’s noted there are numerous growing eSports teams (perfectly reasonable) and content mills (possibly concerning). That’s where we’re getting into the idea of manufactured gaming. When gaming it about churning out content to mine for something that might go viral, that’s not really gaming so much as it’s trying to find something that will become popular and presenting it for the sole purpose of increasing popularity so that popularity can be translated to followers & subscribers to generate more revenue for corporations that are funding the celebrity in question.

However, it’s noted many have broken away from the entertainment company they were partnered with to pursue their own media companies. That ironically brings them full circle – back to where a content creator on YouTube has replaced the big media conglomerations and has more reach. If gaming can hope to stave off the typical corporate corruption that seems to seep into everything, an ongoing system of direct connection between creators and fans is the way to do it.

Hollywood vs Gaming

Bowles wraps up the article discussing the decline of movie going. Talking to a former Capital Records president who has turned to gamer management (again, think manufactured e-celebs), he says the future is in eSports and gaming, which he believes will surpass movies as an entertainment industry and he acknowledges that a lot of people his age still think gamers must be ‘nerds in their basement’ and says that puts the entertainment industry behind the curve, or “asleep at the switch.”

This entire article is example after example that gaming is, if not THE future of entertainment, at least a major part of it. It’s a shame that so many gamers won’t realize this article is actually in support of their hobby, proclaiming its prominence in the future of culture, based entirely on a poorly chosen tweet.

That’s not entirely at the gamers’ feet, either. They’ve gotten so used to clickbait and disparaging headlines that they do what any gamer would – they don’t play. They don’t click the article, they don’t give the publication click-money. They do what they can to deny the “enemy” points on the board. And while the context of that paragraph in the article isn’t entirely bad by my interpretation, it’s still oddly out of place in the context of the article as a whole.

After all, there’s no mention of Hot Pockets at a single esports arena, gamer bar, or gaming center in the article, nor requested by anyone interviewed, so why suggest gamers want the snacks to be Hot Pockets? That runs contrary to the paragraph’s depiction of gamers as having serious concepts and tastes as well as contrary to the push that the average gamer is an adult, not a teen or kid.

Besides, tendies are the superior choice these days, anyway. At least give a gamer some nugs.