Was It All A Dream? – The E3 2015 Review
Before you start reading this article, make sure you watch the video below of Gametrailers.com’s Michael Huber, who was doing a commentary during the Sony E3 2015 press conference, and his reaction to the announcement of Shenmue III.
Huber’s unrestrained euphoria is really the endearing image in my mind of E3 2015. It’s the epitome of why we cover games in the first place. We love them! We connect with them in a way that we are not able to do with other forms of entertainment. Coldwood Studios director Martin Sahlin said it best during his introduction to Unravel when he said,
“They have the ability to move you and grab you as few other art-forms can.”
Huber’s moment of ecstasy perfectly illustrates Sahlin’s point about how games move us in a way that other art-forms do not. It was representative of how all of us felt at for at least something that was announced during the course of this year’s E3.
And what a show it was! If ever there was an E3 that would be considered the “E3 of dreams” then this was it. Almost every single game the internet community has pined for in the past ten years became a reality this year. I’m not really sure what there is left for the internet to complain about now, maybe with the exception of there not being a Half Life 3 as of yet. In this one conference we got Fallout 4(to be released in 2015, no less), Star Fox Zero, Last Guardian, a new I.P. from Rare, Shenmue III, new I.P.’s from Ubisoft, Sony, and EA that look amazing and important, and of course, a game for which people have begged for since Square Enix showed off a PlayStation 3 tech demo at E3 2005, Final Fantasy VII.
E3 2015 was bigger than ever, ballooning from five major press events, to nine: a total of 20 hours devoted just to special company sponsored conferences. (And yes, I sat and watched ’em all.) Now that we are a few days removed from the big event and we have all had time to absorb the utter shock and awe of all that we witnessed over the course of the last few days, it’s time to start dissecting the events that we witnessed in order to answer the eternal question; what the hell does it all mean?
So in the spirit of digging for the deeper truths, let’s take a look at how the big three console manufacturers did at this year’s E3. (And compare them with the preview articles that I wrote prior to the beginning of the big show.)
In my preview piece, I wrote that I was expecting Microsoft to come out “guns blazing” and I don’t think that they disappointed. Sony may have played upon gamer passions in order to generate buzz, but Microsoft actually brought games that you will be able to play on Xbox One by the end of this year.
rally point for consumers. We got a surprising reveal from Rare in the form of their new open world pirate game, Sea of Thieves, and let’s not forget the intriguing ReCore, now in development from industry legend Keiji Inafune. It was an extremely wide-array of titles that all conveyed an important impression: fun.
Microsoft also, as expected, made a compelling case for VR with their mind-blowing demo for Hololense, featuring Minecraft. The demonstration sold VR tech in a way that no one else could during the conference, and I came away with the impression that Hololense will be the most viable VR tech that will be offered.
I was a bit surprised that there were no further price-cuts for the Xbox One, although in the days leading up to the conference Microsoft opted to make the $350 “sale” that has been ongoing since holiday 2014 permanent. They also introduced a new 1TB version which will replace the old 500GB model and will retail at $399. I still think a price-cut may happen for the 500GB model prior to Christmas in order to clear out old inventory.
Microsoft’s biggest announcement regarding Xbox One was the launch of backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles. This is going to be a HUGE selling point during the holiday season as they look to create the perception that Xbox One provides gamer’s with the maximum value for their dollar. The announcement was a clear shot across the bow of Sony and their PlayStation Now service, which offers players a streaming service of older titles for a monthly fee or a paid rental period. I don’t believe backwards compatibility will be the deciding factor in the race against Sony, but I do believe that it’s going to help Microsoft gain a lot of momentum for the end of the year sales push.
All in all I think Microsoft’s conference was excellent. It showcased unique and exciting exclusives, both reassuring current Xbox One owners that they made a good investment, and enticing potential customers with an invigorating future.
Nintendo gave us quite an odyssey of highs and lows at E3 2015. The highs came early on Sunday with an early morning digital event that focused on new DLC for Super Smash Bros, followed up by a marathon 5 hour long broadcast of the Nintendo World Championships in the evening. Both events did a good job of building good-will and raising expectations as far as what they would be talking about when it came time for the Tuesday Nintendo Direct main event. Unfortunately, circumstances did not allow Nintendo to carry that momentum throughout the rest of the show.
In my E3 2015 preview piece, I wrote that Nintendo was a company in transition. Heck, Reggie Fils-Amie even stated as much during the Nintendo Direct on Tuesday when he stated that Nintendo was “transforming“. We knew that the company was working on a next-gen platform and that they were not quite ready to talk about it. We also knew that Legend of Zelda was not coming to the big show, so the question was; what does Nintendo have up their sleeve? Unfortunately, that is the question that we are still asking ourselves.
Nintendo made it painfully obvious that focus is now shifted towards NX, leaving the Wii U a lame-duck system that is now way over-priced considering the future that it has left. There were however, a couple of bright spots in Nintendo’s lineup. Star Fox Zero looks very good; the revelation that it is being co-developed with Platinum Games adds a lot of intrigue to the game. Super Mario Maker continues to look like it will be a blast, (Although one could argue that it’s a disappointment that we are not getting a full-on Mario game considering this is Mario’s 30th anniversary.) however, those two titles, as good as they will probably be, are not really the titles that a company that is still fully supporting a platform would use to anchor a holiday season.
On the Nintendo 3DS side, things were a bit better, if not oddly co-op centric. Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes looks like genuine fun and it will be interesting to see how successful the game is given its reliance on 3-person questing. There is also the new Metroid Prime: Federation Force, which again, is centered around multi-player co-op gameplay. Metroid Prime: Federation Force should be able to overcome its initial negative reaction from the internet community, yet it’s still an odd choice to launch a Metroid spin-off in the first place. Why not just make a Metroid Prime: Hunters 2?
I was also surprised that two predictions that I made regarding Nintendo did not come true. First, I found it shocking that Nintendo did not take the opportunity to tease more Mario Kart 8 DLC. Second, I had predicted the debut of a new I.P. ala Splatoon, but it just didn’t materialize. That is understandable though considering the apparent shift in focus to NX.
It’s really a shame that after a very solid year in 2014, Nintendo was not able to carry that momentum forward. Hopefully this means that whatever form this new console (or operating system, as some rumors have it) takes will be well supported at launch, because NX is coming, and given the state of Wii U at E3 2015, I’d say it is coming sometime in 2016.
Perhaps the biggest wildcard to me when examining the three console manufacturers prior to E3 was Sony, and just what it was that they were going to show. Worrisome comments from Andrew House, who said that the 2015 lineup was “ a little sparse” had me wondering what was going on at some of Sony’s first-party studio’s. In my preview piece I also wrote that we needed to see what their internal studios were up to. Studios Like Sony Santa Monica; and although we still don’t know where a lot of those studios are, or what, if any first-party exclusives we will be playing on the PlayStation 4 this holiday, all of those questions seem trite now after the mega-ton announcements that Sony dropped Monday night.
Sony’s E3 2015 press conference will long be remembered as the greatest of all-time. We finally got confirmation that Last Guardian is still alive, and that it looks just as intriguing as ever. We got the dream announcement that many people thought was impossible with the announcement of the Kickstrter campaign for Shenmue III. And of course, how can any E3 2015 wrap-up piece not mention the reveal of the most demanded game of the past ten years, Final Fantasy VII: Remake. This was truly worlds colliding, Neogaf and Kickstarter crashing, end of days stuff! In the midst of all this we also got brand-new I.P. from studios like Media Molecule’s trippy Dreams, and Guerrilla Games’s fantastic-looking Horizon: Zero Dawn.
Sony also averted long drawn-out media presentations, decided against pointless VR demos, and there was nary a mention of the dreaded HD Remasters to make us question if we had actually purchased a PlayStation 3.5.
This was indeed the greatest series of moments in the 20 year history of E3 itself, all cobbled together in one momentous 90ish minute sermon on the Sony Mount. However, once the religious rapture of the evening wore away, and we started seeing clearly again, a teeny tiny little truth emerged: just what from Sony will we be playing at the end of 2015?
And there it was staring us in the face. Sony’s conference, while stellar, was a dizzying array of smoke and mirrors. An intoxicating diversionary tactic to get us excited (rightfully so) about the future, while encouraging us to ignore the present.
There is nothing wrong with that tactic, and please don’t take this as me trying to be some curmudgeon pundit trying to rain on everyone’s parade, because I am just as excited and still buzzing about Sony’s huge evening as anyone; but the fact is that Sony will once again have to rely on third party publishers to carry them through this holiday season, and that is slightly disappointing. Last Guardian and Horizon: Zero Dawn won’t reach our hands until 2016. No Man’s Sky is still floating around out there. (Although Sean Murray of developer Hello Games did mention that they were very close to a release date) Shenmue III? End of 2016 at the earliest. As for the FFVII remake – I will go on record right now to say that it will be out in 2017 as part of a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII’s original release.
But these are nothing more than fleeting criticisms. Ten years from now, as we look back on the greatest moments in E3 history, we won’t deride Sony for having a sparse 2015 lineup. No, we will remember Sony’s E3 2015 conference as the night Sony shocked the world. The moment that we all were able to believe that no matter how impossible the circumstances may be, any dream is possible.
Grade: Best conference of all time!
The doors at the L.A. Convention Center have now closed on E3 2015. After such an unbelievable showing this year, it’s hard to imagine how subsequent showings from these three companies will be able to live up to a week that will soon become legend. They will get their chance to try again though, because E3 2016 will begin June 14th – 16th 2016.
What were your thoughts on E3 2015? Pontificate on the show of shows in the comments section below.
Be sure to check out all of NerdBacon’s coverage of E3 2015 right here.
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