The E3 of 2018 was, in a word, boring. In several more words, it was predictable, unengaging, and poorly constructed. 2018 was a “carry-over” year. Most of what we saw was the same as we saw last year, just more developed. Sadly, not everything was given a second pass, especially on Nintendo’s end in the cases of Bayonetta 3, Metroid Prime 4, and more. It would not be incorrect to call this E3 2017 Part II. And like with most sequels, it pales in comparison to the first.
Other than Microsoft, most conferences were constructed in such a way to give “deep dives” for a few select games, and clump most of the rest into compilation reels. The unintended effect is large swathes of boring for those not interested in the game shown. The goal seemed to be to generate more hype among those already invested, not get new people interested.
EA started (check out our EA E3 Conference Review) things off this year on a day all their own. They would own the news cycle that day. Rather than capitalize on this, EA played it safe and kept things predictable and inoffensive. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. EA after all has been one of the most controversial game publishers, and the months since last year’s E3 illustrate their troubles. The conference really set the tone for the rest of E3, as the feelings of blandness and predictability were carried throughout.
Microsoft (check out our Microsoft E3 Conference Review) was next, doing a complete 180 on the tone set by EA. Though the usual suspects were present, Microsoft made sure to fill most of the conference with new faces and promises of exclusivity. The new term of “console-launch exclusive” was a tad confusing. The term is clearly backward talking to make you think a game is 100% exclusive to the Xbox One, but it really isn’t. The exact definition will only show itself when those games denoted as such release. Aside from some longer-than-necessary demo reels, and Microsoft taking the ball and going home in regard to studio acquisition, their conference was a complete success. Who knew it was all downhill from there?
Bethesda (check out our Bethesda E3 Conference Review) was the middle child of the day and would lead right into Devolver Digital’s satirical conference. This year truly illustrated that Bethesda is in a rough spot concerning conferences. They don’t put out enough games to really warrant their own conference. However, they also want to devote so much time to their highly anticipated games that no other publisher would let them eat that much time on their own stage. Rather than have a shorter-than-average conference, much how Square Enix and Nintendo did, they opted to pad the runtime with retrospectives and fart smelling. They very nearly got a worse score than they did but pulled it back up in the end with actually talking about new games. There’s no doubt excitement surrounds Bethesda’s titles, but the excitement might have gone to Bethesda’s heads.
Devolver Digital, Square Enix (check out our Square Enix E3 Conference Review), and Limited Run Games all had shorter-than-average conferences and were really more like showcases than anything else. Devolver Digital again took the piss out of E3, playfully mocking it and inserting absurdist comedy. They clearly don’t have enough output to warrant their own stage, so rather than distribute their titles among the other stages, they fill the time with their bloody and bold bits. Square Enix was even worse than EA and Bethesda, being just as predictable and providing even fewer new games. There were just too many games absent to make the overall experience worthwhile. Like Devolver Digital, Limited Run Games parodied the E3 conference experience, throwing in a few games here and there to still make your time worthwhile.
Finally, another of the big dogs, Ubisoft (check out our Ubisoft E3 Conference Review), showed up and kept a pretty consistent format throughout. A trailer, developer talk, and maybe some gameplay demonstrated. They were much like EA in their predictability but definitely had more fun with it than the buttoned-up, tight-assed, EA. They didn’t do a bad job, but they didn’t do an amazing job either. PC Gaming Show once again proved that it simply doesn’t need to exist – and this coming from an avid PC gamer.
The second of the big three was Sony (check out our Sony E3 Conference Review), who took fart-smelling to a whole new level. Rather than just show a trailer, they had to craft an experience all around the attendees, with a separate venue and musical prelude just for The Last of Us Part II. Eye-rolling as it was, the negative side effect was having to wait until the next part of the conference (which would begin with a yet more one-man musical show) as E3 attendees were shuffled from one venue to the next. Thankfully, this didn’t happen more than once, but it shouldn’t have happened at all. The Last of Us Part II doesn’t need the help of flash and flair to get people excited about it. Sony clearly needed the deep dives because they had so few games to actually show. They had less than Bethesda, overall! That’s simply unacceptable from a big name like Sony.
Finally, Nintendo (check out our Nintendo E3 Conference Review), the whimsical one of the big three. For years now, Nintendo has opted for a pre-recorded showcase rather than rent a stage, and for most years this has actually worked out for them. Once again, though, the problem of not having enough games came up. Some new faces showed up, but most of the running time was devoted to Smash Bros. Now there’s no denying Smash Bros. is deserving of a deep dive. It’s one of Nintendo’s most anticipated and beloved series. However, there was an expectation for so much more in regard to other games. So many games that were teased last year were forgotten about this year. 2017 was the year Nintendo amazed people with just a title card for Metroid 4. Being unimpressed with the Smash details is a known rarity, of course; seeing the number of reaction videos to the Smash deep dive, and how excited people got, clearly illustrates that. Regardless, with how much time was devoted to Smash, and how few games were shown other than that, it should have been called the Smash Direct, featuring some Nintendo titles.
E3 is an event that comes every year to get gamers excited for the year to come. It’s a promise that the following months will be jam-packed with exciting and interesting new games. From new faces to returning oldies, E3 exists to generate hype, hype, and more hype. Yet this year was simply just too predictable, riding on the coat tails of 2017’s amazing line-up. This wasn’t so much a bad E3 as it was just simply average, at best. C
The opinions expressed are that of the article's author and do not necessarily reflect those of the rest of Keen Gamer's staff.