E3 2015 is officially over and all the hype trains have left the station, many finally having an official destination either later this year or in 2016. This was a year of game announcements that ranged from remakes of old favorites to imaginative new experiences. We saw Minecraft holograms, Nintendo Muppets, and terrifying moon men.
There was a lot to see and talk about at this year, which is why I called in some help to both analyze and gush over everything that was E3 2015. Allow me to introduce my fellow knights of this E3 Round Table.
Sheldon Jones is a writer for Gamespresso.com. From writing about video games to working at a Friendly's restaurant, he gets to, on occasion, play a video game or two if the stars align properly and he finds a field of four leaf clovers. Eternal lover of Dark Souls, with Silent Hill and Just Cause 2 on the side.
James McDonald has been writing now for over four years, learning the ropes over at Call of Duty Community. Now he spends his time as Editor-in-Chief over at LzyGmrs.
Marcus Garrett is the creator of topshelfgaming.net, a website dedicated to creating a more culturally conscious gaming community. He loves adventure games with a particular affinity for the Legend of Zelda series. When he's not playing video games, he's playing guitar or taking naps. Marcus plans on using Top Shelf Gaming to help bridge the gap between gamer and non-gamer and hopes you'll join him in his efforts.
The knights have assembled, so let's begin with our first question.
WesleyG: It’s very hard to not just type “Sony press conference” before switching to YouTube and catching up on Game Grumps. That presser was dead set on finally beating Nintendo in the nostalgia dollar race. Still, the one time at E3 I was legitimately shocked was when Microsoft announced the Xbox One was getting backwards compatibility. I was mostly shocked that Microsoft waited this long to bring that feature to its console since it’s near impossible for the PS4 to be backwards compatible thanks to the PS3’s CELL architecture. I wonder if the Xbox One was backwards compatible at launch, would Sony have gotten the lead it has with the PS4 this generation? Now, it’s time to see if Microsoft’s announcement didn’t come too little too late.
Sheldon: The biggest surprise was the backwards compatibility for the Xbox One. I don't think most of the games that were announced were too surprising, since most of them had some sort of rumor running around them for a while anyway. But since their release, both Microsoft and Sony had been either quiet or denying that their consoles could do backwards compatibility. Although that now turns Microsoft from being glassholes to being nice liars.
James: There's plenty to choose from but for me the Final Fantasy VII remake reveal came as a much-welcomed shock. I didn't think the rumors that circulated the day before had anything behind them and with The Last Guardian as another surprise announcement you'd think FFVII would continue to stay down in that mythical chamber of games that don't ever get released. I think Half-Life 3 is down there somewhere.
Marcus: The biggest surprise of E3 was that Nintendo didn't really surprise us. That's not to say that they didn't make some unexpected announcements. I'd like to meet the person who predicted the next Metroid game would be a multiplayer cyber-soccer simulator. While some of Nintendo's upcoming games caught my interest, nothing other than the new Mario & Luigi RPG and Triforce Heroes really wowed me. It is disappointing that there seems to be a shift of focus away from the Wii U. So you could say that what really surprised me most was to see the beginning of the transition from the Wii U to their next home console just after two years.
Dustin: I believe the biggest surprise from E3 had to be the backwards compatibility of the Xbox One. This was so surprising that it even caught Sony by surprise. With the way the current Gen is going, this may help Microsoft sway some of us from the PlayStation side. The fact that they are even letting the video game fans vote to which games will be available shows a step in right direction for gaming.
WesleyG: It had to be when the developer of Unravel Martin Sahlin came onstage during the EA press conference and started shaking like a leaf. His awkwardness was endearing to me though. The EA press conference is infamous for being full of professional PR guys trying to make things look “super cool awesome time”. Suddenly, this Swedish man comes out on stage who’s clearly trying his hardest not to crack under the spotlight of the E3 stage, knowing how important this presentation will be. I found myself rooting for him and his self-made toy Yarny, as did everyone I was watching with. His awkwardness became relatable to anyone who has ever given a speech to their peers and I think it helped make Unravel one of the most talked about games coming out of E3. It also doesn’t hurt that Unravel may have one of the most adorable Twitter accounts ever.
Sheldon: Probably the most awkward moments came from Square Enix. Between Nier 2's developer walking on stage with a full mask of a moon to Shinji Hashimoto speaking without a translator for a paragraph or two before cutting to the Final Fantasy VII trailer, to the lackluster presentation of the games. I bet when the PC conference started showing off actual gameplay of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Yosuke Matsuda was thinking to himself, "hey, that's a good idea, showing off actual gameplay!" As well, saying the words "Kingdom Hearts" and immediately revealing a mobile game gives nostalgia fans of the series major blue balls. Not showing off Final Fantasy XV in any way, shape, or form just made things worse. Their ending just blew monkey nuts too: announcing a new game studio with no one from that game studio present, and then showing off some concept art that could've been done by half of the accounts on DeviantArt.
[Martin Sahlin's] awkwardness became relatable to anyone who has ever given a speech to their peers and I think it helped make Unravel one of the most talked about games coming out of E3.
James: Amazingly this year's E3 was mostly mistake free, which is unfortunate, I'm always up for a chuckle.The only moment I think of was the beginning of Naughty Dog's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End demo. It wasn't the smoothest, but saved itself with some pretty epic gameplay.
Marcus: The Microsoft Press Conference didn't have the most energetic crowd with most of their announcements receiving no more than a handful of cheers amidst courtesy claps that were prompted by the speaker's silence. However, when Peter Moore took the stage to talk about EA Access the crowd couldn't even pretend to be interested. Moore would hold for applause, but when he received none he continued to try to entice the audience to subscribe to what has so far been an underwhelming service. Luckily, he ended his presentation with a trailer for Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 which seemed to wake the crowd up from their deep slumber.
Dustin: This is a great question because as I sat and watched the Sony press conference I really thought these designers and CEOs just feel awkward and out of place. I do not remember who it was at the conference that cracked a joke that he thought was absolutely hilarious and not one person laughed. I know this isn't an actual game thing but these guys just try so hard and it feels really forced and awkward.
WesleyG: This is always a hard question to answer when we have such a good E3, but there’s two games that really stood out for me. I’ve known about Cuphead for a while, but it’s so beautiful in how it nails that '30s cartoon aesthetic and it just looks better every time I see it. Despite that, I’m going with the game I fell in love with at this E3, Horizon: Zero Dawn. Judging from the gameplay demonstration, it looks to be borrowing mechanics from a lot of other titles to create something totally new. Besides, the concept of being a tribal style hunter going after robotic animals just sounds awesome. This E3 was one that relied heavily on nostalgia, but that didn’t mean it didn’t have a great showing of brand new IPs.
Sheldon: Personally, I prefer to be pessimistic about all this E3 stuff. If the game ends up being crap, then I get to be smugly satisfied. If I'm wrong, then I get a good game to play. Win/win to me. But I'd have to say that the games that I'm most interested in trying are Just Cause 3 and Dark Souls 3, since Just Cause 2 and Dark Souls have eaten up more hours in the past year than should be legally allowed. I'm interested in Just Cause 3 because it sounds like Just Cause 2 with some awesome additions. Dark Souls 3 I'm more excited about because of how bad Dark Souls 2 was. I'm wondering to see if they can even revive the series with Hidetaka Miyazaki back on the reigns (for those that don't know, Hidetaka Miyazaki was not the director of Dark Souls 2, this being the leading theory into why it's so mediocre at best).
James: That's like asking who's your favorite child. Being a PlayStation fan, I'd have to go with Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. I've invested myself in the series since the beginning and always find myself coming back to it. With the Uncharted collection coming this October, there will be no better time to play through the series before Drake's final adventure lands next year.
...the thought of hunting robot dinosaurs [in Horizon: Zero Dawn] is pretty cool...
Marcus: I'm really looking forward to Horizon: Zero Dawn. The new heroine seems really interesting and as a person with dreads myself I can really appreciate her hairstyle. Additionally, the thought of hunting robot dinosaurs is pretty cool and where there's hunting, there's a trusty bow and arrow set waiting to be wielded. The bow is my favorite weapon to use in every video game I play. Then there's the fact that it's a new IP; I'm ready to jump into a brand new universe and see what it has to offer. It already looks gorgeous from what we've seen so far, which admittedly isn't much. I will say, that it is enough for me to set aside $60 for whenever it does come out.
Dustin: I list in my most anticipated games of 2015 Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. So with it being pushed back to next year I did not expect to see much of it this year and boy was I surprised. I cannot wait for this game. The gameplay looks amazing and Sony just continues to impress me with these games. I am a little sad this will be the last Nathan Drake game.
WesleyG: Like I mentioned earlier, nostalgia was a major part of E3 and it doesn’t look to be slowing down soon. Many are ready to crown Sony as the winners of E3, but they relied so heavily on nostalgia bait to hook the audience. The biggest buzz from that press conference comes from remaking an RPG from 1997 and Kickstarting a franchise that has been dormant since 2001. It isn’t like the other conferences were much better, trotting out game collections and remasters at nearly every conference. I feel that it’s a side effect of these companies having been in the industry long enough to have a backlog of beloved titles to draw from. Basically, we’re probably going to see Sony and Microsoft start doing what Nintendo has been doing for quite a few years now, leveraging their lineage for sure-fire buzz generators.
Sheldon: The main trend seems to be to get some quality games onto the new consoles. Last year we saw great cross-generation games (Dragon Age: Inquisition, Lord of the Rings, Alien: Isolation), and now we're finally seeing some quality games coming out for purely the new generation. It'll be curious to see how long the last generation sticks around, since their online stores won't be closing up for some time. We might see the last generation become this huge indie market, where developers that can't afford SDK's for the newer consoles buy ones for the older consoles and make games for those systems. As well, there seems to be a great push towards VR without giving consumers any knowledge on knowing how much these gimmicks and gadgets are going to cost. If they end up being too expensive, they might just end up catering a market full of upper-middle class people in the industry that get most of their equipment and games for free anyway. But until any solid information is released, I'm talking bollocks.
...there seems to be a great push towards VR without giving consumers any knowledge on knowing how much these gimmicks and gadgets are going to cost.
James: The focus will always be about games, you're not going to change that. However, how we play games seems to be rapidly changing, with new weirder and wonderful ways to experience your favorite shooter or role-playing games. A perfect example would be the emergence of VR headsets like Project Morpheus and Oculus Rift. For once something new has presented itself and instead of falling by the wayside like before it has potential to become a game-changer. Technology implemented into gaming is ever present and something I'm very excited about.
Marcus: I mentioned to a friend that I'm excited for all the new female playable characters announced for games this year. She told me in response that it seems like developers are just trying to appease people. Whether that's true or not, (I'd agree that is the case with Ubisoft who got a lot of heat for not creating a female assassin in Unity), the change is welcome. Character diversity is always a good thing whether it is playing as a woman like in Mirror's Edge 2, the little boy from The Last Guardian, or even a yarn creature as seen in Unravel.
Dustin: The biggest trend I hope to see is the announcement that IO Interactive made. The continued adding of season passes and the constant flow of DLC has clogged the community. Why can we not just have a game that's totally finished? Why two weeks after the release do we get bonus characters and other small things like gun packs or crap like that? I loved the comment from IO Interactive that this is wrong and that they will not have a season pass because they are re-releasing the entire game.
WesleyG: If I had to choose the company that profited the most from E3, I’m going to go with Platinum Games. They have very quietly garnered a reputation for incredible titles like Mad World and Bayonetta (and I’ll throw in Okami and Viewtiful Joe since some many Clover employees are with Platinum) and leveraged that into some blockbuster deals. Not only are they working on Neir 2 for Square Enix, but they’re also working with Nintendo on Star Fox Zero. Don’t forget about the Xbox One exclusive Scalebound that Microsoft showed off last year. They’ve got major titles coming out on every major console. Not bad for a company with roughly 200 employees.
Sheldon: The companies won. They always win. They got people excited and hyped for their games to come out. The only time we, the consumers, win is if the games release and they're actually good. Last year was a pretty solid win for consumers. We got a solid bunch of good AAA games. Not amazing games, but definitely starting to show off what this new generation can give to us. We have a few months to a few years to figure that out for this year, though. so in the meanwhile, enjoy the prequels to all the games that are getting sequels in the next year or so.
James: I tip my hat to Microsoft this year, they came out swinging and needed to with the PlayStation sweeping up on the console market. The backwards compatibility was a big step in the right direction for the Xbox One, adding it to the solid game reveals. However, Sony really took E3 by the scruff of the neck, doing it for the fans and delivering the games everyone wanted to see. I can be cheesy and say the real winner of E3 was the fans, but from a business standpoint I give it to Sony.
...Sony really took E3 by the scruff of the neck, doing it for the fans and delivering the games everyone wanted to see.
Marcus: Bethesda definitely won a lot of fans over this year with their Fallout 4 announcement, but I think I need to give it to EA this year. They came out in a big way with games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Mass Effect, and of course Star Wars Battlefront. Battlefront alone could have duked it out with every other major AAA title announced and still probably come out on top, but EA had many more announcements that excited fans. Speaking of which, that crowd was probably the most energetic and supportive. Specifically, I appreciated the encouraging applause given to the creative director of Unravel who spoke about his game with such passion and nervousness that it was hard not to love him right away. I don't recall any moments from E3 as touching as that one.
Dustin: This is very easy for me. It is Sony. While this conference is a showing off of your biggest and baddest toys now we forget what it should be. It should be about the games. With Sony announcing its exclusive deals with Call Of Duty out from under Microsoft and with IO Interactive announcing PlayStation exclusive missions and contracts I feel like they are doing the things they should have been doing: WORKING ON GAMES. Plus the announcing of The Last Guardian finally coming out next year has to be Sony winning again. Let's not forget Project Morpheus, either.