We’re in a wacky time for gaming. A time when all the gaming platforms, from Switch to PC, are holding hands around the campfire, singing folk songs and sharing a beer. For the first time in gaming history, we’re seeing unity and teamwork in the industry as a whole, and in turn, the industry is thriving. So why was the massive E3 gaming conference so off this year?
To clarify, E3 wasn’t bad, it just lacked substance—especially in terms of gameplay. In my opinion, it’s because we’re in the twilight years of the current console generation. When a platform is working on a future console that it’s not ready to show, its E3 presence tends to be lackluster. Sony (of PlayStation) decided to sit this year out entirely; with the next generation speeding toward us, it seems like it just didn’t have anything massive to reveal yet.
The consoles may be friends, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to make a competition out of who brought the most hype-worthy news to the table. With Sony out, that leaves our remaining contestants as: Microsoft’s Xbox, EA, Bethesda, Devolver, Ubisoft, Square Enix, and finally, the golden boy of gaming, Nintendo. Here’s our rundown of the best—and worst—from each contestant’s E3 2019 presentation, and our pick for this year’s E3 champion.
Microsoft didn’t give us gameplay.
The overarching problem with this year’s E3 was the lack of actual gameplay, and no one suffered more from this than Microsoft. The Xbox showcase should have been the pinnacle of E3. The team at Microsoft has been absolutely killing it with gaming innovation and collaboration lately, and I was excited to see more. Don’t get me wrong, there were a ton of titles teased, including a new Halo, the awesome Gears 5, Cyberpunk 2077 with Keanu Reeves, Elden Ring, and more. There were myriad triple A and indie titles, not to mention Project Scarlett, the next generation of Xbox consoles.
So why didn’t it feel like a triumph? Purely because it lacked gameplay. While every game Microsoft showed off was gorgeous, we never saw much more than pre-rendered cut scenes, causing an odd disconnect. Microsoft brought the heat, but the execution wasn’t quite right. (But none of this matters anyway, because the Battletoads remake looks fucking awesome.)
EA showed off Star Wars (and not much else).
EA started early this year and made its major announcements at EA Play leading up to the E3 convention. A new hero is coming to Apex Legends, there’s a new Battlefield V map, FIFA got street games back, and biggest of all, there’s an actually good Star Wars game coming out this year. And EA showed off some Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order gameplay as well. I got my hands on it, and it was awesome. The combat was addictive and enthralling, and while not much is known about the plot, from the part I saw, the voice acting and narrative looked phenomenal. But overall, EA was pretty dull.
Bethesda lacked surprises.
Overall, Bethesda gave us things to be excited for. Doom Eternal looks absolutely amazing, and so does Deathloop. Wolfenstein: Youngblood seems like a blast. Fallout 76 is getting fixed, and it will have a battle royale mode. But it wasn’t a surprising or adrenaline-filled conference by any means.
Devolver was indie gold.
Devolver is my personal favorite at E3. It always has some ridiculous, ultra-violent press conference, and this year was no different. It debuted a new platforming battle royale game called Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, which looked intense. There was also information about a game called Carrion, where you play as a killer alien, more stuff on My Friend Pedro, and even the premiere of a Devolver Bootleg collection of games ripped off from Devolver (there are a lot of them, because it’s one of the most brilliant developing teams out there). Overall, this presentation was goofy and fun, and a perfect embodiment of indie E3.
Ubisoft was predictable.
Ubisoft did okay. Really, there’s not much more to say. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is still kicking with new, upcoming content. Gods & Monsters looks pretty cool. Ghost Recon Breakpoint has the Punisher and is still Ghost Recon, so people will play it. Ubisoft is launching a subscription service, and you can kick some major ass as a grandma in Watch Dogs 2. Overall, it was not a bad display, but it was all very predictable.
Square Enix debuted exciting Mana and Avengers news.
Square Enix started with a bang, revealing a ton of info about the Final Fantasy VII remake. And folks, as I learned in a hands-on trial, it’s badass. The mechanics are extremely satisfying and allow for a near perfect meld of traditional turn-based RPG strategy and action RPG gameplay. Square Enix made a lot of small surprise announcements, a personal favorite being the return of the Mana series, with the Collection of Mana now out and Trials of Mana coming soon. Square also had a lot of Switch news, with the reveal of a mobile version of the Crystal Chronicles remaster coming this winter and a Final Fantasy VIII remaster coming soon. Beyond that it was heavy on the JRPG side of things, which is great if you love JRPGs.
The showcase ended with a longer segment on the new Marvel’s Avengers game. Not much was revealed, but the gameplay shown during the conference is promising, especially when coupled with the multiplayer/co-op ideas. Overall, Square Enix channeled some surprise and excitement into its conference.
Nintendo won by a landslide.
While the rest of the conference had its up and downs, Nintendo came out and crushed it in a series of big, and frankly surprising, announcements. We got two new Smash DLC characters: Erdrick from Dragon Quest, and my personal favorite, Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have survived it if Banjo Threeie had been announced. Anyway. Nintendo proved itself the E3 winner within minutes of its presentation, and it just kept getting better. Right after the shocking Banjo announcement, it showed off footage from a Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel, and everyone lost their minds.
There was loads of other Nintendo news. Contra is back. The phenomenal Cadence of Hyrule was just released. Animal Crossing: New Horizons did get delayed, but we saw some gameplay, and it looks adorable. Nintendo gave us a mountain of new Luigi’s Mansion 3 info. (Personally, this is one of the games I’m most excited for, what with full co-op both online and on the couch.) We saw amazing gameplay from the remake of Link’s Awakening, which now has a September 20 release date.
Nintendo has a history of giving either very good or very bad E3 presentations. It usually dumps a lot of information about a handful of games. But this year, Nintendo broke form, showing us title after title, and most importantly, gameplay for nearly every title. Nintendo won by a landslide largely due to that gameplay.
While we’re in a fantastic time for gamers, with tons of options for streaming and portability thanks to unity among the industry, E3 2019 proved down to the core why Nintendo (and some indie developers) has been ruling the market lately. It comes down to pure fun. Gamers love tech that looks great, but we need things that play great, too. While I think there’s a lot of good on the horizon, and the awkwardness of this E3 was in part due to growing pains with the upcoming generation, everyone could take some cues from Nintendo for next year.