E3 2015 – Duelling Pasts

This year’s E3 was full of unexpected, monumental bombshells. Also, Nintendo announced a few things. Joking aside, of the big 3 console publishers, there’s no doubt that Sony and Microsoft brought their big guns. Both companies are thriving in the market place, but both need to keep consumer faith high because, at this juncture, either one could fall far behind should the other get a powerful leg up. What interested me about this year’s E3 wasn’t so much what was announced, but the portions of the conference that have been heralded as hands-down the biggest part of either of the presentations. For Microsoft, I’m referring to its inclusion of backwards compatibility (“BC”). For Sony, it was its string of mega-announcements: Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake and Shenmue III. I’ve seen few people talk about actually new stuff other than Fallout 4, which is a shame, and more signs that gamers are kind of addicted to the past. Today, I’d like to look at these major announcements and try to explain why they shouldn’t be quite as big and important as the stuff people don’t seem to care about.

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Starting with Microsoft, they announced that they would be patching the Xbox One to be able to play 360 games. This seems huge, massively expanding the library of Microsoft’s newest console. Except it isn’t that big. This is limited BC. By the holiday season, 100 games will be available. This sounds like a lot. It isn’t. This includes arcade games, and publishers have to give the go ahead in order to have their games put on the list. In other words, expect to see very few non-Microsoft published games on this list. After all, we are in the midst of the remaster craze, where developers such as Capcom have openly stated that they are going to double down on remastering their games as part of their business model.

When Perfect Dark Zero is front and centre, you know there's something wrong.

When Perfect Dark Zero is front and centre, you know there’s something wrong with your lineup.

But I don’t want to talk too much on the ineffectiveness of Microsoft’s BC plan. For those that do, my weekly article on gamemoir.com will cover that topic rather thoroughly this Tuesday. What I would like to highlight is how backwards-looking (pun!) this is. Gamers are heralding Microsoft as the winner of E3 because they are letting gamers play games they already bought for a system they likely already own. This is ludicrous thinking. In an industry where gamers are constantly yelling for more new IPs, somehow this news is what gamers latch onto. What about ReCore or Ion? There’s impressive new stuff coming down the pipeline, but all anyone cares about is Microsoft’s quite literal backwards step. BC is great, but it’s not wonderful, nor a game-changer. After all, the only company that’s consistently kept BC over the last two gens has been Nintendo, and when’s the last time you’ve heard anyone talk about that?

Sony fares similarly. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t one of the millions cheering at the announcement of Final Fantasy VII Remake – I was. In fact, I’m incredibly excited about all of the games. But let’s face facts, the big bombshells are categorically in the past. The Last Guardian was presumed vapourware. Shenmue III is new, but of an old defunct series. And Final Fantasy VII Remake is… well a remake. These are examples of Sony reaching into the mists of the past to draw up things that fans have wanted for a very long time. Like Microsoft, they come with strings. FFVII in particular is a timed exclusive, whereas Shenmue III is coming to PC. The timed exclusive deal isn’t a big hit for Sony, though. After all, people treat the new Tomb Raider game as a huge win for Microsoft and it’s equally timed.

Shenmue-III-PlayStation-E3-2015-Stream-02-1280x720Like with Microsoft, the problem isn’t the announcement itself, but how they have dominated gamer thought. In many ways, I can’t blame gamers for this one. Unlike BC, these are legitimately exciting and invigorating announcements. Fans have waiting years for these games, and, truthfully, many believed none of them would see the light of day, no less be announced/reaffirmed in rapid succession. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that the debate between pro-Microsoft and pro-Sony camps rest so firmly on these announced games, which will take long before they release, and Microsoft’s BC, which will be a limited and unnecessary salve to a problem that no longer exists.

What we should be arguing infinitum about is all of the amazing new stuff. Sticking with Sony’s conference for a moment, Horizon looks absolutely amazing and could be the start of a new flagship series for Sony. The same goes with Dreams, which looks to follow the spirit of the now-stale Little Big Planet series. Even World of Final Fantasy, cutesy and kiddy as it was, shows a ton of promise as a new and interesting game.

What about Uncharted, Halo, Gears, etc.? I truthfully don’t care. Not because these games won’t be good. Rather, these are the standard workhorses of their respective houses. We know exactly what we are going to be getting down to the tiniest detail. None of these games will revolutionize anything, but all will be fun for a wide audience. It’s the same thing with games like Assassin’s Creed. These are the day-in day-out wage earners for the companies. There are no risks and people will buy them. I’m more interested in the slew of indie and small-scale games from both conferences. I don’t know if Firewatch is going to be a good game, or if it will falter. But that’s a good thing. I’d rather talk about something unpredictable than a sure thing.

c3912ac38412ea079949c8e2bdceb36d8e21bb7b.jpg__0x1500_q85Leaving Sony and Microsoft, and thus the main theme of this article, for a moment, the rest of E3 was brimming with new and important announcements. One that must be addressed is the massive expansion of Platinum Games. From its early critical successes with games like Bayonetta and Vanquish, Platinum proved themselves to be kings of fast-paced, arcade-style combat. Now they are developing a huge new slate of games, far more than you’d expect from a studio of its size. I’d be remiss if I didn’t specifically highlight the new Nier game as one of the big undiscovered announcements of E3. Nier is a massive cult classic with incredibly vocal fans. The sequel will be wrapping all of the talent of the first game with the gameplay experience of Platinum.

But who cares about Nier or the dozens of other new announcement? Indeed, Nintendo is currently getting flak over its new Metroid and Star Fox games (whether deservedly is another article). The only game that seems to have escaped the BC vs. bombshell announcement blackhole has been Fallout 4, which has led a lot of people to declaring Bethesda the winner of this year’s E3. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it is refreshing to see people talk about an exciting new game with exciting new stuff packed into it rather than receding into the past. Not that there’s anything wrong with the past. It’s just unfortunate when it clouds over the the future.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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