Some thought the pre-E3 2017 showcases were underwhelming, bringing little to no “big surprises.” What happened here?
“Sony’s gonna kill it this year. They have to; I can just feel it,” my friend declared, just days before E3 began. I tried to “harsh his buzz” a bit, and mentioned that the PlayStation Showcase would likely just show some new gameplay footage and release dates for previously announced titles.
“Don’t expect any big surprises,” I remarked. “We know just about everything up their sleeve, other than Sucker Punch’s next game.” Despite my tough-guy attitude, my heart fluttered at the thought of any possible surprises that Sony had in store for their fans. PlayStation brought its big guns to E3 2016—surely they’d do it again in 2017.
Yet there was no unanimous cheer or unwavering hype-fest surrounding Sony’s conference, held on the first “official” day of E3. Aside from a left-field Shadow of the Colossus announcement, everything went as expected, but with far less release date announcements. Xbox’s show just a day before also ran according to plan, as did Bethesda’s. Ubisoft definitely entertained and had its fair share of unexpected trailers, but even it failed to create a tsunami of excitement from the unnerving sea that is the Internet.
This E3 seemed to be when the bubble burst. For years, we protested against the endless cycle of “announcing a game years before its release” and “bringing out a PR manager to drone on about a title.” 2017 was the year that video game companies finally took the hint: at E3, gamers wanted to see games that were coming soon. Sadly, that meant that most players had heard of most titles on the floor, whether it be through rumors or previous announcements.
Despite the backlash against trailers for far-off games, the fact remains that those were the surprising announcements every year. The Last of Us captivated players years before its launch, just as Death Stranding‘s hype train knocked us off our feet in 2016. The community asked to know only of experiences that were within arms reach, yet expected announcements that were years away.
Game development takes a lot of time and people: we asked for games within a certain timeframe, and currently know about projects from a lot of people. Sure, there are surprises left in the industry, but those won’t release until 2019 or beyond. We don’t want those, now do we?
It certainly doesn’t help that E3’s showfloor was open to the public this year (it’s normally restricted to invited industry members). Gamers from across the world flocked to Los Angeles for E3 2017, and they expected playable demos galore. That wouldn’t exactly happen if every company brought surprise announcements for 2020 games, but left their upcoming titles at home.
Opening E3 up is not a bad thing. And many people were definitely excited by the many press briefings (including me). Yet the fact remains that many fans simply anticipated every announcement, and were never giddily caught off guard.
From the outset, we knew Xbox would unveil the Xbox One X and showcase titles to sell it. We knew Sony would bring us more God of War footage and tease us with some Spider-Man greatness. Bethesda told us their briefing would highlight games launching this year. This is what we wanted to see, this is what we wanted to play on the showfloor…and we have the audacity to complain. The audacity to say that this year was good, but not great.
They listened to us, guys.
Nintendo apparently didn’t get the memo, and uttered word of Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon with an invisible release date. The Big N had arguably the best show of the convention simply because they surprised us when no one expected it. Some players hyped themselves up for Sony and were disappointed; others lowered their expectations for Nintendo and left as champions.
What can fix E3? Honestly, not much, from a development standpoint. These companies only have so much to announce, only so many things they can create. Yet it’d certainly be a load off their backs if we, as an industry, lost our cynicism and malevolence for one week. Imagine if we hadn’t told these businesses to stop showing us far-off releases. Would we have seen Halo 6, Death Stranding, or even a Fallout 4 spinoff? Maybe so.
E3 is the one week where every gaming community comes together to wish each other the best—where we all hope that each others’ dreams come true. It should be a supportive, thoughtful week, where we celebrate any and all gaming news. In 2018, please: strive to keep an open mind to all announcements. Try to temper your expectations while keeping a wishlist in your back pocket. Hopefully, we’ll all be happier for it.