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So… who won E3 2017?

by Ron Duwell | June 19, 2017

I’m having a hard time approaching “Who won E3 this year?” in that there is no outright winner in the traditional sense. I’m sorry to say that I was not overly pleased with the show, and it leaves me with a heavy heart knowing that 2017 could be a very very front-heavy year for gaming. All the while, as I approach fatherhood and find that gaming eats up less of my time, perhaps having fewer options to choose from is ultimately healthier, am I right?

Let’s focus on the winners of E3 2017 to start out with.


The early hits of 2017

I’m sure a lot of you realize this, but there have been a ton of great games that came out over the last six months. A lot of them are niche titles that appeal to smaller audiences than the big fall and winter blockbusters, but with the exception of Super Mario Odyssey, not one game I saw at the show makes me think that they can topple these early hits of 2017. Games like:

  • Nioh
  • NieR: Automata
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Gravity Rush 2
  • Yakuza 0
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Persona 5
  • Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadow of Valentia
  • Resident Evil 7

That’s not even counting indie games! These pre-E3 2017 marvels all dominated critics’ circles and shocked the sales charts, some of them putting up seven-digit figures.2017 has also been relatively stinker-free. Only

2017 has also been relatively stinker-free. Only Mass Effect: Andromeda seems to have come up on the wrong end of that discussion. A big one, sure, but not big enough to derail its contemporaries.

Unless late 2017 can deliver a solid stream of incredible blockbusters, this could go down as the year when the spring slump overshadowed the holiday rush. E3 convinced me that just might be the case.

Mario

I’ll relax on saying that “Nintendo outright won E3” this year. I thought it had the best showing of the three console makers, as well as the most enticing gaming platform, but the company didn’t quite hit home. Its brief Spotlight presentation dropped a few bombs like Pokémon and Metroid Prime 4, but we didn’t get any footage of either. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was kinda neat in the same way that Spider-Man was… kinda neat.

What really put it over the edge of its competitors was that the whole show clocked in under 30 minutes and felt even shorter… and of course this.

Nintendo had one message this year, and it nailed it. You want to buy a Nintendo Switch, and you want to play Super Mario on it. After all, why else do we buy Nintendo consoles? Mario games are always the best!

Super Mario Odyssey had the best trailer of the show. It showed off lots of gameplay, got fans hyped for the countless possibilities of Mario’s new hat powers, and it even delivered a new catchy theme song. I’ve listened to it more times than I care to admit since the show ended.

And speaking of Mario, what about “Super Mario XCOM… with Rabbids!” Mario had such a presence at E3 2017 that even other companies were looking to get in on the action. Ubisoft showed off its Mario game, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle game, and it somehow got even the game’s largest detractors excited for it.

You never thought the Rabbids would have a place in the hearts of hardcore gamers again, did you? Well, leave it to Mario and friends to change that train of thought.

Even hands-on impressions from the floor claim that it is more than just a fun trailer. The game has legs to become a real critical hit, and hopefully it will for Ubisoft’s sake, unless it wants to risk the wrath of Nintendo coming down on it hard.

The Big N doesn’t lend out Mario too often to other publishers, let alone ones not even in Japan, so this could set a new precedent… both ways.

Mario wasn’t restricted to just the Nintendo Switch either. However, I’m not quite as big on this announcement since it’s a remake of a game that I didn’t really think needed a remake. However, if Mario & Luigi is your thing or if you want to see the classic Superstar Saga through new eyes, then by all means!

Ubisoft

Unlike the console developers, I have no problem proclaiming Ubisoft a universal success at E3 2017. It had been a few years since the company put on a really solid show, and with its corporate future on the line, the France-based company delivered huge in 2017.

Aside from Mario, who certainly helped, Ubisoft just didn’t miss a beat. It got me pumped for games I have no intention of buying, like The Crew 2, but even better, it went ahead and got me excited for a game I didn’t even know I wanted!

Skull and Bones was my favorite surprise at E3 2017. It has all the makings of a sleeper hit that just shows up out of nowhere and steals the show from the ones we thought would dominate. Kind of like a real pirate ship! Just saying, after the trailer and the demonstration, I’m far more excited to play this than God of War or Spider-Man. If my PlayStation 4 gets any use this holiday season, it strangely enough will be through mostly Ubisoft games.

Assassin’s Creed Origins and Far Cry 5 look solid enough, but Ubisoft also closed its presentation with another unforgettable trailer, for better or worse.

Beyond Good & Evil 2 is a total crowd pleaser, one fans have waited forever to play. Now that we have it back, somewhat, a cloud of concerns hovering above its development has fans wondering what the heck this game really is. Ubisoft’s own development diaries paint a game that sounds far more ambitious than any other we saw at E3, and it still might be for two or even three more years. Peter Molyneux and the No Man’s Sky team are probably calling up Michel Ancel right now and saying… “Dude… seriously?”

Then there are the complaints about the forced swearing in the trailer and the fact that this outrageous game doesn’t even mesh with the subtle and serene sci-fi that made the original a cult hit. Fascinating questions all around, but… yeah… it was definitely the weirdest reveal at E3 2017.

My guess is that this was announced because Ubisoft wanted to get it into the public before the Vivendi takeover. That way, if it gets canceled, Vivendi gets to eat the blame, and Ubisoft gets one final FU in before it sails off into the sunset after a great E3 showing.

Bruz the Chopper

Video gaming’s newest sweetheart. Middle-earth: Shadow of War’s cockney orc turned me off the first time I saw him (after my head had completely caved in upon itself during the Microsoft’s conference,) but he has grown on me a lot over the last week.

He’s like Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII, only much cuter.

I’m still wondering if he’ll be able to break away from being a fun internet meme and become a memorable character in the game itself, but post-E3 2017, the orc at least scored a bright five minutes of fame.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War is also warming up for me as well. The Nemesis system, once again, provides some slick strategizing and insane opportunities that other open world games simply can’t.


And the losers. I don’t want to focus on these too much, but it must be done to some extent.

Microsoft’s plans to kill console generations

Relax, kids. Microsoft’s mid-generation cycle is not going to disrupt the familiar flow of video game generations that we’ve known since the beginning of time. For $499 on top of what you already paid for your first Xbox One, you might be getting a boost in performance, but what else?

Exclusive games you can’t find anywhere else? Nope, the standard model plays them just fine. Access to more content that otherwise wouldn’t be available? Lordy no, Microsoft is dead set on unifying its brand and allowing total cross-platform availability.

What you’re getting is a $499 luxury device, not a new and exciting world of games or an evolutionary leap, and it will remain this way as long as the Xbox One X is restricted to the boundaries of the original model. Whatever its success is, it will not detract from Nintendo, and possibly Sony, from sticking to a traditional means of moving forward. There isn’t enough to justify leaving this as a standard for the next however many years.

E3 press conferences

Remember back when Ubisoft showed off Rayman Legends in front of a live audience at E3 2012 and had two employees play through a tough level flawlessly? Oh, that was so beautiful… and so forever and an age ago.

Long gone are the days when an E3 press conference could send chills down the spine of even the most jaded gamer. *raises hand* At least, that was the message that everyone besides Ubisoft delivered at E3 2017.

I didn’t shy away from the comparison in my reactions, and I won’t shy away here either. E3 2017 simply devolved into YouTube playlists of video game trailers. An hour and a half, an hour, half-an-hour, you name it. Microsoft at least paraded a goofy eSports announcer onto the stage to try and engage with the audience. Sony didn’t even bother! Trailer after trailer after trailer after trailer after trailer. I spent the whole press conference wondering when it was going to get started, and I was shocked to find out… it’s ending?!

Those who say “just gameplay, please” don’t know what they are talking about. This is marketing. Your fine product alone is not enough to get it done. Haven’t you seen Mad Men? Humans can deliver an extra level of excitement, even this guy, and that goes double if the human is delivering it live.

Hell, the most impressive announcement at Microsoft’s show was backwards compatibility for original Xbox games on Xbox One, and that came from a human being’s mouth with a good old-fashion image planted on an off-screen right behind him. No need for a trailer on that one.

Tired, exhausted AAA games

I’m starting to live in a crazy deja vu world where The Last of Us being set in an open world is justified as a new game called Days Gone.

I’m trapped on a plane of existence where the Uncharted series came to an end, and yet… here it is at E3 once again.

Where Spider-Man, a superhero known for his acrobatics and freedom, is stuck on rails with QTEs controlling his every move.

A bizarro existence where BioWare can take Destiny, set it in an open world, give it an Attack on Titan setup, call it Anthem, and not only get credit for a new idea, but also call it an RPG.

This impossible realm is so outlandish that even gamers, the most cynical and unforgiving audience on the face of this Earth, are somehow yet again falling into the David Cage hype machine!

At least I have to give credit to God of War. It at least realized that something had to change. It ditched its old inspiration of Devil May Cry and is now following in Dark Souls’ footsteps. Kratos, always a few years behind his Japanese counterparts.

You know exactly what you’re getting with these games, whether they are morality simulators or open world games with waypoints and scripted missions or cover based shooters that border on Hollywood movies. At the beginning of this gaming generation, we were told that fatigue had settled in for these kinds of games because the previous console generation had gone on too long. We were told this new console generation would introduce us to new possibilities

… well? Where are they?

Multiplayer voice actors

I’m looking at you, Anthem! If it wasn’t for you, this abysmal trend would have been totally obliterated from E3 2017! Ubisoft at least listened to the criticisms and didn’t show a single multiplayer game with scripted, phony, embarrassing voice actors trying to act like video gamers in a multiplayer setting.

While the rest of E3 2017 came up short, this is one thing I’m glad was left out.


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Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...