Game On or Game Over: E3 2016

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Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?

Andy: Well, here we are again, it’s kind of cool to think that this is where we started three years ago. Our first Game On or Game Over article we talked about E3 2014 — not sure how Steve lets us keep rambling – but as long as he gives us permission we’re going to keep going. With all that said another E3 has come and gone. Lots of discussions about games both already announced and newly announced have been written. If you ask 100 gamers what the highlight/disappointments were of E3 you’ll most likely get 100 different answers.

It seems only fitting that you and I get a chance to voice our opinions on this year’s show and what we saw. Being that I am an eternal optimist I prefer to end on a positive note. So let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first. Now that you’ve had a chance to digest everything that went down was there anything that really stood out to you as a disappointment, or multiple disappointments if you will from the show.

Nicholas: If I talk about the biggest disappointment of E3, I think it has to be the entire conference itself. What I mean by that is, and while some people will disagree I know some are on the same page, the entire event just seemed underwhelming. There were a handful of cool announcements which we’ll undoubtedly touch on later, but overall there was nothing that really made me jump up with excitement. Perhaps this has to do with the fact I’m a massive fan of racing, but aside from Forza Horizon 3, there were no new racing titles discussed during the show. EA’s offerings seemed average at best, gameplay-wise there wasn’t much that Microsoft put forward that I liked and for the rest, I’ve kind of just glossed over.

I think for me, another problem with E3 this year was how much everything being shown is set for release in 2017. Mass Effect Andromeda looks amazing (as you’d expect) but it’s not coming until 2017. There’s no new Assassin’s Creed games coming until 2017. Yooka-Laylee has also been delayed until next year too. I get that events like these are trying to stir up the hype-machine, but when it’s that far out, it’s hard to get motivated and even harder to stay motivated.

So yeah, for me, not enough games that I’m personally keen on, and of those, too many are due for release next year. What about you though? You’ve perhaps followed E3 closer than I have. What were the ‘standout’ lowlights for you, and what do you think of what I’ve commented on above?

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Andy: We really do have to stop making this a habit, but I 100% agree with you. The last two years (2014 and 2015) I followed E3 very closely. I watched every press conference and poured over tons of things written about games that were coming out and that were in the pipeline. Yet this year, for a variety of reasons, I had trouble getting interested in much of what went on. Part of that is the big draw for me least year was Fallout 4 being announced. Once that was confirmed, and confirmed to be releasing in 2015, I was on cloud nine. To quote ‘The Lego Movie’, “everything was awesome!” This year though, there wasn’t that “Holy shit!” moment for me.

Another reason my “blah” feeling of E3 this year is what you touched on above in that a great deal of what we saw was slated for 2017 or beyond. It’s really hard for me to get overly excited for a game that’s not even coming out this year. Then, you factor in that some of those games slated for 2017 will be pushed back and my interest drops even more. I just don’t understand the industry practice of announcing games so far ahead of their release dates. In my opinion Bethesda got it right last year when they dropped the Fallout Shelter is available now and then, “Oh yeah Fallout 4 is out in a couple months too” line. The other thing that deflated some of my interest in this year’s E3 was all the leaks and the “known” games that were going to be talked about. EA was hit the hardest by these leaks I think. Some of the leaks were games I was interested in, and some were games I didn’t care about but the week or so leading up to E3 it seemed like something else was “leaked”, it just got tiring.

For me the entire conference overall just seemed flat and stale. It had a “been there done that” feel to it. Almost like the presentations and games being talked about were just going through the motions. As big of a gamer as I am, I found it really hard to care about most of what was going on and that was an extremely odd feeling for me.

Enough of the negative stuff though. We got that out of our system, we can leave all that behind. Let’s get to the good stuff. Even though neither of us really cared for the conference as a whole there were still bits and pieces that had me interested and excited, I can only assume that is the same for you. So, with that said what were some of the games, or tech, that was talked about last week that got your attention, and that you are looking forward to?

Nicholas: My first answer, and which I’m sure will come as a surprise to no-one, is Forza Horizon 3. If I’m honest, this is purely due to the fact that the game will be set in Australia and not because of the gameplay. For me, any game that recognises Australia either as a setting, in their cars or as a track is amazing, so I’m keen to see what they translate across in terms of cities and landmarks. Due to the fact that I never really got into FH2 (despite the fact I absolutely loved the first game) I’m hoping that the local settings will re-invigorate my love for the Horizon franchise again.

That aside, I’m also interested to see how the remakes of Crash Bandicoot work out. As our readers will know, we’re both Xbox gamers, but I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to potentially buy a PS4. I only played some of the Crash games as a kid on my cousin’s consoles, so I wouldn’t mind getting the chance to play these properly for the first time. Coupled with the new God of War too. Again though, and as I’ve mentioned in my initial response, none of these are ‘ZOMG I NEED THEM NOW’ games, more-so just titles I wouldn’t mind potentially checking out.

Throwing it back to you though, what are your standouts? Is there anything either on the horizon (see what I did there) or in 2017 that they’ve announced that you’re keen on?

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Andy: Oh without a doubt Forza Horizon 3 was a highlight for me. 4-player co-op is an automatic win for me, you know how much I love playing with friends in a co-op style game. I really hope they bring back the Bucket List challenges as well, those were amazing. Plus, I finally get to visit Australia – as an added benefit I don’t have to fear for my life from every living creature down there either. That’s a definite plus in my book.

The other two games that I really liked what I saw of were Mafia 3, which seems like it has the makings of being a great game and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The caveat of those two games though is that we already knew they were both coming out long before E3 rolled around. Being that I loved the previous games in each of those series they are no-brainer buys for me. Deus Ex will be Day One for sure, partly because it releases in August when not much else is out, but also because I love that setting. Mafia 3 I’ll get, just not sure if it’s a must-buy during the first week or not.

Ok, we’ve covered our disappointments and a few games we are looking forward to. Since E3 is traditionally a place where developers and publishers come out of nowhere to surprise us, I was wondering if there were any games, tech or other announcements from E3 that legitimately surprised you (either in a good way or a bad way)? I’m curious to see if anything truly surprised you this year. I know I have a couple things in mind, what about you though?

Nicholas: As far as tech is concerned, there’s two announcements that surprised me, and one that I’m keen to see more of. So starting with the former, I was surprised by Microsoft with their console reveals and Sony with their lack thereof. We spoke very recently about Microsoft and their rumoured super-powerful Xbox One codenamed ‘Scorpio’, so that didn’t come as a surprise, but it was the fact they’re going to launch that alongside an Xbox One S that I felt was a tad money-hungry. The reasons for the new Xbox One make sense, I get that, but to announce that alongside just a smaller version of the current Xbox One with the same power specs, to me seemed like a money grab to get much cash out of the market that they could before they released Scorpio. With Sony, it just struck me as strange that they didn’t elaborate on Neo further.

So the other tech announcements that I’m keen to learn more about is VR. Once again, it’s another thing we’ve spoken about in the past, but it’s something neither of us were really passionate about at that stage. Now that we’re seeing examples of how companies will potentially incorporate that into games, I’m starting to get interested in potentially giving it a crack. Flying X-wings in Star Wars or playing a Batman game through his eyes, it certainly has the potential to deliver some strong gaming moments.

What about yourself though? Was there any tech announcements or highlights that have piqued your interest? Furthermore, why do you think Sony decided to keep quiet about Neo?

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Andy: The Xbox One Slim is one of my surprises as well. Like you said, I understand the reasoning behind the Scorpio, more raw power, support for VR, 4K and what have you. My surprise is also announcing the Slim version. The announcement of the latter seemed like a “just because” type of announcement. “Hey here’s this super amazing Xbox Scorpio that we are working on, it will be ready next year. In the meantime you can replace your perfectly good Xbox One with a smaller version that’s white.”  Just seems odd to me, but, what surprised me the most of the Xbox One Slim was something they really didn’t talk a lot about, it has no dedicated Kinect port on the back. It seems Microsoft has decided it was time to pull the remaining plug on the Kinect experiment. I can’t see it living on now. With as much time, effort, money and advertising that Microsoft put into the Kinect it’s surprising that three years in it’s become almost extinct.

I have to be honest, on the VR side I didn’t pay attention to any of it. With my motion sickness trials I have had in the past I’m not going to purchase a $500 plus peripheral in the hopes that at least one game doesn’t make me sick. So every VR presentation was a bathroom break for me. I just never see myself ever feeling inclined to play a game with VR. Even when Bethesda said Fallout 4 would be VR compatible I didn’t care and that is saying something.

There was one game that really surprised me, and in a good way. It’s something I didn’t think we would see this generation, or even in future generations really. We all knew Titanfall 2 was going to be announced, again another of EAs worst kept secrets. The surprising part was when EA said that all DLC would be free. Surprising for a couple reasons; first it’s an EA game. Usually ‘EA’ and ‘free’ don’t go together in the same sentence. Second, the first game had a season pass, and there it bucks the trend of every shooter of the past 5-8 years in regards to paid map packs etc. Looking at it constructively, I wonder if with the original Titanfall once they released a map pack there was a huge fragmentation on their player base and that’s when people slowly stopped playing. Who knows, free DLC is something I hope becomes the rule instead of the exception.

As we close in on the end of another discussion this week I am looking at my little notepad with notes from E3 and see that I have a bunch of other things I’d like to talk about. No doubt those will pop up here in the next couple weeks as we struggle through the slow season of gaming. Before we end though I wanted to ask you one thing, and maybe your answer will lead to a whole other article. But, is E3 as we know it slowly dying out? Does the entire E3 idea need to be revamped and have renewed focus on exactly what it is, and what it’s supposed to be? To me it seems that E3 has lost its original intent and has morphed into something many people aren’t exactly sure of anymore. Is that a fair statement? Lastly, do you have any closing thoughts on this year’s E3 as a whole?

Nicholas: Ooh, there are quite a few juicy questions you’ve asked there. Starting with the last first, I think E3 this year was very much a ‘miss’ as far as I’m concerned. Whether that’s because the leaks essentially gave away everything that was meant to be ‘announced’ during the conference or whether it’s simply due to the fact that everything seemed underwhelming, for me it was just a weak year for the conference – from the outside looking in. None of the games were spectacular (or at least weren’t known about well in advance) and we knew about all the hardware beforehand. What I think will be a lot better is E3 2017, when all these games start being released and any titles that took a break in 2016 come back with sequels for next year.

As far as whether E3 is dying out, I certainly don’t think so, I purely believe it’s just a case of it being a somewhat dull year. E3 still acts as a great platform to share what’s upcoming from the major gaming publishers, I just think more effort needs to be made on keeping the E3 secrets actually secret – so there’s a point for us to tune in for the three days. I miss that sense of suspense leading up to E3 where I have ideas on what might be announced but ultimately have no clue, so when the coverage starts coming out I’m left shocked with surprise and excitement.

I’ll be keen to see how E3 2017 plays out. The next 12 months of gaming seems a little uneventful for the greater part, but I still think there’s a lot of life left in gaming’s biggest conference. Upwards and onwards!

Tune in next time for the next instalment of Game On or Game Over. If you have any ideas for our next article, feel free to contact Andy or Nicholas on Twitter.