Opinion: The year I was happy to skip E3 2016

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E3 2016 is over and the dust is starting to settle. At multiple times I had damned this year as the worst in recent memory before the show floor was even open, simply because it’d be the first in many years that I didn’t get to attend. Now that things are slowing down, I’ve collected my thoughts and can properly reflect on this year’s event. In doing so, I’ve realised that I’ve not missed out on much. Before the Sony press conference I was all but ready to give up on the event completely and get some sleep. Thankfully, things started to pick up a bit from that point, but I’m still not sure it was enough to keep people interested in the anal annual event. Worst of all we have to relive the entire thing, wading through the shit to get to the good stuff in this recap.

Speaking of shit, I’ll start with this year’s EA press conference (like everyone else was forced to). Sport games will happen every year; very good. There were no dates or information on anything I am really interested in, but I expected that. The shitty thing about EA, every year, are the stupid buzzwords that accompany a grandiose PowerPoint presentation. If I wanted to know what the word “play” was all about, I sure wouldn’t be asking EA. Every year, EA’s show somehow gets more and more awkward. Just stay home and read your ridged, lifeless teleprompter speech to the boardroom directly, guys and girls. A few Star Wars games were announced or confirmed, but just barely. Mass Effect: Andromeda is still a thing, but we know next to nothing about it —  so we are all still in the same boat as last year. Let’s just be thankful we didn’t have another Pele interview.

So with the wrong tone now set by EA, I was ready for things to pick up. It’s not a good sign when the thing I’m most exited about is an HD port, but Bethesda’s conference washed a little of the bad taste out of my mouth. I was entertained for the whole conference; that’s because Bethesda understands its audience. It’s cool to see a new Quake on the way and the reimagined Prey looks amazing, even though it’s a little disappointing to see that Prey 2 had to die for this one to get off the ground. Still, it looks exiting, so I’m happy for Bethesda to handle these reimaginings as it tends to do. Dishonored 2 is shaping up to be totally incredible; for something that was simply off my radar before the show, I’m now eagerly awaiting it.

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Without a doubt, Microsoft was the conference I was looking forward to most this year. The publisher has the most to gain and I thought it was going to come out swinging, blowing people away. I need a reason to start playing more games on my Xbox One and that’s what I was anticipating with Microsoft’s press conference. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the amazing show-winning spectacle I was waiting for. It certainly wasn’t bad — plenty of great stuff was shown — but I have little interest in most of it.

Everything Xbox is doing with Xbox Live is brilliant, and I think that was one of the best things presented. Native pick- up groups and tournaments are very clever. The real slap in the face for me was mundane gameplay for two games I’m really looking forward to. Final Fantasy XV made me a little worried for the finished product and the Scalebound demo completely turned me off. I’m skipping Scalebound now unless it gets incredible reviews.

Gears of War is not looking all that special either. It’s kind of hard to put my finger on why, but it just kind of looks… well, meh. I was surprised I’m a little interested in Sea of Thieves and I know I’m getting that Gwent game day one. The only other thing that has me exited is ReCore, but I knew that was coming so it didn’t get me all that hyped, yo. As for the two new consoles I know they aren’t for me. Just like the Play Anywhere idea — I’m sure it’s great for someone, but that someone isn’t me. The Scorpio reveal was a huge mistake; as it’s not coming for a year and a half, Microsoft has just given Sony plenty of time to upgrade beforehand. What a confusing announcement.

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Ubisoft has always been a little cringeworthy for me but, at least its conference is funny. I’m honestly not interested in the majority of Ubisoft franchises, with the only real exception being South Park. No surprise then that I didn’t care at all bout Just Dance, Watch underscore Dogs 2, For Honor or Ghost Recon, but the South Park gameplay, as usual, had me in stitches. Steep looks interesting but I know I don’t want anything to do with it; the same goes for Eagle Flight and Grow Home. The big surprise for me was Star Trek: Bridge Crew, which looks like a geek’s dream. I don’t know if I’ll be getting into VR for quite a while, but I cant wait to give that a go with some friends.

I was losing interest in E3 far ahead of the final conference of the year — Sony. Before Shawn Layton had taken to the stage, I had already decreed this the shittest E3 ever, and nothing was going to change that. Or so I thought; watching the show changed  everything. I was hyped as fuck — just as Sony intended. Last year’s show proved it’s important to look at the games missing release dates — or footage of any kind, in some cases — and consider them at least a year off at best. With that in mind, I still couldn’t stop myself from getting exited at all the potential game of the year entrants for 2019, JK LOL. That orchestra thing was cool for the intro but in trying to hype the crowd it went a little too long. Actually, it wasn’t the orchestra that went on too long — it was that female John Davis impersonator beatboxing from within the depths of her weird ol’ lungs. Anyway, God of War looks amazing; I’ve never been even slightly interested in the series before this, but I’m on board for this one.

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I’m looking forward to both The Last Guardian and Horizon: Zero Dawn and I was happy so see some more gameplay, but I’m fully aware they exist already so I’d have been happy with less time spend on them during the presentation. The Crash Bandicoot announcement is a total cop out, but maybe it will lead somewhere in the future. Knowing Activision is at the helm, it’s just as likely to lead somewhere the fans don’t want… even moreso than Skylanders. I have no idea what Death Stranding is, but I couldn’t be more exited. This was a big win for Sony and a big statement from Kojima. I’m sure Spider-Man will be fantastic, but I’m a little on the fence for Resident Evil VII. The series is close to my heart and while I’ve been begging for it to go in a new direction for years, I still need some convincing. The biggest disappointment from Sony was what it didn’t show. For me, that’s squarely (pun intended) the Final Fantasy VII remake. I can understand that Square Enix is trying to sell us on the upcoming Final Fantasy XV first and foremost, and they probably doesn’t want to confuse things, but I want more information and proof of progress.

The biggest surprise for me is my game of show. The company that all but skipped E3 with the confident message that they had only one thing to show off actually delivered the goods. I was looking forward to seeing what The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was all about, but I was sure that it wouldn’t be enough to cover Nintendo for the whole show. I was wholly wrong.

I haven’t turned on my Wii U in two years and I wasn’t planning on doing so ever again. I’ve moved twice since buying it and never bothered to unpack it. This is the only purchase I’ve ever really regretted when it comes to consoles. I say all this to illustrate just how much I hate my Wii U so you’ll understand how much of a big deal it was for me to brush the dust off it after watching Breath of the Wild‘s gameplay. Nintendo burned me with its last console so I want to try and stop myself from being an early adopter of whatever the NX is. Lucky for me I have the option to use the big old waste of money now sitting next to my other consoles once again.

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I still think this will go down as one of the least exciting E3s ever, and it may be the sign of things to come. All I know is by the end it wasn’t quite as hopeless as I initially thought it was, but that’s hardly a glowing endorsement. Is that really good enough? If it wasn’t for Sony and Nintendo swooping in at the end with some interesting games, this year would have been a total write off for me. I’ve been in LA for the last three years of E3 and missing this one was a tough decision — at first. As the exhibition went on I was more and more certain I had made the correct decision in skipping it. I’m not ready to see this as the end of E3 as the phenomenon it is in the industry just yet, but this year sure didn’t help quell the voices questioning the its validity in the ever-increasing global village mentality.