Analysing E3 2016: Bethesda – On a winner

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E3 2016 Analysis: Electronic Arts | Bethesda | Microsoft | Ubisoft | Sony

Last year Bethesda used their showcase to debut Fallout 4, devoting half of the show to a live gameplay demo and various Fallout announcements. For something as big as Fallout 4 I can understand, years of anticipation and a beloved franchise deserves that treatment. Does Dishonored 2 warrant that same treatment in 2016? I’d have said no before the Bethesda show, but going by how the game shines when given an extensive demo I have to say it was the right call.

Bethesda sold a lot of copies of Dishonored 2 with that walkthrough. Having a quality product is a big leg up in any marketing effort but using your biggest platform of the year to push a game that may fall through the cracks for many gamers is a great use of the format. Bethesda trusted Dishonored 2 to sell itself and gave it room to breathe, I salute them for taking the risk and salute Arkane Studios for making what looks to be one heck of a game.

Dishonored 2 sells itself but it is sad that Arkane Studios other game could not be given the same trust. Prey looks interesting, it delivers on the “spiritual successor to System Shock” pitch given in the infamous “press sneak fucks” email from 2013 but does it need to be called Prey? What does Prey even mean in 2016? That name has been around for over 20 years and only one game has ever been released, a launch year Xbox 360 shooter famous for portals that resemble female genitalia. Does a sharp, snappy, easily marketable name override a 20 year legacy of development troubles and vapourware?

I would love to find out when Quake Champions was greenlit. The teaser didn’t show much, a CG recreation of Quake 3 characters and weapons with a few “powers” thrown in. To call this a reveal betrays the meaning of the word, we were left with more questions than answers.

Is this a “hero shooter” putting a hand up and saying “me too” in this post-Overwatch world? Will it stay true to the legacy of Quake and be a true, old school arena shooter? Is this just a frantic cash-in post the success of Doom? Recent history suggests those looking for an old school shooter not get their hopes up, Quake Live’s performance can generously be called modest while several indie reboots made with tremendous love such as Toxikk and Reflex are struggling to gain traction. Id and Bethesda would be silly to not provide some nod to the old school arena shooter at final release but I think the Champions side of things will be emphasised more than the Quake side in the final release.

The rest of Bethesda’s 2016 schedule is smart business. Skyrim Remastered bridges what will be an extensive gap to the next new Elder Scrolls game, the Fallout 4 DLC seems to be well received by those still playing the game and Id taking over Doom multiplayer development and promising straight deathmatch is a good start to turning the poorly received online component around. Elder Scrolls Online seems to be doing okay if the player numbers quoted are to be believed, the card game faces an uphill battle for attention.

Then you have Bethesda VR. For a company that is hostile to one half of the current PC VR market it is brave for Bethesda to be jumping into VR so willingly. The ongoing Oculus/John Carmack legal action and how poorly the PS4 handles the standard game really limits Fallout 4 VR to Vive owners, and I doubt Fallout 4 was originally built with VR in mind. Bethesda is pushing this as more than a tentative step into the market but I remain unconvinced, especially as Doom VR hasn’t been confirmed as anything more than a tech demo thus far.

Bethesda once again justified its presence on the press conference schedule, something I thought it may struggle to do without a (truly) new Fallout or Elder Scrolls game to push. Dishonored 2 carried the load with ease in 2016 and I don’t doubt got many people excited for a game they otherwise had little interest in, myself included.