The E3 press conferences are, if past events are any indication, something of a preview for the 12 months to come. Not only do they reveal upcoming videogames, but the general tenor of the industry’s mainstream during the following year as well. And so, with this in mind, it seems worthwhile to go through a few of the most heartening trends and announcements from this year’s E3 press conferences.
I’m probably becoming a bit of a broken record on this count, but it’s hard to avoid since every E3’s most exciting announcements, without fail, are for entirely original videogames. Unfortunately, this type of reveal is becoming a bit rare as the cost of developing blockbuster titles continues to increase in scale with the current console generation’s technological fidelity. All of this makes the glimmer of hope offered by games like Ubisoft Paris’ For Honor, Rare’s Sea of Thieves, Guerilla Games’ Horizon: Zero Dawn, Armature Studio/Comcept’s ReCore, and Square Enix’ (barely revealed) Project SETSUNA shine that much brighter amidst all the sequels and reboots.
It’s hard to tell what many of these games will actually play like once released, but their novelty is reason enough for excitement. Original games are a chance to experience truly new ideas in the mainstream space to discover concepts, stories, and characters that haven’t become overly familiar. That alone seems worthy of celebration.
Long Awaited Project Revivals
This is a topic that will come up again next week, paradoxically, in a rundown of the worst of this year’s conferences (the paragraphs above provide a bit of foreshadowing). Regardless of future negativity, though, it’s worth being somewhat excited by the reveal of long-awaited (or hoped for) games like The Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, Star Fox Zero, DOOM, and Final Fantasy VII Remake. There isn’t really any way for these titles to live up to fan expectations, inflated to impossible proportions through years of anticipation, but it doesn’t mean that actually developing and releasing them isn’t a worthwhile endeavour.
If the creators of these games feel that a continuation—or, in some cases, an outright revival—of dormant fan favourite projects is worth the effort, then I’m at least curious to see what the resulting experiences will be. If the games end up as disappointments, those who have waited for so long will at least have closure; if (as we all hope) they turn out to be great experiences, then, well, there will be more great games to play.
This year, perhaps more than any other, E3 revealed a handful of videogames that seemed to have been created with an awareness of the medium’s dire need for greater representation—that is, to stop ignoring demographics too often underserved by games. The protagonists of Horizon: Zero Dawn, ReCore, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst are all women; gameplay footage from—and trailers for—games like Fallout 4, Dishonored 2, The Division, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate highlighted both female and male selectable player characters—even the press conferences featured a more even mix of women and men than in years past.
Aside from some strange wording during Bethesda’s Fallout 4 trailer (“ . . . and, of course, you can play as a female!”), all of this was presented as a natural evolution for the industry, not something that needed to be treated as a drastic departure from the past. Rather than make a big show of these efforts to increase diversity, the changing trend spoke for itself. This gives the happy impression that game developers and executives have, at last, realized the importance of better representation and are taking steps toward addressing the issue—not with promises, but action.
Some Attempts to Preserve the Past
It isn’t much, but Microsoft’s announcement that Xbox 360 backwards compatibility is being added to the Xbox One is still a great—and wholly unexpected—move in the right direction. Until now Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have appeared far too willing to discard past work with the introduction of the current console generation, offering remasters and collections in place of a more sustainable solution. Microsoft’s willingness to explore fairer methods of providing players with access to the 360’s catalogue (which, it should be noted, is limited to select titles for now) is a model that should be emulated. Nintendo’s slow rollout of eShop re-releases and Sony’s streaming rental service effectively sever both company’s connections to rich heritages of older but incredibly worthwhile games.
In a medium dedicated so fully to technological advancement it can be easy to forget the importance of preserving the past. Microsoft’s announcement of the work being done to rectify this problem for Xbox One owners may not make for the flashiest conference reveal, but it’s an extremely welcome one.