I'm not going to lie, E3 is a bit of a "burden" for me. For one, the constant cycle of live streams has, on several occasions, broken me to the point of exhaustion. Likewise, as a moderator of a video game website, I can tell you the event surfaces some all too familiar feelings of anxiety. While inclusivity in video games is inching in a positive direction, something about E3 incites the worst of people. Even so, I decided to have a little "fun" with my E3 2019 predictions. As a disclaimer, I want you to know my predictions are more or less broad musings about E3 in general. So, without further ado, let's jump into it!
Prediction #1: Microsoft Will Announce More Than Twenty Indie Games During A Five-Minute Montage
We start this blog by turning our attention to Microsoft, and what I would describe as my least favorite E3 tradition. During Microsoft's conference, I predict they will announce a record number of exciting indie games during their yearly ID@Xbox montage. As with previous years, these short vignettes will attract more critical acclaim than the vast majority of AAA games showcased on their stage. Admittedly, games shown during the ID@Xbox demo reel have a solid track record of panning out as expected. To illustrate, Cuphead and Dead Cells both had their E3 debuts during Microsoft's montage. No matter, its existence is, at least in my opinion, an emblem of E3's limitations.
I suspect part of what drives this demo reel is there are games worth showing that cannot justify an on-stage demo. Additionally, I understand E3 is meant for veteran gamers and members of the press who use it as a means of exploring future game purchases. Nonetheless, the shortcomings of this segment highlight how E3's format has remained static for well over a decade. To try to boil down the essence of any game to a ten to fifteen-second snippet flies against the dynamism that makes video games interesting in the first place. Worse, this tradition perpetually undermines Microsoft's efforts to frame itself as an indie "friendly" partner. Which, in this day and age, seems ill-advised.
Prediction #2: People Will State Games They Are Demoing Will NOT Use Loot Boxes
It's been an "interesting" year for loot boxes. Nigh two months ago Mortal Kombat 11's use of loot boxes drew universal condemnation. Then you have Fortnite, whose use of loot boxes motivated several politicians to consider regulating the practice. Nonetheless, I'm not predicting a full-on "loot box apology tour" during any particular E3 conference. Even so, I suspect the issue of loot boxes will come up throughout E3. For instance, I predict at least one developer will proudly exclaim their game lacks microtransactions during a major press conference. Likewise, we will most likely listen to a CEO pledging to keep their company "in touch" with its community of supporters. Or better yet, someone on stage will claim they have "listened to their fans."
I don't want my previous paragraph to suggest I support loot boxes. Quite the contrary, I find the practice exploitative as it preys of some people's issues with self-control or gambling addictions. Nonetheless, I have zero tolerance for million-dollar corporations dogpiling on another company's misfortune by trying to frame themselves as being "consumer friendly." This heinous practice usually comes from Devolver Digital whose chaotic conference more often than not attempts to take the piss out of other companies. That, in my honest opinion, is total dogshit. For one thing, we are talking about people's livelihoods. An executive's poor decision-making should not be used as a segue to shit on other people's hard work. Finally, and this is a point Rami Ismail made last year, you KNOW every developer has considered microtransactions at least once when making a game. To celebrate the failures of another developer for following through on their "gut reaction" is beyond fucked.
Prediction #3: Nintendo Will Announce A Spin-off To A Beloved Franchise No One Wanted
By far one of the more baffling E3's traditions occurs during Nintendo's conference. Every year the world's most recognizable video game company psyches out gamers far and wide by inverting their expectations. Whether it be a crossover with Ubisoft's Rabbids or that Metroid Prime soccer game, Nintendo has a habit of over-estimating the value of name brands. More recently, while fans were clamoring for a proper console Animal Crossing game, Nintendo instead announced a worthless Animal Crossing board game. And don't get me started about Nintendo's repeated antagonism about a western release of Mother 3. I mean, for fuck's sake Nintendo, this isn't funny anymore!
In part, and I hate to play this card, but I blame Nintendo's E3 hubris on its fans. Lest we not forget, when Nintendo revealed they were monetizing their online multiplayer functions, with no promises of improving the service, people applauded their announcement. I get some will claim this occurred thanks to industry "plants," but I have my doubts. I can tell you from experience, if Nintendo hacked apart a cow on stage, people would STILL applaud them. The result is Nintendo is bound by some curse to strike out on at least one game every E3. This year, I'm hedging my bets on a Star Fox spin-off. My guess is it's a collectible card game where Fox McCloud goes up against an army of Yu-Gi-Oh rejects.
Prediction #4: Every AAA Developer Will Avoid Questions Related To Crunch
Last year Waypoint ran a post-E3 article in which its staff compiled publisher and developer responses to questions about "crunch time." The report was exhaustive in scope and beyond enlightening. While some openly embraced Waypoint's questioning, others were outright hostile. How dare the press have the audacity to question the well-being of developers during gaming's biggest stage! Worse, to see industry veterans such as Reggie Fils-Aimé fumble the issue entirely was gut-wrenching. On top of that, my heart sunk every time a producer excused the practice as an "inevitability."
This year, with tales of the "true" cost of game development coming to the forefront, I do not think the issue of crunch is going away for the sake of E3 2019. Nor should it, as the extra visibility may lead to industry-wide change. However, I can only imagine armies of PR representatives will respond to these questions with rehearsed lines repeating corporate approved statements about company wellness. Moreover, we are dancing around the issue if E3 itself is by design a "high-risk" environment that leads to the practice of crunch. While many gaming journalists are apt to deplore crunch, they remain complacent when participating in E3 "press awards." These awards, in turn, can impact the long-term financial viability of a video game as they relate to a game's marketing prospects. It's a horrible capitalistic Sisyphean torment, but one we all have a role in perpetuating.
Prediction #5: Every Conference Will Treat Remasters Like "New" Releases
I want to preface I don't hate HD Remasters. For many, remasters represent a viable way to play classic video games on modern hardware legally. Likewise, I don't blame developers for investing their resources on remastering games. The industry is currently in flux, and it's hard to be a video game developer nowadays. No matter, I can only hope the development teams who toil away at remasters gain future opportunities to make original video game experiences. Also, I have to question if remasters divert interest in developing unique IPs.
Additionally, and this is a matter I address on my Bionic Commando (2009) blog, it is beyond frustrating how often publishers release HD remasters without any follow up. Take, for example, Capcom and its current relationship to Okami. Since the game's release, Capcom has ported Okami to every conceivable platform. However, Capcom has yet to invest its time on a game with even half the creativity of Okami. Additionally, I find it incredibly difficult to get excited about remasters during E3 as I feel like I'm falling into a marketing trap. For one thing, they provide an easy way for publishers to pad out their "exclusive" numbers. Again, I understand the publisher's motivations here, but I have to question if E3 is the best platform for these games. For example, last year, when Microsoft revealed a remaster of Tales of Vesperia for the Xbox One, the success of that release wasn't stopping Namco from making a new "Tales of..." game. That was happening, no matter what.
Prediction #6: Sony Trolls E3 By Announcing Games On Social Media
In an announcement that caught many off-guard, late last year, Sony confirmed they would not host an E3 2019 press conference. The decision was a significant blow to the clout of E3 as an industry-wide event, but it was an announcement many predicted. I think I speak for everyone, but watching a publisher struggle to fill time to justify a full-blown conference, is downright painful. While I am a noted fan of Bethesda's video game library, I do not think they have ever justified having their own stage. Likewise, time and time again, video games have used streaming services and social media to drum up support for half the cost of a booth at E3. Admittedly, Sony's attempts to emulate the success of Nintendo Direct have been mixed, but it's clear they are trying new things.
Even so, I don't think for a minute Sony will be totally absent during E3 2019. Feel free to accuse me of being a video game conspiracy theorist, but I suspect Sony will take advantage of E3 on social media. You cannot convince me, especially after Death Stranding threw the internet in a tizzy, they do not have a single video game worth promoting during E3. That is why I think they'll take to Twitter or YouTube and ride off the coattails of E3. Furthermore, I have a hunch they'll announce something during the Microsoft or Nintendo press conferences. It would be a total troll move, but absolutely glorious. Likewise, as video game development becomes more accessible, developers should feel more empowered to promote their games on their terms like Sony.
Prediction #7: Patch Notes Will Be Treated Like New Game Announcements
Of my humorous E3 predictions, this one hurts the most. With Microsoft, EA, Square-Enix, and Bethesda all having multiplayer-focused video games, some of their conference time will be dedicated to disclosing online patches. In the case of EA and Bethesda, talking about the long-term plans of their massively multiplayer games is all but guaranteed. But let's not sleep on Square-Enix whom I have a sneaking suspicion will spend upwards to ten minutes reviewing incremental changes to Final Fantasy XIV. And with Microsoft trying to rebuild goodwill about Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3, you know they have something similar in store for their presser.
Then we have EA and Bethesda. In the case of EA, I cannot fathom how many multiplayer shooters will have their patch notes lectured in excruciating detail. Anthem, Battlefield V, and Battlefront 2 all are bound to have some form of representation at E3 2019, and my guess is it will be underwhelming. Regarding Bethesda, your guess is as good as mine. Directly communicating that they have upcoming patches for Fallout 76 might be a step in the right direction, but at this point is it even worth it? My guess is they reveal a free expansion and promptly discuss necessary in-game quality improvements. Is that enough? Probably not, but something like Fallout 76 doesn't go away in the blink of an eye.