When you are like that Me, you spent the weekend longing for the mixed bag in downtown Los Angeles during E3. I have fond memories of fish tacos, The Last Bookstore, playoff basketball in brightly lit hotel lobbies, and of course video game press conferences after video game press conferences.
For the second year in a row the show has gone completely virtual because of … well, you know, that pesky virus that has ruled the last year and a half of our lives. Last year’s show was canceled altogether (although a handful of companies were still sticking to the schedule). Show organizers just didn’t think they’d be able to put a digital event together – and frankly, it’s probably best for them to understand these limitations.
The 2021 event, which began on Saturday, is the first fully virtual version of the event. It is also the last for the time being. Mayor Eric Garcetti opened the show by announcing that E3 would return to the LA Convention Center in 2022.
Gaming had a 2020 banner, and although growth has slowed, things are still growing as parts of the world look forward to post-pandemic life. Some well-timed numbers from NPD this morning suggest 3% year-over-year growth for May 2021 as spending on games surged to $ 4.5 billion. Since the start of the year, things are up 17%.
The timing of the canceled event last year was certainly unfortunate from a hardware point of view. Console updates are massive events on E3. 2020 gave us the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Announcements were directed to Sony and Microsoft’s own events. That meant companies were able to work things out – reveal small details bit by bit, rather than save everything for the big show. It’s a strategy that is much better suited to virtual presentations and blog posts than large conventions.
Congratulations to @ XboxP3 and the whole team on a great showcase. Great time to be a gamer
– Hermen Hulst (@hermenhulst) June 13, 2021
Sony sits out this too. While it’s entirely possible that the company will host a large, state-of-play virtual event sometime this summer, it won’t be tied to E3. Nevertheless, some Sony managers, such as the head of PlayStation Studios, Hermen Hulst, took the opportunity to congratulate Microsoft on “a great showcase” on Twitter. So that’s a nice thing.
So far, Microsoft is the only one of the big three to present at the event. Nintendo is hosting a tree house event tomorrow. The Switch Pro could be operational for the event with an upgraded OLED display and internals. That would likely mean a lot of updated content for the new version of the four year old console as well.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has made great games. Understandable given the recent start of Series X. And let’s face it, these virtual events are perfect for playing a whole bunch of trailers. The company presented a total of 30 games (and a refrigerator). Of these, 27 will be part of Xbox Game Pass in case you have any doubts about what the future of gaming will look like on Xbox. The event was designed as a combination of Xbox and Bethesda showcase after the publisher was taken over earlier this year.
“Our growing family of 23 studios is dedicated to developing the medium we all love,” the company writes. “We’re excited to announce that you can look forward to monthly releases now through the end of the first day of Xbox Game Pass, led by a record five new titles from Xbox Game Studios this holiday, including Halo Infinite.
The highlights include:
Halo Infinite has a trailer and some in-game multiplayer footage. The latest version of the popular Xbox leg is coming this holiday season.
Starfield arrives on November 11th [deep breath] 2022. The extensive space title will be available exclusively for Xbox at launch.
Forza Horizon 5 will be released in November. The newest part of the popular racing series takes place in Mexico.
In a straightforward crossover event, Sea of Thieves will team up with Pirates of the Caribbean for gameplay with Captain Jack Sparrow and others.
Age of Empires IV has an extended trailer and release date: October 28th.
Battlefield 2042 has its first gameplay, including a cute new wing suit.
Microsoft’s flight simulator will come to the new Xboxes on July 27th along with a Top Gun expansion pack. This is in honor of Top Gun: Maverick, which appears to be coming out at some point.
Square Enix also held its usual large showcase on Sunday. The publisher will release a number of new Marvel titles. The highlights include:
The long-awaited Guardians of the Galaxy. The adventure title should appear in October this year.
Marvel’s Avenger is now receiving the Black Panther expansion pack War for Wakanda. That comes in August.
It wouldn’t be a Square Enix event without a Final Fantasy spin-off, would it? The all-time favorite RPG is the birth of Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin, which hits a number of different platforms next year.
Ubisoft made waves on Saturday with a first look at the new Avatar adaptation Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Extraction is slated for September 16th. Originally titled Rainbow Six: Quarantine, the name has been changed for obvious reasons.
Capcom and Take-Two present tonight, followed by Nintendo Direct and Bandai Namco tomorrow. EA will hold its own Play Live event on Thursday. In the meantime, here is a video of this new Xbox refrigerator. Who Said There Is No New Hardware?