Developers, publishers plan summer of video games announcements

In an alternate timeline, the industry is ramping up for the Electronic Entertainment Expo next week.

In this, the worst timeline, ravaged by COVID-19, E3 is canceled — perhaps for good. But there’s still a pair of console launches to get excited for later this year and developers are still hard at work on plenty of new experiences for the months and years to come. Publishers have spent the weeks and months since E3’s cancellation announcement working on a new schedule of their own digital events, at which they’ll make their own grand announcements.

For many, the idea of announcing everything at one week-long event that captures the world’s attention was a great way to get the most eyes directed at the industry at one time. For others, it meant their announcements were overshadowed by others. Every publisher, developer and hardware manufacturer competing for the same attention in a small amount of time could be problematic. But that won’t be the case this year.

Microsoft already kicked off the summer of video games with its extremely lacklustre “Inside Xbox” showing earlier this month. Underwhelming feelings aside, the Redmond, Wash. software giant was the first to officially debut next-gen footage. Thankfully, that won’t be the last time we get to see new media from Microsoft in the near future.

Phil Spencer, vice president of Gaming, announced a second conference in July, which will showcase much more of the Xbox Series X hardware and its first party lineup. It’s probably still too early to get concrete pricing and launch details — especially if COVID-19 remains a disruptive factor going into the fall — but we will get to see actual gameplay of “Halo Infinite” and whatever else Microsoft Game Studios has cooking for launch.

Sony, on the other hand, continues to remain mum about its plans. Rumors and reports continue to point to a June event of some kind. The industry sales leader has only fully revealed the PlayStation 5 internal specifications and its controller. Everything else is still shrouded in secrecy. Sony is currently focused on releasing “The Last of Us Part II” and “Ghosts of Tsushima” in the next two months, but will turn its attention to the next-generation launch soon enough. Unlike Microsoft, expect the Sony June event — whenever it does happen — to focus on just as much first-party software as third-party. Among the most surprising announcements could be a complete reboot of “Silent Hill” exclusively for the PS5.

Nintendo has seen fit to forsake tradition — even its own tradition of Nintendo Directs — and just announce its games at random moments. “Paper Mario: The Origami King,” an all-new entry in the popular “Paper Mario” franchise, was announced without any sort of warning nearly two weeks ago. That announcement fits with the report earlier this year about Nintendo releasing a slew of new and remastered “Mario” titles for the franchise’s 40th anniversary. The company has been silent since the report, and would normally make such large announcements at a massive E3 Nintendo Direct. But alas. A report from Venture Beat earlier this week stated Nintendo might not even do any Directs until September, or later. So expect for the unexpected and don’t be surprised if random game announcements with close release dates just drop out of nowhere.

Other individual publishers and groups have already staked out dates over the next weeks and months to showcase their games and announcements. The “PC Gamer” PC Gaming Show will take place June 6, and will feature numerous PC-related announcements. In the past several years, the show has partnered with E3 to help give PC gaming a spotlight alongside the massive console gaming announcements of the show.

Publisher EA’s “EA Play Live” will feature a live broadcast at 6 p.m. June 11 on EA’s website. This will be a chance to see the new slate of sports titles and perhaps a few other surprises. EA has shifted most of its resources to the next-generation, so don’t expect too many big announcements, beyond some proof of concept videos.

CD Projekt Red will pull back the veil of its upcoming “Cyberpunk 2077” on June 11 with the “Cyberpunk 2077” Night City Wire. The deep dive live stream will give fans an up close look at the game and its new systems ahead of the September release date. This will give everyone the best look at “Cyberpunk 2077” before they can get their hands on it later this year.

On July 12, Ubisoft will finally give everyone a look at actual gameplay from “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” at its Ubisoft Forward digital event. After teasing “gameplay” for its last two appearances, Ubisoft will showcase the latest “Assassin’s Creed” title alongside delayed games like “Watch Dogs Legion” and “Rainbow Six Quarantine.” Ubisoft has a lot of games in development, so this should be a packed event.

It may not be the glamorous euphoria of announcements of the traditional E3, but publishers have really come together in order to showcase the greatness of video games this summer. Games might not be a priority during a pandemic, but they offer a nice respite and distraction from the misery of the outside world.

Josh Rouse lives in Lawton.

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