Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft and EA. We're not sure which video game deity dubbed these five worthy enough to give full presentations at E3, but just with last year and the year before that, these companies' press conferences are where most of the exciting announcements occur.
We all remember last year's exciting press conferences. Sony laid the smackdown on Microsoft's DRM policies, EA unveiled its plans to unify game development under two next-gen graphic engines, and Nintendo did what Nintendo does best and showed off a lot of games you won't be able to play anywhere else.
Now that E3 2014 has come and gone, how does each company stack up this year? Which of these five pillars of video gaming stole your attention the most and made you want to throw money at their games, and which company left you hoping for a better showing in 2015?
Who'll start this show?
I'll start it off with a big one, then. Probably not a surprise to you folks, but I think the "win" rests between Sony and Nintendo. We can pick an ultimate down the line, but do you folks agree with that estimate?
Hands down. Sony and Nintendo brought what people wanted to see. Both had plenty of announcements in regards to games, but these were the two which took some time to focus on hardware and other areas as well. PlayStation Plus, the Wii U GamePad, and dare I say those amiibo toys, for better or worse.
We hear a lot about how E3 should be all about the games, but these two proved this year that there has to be more, unlike the other three.
I was sure Microsoft had it this year. Phil Spencer, the Chosen One, had hyped up the gaming focus of Microsoft's show to the point where they would've had to reveal Half-Life 3 to meet expectations. Even so, I thought they were going to have a great show. As I sat at LAX refreshing my phone, I kept wondering when the good stuff was coming.
That's not to say Microsoft didn't show a lot of neat stuff. Crackdown, Scalebound, the [email protected] sizzle reel, Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive – all of these have me excited to be an Xbox One owner. But too many of those games were trailers without release dates and very few feel like the kinds of big, Triple-A games Microsoft needs right now.
Which shifts me towards the way I'd like to tackle this ranking, of sorts. If we all sort of agree that Sony and Nintendo had the best shows, let's suss out the bottom three before figuring out those two.
For my money, the worst of the bunch was EA.
Here we have a publisher sitting on some unbelievable IPs, including the goodness that they've got from their relationship with Disney and the Star Wars license, and their show was horrifically lackluster.
The most gameplay we saw came from Battlefield: Hardline, a Payday-esque spin on their best selling IP. The stuff we really, really wanted to see? Mirror's Edge, a new Mass Effect, Star Wars: Battlefront and all that jazz?
We got interior office shots, odd prototypes and concept work. That's not to say that EA isn't hard at work on these games. We know these games are coming. We think, hopefully, that they'll be wonderful. Their presentation?
Was I the only one nearly snoring?
Come on Joey, have a little… Faith?
Actually, I was snoring because it was 3 a.m. here in Japan-land, and I needed an exciting show to keep my eyes open. That's just what we didn't get.
EA mentioned at the beginning that it was trying something new, but exactly "what" was hard to tell. I think it sees that focus on individual developers and personalities behind games are all the rage these days. Indie developers are more human than big companies, and they get a lot of sympathy and support from the gaming crowd because they can relate better.
EA is a little tired of its corporate image, and maybe wanted to put some faces to these major projects… perhaps? Not quite sure it worked if that's what they were going for, but I knew something was wrong once that Criterion game came up. Still not sure what that game was.
I got brief look at the only game I really wanted to see, Mass Effect, but I knew we wouldn't see much, so no harm no foul there. But this was a far cry from the energy and excitement EA brought the last two years. Definitely the worst of the bunch.
I felt about the same as Ron. I've said so elsewhere, but it mostly felt like EA wanted to remind us that its games exist. Criterion's showing was the only surprise. Everything else was known, and what was new we only had the briefest of glimpses.
Ubisoft's show wasn't exactly surprise heavy, either, but somehow it managed to pull out a much better show. It took games we knew existed like Assassin's Creed Unity and Far Cry 4 and gave us real, lengthy first looks. Ubisoft showed us how to do a show without many big reveals without making it boring.
I'm sort of split between Ubisoft and Microsoft for the third and fourth best positions. For Ubisoft, I think its best moment was likely Far Cry 4. Assassin's Creed Unity looks solid enough, but we're dealing with a franchise that's been annualized for, what, five years now? It's hard to generate excitement and buzz for that type of game.
Far Cry 3 was a bit of a shock to the gaming world when it dropped a couple years ago. Seeing 4, to me, was a more exciting moment than Assassin's Creed. I don't know, Ubisoft has sort of been falling out of favor with me for a few years now. It does great things every now and again, but hanging its hats on being Activision 2.0 with the further annualization of cash cows just doesn't sit well with me.
Ubisoft had all the forward momentum two years ago at E3 2012, back when everyone called it the best publisher and declared them the winner. Watch_Dogs, Rayman Legends, Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed III. That was a great year because they announced a whole library of exciting new games.
Last year, Ubisoft showed off Watch_Dogs, Rayman Legends, Far Cry 3 and Assassin's Creed IV. See the difference there? At least we also got to look at Tom Clancy: The Division and The Crew…
The Division was out of this world, don't get me wrong. And I really want to play Valiant Hearts: The Great War. The thing is, I've seen those trailers already.
I'm noticing this pattern of Ubisoft repeating itself and trying too hard to focus on the money makers like Activision and EA. They need to inject a little personality into their shows to give them an edge that keeps them separate from the others, but they lacked that this year.
E3 can't be just about games we already know about. Ubisoft needs at least one exciting reveal to keep it interesting and show the artsy side they gravitate towards sometimes. I think it missed a golden opportunity to steal some thunder with at least a tease of something unique like Beyond Good & Evil 2.
Shows like this just make them look like a "me too" publisher. At least it was more exciting than EA.
I think you're underselling Ubisoft a bit, though. Assassin's Creed is annualized, absolutely, but this is the first one built for the new generation. Far Cry 4 we hadn't seen in motion yet. And then there was the reveal of Rainbow 6: Siege. I know you guys well enough to know that it probably didn't move the needle too much for either of you, but for many it's a long anticipated update to a favorite series. It's certainly being received more warmly than EA's focus on Battlefield: Hardline.
I think it says more about Microsoft than Ubisoft that we're considering tying them. Ubisoft is a big publisher, but they're still just one publisher. Microsoft had games from a wide variety of publishers and we're still sitting here wondering just what happened.
I think Microsoft had a decent show, but like I mentioned before, they focused a little too much on games. It's obvious that Microsoft wants to attract a lot of older "hardcore" gamers with the Xbox One because they gave a lot of screentime to titles some normal watchers might not have heard of.
Phil Spencer did a LOT of digging for this show to bring back some gems from the Xbox's older archives, but giving them the AAA treatment kind of kills the purpose of being a "gem."
Sure, everyone thinks the original Crackdown was great, but was it really that huge of a hit on its own or did people accidentally discover it while looking for a way to play Halo 3 early?
Hoooooold on, Ron. Are we really upset that Microsoft focused too much on games? I need you to circle back and tell me why that's a bad thing.
I wouldn't say that it is bad they focused too strongly on games, but I felt I was being pandered to a little too much. Weirdos like me who fondly remember oddball games like Phantom Dust and have the entire collection of Hideki Kamiya games on my shelf are probably wondering how Microsoft is going to sell these things as big time products.
Phantom Dust didn't look like the older one but had this very modern day "brown" look, and Scalebound looked a lot like Skyrim, Dragon Age and Dragon's Dogma all rolled up into one.
I'm glad that they are there, but I'm just anxious to see if they will be there in name only. Is Microsoft just lining up what we want to see, or will it honestly deliver on the niche that these kinds of games demand?
That's an interesting argument. I think it all depends on taste, right? We have a company with access to a comparatively limited number of franchises. If Sony and Nintendo were to dig up ancient IPs, things go back two decades or more. Microsoft? We're talking about the early 2000s.
And Microsoft is digging those things up. We're getting the Master Chief Collection this year, a whole lot of Halo in one place.
Crackdown is great in my book. Phantom Dust wasn't something I played, but I know it has its fans. For me? Microsoft is sitting on a gold mine of 90s nostalgia with the Rare licenses. Get them off of Kinect and back on Banjo and things go from "oh, Phantom Dust?" to "holy crap, Rare is back!"
I'm not just talking about putting Conker in Project Spark, as Ron is literally typing out right now in a side chat. That's Microsoft basically saying "we won't make a new Conker game, but you can fake it if you want."
Just for the record, I love Crackdown too. I gave it a nice write-up on our Top 10 Xbox 360 Exclusives post a while back.
I guess this comes down to "Where do we go next?" Sony and Nintendo seem to be the winners in our books, but who had the better showing?
It's hard to pick between the two right off the cuff.
Sony's show had a great pace, tons of exclusive footage, some great reveals, and some hardware that expands the PlayStation brand in interesting ways.
The PlayStation TV is going to be a neat product for any house with roommates or a family, for example, and while we're not exactly sure what Morpheus is, it's at least interesting.
What about those games, though?
We had first looks at known properties like Uncharted 4 as well as big reveals like Bloodborne, we had good pacing all around. There were a few moments that dragged a bit long, like their upcoming superhero show. It looks interesting, but they spent more time on it than necessary.
I think Sony, maybe to a small extent, fell a little victim to what EA did. Certainly not on the same scale, but a tiny bit.
Mostly, I'm looking at things like Uncharted. We got, essentially, another brief teaser with an older looking Nathan Drake and a subtitle. No gameplay to speak of, just him standing up and looking beat while narration of him chatting with Sully played over the background.
We saw news of a Destiny bundle, caught a bit for some inFamous: Second Son DLC and the PlayStation TV thing. It was a good show, I'm not complaining, but compared to what Sony dropped last year? Not even close.
For me, the biggest surprise was the Grand Theft Auto V new-gen port news. That was huge, and Sony sort of owned the moment by making it part of its presser. I don't know if that's enough to yell "winner" or not.
Man, Sony even had to take it easy on Microsoft at that point because it even announced that Grand Theft Auto V was coming to Xbox One as well. Ha!
There is no way that Sony could top last year, but that's just the nature of the beast when you are revealing a new console for the first time. However, I was stoked to hear about a few cool ideas that the PlayStation 4 as a console allows.
The biggest one was definitely being able to play Far Cry 4 multiplayer with friends who don't even own the game. Granted, their access to the content will be incredibly limited, but this opens up entirely new unexplored territory for selling multiplayer games to someone who might not have been interested.
But, in the end, it came down to games for Sony as well, but it gave attention where all the attention was due. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain knocked my socks off. I know you guys got to go eyes on with the game on the floor with footage I didn't get to see, but that trailer has me far more pumped for the final product than I was before the show.
Other highlights: No Man's Sky, mostly because I missed out on the first trailer, and Batman: Arkham Knight's gameplay reveal. How did Sony manage land all of these major games and Microsoft didn't? Does it even have the money to do that these days?
I like weird obscure games and credit Microsoft for giving them some limelight, but the big stage is for big events, and Sony put the proper amount of time in all the right places. Sony's brief indie reel and free-to-play trailers were all it needed because we already know that Sony is a friend to the indie and niche gamer.
You sell the system with big games and the smaller ones will follow. Sony sold big two years in a row, and that's why its winning the NPD sales reports.
And that brings us to Nintendo. As far as where I spend my time, it's mostly Xbox and PlayStation. I don't have a Wii U yet, and I'm one of seven people that doesn't own a 3DS. With that said, Nintendo had a great show.
They took some time to do something funny that didn't scream "please buy our stuff," then they just showed us some cool stuff to get excited about.
I'm stoked about Mario Maker, Yoshi and Kirby are both looking great, and I'm interested in replaying the first Bayonetta now that I know it comes with Bayonetta 2.
Nintendo, in my book, wins out because of the way that they walked the fine line their fans so often accuse them of being on the wrong side of. Yes, we had our (huge) Zelda reveal. We saw news for Smash Bros.. We got all of our Yoshi and Kirby goodness in there.
The thing about all of these games? They look different. Kirby and Yoshi literally have completely new looks to them. Zelda is looking gigantic and gorgeous. Smash?
Smash shared its reveal with news of Nintendo's new amiibo line. Here we have a company finally getting into the NFC figurine space with some of their biggest franchises. If any of the big three console makers was going to do this for real, it was going to be Nintendo.
What I really liked, though, was their announcement of new IPs. Miyamoto has his odd Wii U games like the giant robot simulator. But we've also got Splatoon, a multiplayer shooter, and Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., a tactical strategy game from Intelligent Systems.
People like to knock Nintendo for its reliance on old properties. I get that. This year, it rolled all of those old properties out with fresh takes, added a new way to play and experience DLC with the amiibo system and announced a few new IPs. They did this with a flair for humor and presentation that, in my mind, completely outpaced the suits on stage in auditoriums around LA.
Don't forget Star Fox, too…
You got most of what needed to be said, really. People love to bash Nintendo for relying on old IPs, but as we've come to discover in recent years, new IPs don't exactly translate into new ideas.
I've said it before, and I'll say it a million times, you can play every Mario game and get a unique experience out of each. How many franchises from the past decade make it past the third entry anymore without everyone losing interest? Not many.
We jump into E3 this year and we can make our own Super Mario Bros. levels. Are you kidding me!? Granted, PC hackers have been doing that for years, but now dunces like me can join in on the fun.
More so than just announcing new games, I think this is the year where we all realize how far Nintendo has come on the social gaming front. It has done an amazing job building a network "within" its games rather than "around" its games. Sharing levels through Mario Maker, uploading footage from Mario Kart 8, putting your own customized Mii into Super Smash Bros.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf was just practice for the intricacies of what Nintendo Network is going to offer in the coming year. Try to remember how much Nintendo fought kicking and screaming into being dragged into the world of online gaming, and that was barely half a decade ago.
Now, Miiverse, Nintendo Network, and each individual game are all connected under the Nintendo umbrella in ways that Xbox Live and PlayStation Network can't be because of how much they depend on third-party software. I am starting to think that the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS offer the most exciting online atmosphere.
Some might be bummed that we didn't see a new Metroid game, but wanting anymore from Nintendo might be too much at this point.
Oh yeah, and Hyrule Warriors…
This was always going to be a tough year for all five presenters. Last year, we had two huge console unveilings and the excitement that comes with that. Some of the presenters just couldn't live up to the expectations, while others totally nailed it and brought home a great show that has us jazzed for the next year's worth of gaming.
Based on everything, I'm ready to rank my choices for worst to best presentation this year.
2) Sony 1) Nintendo
Sony and Nintendo, they're close. I give the nod to Nintendo for trying so many new things. To be completely honest, Sony was worse this year simply because of how good they were the year before. They were never going to repeat or top that. Heck, I'd be surprised if they ever come close again.
We're mostly in the same boat, but I'm going to give the edge to Sony.
2) Nintendo 1) Sony
Nintendo's online community is improving exponentially, and I love to see all of my favorite franchises coming back to life. But the thing is, right after E3, I got a PlayStation 4. Don't want my buyers guilt to kick in before I get a chance to enjoy all these great games I saw.
Granted, I would have dropped five paychecks on a Wii U after seeing that Zelda reveal trailer if I didn't already own one.
I want to hand out lots of ties here, but if we're can't do that, I think Ron's about right:
2) Nintendo 1) Sony
Microsoft somehow fulfilled their promise but didn't manage to satisfy. EA took a collection of some of the best franchises in the industry and put together a snoozer of a performance. Ubisoft was solid, but without its surprises.
Nintendo and Sony, however, had great pacing and good products on display. Sony had some great new hardware on hand. Nintendo injected some real humor that separated them from the presidential-style hand gestures of Sony's new executive, Shawn Layden.
If I was a Nintendo guy, it would've been Nintendo hands down, but Sony just has more to offer for me.