E3 2021 & Summer Game Fest Sunday Winners and Losers

Now it feels like E3 and Summer Game Fest season! After a very luke-warm Saturday, Xbox and Square Enix came out and brought the heat. They are just a few of the winners from Sunday. Who made our losers list? Find out below.

Winners

Square Enix

To be 100% transparent with you, I am a hardcore Square Enix fan. I play almost every game and love almost every reveal. It’s just how it is. However, despite being a Square Enix stooge, I do my best to not let that cloud my judgment and remain impartial for my esteemed winners and losers list.

With all that in mind, Square Enix absolutely knocked it out of the park with their showcase. They strutted to the batter’s box, stared the pitcher in the eyes, and swung for the absolute fences, and sent their showcase flying. They even did a bat flip and strutted like Conor McGregor all the way to home plate.

All jokes and hyperbole aside, though, they really did an excellent job. The reveal of Guardians of the Galaxy was absolutely stellar. It was something that no one saw coming and immediately became a Day 1 must buy title. What made it so awesome was how it seemed to capture the soul of the Guardians with the situations and banter. Furthermore, this reveal wasn’t just one big cinematic. It had a lengthy gameplay and an October release date. Plus, it’s not a live service. Wonderful way to kick off the show.

I even appreciated the Black Panther Avengers reveal. While I’m not all that into the Avengers game, this Black Panther trailer was exceptional and even had me kinda have an inkling to jump back into the Avengers game…but probably not. I hope everyone enjoys it though! If you’re into it.

I’ll talk more about the Final Fantasy reveals later, but I will say it was a major bright spot. However, what really caught my eye was how Square Enix respected our time. There was a block where they primarily showed mobile games. Rather than spending too much time diving into each one, they sped through them while still recognizing them. If this had been someone like Ubisoft or EA, we likely would’ve had a solid 5-10 minute showcase of each mobile game. All respect to mobile games and the people who make them but no one really wants that.

From top to bottom, Square Enix had a great showcase. They revealed some exciting new games and understood their audience well. There are some things I would’ve liked to have seen, but we’ll talk about that later. Overall, though, Square Enix’s showcase was a winner.

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy left an indelible mark on the Square Enix Presents showcase. The major Final Fantasy highlights were the reveals of Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster and Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origins

I absolutely love that Final Fantasy 1-6 are getting remastered versions. I’d like to have seen more gameplay footage of each game, but the fact that all of these games are resurfacing for a new generation of gamers to experience has me thrilled. Now, the one caveat that most of the gaming community is up in arms about is the fact that Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster is releasing on Steam and Mobile devices, at the moment. I get the frustration here. At least release them on Nintendo Switch or something, but the silver lining here is that these games are being remastered and it’s highly likely that they’ll get a console port at some point in the future.

Now, the main event of the Square Enix showcase belonged to Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin. It’s not what I personally would’ve expected to be the main event, but kudos to SE for trying something new with the long-running franchise. 

The trailer surrounded what Tetsuya Nomura described as “An Angry Man” on his quest to defeat Chaos, joined alongside two very charismatic characters who called themselves “Warriors of Light”. While the dialogue wasn’t the best, I really enjoyed the darker, bloodier, intense direction of the game. It didn’t feel like most Final Fantasy games, but yet still seemed to capture the essence of Final Fantasy, if that makes sense. Plus, by showing gameplay of what seems to be a pivotal moment of the game, it made me excited to learn more about this Final Fantasy Origin. So, I downloaded the demo. Stay tuned for more takes on that.

Overall, if you’re a Final Fantasy fan, like yours truly, you ate well during Square Enix Presents. It may not have been the meal you were expecting, but it was good eats nonetheless. We’ll talk more about what was missing in the losers section, below.

Xbox

Well done Xbox! You absolutely crushed your annual presentation with a wonderful showcase of 30 exciting new games. It clocked in at about an hour and 25 minutes, but there was no wasted motion. You let the games of your Xbox Game Studios and 3rd party studios do all the talking. 

Furthermore, you dunked on all the dissenting voices that claimed Xbox had no games and no “exclusive” titles that made owning an Xbox a priority. It was so well done that our entire team left the showcase saying, “We really need to get our hands on a Series X.”

The Xbox/Bethesda event revealed games like Starfield, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, Contraband, Psychonauts 2 Gameplay, Party Animals, Somerville, Halo: Infinite Multiplayer, Atomic Heart, The Outer Worlds 2, Redfall, just to name a few. That’s an extensive list of games that are releasing in 2021 & 2022 that gamers can get behind.

The biggest thing that Microsoft needed to do with this conference was to entice people to buy their next-gen console. With this lineup of games and the meticulously scheduled presentation, they put everyone on notice that Team Green is back.

Halo: Infinite

I said in our E3 Expectations article that Xbox needed to show off Halo: Infinite in some capacity at their showcase. After delays and a somewhat rough showing last year, 2021 needed to be Halo: Infinite’s redemption and it absolutely was.

The Xbox event started out with a new cinematic trailer featuring Master Chief and a new AI that resembled Cortana, but wasn’t Cortana because she’s been deleted, unless she hasn’t. It appeared that the mystery behind Cortana’s deletion or lack thereof was going to be a big point of the next Halo game.

However, what Halo fans really needed to see was gameplay and thankfully it came in the form of Halo Multiplayer. One of the best parts of any Halo game is multiplayer PvP and 343 Industries showed it off brilliantly. Featuring high-octane firefights, no scope headshots, skilled sticky grenade kills, and some impressive battle sequences, Halo: Infinite gameplay was ON FIRE. 

What makes Halo: Infinite multiplayer mode even better are how it features frame rates of up to 120fps and that it is free to play. Halo: Infinite needed to have a big showing in 2021 and they exceeded all expectations. Congratulations Xbox and 343 Industries! 

Xbox Game Pass

The Xbox love affair isn’t over just yet. Since its inception, Microsoft has made it a point to put as much content on their gaming subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, as humanly possible. Every Xbox showcase, they talk about how they are adding more and more to the service. So much so, that it really has become the best value in gaming.

This year was no exception. Almost every single big reveal had a slate attached to the end that said “Xbox Game Pass Day 1”, meaning that brand new game was going straight to Xbox Game Pass as soon as it releases. Therefore, players don’t have to pay the $60-$70 fee for a new game. Rather, they’ll be able to pre-download and play it for the low subscription cost that Xbox Game Pass members enjoy.

Xbox has invested a lot into Xbox Game Pass and it just continues to grow and get bigger. It was no secret that Xbox would add to it, but the amount in which they did so with conference was extraordinary. 10 Bethesda games and the entire Yakuza series, including one of the best in Yakuza: Like a Dragon are available today and games like Halo: Infinite, Among Us, Hades, Psychonauts 2, Scorn, and so many more will be available on Day 1. With this much content available at a ridiculous bargain, everyone is a winner.

Losers

Warner Bros. Games

Now onto the losers and the first on the list is Warner Bros. Games. Last year, WBG made a massive splash with the announcement of Gotham Knights, Suicide Squad, Harry Potter, and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. Yet, when given the opportunity to show something, provide an update for any of these highly-anticipated titles, they chose not to. 

Rather, they focused solely on Back 4 Blood. Nothing against Back 4 Blood. It may wind up being the Left 4 Dead successor we all want it to be, but it’s not a game that you can build your entire showcase over. 

When you consider the amount of highly-anticipated titles they are working on, only showing one was a massive letdown.

“World Premiere” Voiceover Guy

Before this year, every Xbox showcase was synonymous with the trademark Xbox town followed by an epic 90s action hero voice saying “World Premiere”. 

This year, Microsoft replaced this badass intro with a voiceless Xbox Console Exclusive banner, which left me bummed in my anticipation. What happened to our guy?! Is he ok?! Has anyone heard him lately?! If anyone knows the man behind the voice, tweet me @movethejoystick.

In all seriousness, Xbox did a stellar job with their showcase, but a 90s action hero to voice the slate would’ve really put it over.

Fans Expecting to See Elder Scrolls & Fable

As I stated above, I really did love what Xbox brought to the table. They really brought it this year. 

That said, I wasn’t all that jazzed with what Bethesda brought this year, which caused a war of words in our office between myself and known Bethesda fanboy, S0LEB who messaged Pete Hines and threatened to tattle on me to him (this really happened). 

The thing is, what Bethesda brought was fine. It really was. A cinematic trailer of Starfield that told us little and a bunch of Series X console enhancements to existing games. I mean no disrespect to anyone who was into those reveals. Love what you love. Redfall was badass, though.

All that said, what Bethesda fans were primed and ready to see was some sort of update on Elder Scrolls VI and they simply didn’t get it. All they got was Todd Howard saying they’re working on it, vaguely. 

In the end, there were just as many “Redfall looks amazing!”s as there were “Where was Elder Scrolls VI?”s, including the fiancé of our own Dustin Spino, who only watched the conference for that. 

That letdown is likely empathized with all those who expected to see Fable, as well. Last year, Xbox finally revealed a cinematic teaser for the long-awaited game. It’s perfectly natural to hope to see more 365 days later. Yet, there wasn’t even a mention of it.

Truth be told, Xbox didn’t need to showcase these to have a phenomenal show. They still pulled it off without them, but to those fans who felt that sting of disappointment when the game youre most excited for didn’t show, our hearts go out to you.

Fans Expecting to See Final Fantasy XVI & Forspoken

Speaking of no shows, let’s talk about who didn’t attend Square Enix’s E3 Presentation, Final Fantasy XVI and Forspoken. I’m sure glad there weren’t prop bets out that these games would make an appearance because I would’ve lost a lot of money. That’s how sure I was that these two games would be at E3 this year. Yet, neither showed, much to the chagrin of myself and Final Fantasy/SE fans. 

The lack of Forspoken, isn’t as big of a deal, when you consider it was all that long ago that Square Enix delivered an update on the game, introducing us to the main character and the actress who plays her.

However, no Final Fantasy XVI? Really? That’s like one of your flagship titles and you have nothing to show? Not even a release date. That definitely surprised me and was a letdown in what I firmly believe was an otherwise great showing.

Final Fantasy Heroines

I’d like to reiterate that I am a Square Enix homer. I bleed black, white, and a little strip of red. That said, I do think that Square Enix is getting into a dangerous habit of making the hero of every Final Fantasy male.

The last time a female was the star of a mainline Final Fantasy game was Lightning in the Final Fantasy XIII series. Since then, we’ve had Noctis and the Bro-ad Trip in Final Fantasy XV, the two brothers Clive and Joshua in Final Fantasy XVI, and now the three Chaos-hating dudes of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.

That’s three straight AAA Final Fantasy games where a woman isn’t the main character. Why is that? 

I’m not saying that I’m not excited for any and all of these upcoming Final Fantasy titles, but certainly Tetsuya Nomura and co. can create a captivating, badass heroine. The fact that they haven’t in what looks to be 3 straight new games is a glaring issue.

Ubisoft & Gearbox

In the Saturday edition of Winners and Losers, I said a lot of disparaging things about Ubisoft Forward and Gearbox. Even though they didn’t have a presentation on Sunday, I was still left with a bitter taste in my mouth from the previous day.

The reason for this has to do with how incredible Sunday’s showcases were. How can they possibly have looked at their showcases and thought, “Solid. People are going to love this.”? Xbox and Square Enix showed how easy it is to put together a great show and yet both Ubisoft and Gearbox made it look difficult. Saturday felt like a waste of time when you look at what Sunday brought and that’s something I don’t think any of us will be able to get over for a long time.

What do you think won and lost on Sunday? Let us know by tweeting us @cinelinx!

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RPG Gamer by Day, FPS Gamer by Night. Matt has been covering games for nearly a decade. The quickest way to his heart is discussing anything The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Naughty Dog, Bungie, just any game really. Also into movies, TV, travel, and anime.