E3 Has Come and Gone
E3 has come to a conclusion. As a result, the participants have released an enormous amount of information about their upcoming products for the purposes of building up hype, informing interested individuals, and more besides. For the most part, the information that came out of E3 was not unexpected, though there were still surprises that came up from time to time.
For example, a lot of the upcoming products that were revealed at E3 have been known for some time. In some cases, these upcoming products have had trailers, meaning that the latest announcements are intended to keep their names fresh in the minds of their potential customers. One excellent example is Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, which has had footage plus multiple trailers released in the past months.
As a result, while the new material was presumably welcome news for people who are fascinated by that particular franchise, most of it can’t be called a surprise because it has been known for months and months. With that said, there are also cases in which upcoming products were known but had much less information revealed about them, thus making the resulting presentations that much more surprising. One excellent example is the new Fire Emblem for the Nintendo Switch, which is called Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Certainly, it has been known for some time that a new Fire Emblem game was been made for the Nintendo Switch, which presumably would be an installment in the main series rather than a remake like Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia for the Nintendo 3DS.
However, there was next to nothing known about what the new Fire Emblem game would be like, which is why the trailer for Fire Emblem: Three Houses was packed full of surprises. Said trailer didn’t answer all of the questions that people were interested in, but it was never meant to, seeing as how it was an appetizer to prime people for the further information that will be released in the future still to come.
Of course, there were also plenty of cases in which people’s expectations were sometimes met and sometimes not met. For instance, Creative Assembly is now in the process of making its next major historical title, Total War: Three Kingdoms, meaning something more along the lines of Total War: Rome II rather than Total War: Thrones of Britannia. Due to the fact that the Three Kingdoms period is one of the most romanticized historical periods in not just China but also a number of other East Asian countries, there was considerable concern from some segments of the Total War fan base that this new title would be more fantasy than history, particularly since Creative Assembly has had huge success with its first venture into fantasy settings in the form of Total War: Warhammer and its follow-ups. As it turned out, said individuals were both right and wrong to be concerned.
They were right in that the team behind Total War: Three Kingdoms are drawing inspiration from the 14th-century novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, as shown by footage of two Chinese generals fighting each other in a one-on-one duel that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a Hong Kong wuxia movie. However, they were also wrong because Creative Assembly has made the inspired choice to have both a historical and a romanticized mode for Total War: Three Kingdoms, meaning that the separate segments of the Total War fan-base can choose whichever option is better-suited to their personal preferences.
In fact, while there are now Total War fans concerned that the historical mode will be a mere afterthought compared to the romanticized mode, the fact that the team is going with a new retinue system in which units will be attached to particular commanders suggests that they are listening to their historical consultants, whose ranks happen to include a man named Rafe de Crespigny. Going into his full qualifications would take up too much time, but suffice to say that he is a leading candidate for the best historian of the Three Kingdoms period in the English-speaking world with no complications to that claim whatsoever.
Likewise, this mix of met and un-met expectations could be see in other games presented throughout E3. For example, just about all of the people who saw the trailer for Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones suspected that it was going to be based on the mechanics created for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but the footage from the game had a few surprises, which happened to include welcome improvements on the existing formula. Furthermore, while the news of a new Assassin’s Creed game called Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was a very mild surprise, the bigger surprise might be the facts that the player will be able to choose between a male and a female protagonist who will be able to make choices within the narrative itself.
Of course, such incidents were far from being restricted to the games that have been mentioned so far. Another excellent example can be seen in how most people were expecting a new Super Smash Bros. game but were caught flat-footed by the reveal that all of the characters from past titles would be making a return, including the unlikeliest choices such as the Metal Gear series’s Solid Snake. Meanwhile, the reveal for Ghost of Tsushima confirmed the knowledge that it would be set during the Mongol Invasions of Japan, but wowed a lot of people with its look while also confirming that it would essentially be chanbara in a somewhat historically inaccurate but surprisingly game-able period.
Was E3 Too Predictable or Too Unpredictable?
Summed up, E3 was a mixture of both the predictable and the unpredictable, which is as it should be. Should it become too predictable, it would become boring and stale by removing one of the most entertaining reasons for its existence. On the other hand, should it become too unpredictable, it would signal that game-makers have drifted very far from the expectations of not just the people who play games but also the people whose jobs consist of reporting on games. Something that would be rather problematic to say the least. On the whole, the latest E3 was an excellent balance between two extremes, though it seems probable that there are plenty of people who would prefer it if it moved a little closer but not all the way towards either one of those ends.