Earlier in the year, both Sony and Microsoft had revealed that they have new consoles incoming, detailing some of the technical aspects as well as feature sets of their systems. This year’s E3 was clearly the time and place to find out what the companies have in store for kicking off the next-generation of video games.
As per usual form, the first day of E3 is generally reserved for an all-day marathon of press conferences, with Microsoft, Sony, EA and Ubisoft all showing off their latest wares in a glitzy spectacle, which in some cases is televised. In previous years, Nintendo’s conference has taken place the morning of the first day of the show, however the company decided to take a break this year and focus more on an online stream to announce some of their upcoming products. I was able to attend both Microsoft’s and EA’s conferences, and both provided a sense of excitement and high-scale production, which was expected given that both were being broadcast live on Spike TV.
Having held their own televised media briefing last month, Microsoft no longer had a lot of technical details to drudge through in regards to their Xbox One system, and instead chose to focus on an array of game reveals and demos. Revealed at the show were exclusives such as futuristic mech-filled FPS Titanfall, revitalized fighter Killer Instinct, a limitless game creation tool titled Project Spark, another title in the Halo franchise as well as a mysterious but intriguing game called Quantum Break, which will be tied in with an upcoming TV show whose outcome will be affected by how the players participate in the game.
Microsoft seemed a lot more focused on sticking to games through its conference, opting to go against bringing out celebrities on stage as they have in the past. Having already detailed the Xbox One’s functionality, they really stuck to the theme of games, which was a relief. The conference closed off with the much-awaited price, which was a surprise to some, being that the relatively high $499 price point is more than what most had hoped for. Each console is packed in with a new Kinect camera, but whether or not consumers actually want this device remains to be seen. Regardless, it seems Microsoft has already made this decision for us and is fully committed to integrating it with all functions of the system.
Having also held their own conference in February in order to focus on technical aspects of their upcoming PlayStation 4, Sony also had much more time to showcase games at their show. During the two-hour conference, we finally got a look at the design of the PlayStation 4, a sleek, slanted futuristic design that has a definite next-gen vibe to it. Sony also showed off some upcoming first-party titles including a reveal of alternate history action title The Order: 1886, blending a 19th century setting and electric guns, as well as gameplay footage of previously announced titles such as online connected racer Driveclub, platformer Knack as well as Infamous: Second Son, a game based in the same universe as the previous titles but starring an all-new character. Support for indie game devs was also outlined, with various devs appearing on stage to showcase upcoming titles such as awkward oddity Octodad: Dadliest Catch, nerve-wracking survival-horror game Outlast, and a remake of the original comedic platformer Oddworld.
With the PlayStation traditionally having more of a Japanese following compared to the Xbox, it was natural for Square Enix to have some announcements in store. The company revealed that previously announced title Final Fantasy Versus XIII was now officially becoming Final Fantasy XV. There was also a reveal of the oft-request Kingdom Hearts III, which is still a ways away but will certainly be a charming and colorful experience, combining the vast IPs that Disney now handles.
Despite having some surprises in terms of games, the biggest reveal of the show was the price point of the system. Sony received a loud round of applause and support after detailing their stance on the lack of DRM, which at the time, Microsoft had incorporated to the Xbox One system in order to limit used game sales [Editor’s Note: Microsoft has now backtracked on their DRM restrictions for the Xbox One]. It made total sense to back that statement up with the reveal of the price, which will be $399 in the US, undercutting Microsoft by $100. With a roomful of exuberant energy, the show was nearing its end, which was capped off by the first gameplay demo of Bungie’s upcoming online FPS, Destiny.
With a strong showing of upcoming games, lack of DRM and a very inviting price point, Sony is very well positioned heading into this next-generation. With Xbox having taken somewhat of a lead previously, Sony seems to be playing its cards correctly and might just be ahead in the races this Fall when both consoles launch.
EA’s conference seemed to boast the highest production values of the day, given that it was also televised, with an array of lights strewn about and giant screens shifting and morphing around the stage. With a large segment of their catalog being sports games, they showed off familiar titles such as Madden, NBA Live, UFC as well as FIFA, for which they brought out singer Drake, who claims to be a big fan of the games.
With such a large scale production, one celebrity appearance would of course not be enough, and thus actor Aaron Paul showed up to introduce a trailer for a Need for Speed movie, which frankly I don’t think anyone thinks is necessary. Following this random segment, EA went right back to games talk and showed footage and demos of titles such as cartoony FPS Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, Titanfall, racer Need For Speed Rivals and Battlefield 4, for which they brought out 64 players on stage to play an online match simultaneously.
With a lot of these titles having been shown off previously, EA did not have much in store in terms of surprise reveals, but the few that they did have really hit the mark and left fans satisfied. One of the teaser trailers was set in a snowy landscape, before an AT-AT Walker foot appeared and revealed that the company is working on another game in the Star Wars: Battlefront franchise, thought to be defunct. Saving the best for last, and answering fans who have long been clamoring for a sequel, EA closed off with a trailer for a follow-up to their stylized parkour game Mirror’s Edge. While the original game still holds up well in regards to design and gameplay, it will be interesting to see how developer DICE handles what is being called a reboot, but will hopefully retain the visual flair and intense fun that jumping around buildings at full speed brought to players with the previous game.