E3 is done for another year, as the sun sets on a relatively muted conference compared to the wild extravaganzas of years gone by. E3 is always a good time to take the pulse of the games industry and see what’s trending up for the next 12 months and with that in mind, here are three things we picked out as the emerging trends following this year’s show.
Game publishers have tried time and time again to add celebrity star-power to their glitzy E3 announcements but gaming and Hollywood has never made for comfortable bedfellows. Gamers are notoriously protective of their culture which is rooted in kinship and authenticity, two aspects that celebrity endorsements can’t ever hope to replicate.
It’s no wonder marketing departments have recalibrated their budgets to focus on Twitch superstars instead.
But Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red landed a direct bullseye during Microsoft’s E3 conference with its Keanu Reeves announcement. Not only does Keanu Reeves play a character in the game – the ridiculously-named Johnny Silverhand – but the actor himself delivered the news in his uniquely relaxed, amiable way. Already beloved by the net before the announcement, an unscripted exchange with an audience member went viral, giving Cyberpunk 2077 the kind of exposure that CD Projekt Red could only have dreamed of.
Celebrity endorsements are something that publishers have been toying with again in recent times, using in-game content to make them feel more authentic – see Sean Bean’s mission in Hitman 2, Jeff Goldblum’s voiceover in Jurassic Park World Evolution and Danny Dyer’s voicepack in Rage 2. The success of Keanu Reeves at E3 will help the pendulum swing back from streamers towards celebrity endorsements.
We’ve come a long way since the infamous Jamie Kennedy car-crash at E3 a decade ago.
For the longest while, the only subscriptions that console gamers needed were Xbox Live or PlayStation Plus to play online. EA Access and Xbox Game Pass were gently introduced in recent years, giving those who subscribe access to that publisher’s back catalogue along with early access to upcoming titles.
But there was nothing that hinted at the explosion in subscription services that were aggressively introduced around E3 this year.
Google Stadia will have a subscription service. Uplay+ will be Ubisoft’s offering. Microsoft Ultimate Game Pass is a beefed up version of its existing subscription model. Square Enix is exploring the possibility too.
It’s the Square Enix story that’s the most interesting because the reaction to the news is that it may be one too many. Look at the Twitter replies to Nintendo Life’s tweet and this tweet that first broke the news to gauge the mood. A warning shot to other publishers eyeing up this new revenue stream.
Microsoft Ultimate Game Pass makes sense because the benefit is clear to the consumer. But what happens when everyone starts to muscle in with their own subscription services?
“I think you will find that the things that get to scale and offer the most value early will be the long-term players,” Microsoft VP of Gaming Phil Spencer told Verge. “I don’t think there’s one, but I also don’t think there are 100 different subscriptions [that will be successful].”
Time will tell if he’s right.
Every year, without fail, E3 is preceded by “Does E3 still matter?” think pieces. Every year, after the dust has settled on LA’s Convention Center, the answer has always been a resolute “Yes!”
But this year, the answer feels more like “…yes?”
E3 opened its doors on Tuesday but for all intents and purposes, all the big announcements had already been made in the conferences peppered throughout the previous days. From the big guns like Microsoft and Nintendo to the indie darlings like Devolver Digital, we were the first to hear the big announcements directly from them.
E3 wasn’t the conduit for these announcements. Weirdly, E3 somehow felt like the afterparty for its own event.
The main challenge E3 faces is that the media landscape of the games industry is changing pace faster than it can keep up with. The advent of livestreaming and social media has meant that watching the conferences live to see the announcements has become more important than waiting for considered hands-on previews to filter through from media in attendance. The power has shifted, perhaps irreversibly, from the showfloor to the live conferences.
The fate of E3 lies with the publishers who still see the value in behind-closed-doors presentations of their latest titles. That’s where publishers maintain an element of control and power over what media play and report, as opposed to the chaotic free-for-all of social media during live conferences.
But it’s hard to see what E3 can do to prevent or even slow down its own diminishing influence. It let the public in for the first time in 2017. What other levers does it have to pull for next year’s conference?
Just for fun, we asked the games industry for their E3 2019 predictions… have a look and see how close they got to what was announced!