E3 2021 Impressions – Day 2, Microsoft And Square Bring The Heat 

After a rather disappointing day 1 of E3 2021, we had high hopes that todays big line up could save us for the year and we mostly got what we asked for. 

Starting the day off with Microsoft was a rather big bang as the entire conference was filled with game trailers back-to-back with over 31 titles shown off for Xbox. 

The disappointing side of Xbox and Bethesda being together is obviously they need to condense these conferences some, but I also found this to be a plus. What this prevented was both Microsoft and Bethesda from talking about games that are nowhere near release. For example no mention of Elder Scrolls or Fable, probably because we are not seeing them until at least 2023. Normally when these two were separate companies we would get announcements well in advance and be stuck waiting years and years. Now that their line up is a bit bolstered we don’t need that. 

Which is what personally made Xbox’s conference so great. Everything they did show and talk about is releasing within this year or by 2022. I don’t believe a single game they highlighted had a release date further out, so being able to see 31 games all releasing relatively soon was fantastic. 

That being said I am keeping the pressure on Xbox to actually hit these releases. My major gripe with the showcase was the lack of gameplay. A majority of the games were just CG trailers (to a point they were even making fun of themselves with Outer Worlds 2), granted they may have slowed production some due to COVID, they just put a lot of pressure on themselves to get these games out within 2022. The most important one being Starfield. Starfield had a better reveal, but still failed to show gameplay or what the game actually is. In reality all Starfield’s reveal did was exactly what Elder Scrolls did….. Over 2 years ago…. by just simply showing a concept and nothing more. Bethesda is a slow developer, it’ll be interesting how soon we see more of Starfield and why exactly we should be excited for it. (Besides it being a Bethesda title). 

Which is also rather odd that Microsoft is still not clear with Bethesda. Yes, newly announced games were very clearly Xbox exclusives, but they were still tip-toeing around the idea that current franchises will remain on PlayStation or not. They showed Doom with an Xbox update, but ID Software was quick to release a statement that the next gen update is also hitting PS5 on the same day. Pretty much everything Bethesda was slated to “play better on Xbox,” but other than the 2 new franchises there wasn’t anything entirely exclusive from Bethesda. What was great about the Bethesda portion is that Microsoft intertwined them with their own games, which was neat. It really showcased how they packed in their exclusives, while highlighting other games of their own.

The real winner was GamePass users. The showcase played out like an hour long GamePass advertisement with pretty much every game being on the service. Microsoft was also particular in adding “Day 1 On Gamepass” over 27 times. It’s hard to say this service isn’t worth the value at this point and will be hard to ignore. 

The real shocking thing for me was that Halo wasn’t the big highlight of the show. I’m not a big fan of racing games, they are easy to make look pretty, so I was getting a little bored with Forza at the end. I would have been way more hype if Halo was the closer, and the more in-depth segment went to them instead, but for Forza fans I assume the entire conference was just a thrill ride. 

We head to Square Enix 

Moving from Microsoft to Square was a bit scary. Normally Square Enix has a really dull awkward conference, as they don’t have very strong stage presence, but I believe the digital format for 2021 really saved them. Square basically did a digital event like they normally do throughout the year, but utilized the audience of E3 to showcase some new stuff. 

Similar to Microsoft I was a bit disappointed with a lot of games they could have talked about were entirely missing, but what they did show was honestly the best games of E3 so far. They were very similar to Microsoft in terms of end-to-end game trailers, with just the right amount of in-depth talk about specific games. The best game of “official” E3 for me seems to be Guardians of the Galaxy because it simply looked amazing, but we also got a lengthy gameplay walkthrough with it too, not just CGI. A majority of what Square showed also involved gameplay which is why I enjoyed their presentation so much. 

What disappointed me with Square was the mobile titles. I saw FF franchises getting a refresh, then was totally let down when it said mobile. Not only on mobile, but not even on Nintendo Switch…. Seems like a total miss there. The good thing with their conference is that mobile titles took almost no focus away from core games at all. Yes they showed them, but it was quick sizzle reels with an announcement, and then we went back to in-depth views of AAA titles. So yeah i’m disappointed with the FF slate (come on Square!) im happy it didnt turn attention away from core gamers. 

The thing that has me questioning E3….. 

One thing that bugged me about today’s conferences was being entirely digital, obviously COVID reasons caused this, but it made me question E3 in general. E3 is a big spectacle where you’re supposed to put on big shows for everybody, but these digital presentations kind of did the trick too. Square for example benefited from it, but WB kind of showed how pointless it was. Same with Ubisoft and Gearbox. If you have nothing to show, don’t be afraid to just walk out like Activision, Sony, and EA have done. It’s not really about being “better” than E3, it’s just simply if you’re at E3, have something to show. WB being on the schedule for a 10 minute Back 4 Blood demo is kind of a joke, they could have easily tied that into another conference (especially since it is a GamePass title). I more so blame E3 (ESA) itself for this than I do the companies. Clearly the pandemic is just now affecting the game industry, and it is entirely clear with these presentations so far. 

One last nod to PC gamer. 

One of those benefiting from the digital experience is the PC Gamer experience. Typically I blow it off, but it’s been getting better over time. It was a good send off for day 2 this year with a lot of games from both indie developers and some bigger titles. I am not a big fan of making it overly cheesy, but as a gamer it had a lot of games to show off. 

Overall Day 2 is more so what I was expecting from this years E3. I know it’s not going to be the greatest E3 ever due to the restriction the pandemic put on the industry over the past year, but it was still a bit exciting for what was shown. And a big plus for making it through an entire day without talking about movies! 

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