Each year, millions of fans across the globe tune in to E3 press conferences to see what’s next in the world of gaming. Leaders in the video game industry take the stage to present their wares, convey each year’s theme and relay messages they most want consumers to remember. Three themes have been the most prominent at E3 this year so far.
Nurturing Player Communities
For the first time in the show’s history, E3 offers public access to the biggest gaming event of the year. This development illustrates a rising shift toward speaking directly to the consumer instead of the press alone. Together with online influencers, the biggest video game publishers are sending a message that they value gamers—whether that be through rewards, community or implementing ideas from the fans.
EA forewent their usual, massive show floor presence last year, opting instead to hold its EA Play event and inviting the public to try the latest titles for themselves. They pursued the same process this year with weekend festivities of debuting and demoing games at EA Play at the Hollywood Palladium.
“Last year we went out on a limb to do something a little different with a view to change the way you interact with products before they launch,” Electronic Arts CEO Andrew Wilson explained during the company’s E3 press conference. “We wanted to do something that put the games in your hands earlier and it showed us how much further we could go . . . playing, creating and sharing with the rest of the world. We built [EA Play] this way for a very simple reason—we want more of you to experience this moment.”
Microsoft’s streaming service—recently named Mixer—was promoted aplenty during the company’s press briefing, offering rewards for watching E3 coverage through the platform. Those who link their Xbox account to Mixer by June 16 will receive the Mixpot—three free games and DLC content for three others.
Xbox president Phil Spencer said during his presentation that Mixer is their response to evolving gamer communities.
“At Xbox, we’ve always believed in the power of games to unite us all,” explained Spencer. “Today, communities of gamers not only play together, they create together and watch together. A whole new genre of games is emerging, designed for both the player and the community. With Mixer, we’re innovating new features to make these experiences even better.”
Bethesda stressed how large and active its communities are, especially when it comes to modding. To keep players coming back for more, the company introduced its new Creation Club for Skyrim Special Edition and Fallout 4. The service, coming this summer, features new weapons, armor, environments and more, made by Bethesda and development partners.
Embracing New Technology
Project Scorpio is now officially called Xbox One X—what Microsoft calls “the world’s most powerful console.” With six teraflops of memory and true 4K graphical fidelity, the new console’s fancy graphics are just the tip of the technological iceberg at this year’s E3.
Sony reminded fans that its PS4 Pro is already on the market, which features 4K graphical fidelity and VR capabilities. All games in the Sony E3 booth will be played on a 4K TV so consumers can physically see the difference. When the PS4 Pro was introduced last year, Sony found it more difficult than they imagined to illustrate the differences between HD graphics and 4K.
“As 4K TV adoption rates are up and PS4 Pro is on the market, it’s getting much easier to communicate improvements in the game experience,” PS4 pro architect Mark Cerny explained in a recorded interview played during the PlayStation Live broadcast. “Undoubtedly the best way we have to demonstrate that leap in graphics capability with [PS4] Pro is for people to see and play it for themselves.”
Microsoft is continuing its push for cross-play with its Play Anywhere games, and the Xbox One X will feature backward-compatibility with games going back to the original Xbox.
Surprisingly, VR wasn’t one of the many features Microsoft touted during its conference, but Bethesda was ready to pick up the slack. Fallout 4 VR will hit consoles this year, as well as a Doom VR port that features a unique dash/teleportation mechanic. Sony, armed with its PSVR, debuted trailers for new titles including Red Hot VR, Sparc and Star Child.
Bethesda also showed its support for new console technology with Skyrim Switch, including The Legend of Zelda-themed in-game items and amiibo support. Ubisoft unveiled its crossover Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle that is also headed to the Nintendo Switch later this fall.
While new technology is all the rage, publishers are creating ways to make video games more accessible by utilizing existing technology—smartphones. Sony highlighted its new PlayLink collection that uses phones instead of controllers and is meant to be played with others. Titles introduced in the collection include That’s You, a quiz game by Wish Studios, Hidden Agenda, a game by Until Dawn developer Supermassive Games, and three other titles called Frantics, SingStar Celebration and Knowledge is Power.
The Power Of Storytelling
4K and HD graphics aside, each video game trailer placed emphasis on the story, whether that be a continuation such as Life Is Strange: Before the Storm or a new IP like Anthem, each publisher wanted the audience to know how much thought and care went into telling a unique interactive story.
This message was especially true for EA with its presentation of FIFA 18. The game’s story mode—”The Journey“—will continue the fictional story of Alex Hunter and his quest at football stardom. Madden will debuting a similar version now dubbed “Longshot.”
In real life, publishers are encouraging gamers to tell their own stories through competition. Bethesda extended its closed Quake Champions beta access to 24/7 showed a trailer promoting the Quake World Championships.
Meanwhile, EA announced its biggest esports event ever coming this fall, inviting both professionals and others who aspire to be the best. “FIFA is the world’s game,” the company says on its website. “This will be the world’s competition.”