After sitting through hours of conferences since Saturday afternoon, I've come to the conclusion that developers and publishers just aren't as confident about showing off their games until they're absolutely ready. That especially seems to be the case this year as almost every game announcement involved a CG trailer. Most presentations eschewed any sort of on-stage demo, aside from EA's "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order," Ubisoft's "Watch Dogs Legion" and id's "Doom Eternal" - all three of which looked extremely impressive.
The aversion to gameplay demos this E3 is even more peculiar, considering many of these games are set for release later this year. Obsidian Entertainment's "The Outer Worlds" releases in October and only received a brief trailer. The Coalition's "Gears 5" comes out even sooner in September and didn't have any gameplay or real promotion outside of the announcement of a new game mode with - you guessed it - a CG trailer.
Just about every conference was disappointing this year - pointing to the fact maybe Sony was right to skip E3. Microsoft was supposed to have one of the most impressive conferences in years - showcasing nearly 60 games that will grace the system in the coming months and year. While it wasn't as bad as some of the conferences in the days of Don Mattrick, it wasn't great - and certainly not the mind-blowing affair many had promised.
Microsoft began the pre-E3 events with a fairly flaccid conference that promised a lot of hype, but failed to deliver on much of it. Few of the game announcements were very exciting. Newly-acquired developer Ninja Theory unveiled "Bleeding Edge," a fouron-four melee-combat focused multiplayer title that failed to inspire much enthusiasm. It didn't get better from there.
Several new games were announced - though, most of them were smaller budget independent games that will pad out the Xbox Game Pass. "Cyberpunk 2077" released an April 2020 release date, courtesy of Keanu Reeves appearing on stage to promote his in-game character. "Halo Infinite" received a holiday 2020 release window, but no other details were offered.
Perhaps the most exciting announcement of the conference was a collaboration between "Dark Souls" developer Fromsoft and "A Song of Ice and Fire" author George R. R. Martin. "Elden Ring" offers promise, but again, it was only announced with a CG trailer that offered little insight into what the game will actually entail.
Microsoft did announce the first details of the next generation Xbox console, "Project Scarlett." Its architecture sounds similar to the PlayStation 5, which shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. It will be fully backward compatible with Xbox One games, along with already backward compatible Xbox 360 and Xbox games.
Bethesda followed with its conference later in the evening and it was an embarrassment equal to "Fallout 76" - complete with an audience plant that yelled out in amazement every time a talking head appeared on stage.
The publisher showcased new gameplay of "Wolfenstein Youngblood," which now appears to be a full-fledged sequel to "The New Colossus." If Machine Games can address the issues from the predecessor, "Youngblood" could be a great sleeper shooter title for the fall.
Much of the conference was dedicated to "Doom Eternal," which could be the most fun and intense "Doom" title yet. It looks like id took everything from the 2016 "Doom" sequel and cranked it up to 11 with amazing environments, quick-paced gameplay and new sets of enemies.
Ubisoft offered even less - a banquet of "Tom Clancy" online multiplayer titles that all blended together. The only creative aspect of the conference was "Watch Dogs Legions," which doesn't feature a single main character, but rather an entire city of characters to recruit and play as. It's a gamble, but this new "Watch Dogs" could be a sound hit if the developers can nail the mechanic.
There were very few excitements this year - almost entirely due to the phasing out of the current generation of consoles. The E3 before a generation transition is often slow and tedious. Developers have shifted their main resources over to the new hardware, which takes additional time to develop for. Those games are still too early to unveil, as the hardware manufacturers haven't fully announced their new consoles yet. So what's left of this generation are games that are designed to pave the way through that transition. And many games, like "Cyberpunk 2077" will almost assuredly be ported to the new hardware soon, making current versions a bit outdated.
That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of games to play this year. Sony might not have been at the expo this year, but it still has Hideo Kojima's "Death Stranding" for this fall. Microsoft has a slew of titles prepared for the Xbox Game Pass this fall. And Nintendo should have a stronger year with "Pokemon Sword" and "Pokemon Shield," as well as "Luigi's Mansion 3" and more.