In all of my infinite wisdom, prior to E3 I had decided that Electronic Arts and Ubisoft were my two most anticipated press conferences. I figured that by now both publishers must be aware of their negative image amongst gamers and that this year’s E3 would be the perfect platform for them to win some trust back and get gamers back on their side.
After all E3 is an industry trade show aimed at the attending press and the dedicated gamers at home watching, gamers so dedicated to gaming that they take time out of their schedules to watch video game press conferences for entertainment purposes. I expected EA and Ubisoft to want to win E3, to have a desire to show that they are still relevant to gamers, to paraphrase the immortal words of Gob Bluth “I made a huge mistake”.
E3 takes place in Los Angeles, home of Hollywood and there is a shared belief amongst Hollywood screenwriters that a successful script provides the viewer with information by showing them and not telling them, that in a visual medium it is insulting to people’s intelligence to tell them your story when you can just as easily show them it. Similarly E3 is a visual medium, these press conferences take place on a stage, surrounded by screens, watched by hundreds of journalists in the crowd and hundreds and thousands of eager viewers at home.
So why are we continually told that these companies are one of us, that gaming excites them and that they care about making games that excite us? Actions speak louder than words and EA and Ubisoft’s press conferences have showed us that they are not one of us, that gaming does not excite them and that they do not care about making games that excite us, they care about making money.
EA and Ubisoft’s press conferences displayed a frightening lack of self-awareness, the overwhelming image I have of them in my head following E3, is of Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock saying “How do you do fellow kids”.
You are watching an E3 press conference, think of a five letter word that ends with the letters ‘m-e-s’ if you are thinking “I know this, the answer is games” you are wrong, the answer according to Ubisoft is ‘memes’ apparently.
ELECTRONIC ARTS (EA)
I usually embrace the awkwardness of E3, game developers not used to public speaking, demonstrating their games to a large audience can be excused being nervous or making awkward jokes and to an extent, that is what we got. Electronic Arts announced the puzzle-platformer Unravel presented for the first time by the lead developer of Swedish game studio Coldwood. The presentation was unexpected, passionate and endearingly awkward. Unravel looks like a puzzle-platformer in the style of Limbo with the visual aesthetic of Little Big Planet. I look forward to playing it.
EA’s Unravel Gameplay Trailer
What is inexcusable though is the sheer amount of time that EA wasted at their E3 press conference. I understand that Pele is a legend in his sport, I also appreciate that he is a significant cultural icon but why was he on stage at E3, telling us three (yes, THREE) stories from his life? In a section that seemed to last forever, we were told numerous times how sharing a stage with Pele was a dream come true for Fifa producer David Rutter but that is not why we are watching E3, we want to see video games.
I assumed Pele’s presence was to promote a new game mode in Fifa 16 a ‘Be a legend’ mode inspired by NBA 2K11’s excellent Michael Jordan legacy mode but nope, there is no such mode in Fifa 16; I do not understand what EA were thinking.
In fact as a whole their EA Sports section took up far too much time and they did not even announce a new Fight Night or EA Sports UFC 2, we were introduced to ‘Da Hoop Gawd’ though, a cynical real world version of Poochie from The Simpsons, a genetic creation presumably grown in a lab to allow corporate executives to infiltrate gaming communities, akin to Skynet’s creation of the T-800 endoskeletons.
If EA want to prove that they are down with the kids, then where was Skate 4 complete with a Hall of Meat game mode featuring gaming personality PewDiePie?
For those unaware, PewDiePie recently single-handedly brought the Skate franchise back into relevancy by making some extremely popular Skate 3 videos that catapulted the game back into the gaming charts. Surely Skate 4 featuring PewDiePie would be a license to print money, not only that but it would also mean the return of a beloved, critically acclaimed franchise, right?
In fact, following E3 I have come to the conclusion that all of the brilliant IPs that EA hold hostage will never see the light of day again, they are dead. So let us hold a brief vigil for: American McGee’s Alice, Army of Two, Black, Burnout, Dante’s Inferno, Dead Space, Def Jam, Fight Night, Mercenaries, And The Saboteur & SSX. The wealth of quality IPs they ignore is at times, maddening (pun intended).
The two brief highlights in ninety minutes of bewilderment, were Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst a prequel to Mirror’s Edge that I genuinely applaud EA for sticking with and of course, Star Wars Battlefront which was the saving grace of the entire conference.
The fears of gamers that the new Battlefront was not going to be true to the Battlefront franchise were perhaps unfounded, sure there will unfortunately be no prequel content and no space battles but Star Wars Battlefront showed us a stunning map on the ice planet Hoth with gorgeous visuals and a game that looked incredibly faithful to the franchise and strongly evoked memories of my own time with the Battlefront franchise on my PS 2.
The Battlefront demonstration saved EA’s press conference from irrelevancy, a testament to how good Dice’s Battlefront actually looks. I sometimes feel as though EA are so close to becoming the gaming publisher they deserve to be, if only they committed more to their brilliant games and talented developers.
I was probably the only person on planet Earth that was optimistic about Ubisoft’s press conference going in to E3 and when they opened with Matt Stone and Trey Parker announcing South Park: The Fractured but Whole, I not only laughed at the stupid title but I bought into the hype of Ubisoft’s return to greatness. South Park: The Stick of Truth was one of the best games of 2014 and Matt and Trey were a disarming presence at E3, ruthlessly mocking Ubisoft’s headset microphones. I was anticipating a down-to-Earth press conference of surprises, with Ubisoft eager to win back the faith of gamers.
What we got was an absolute cringe-inducing drunk uncle wedding dance of a press conference, with South Park being the lone highlight of a cynical, out-of-touch press conference of corporate buzz words and disappointing announcements.
I am a massive fan of the TV show Archer and a big fan of Aisha Tyler’s voiceover work, and I understand that as a strong female in a male dominated industry she is an inspiring presence but she is simply not suited to presenting a press conference at E3, no matter how often she reminds us that she is one of us.
The forced swearing, the poorly timed sex jokes and the bizarre constant references to memes, as though the assembled press were a bunch of eleven-year old internet trolls, were all out of place. The Ubisoft press conference almost became The Aisha Tyler Show rather than a gaming industry expo, with Aisha laughing with her celebrity friends and even stopping for a musical interlude as Jason Derulo pierced our ear drums with his unwanted musical number, before telling us what a fan of Just Dance 2016 he is, which presumably made him the only one in the building.
Look if some television company wants to make an Aisha Tyler Chat Show similar to those of Conan O’Brien or David Letterman, more power to them, I would probably watch it. At E3 though, I want to see games, games and more games. Bethesda understands this, Nintendo understand this, Sony understands this and under the stable influence of Phil Spencer, Microsoft now understands this.
You may have expected that Ubisoft would be eager to repair the image of Assassin’s Creed after the abysmal Unity and that Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate would take centre stage at E3, well me too but all they showed was a dreaded ‘cinematic’ trailer. I would comment on it but if Ubisoft don’t even care about Assassin’s Creed any more, then neither should we.
When this generation of consoles were initially announced, the single game that I was most hyped about was The Division, I love snow and Christmas, I love open-world cities and I love RPG mechanics.
2015 is the third year that The Division has been at E3 and they still have nothing to show us, besides an insultingly phoney multi-player ‘demonstration’. Ubisoft were desperate to tell us that they listened and valued our feedback, so why did we get another unconvincingly scripted ‘game-play’ video of The Division? The last one was torn apart for being so obviously a fake. Ubisoft tells us that they listen, but what they show us, proves that they do not, or at the very least that they do not care about our opinion at all.
I stuck by The Division after two years of nothing concrete, stayed optimistic after the downgrade announcement (FYI the downgrade is real) but this is where my interest stops. The only thing we know about The Division is that given Ubisoft’s constant mentions of loot during the demonstration, Ubisoft clearly want them some of that there Destiny money.
The sole bright spot of Ubisoft’s E3 was Rainbow Six: Siege that was until they switched it at the last minute for an episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio with Angela Bassett, with Ubisoft seemingly thinking they could recapture the Kevin Spacey Advanced Warfare announcement, not realising that Angela Bassett (with all due respect) is not Frank Underwood and Rainbow Six: Siege is not Call of Duty and should not try to be.
No mention of: Splinter Cell, Beyond Good and Evil 2, Prince of Persia, Watch Dogs 2, Rayman or any Ubiart games. My reward for optimism is crushing disappointment, a brutal but necessary lesson, one that I will not be in any hurry to repeat; at least gamers still have our memes and Jason Derulo though.
After the disappointments of EA and Ubisoft, Sony President Shuhei Yoshida must have been backstage like B-Rabbit in 8 Mile confident that he figuratively had the raps to defeat Papa Doc and that he knew his opponent’s strategy and was determined to win that record deal. I imagine him backstage, headphones in, shadow-boxing, knowing, just knowing that he had the ammunition to destroy E3. Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…
Sony killed E3 and left it a smouldering crater where Pele is still sat talking about his trip to Sweden and Jason Derulo is waiting to collect his Just Dance 2016 pay-check.
Sony have long considered themselves as being ‘for the gamers’ they told us what their intentions sure, but this E3 they definitely showed us that they mean business.
The. Last. Guardian. The game we long-feared dead just burst from the ashes, not like a phoenix but more like a glorious feathered dog-bird, magnificent in all of its splendour. The spiritual successor to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian is developed by Fumito Yueda and Team Ico. The Last Guardian sees players taking on the role of a young boy and his giant best friend who resembles Falkor from The NeverEnding Story. Suffice to say, I am already attached to the main characters and Sony are assembling a diverse catalogue of video games that position the Playstation 4 as the console with the most varied selection of exclusive titles.
Horizon: Zero Dawn by Guerrilla Games is a new IP from the Killzone developer that looks to be equal parts Far Cry: Blood Dragon and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Shoot robot dinosaurs with a bow? Yes please, Sony.
No Man’s Sky the space exploration title finally delivered some actual game-play and looks overwhelmingly massive.
Sony have laid waste to the gaming landscape, in an age where big publishers are increasingly risk-averse, Sony seem to be endearingly reckless. A Final Fantasy VII Remake, check. Shenmue 3, check. All of this feels surreal to write down, Sony delivered a conference of equal parts nostalgia and triple A big budget gaming. Call of Duty: Black Ops III has switched sides, Star Wars Battlefront exclusivity and of course Uncharted 4 which (tin-foil hat time) I think Sony purposely made the demo crash to prove that they were playing an actual build of the game, it looks magnificent, unrivalled next gen banter between Drake and Sully coming in 2016.
Final Fantasy VII Remake!!!
At E3 we heard every executive tell us that they are all for the gamers, Sony just showed us they are, even if their 2015 is still a little too light on first party content for my liking.
Stay here at FilmGamesEtc for all your continued E3 news and expect one final report from me as I eagerly await Square-Enix’s press conference.
Given that in recent years Square-Enix have really started to right their ship and pull themselves back from the disaster of last generation. I am expecting big things; hopefully we see more of the crazy Final Fantasy VII remake (or Trollception as I call it), Just Cause 3, Sleeping Dogs 2 and fingers crossed, a Final Fantasy XII HD remaster. The entitled man-child in me expects nothing less, Sony have spoiled me rotten.