This year, the dust wasn’t so much kicked up, as given a gentle sweeping.The premier trade event for the video game industrywas a somewhat disappointing affair, with no major wow moments and less grandstanding than usual. For the most part, this felt like an interval E3, an armistice agreed between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo until next year’s renewed battle in LA.
Microsoft’s conference was the clearest example. While it was a very strong showing, with 50 games on display and 15 “world premieres”, the real message underneath was that Microsoft wasn’t giving up the fight, which in itself is a bit deflating.
Microsoft’s head of gaming Phil Spencer spoke about cloud gaming being the future of the industry, highlighting Microsoft’s excellent work on their Netflix-like subscription Xbox Game Pass as an example. In the same breath, however, he confirmed that Microsoft are already working on their next generation console.
Microsoft also made a canny move in announcing five new first-party development studios. If there is one area where Microsoft has fallen short this generation, and where Sony has excelled, it’s on console exclusives.
Meanwhile, Sony did a great job highlighting that very strength. They showed an exceptional slate of games in development, from The Last of Us 2 to Death Stranding to Ghosts of Tsushima, along with a few surprises. For the most part, though, their show was a continuation of E3 2017 — they are in such a position of strength, that not much more was needed.
Nintendo, meanwhile, pleased their hardcore fans with an update Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon, but the Nippon giant keeps most of its surprises for separate Nintendo Direct shows and the real big hitters, mainline Mario and Zelda games, aren’t due a proper update for another few years.
Finally, the other big hitters didn’t have too many surprises in store either. Perhaps the most disappointing of all were Bethesda. While the team did have some surprises, including Doom and Wolfenstein updates, their two biggest reveals came with a whimper. Their long-rumoured sci-fi follow-up to Skyrim, called Starfield, was announced — but with zero details, aside from the name. In addition, Elder Scrolls VI got the same treatment, with nothing more than a logo shown.
While it was great to have these games confirmed, knowing we have to wait at least a year to learn anything about them is just frustrating. Meanwhile, EA announced a new Star Wars game in similar fashion. All we know is Iit’s called Jedi: Fallen Order.
Still, despite the lack of surprises or excitement, what E3 2018 did show was how healthy gaming is right now. There is a huge amount of top quality games coming down the line — our controllers certainly won’t be gathering dust.
OPENING THE VALVE
Meanwhile, in the world of PC gaming, a very interesting story has developed. Valve, the custodian of Steam, the online store which accounts for the vast majority of sales in PC gaming, has essentially declared that “anything goes” on its storefront. In other words, Valve won’t control the kind of content that gets placed on Steam.
This announcement comes in the wake of Valve banning a game called Active Shooter from its storefront in recent weeks. Active Shooter put players in a US high-school setting, gun in hand. After public outcry, the game was identified by Valve and removed.
“[This decision means] you will see things on Steam that you hate, that you don’t think should exist,” a statement said.
Unless you don’t have any opinions, that’s guaranteed to happen. But you’re also going to see something on the Store that you believe should be there, and some other people will hate it and want it not to exist.
Valve did promise that “illegal” games and “trolling” games would not be tolerated, although it failed to define the latter. This could be considered a brave move by Valve, allowing free speech on its platform. It could also be
considered irresponsible, however, and even helpless. For now, however, we’ll just have to wait and see how the new policy affects developers and the games they release.