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Ms. H Grades the 2018 E3 Press Conferences

Written by RealMsH

Prior to the start of the E3 Entertainment Expo held annually in Los Angeles, California, video game companies have press conferences to advertise or promote their existing as well as upcoming games. Press conferences were held on June 10, 2018 through June 11, 2018 with E3 scheduled to be held June 12-14, 2018.   

For some video game companies, it seems as if a change in leadership is in order.  It appears to me that some of the CEO’s etc. do not appear to take these press conferences as seriously as they used to. For example, one company (Sony) in particular, apparently did not think it was worth the CEO’s time to show up at the press conference simply to greet gamers to thank them for their  support. After all, there would not be a video game industry, if nobody played video games.

There was even a press conference that should have been canceled. The one I’m referring to is the Devolver Digital press conference whose main purpose it seemed was to parody video games and insult the audience with lots of profane language. To top it off, the host boasted that she never played any of these “garbage” video games. Her lines were probably scripted, but I watched this conference for just a few minutes before I  stopped. I saw no real value of watching the Devolver Digital press conference.

To look on the bright side, there are some video game companies that do take gaming seriously and put on a press conference that is worth watching. I will include highlights from each of the press conferences, if any -- along with their grade. So -- without further ado, here are my grades for the video game press conferences starting from the bottom (those receiving a failing grade of F) and ending with the press conference that, in my opinion, topped all of the others -- receiving a grade of A.

Devolver Digital -- Grade: F -- Lowest Ranking

Rationale for Grade F: I was afraid my IQ would drop significantly if I continued to watch this mockery of a press conference so I stopped when I realized there was no value.  Not only did the host degrade video games by calling them “garbage”, but she in turn patted herself on the back for having never played any of these video games . When the topic turne seeming glorifying loot boxes, I knew I had watched this conference long enough so I stopped.

Highlights:  None

Recommendation: I think this sort of commentary is par for the course for Devolver Digital; therefore, since it may return next year, I’ve decided that I will not cover this conference in my line up of press conferences.  I recommend this conference be removed from being listed with the other bone fide video games press conferences.

Sony - Grade: F -- Lowest Ranking

Rationale for Grade F: Sony gets a grade of F -- similar to Devolver Digital -- because I did not gain anything from watching this so-called press conference.  Merely showing excerpts of video games sometimes along with the release dates were not a step up from me watching video games footage on youtube or elsewhere. In fact, I empathize with the people in the audience who could have watched the footage shown from the comfort of their own home.

NOTE:  This is a direct message to Sony.  If none of your executives find it fit to appear even for a few minutes to thank supporters or to at least acknowledge your video game supporters, then I think it is best not to have a press conference at all.  Keep a low profile as you did here at the E3 press conference and let your competitor, Microsoft acquire your portion of the video game business -- since clearly, you are not interested enough to make an appearance at your own press conference. Sony executives -- Remember this saying:  "Part of winning a battle -- is to just show up!"

Highlights: The video game, The Last of Us II was presented which showed quite a bit of drama and lots action.  I think Sony may have pushed the envelope by showing some of the scenes in The Last of Us II, but sometimes this can be used to capture people’s attention. Some other video games shown included, Control, Resident Evil 2 which has a release date of January 25, 2019, Kingdom Hearts 3 which has a release date of January 29, 2019, Ghost of Tsushima Mongol Invasion, Control, Trover Saves the Universe and Spider-Man.

Recommendation: Feature more entertaining music for an introduction instead of the banjo playing rendition which I did not find interesting. Have at least one Sony executive to appear either at the beginning, during or at the end of the video game presentations.  Merely showing a series of video games during a press conference with no CEOs or other executives in sight does not cut it.

Square Enix - Grade D-

Rationale for Grade D -:  Unlike Sony, at least an executive from the company showed up; however, the fallacy of this press conference was the abbreviated  length -- which lasted only 30 minutes.

Highlights: Some of the video games shown were: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (release date  September 14, 2018), Stormblood Final Fantasy XIV, Captain Spirit (release date June 26, 2018), Dragon Quest XI (release date September 4, 2018), Nier Automatic (release date June 26, 2018), Tiny Octopath Traveler (release date  July 13, 2018); Just Case 4 (release date December 4, 2018) and a new video game, The Quiet Man.

Recommendation:  There was no excuse for the short press conference that ended as soon as it started. Square Enix needs to provide an update of some older games to fill up the time, if new games and updates do not enable the press conference to last at least one hour.

PC Gaming - Grade D+

Rationale for Grade D+:  Even though over 30 PC games were discussed, many of the titles were existing video games -- nothing new. At a press conference, gamers and other people interested in video games want  to find out something new, that was unknown before. Rehashing old video games served no useful purpose.

Highlights:  Some of the video games shown were  Satisfactory, Stay Human-Neo Cab, Maverick’s Proving Ground and The Forgotten City which won a National Guild Writing award.  Other video games discussed were Storm Control Origins (release date September 20, 2018), Hunt: Showdown (release date July 17, 2018), The Sinking City, Warframe The Sacrifice (release date June 2018),  and Warframe Tenno! Live 2018. Other games included Shimme Mo, Valkyrie, Bayonetta, and Yazuko 0. A big game coming out is Jurassic World Evolution (release date June 2018 ) and Just Cause 4. Just Cause 4 runs on a brand new engine called Apex. An announcement was made that TripWire is publishing to help indie developers.

A standout video game by Insomniac that was received favorably was Stormland Robots which is a virtual reality video game from Oculus Studios from Oculus Rift. More information can be found at oculus.com/stormland. Additional video games include Taxi Parisien,Sable and a space video game to be released called Star Citizen. During this segment the Predator X 27 as well as the Predator 21 X monitors were discussed.

Additional video games shown included Walking Dead-The Final Season (release date August 14, 2018). A game that drew some chuckles from the audience was 2 Point Hospital which is a cartoon video game set in a hospital.  Fighting video games include Realm Royale which is free-to-play. A cartoon video game footage that was shown was Ooblets which comes to the PC and Xbox. A strategy PC game coming out is Anon 1800 which is a strategy, sandbox video game.  An additional video game to be released is Hitman 2 (release date November 13, 2018).

Recommendation:  A plus for this conference was most of the developers for the games were present and able to answer questions about their video games.  A minus was the tendency for the host to ask the same question to different developers, such as how their game is unique or different from the  others. If similar questions are asked, the host should find some way to paraphrase or ask the question in a different way. Also as mentioned previously, these seemed to be a library of existing rather than new video games.

Nintendo - Grade C-

Rationale for Grade C - There was nothing new to see here.  To be fair, I tuned in half-way through the show and heard a stoic voice discuss the game play of Smash Brothers. He discussed the video game as if it was a class project instead of a video game.

Highlights: What stood out for me was when you thought the conference was over, Nintendo showed footage that almost looked like an RPG of Smash Bros.  I guess this may have been their highlight, but to me, the footage was not impressive. There was a disclaimer that the video seen was not actual gameplay.

Recommendation:  Instead of rehashing what a lot of Nintendo players already know about these video games, discuss something new that is being worked on or future additions to current Nintendo games.

Bethesda - Grade C

Rationale for Grade C:  Bethesda got caught in a time warp as the company tried to excite the crowd  by bringing out an 80’s style rock band. This was also introductory music for the game being tooted -- Rage 2. I noticed a few smiles in the audience; but for the most part they were not into the music.  What I did not like about the presentations is after a few sentences the presenter would pause to wait for the applause which was sometimes not warranted.

Highlights:  In addition to Elder Scrolls Legends being discussed as the MMO of the year for three years in a row and having amassed over 11 million players -- the Summer set DLC was announced -- which is available now.  Doom Eternal which was rebooted in 2016 was also brought up as well as Quake. In fact, this week, Quake Champions trial is free to play and is available at quake.com. The Prey video game along with free updates were also discussed as well as Wolfenstein II which will be available for the Nintendo Switch June 29, 2018.

Recommendation: Bethesda seems to be resting on its laurels with no new games introduced.  It is all well and good to talk about past accomplishments relative to games, but I would recommend the company discuss upcoming new games -- that is -- if there are any.

 

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EA - Grade B-

Rationale for Grade B-: Fortunately the female MC who kicked off the show did not have a constant presence throughout the press conference -- there were other speakers as well.  I think EA used the 2 hour time slot alloted for their press conference wisely to present some of their video games. Even though EA is probably known mostly for sports game, I like that this genre did not dominate the show.  There was an even mix of other type games as well including Battlefield V. It was also mentioned that these games would not include loot boxes, etc.

Highlights:  There is a free trial FIFA 18 available for play.  Additionally the CEO of EA, Andrew Wilson appeared on stage (unlike Sony) to discuss video games, streaming and subscriptions. The name of the new Star Wars game was announced which is Star Wars, Jedi - Fallen Order with an expected release date of Holiday, 2019.

I liked that the disastrous Battlefront II was not sugar coated but it looked like they learned from their mistakes with this game. A complete overhaul of Battlefront II was done with new modes added.

The yarn video game, Unravel 2 was discussed including the addition of a partner yarn figure. The big announcement here is the game is available as of June 11, 2018.

Another video game announced was Sea of Solitude where the presented explained the reason behind this game including what happens when the figure is sad and lonely. It may look like a dismal game but there is the ability to change this character to be playful. The presenter stated the game was based on her own experiences. Sea of Solitude is expected to be released early, 2019.

A downside on the EA conference for me was the awkward conversation between the Pittsburgh steeler football player and the current video game champion during their time on the stage.  I was not a fan of how at the end of the presentation, the Pittsburgh Steeler player took the belt away from the video game champion, for no apparent reason.

The Anthem video game was discussed which reminded me of the Halo video game. It was explained that the game is not an MMO and you have the ability to play multiplayer and can  leave the gameplay to return to your home base. This was described as being different from other video games; however, from my experience playing Skyforge, there is the option for the character to return to a home base as well.  There may be other similar video games also. The release date for Anthem is expected to be February 22, 2019.

Recommendation:  Next year, dispense with the current hostess and get someone who is affiliated with EA to be the announcer instead.  Also, have people practice reading from a teleprompter so it is not obvious that the conversations are being read.

Microsoft - Grade B

Rationale for Grade B - First and foremost, I liked the fact that Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox (unlike Sony) took the time to appear on stage, in person, to give an introduction to the games discuss some of the video games and most importantly -  thank everyone for their support. He was not a no-show similar to the head executives at Sony.

Highlights:  Phil Spencer pitched the group Fanfest, where proceeds will go to Games Outreach.  He provided a recap of the number of games to be discussed emphasizing that this will be the most video games showcased during a press conference.  The number of video games are: 50 games, 18 exclusives and 15 world premier.

Some of the video games displayed by presenters included Ori, Fallout 4 (which launched June 11, 2018), Fall out 76 which can be preordered. Captain Spirit was also introduced that can be downloaded for free beginning June 26, 2018. Crackdown 3 has a release date of February ,2019.

Other games presented were Kingdom Hearts and Sea of Thieves where it was tooted to have over 4 million people who played over 91 million hours.

A short demo was provided of Battlefield V as well as gameplay from Forza Horizon 4 where the game will feature various terrains and changing weather conditions.

One of the biggest announcements Phil Spencer made was the addition of five developers to Microsoft Studio, which include The Initiative, Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory and Compulsion Games.

Other games displayed were Tales Of Vesperia: Definitive Edition which has a release date of Winter, 2019; Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider which has a release date of September 14, 2018, Pearl Abyss, BloodStone, Alexra - Black Desert as well as DMC, and Cuphead in 2019 and Dying Light 2. Regarding Dying LIght 2 --  it was explained that choices you make during gameplay have genuine consequences that can change the story. A demo was done to illustrate this.

Additional games include Battletoads, which is a co-op coming out in 2019, and Just Cause 4.  For Gears of War, there is a new mobile Popups video game.

Ashley Speicher discussed GamePass and the fact that when video games release for the systems, some will also be available for GamePass.

Phil Spencer returned to the stage to give a recap of the games and to once again thank everyone for coming. He said these games are best played on the Xbox One, which I took to be a snub at Sony’s PS4 -- since some of the games are also playable on the competing system. He also discussed new projects in the works including gaming AI or artificial intelligence, cloud engines, etc. He stated the team is working on the next Xbox and that Xbox One X sets the benchmark for the system.

Recommendation:  I would have liked to see more actual video game demonstrations on stage with players showing the gameplay on stage instead of the slew of cinematic images that were more like trailer advertisements.

DRUM ROLL -- AND THE WINNER OF THE 2018 E3 PRESS CONFERENCES IS:

 

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Ubisoft - Grade A -- Highest Rating

Rationale for Grade A: Not only did Ubisoft have a fair number of executives and inside people who work for Ubisoft at their press conference, but they pulled a surprise guest “out of the hat” that I will reveal to you later.  This surprise guest clinched their win of the 2018 E3 Press Conferences. By doing so, they showed that it’s advantageous to seize an opportunity when it presents itself -- even though this visit of course was probably planned way in advance.

Highlights:  The action-adventure RPG game, Beyond Good and Evil was showcased. The developers extended an invitation to all to provide ideas for the game. This would not be  a contest or competition, but contributions to the game as a whole or a collaboration Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who starred in numerous movies and now is part of the video game company HitRecord appeared on the stage.  

An additional video game discussed was Rainbow Six-Siege which now has over 35 million players. Another highlight was the arrival of a motorcycle driver in the audience to introduce the video game Trials Rising, which is a video game that has a release date of February 2019.

Tom Clancy’s Division 2 followed with the spokesperson giving more background on the video game.  This game will have unique weapons to unlock as you rebuild society that has been devastated by a small pox virus. There is an 8 player co-op for this game.  A big announcement was that Raids will be coming to Division 2 via 3 DLCs which will be completely free.

On a lighter note, Donkey Kong Adventures will be available June 26, 2018. A game that reminded me of Assassin's Creed, Skull & Bones has good graphics especially of the water and the ships was also announced.

Next Elijah Wood, yet another celebrity actor appeared on the stage.  He talked about the video game, Transference, which has some resemblance to Silent Hill. This game will be available in the Fall, 2018. Additionally, The computer robot war video game, Star Link will be available October 16, 2018

Yves Guillemot, co founder and CEO of Ubisoft came on the stage and introduced -- WAIT FOR IT -- Mr. Miyamoto --  Mr. Nintendo himself to the press conference. Mr. Miyamota was sitting up front and graciously accepted the gift of a Star Link statue -- After which he was asked to join the other Ubisoft people backstage.  When Mr. Miyamota was acknowledged in the audience, there was a moment when you could practically hear a loud gasp in the audience. This was also the moment when Ubisoft won the E3 2018 Press Conference.

Crew 2 which is a racing game in open Beta was shown. You can join the open Beta beginning June 21, 2018.

A new game called Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was introduced which has a Greek-Roman look.  You can choose to play as Alexios or Kassandra and this game has a release date of October 5, 2018.

Recommendation:  During the conference, I got the feeling the video game visuals were being rushed before another video game appeared right after the other.  This is not a problem; however, it would be helpful if the name of the video game showed at the beginning of each of the video footages to be clear as to the name of the video game being presented.

My Take on the 2018 E3 Press Conference

Overall, I think the video game companies were trying to put their best foot forward without too many missteps.  I like the fact that there were a number of female presenters during the conference which is a change and a step in the right direction. However, real strides will start to be made when women are in the management - decision making authoritative positions in the video game industry.

That being said, I believe everyone did a good job to the best of their ability -- and I look forward to seeing what new ideas, creations and innovations relative to video games will be presented in subsequent press conferences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqFY29ClYTQ

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