Five things I learnt from this year’s E3



E3 is upon us, which means a ton of exciting news for gamers.

But in between all the game reveals and product launches and big announcements, there’s some other information which is, to me, even more interesting.

What developers, publishers and hardware makers show off at E3 can often give away a lot about the current gaming climate, as well as their own motives, fears and objectives. Today I’m looking at some of those impressions I’ve gotten from this E3.

Xbox is losing the console war, and they know it

Backwards compatibility was a big announcement. It’s also the second (or third, or fourth) time we’ve seen Microsoft do something on the Xbox One they said they’d never do.

It all started with Always Online requirements, and it’s been downhill from there. As for backwards compatibility, Microsoft said that it wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be done.

This was a ton of work – Microsoft had to build an entire 360 emulator into the software, and you can believe that wasn’t cheap. MS have been trying everything from price cuts to bigger hard drives, and this is the ultimate Hail Mary attempt to lure consumers back to their side.

I believe the perceived value of backwards compatibility is far greater than its actual value, but in terms of sales the former is more important. However you slice it, this is a desperation move from a company that needs to make up ground before it’s too late.

Sony’s new features were predictable, and not that groundbreaking – because they didn’t need to be. How they respond now, however, will be interesting.

But, they haven’t given up on consoles yet

A part of me expected Microsoft to throw in the towel at E3. Not wholly, of course, it’s too early for that, but I was expecting a much bigger focus on Windows 10 and gaming.

We didn’t really get that. Windows 10 and Xbox streaming and all that was discussed, but despite Microsoft’s new interest in PC gaming, they’re still putting most of their efforts into the battle for console supremacy.

Which is awesome. Microsoft want Windows 10 and Xbox One to be BFFs, that much is clear, and it’s pretty great to see that they’re still fighting hard for that installed userbase. An installed Windows 10 userbase is a given, and they know that – the time for Windows 10 features can come later, and on a substantially smaller hype train.

I’m glad MS is finally making some good marketing decisions; the last few years have been a PR disaster and they appear to be getting smarter about what to push and what not.

Consider all the stops pulled.
Consider all the stops pulled.

Gamers (and publishers) still care more about sequels than new IP

This one was a little sad, although not unexpected. In addition to the expected franchised game announcements, there were quite a few new IPs on show as well.

What I noticed, however, was two things. Firstly, gamers tended to care more about the established franchises than the new IPs (Fallout 4 and Doom, in particular, seeming to generate a metric crapton of hype).

Secondly, that’s what the publishers cared more about as well. The big reveals, the most stage time, the biggest hype-generators were all saved for the sequels, rather than the new stuff.

Which, really, is just knowing your audience I suppose. I have to admit I’m guilty of this as well – I was more interested in seeing the Doom trailer than anything else, and really any beloved game getting a sequel is always maximum excitement. Sequels tend to activate nostalgia, good memories and certain expectations, which I suppose makes them more exciting. I still get depressed over the Call of Duty hype though – I’m not sure it’s earned it yet.

Still, it’s not all bad. What I did love seeing was just how MUCH new IP was on show. As much as it had to share the spotlight with the annualised favourites, publishers appear to be more and more on board with giving new ideas a chance, and I have nothing to complain about there.

Ubisoft still has some fight

Well, this was a surprise. I (and I think many others) were expecting not much from Ubisoft’s show. The new Assassin’s Creed, yet another look at will-this-ever-be-released The Division, and some other crap like Just Dance getting strutted out to do its thing.

Instead, we got a brand new South Park game (after creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker said Stick of Truth was it, forever), yet another Tom Clancy title (which looks, honestly, pretty damned cool) and shock-and-awe, a brand new IP.

After the last Assassin’s Creed was a pretty enormous letdown, I think a lot of people had written Ubi off, at least for the time being. But the French publisher came out strong, and credit to them. Sure the new IP looks a little bland, but maybe we just haven’t seen enough yet.

Hell, even the Assassin’s Creed trailer had a fair bit more personality than we’ve seen in a while.

I hope all these pretty graphics don't come with a "cinematic" frame rate.
I hope all these pretty graphics don’t come with a “cinematic” frame rate.

E3 is better and more progressive than ever before

People may criticise the likes of Anita Sarkeesian for her heavy-handed tactics (and rightfully so, on some points), but evidence that the feminist movement has finally made a dent in the gaming industry was never more evident than at this E3.

Not just in the games, where playable female characters were in abundance (and often, as central protagonists), but also in the show itself – female presenters frequently took the stage, and were actually there because they were good at their jobs, not because they look good in a revealing outfit.

As for the games, it’s been a blast. Promises of gameplay footage were actually delivered on, and it felt like new life had been injected into the industry.

A new Doom is coming, Shenmue III is in the pipeline and was funded in a single day, Final Fantasy fans got the remake they’ve been begging for for over a decade, the console makers showed some healthy competitive spirit, new IP was everywhere and even The Last Guardian looks like it might actually be finished.

It’s the best E3 we’ve had in a long, long time, and I’ve loved every bit of it.

What did you notice from this year’s expo? What stands out for you, and what are you most excited about (or disappointed with)?