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Ranking the E3 2017 Press Conferences

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It’s a pompous, yet time-honored tradition to grade each publisher’s E3 press conference. Companies go through an interesting cycle every year where some have exciting new game announcements or console reveals while others tow the line with some extended trailers. And some just go completely bonkers.

E3 2017 is further proof that physical, live-audience press conferences are increasingly becoming obsolete. Each show is live streamed and can be easily watched from the comfort of your own home on a myriad of devices and websites.

The majority of each show was dominated by trailers, which soon show up on YouTube for bite-sized viewing. The showmanship and spectacle of each conference continues to dwindle, instead replaced by flashy sizzle reels and carefully orchestrated cinematic trailers.

Before we drown ourselves in our own cynicism over E3, it’s important to remember that each conference remains an informative and enjoyable way for major publishers to shine the spotlight on their developers and the games they’re making.

Here is our ranking of the E3 2017 press conferences.

1) Ubisoft

Ubisoft has had some down years lately. But they really brought their “A” game to E3 2017.

For the first time in years they dropped frequent E3 host Aisha Tyler in favor of just letting Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot anchor the presentation. It began with Guillemot announcing the surprisingly awesome-looking Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom by bringing Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto on stage. It was self-congratulatory but also disarmingly sweet thanks to Guillemot’s boyish charm and enthusiasm.

Two other brand new announcements were the online pirate adventure Skull and Bones and the sci-fi toys-to-life Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Astonishingly Ubisoft spent minimal time on its core franchises like Far Cry 5 and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, smartly giving more time for new games. Assassin’s Creed: Origins looks completely amazing with its intriguing Ancient Egypt setting. Ubisoft made the correct call putting the annual franchise on hold for a year. Now we can get excited about more Assassin’s Creed again.

Ubisoft had the biggest finale of all the conferences with the jaw-dropping cinematic trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2 – a game no one expected to see at E3 at all. It’s been in development for so long with little information that to see a lengthy trailer in a beautiful sci-fi world was incredible.

Final Grade: A

 

2) Nintendo

Nintendo had the foresight to see what E3 was becoming and switched to pre-recorded video conferences for E3 years ago. It’s worked well for them, but this year was especially exciting given the recently released Nintendo Switch just a few months ago. This was Nintendo’s chance to show off all the new games coming for their new console and they did not disappoint.

They focused exclusively on Nintendo Switch games and had several new announcements – Kirby, Yoshi, Metroid Prime 4, and a new Pokémon game all coming to Switch. Unfortunately Metroid Prime 4 was very much a teaser and we got less than that for the upcoming Pokémon Switch title.

What we did get to see were spiffy new trailers for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Fire Emblem Warriors, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s upcoming DLC, and the belle of the show – Super Mario Odyssey. Nintendo’s E3 Spotlight was the very definition of short and sweet with a refreshing run time of less than 30 minutes. Switch owners have a lot to get excited for this year and beyond.

Grade: A-

 

3) Xbox

Microsoft had the distinct advantage of unveiling a new piece of hardware this year: the Xbox One X. Confusing name aside, the Xbox One X is a powerful upgrade that takes advantage of 4k resolution and HDR lighting. While the specs are certainly impressive, Microsoft knew that what ultimately sells gaming hardware is the software.

The Xbox E3 presentation was dominated by trailer after trailer, most of which boasted exclusivity – a glaring complaint that Microsoft is trying to address. I was very impressed with trailers for State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, Metro Exodus, Super Lucky’s Tale, Ashen, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Nailing exclusivity for the extremely popular online shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds will pay dividends, as was the Minecraft news of cross-play between Xbox, PC, and mobile.

Microsoft also got to show off the first footage of Assassin’s Creed: Origins and show expanded gameplay footage of Anthem and Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Based on this year’s E3 conference the Xbox brand looks stronger than ever.

Final Grade: B+

 

4) PC Gaming Show

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The PC Gaming Show fills an awkward space in the E3 conference line-up. It’s technically not hosted by a publisher but by a media outlet, PC Gamer, and sponsored by Intel. It does provide a unique focus on PC games and developers in a trade show that’s usually obsessively focused on console news.

This year marked the third PC Gaming Show and everyone has grown far more comfortable with what the show is. The unique format lets game developers come on stage to discuss their game with host Sean “Day9” Plott. Plott keeps the event moving quickly, asking dev-friendly questions and showing a trailer and/or slice of gameplay. We got some fun looks at Battletech, Wargroove, Sea of Thieves, Tunic, and Ylands. We even had some fun new announcements, like a trailer for GriftLands, the LawBreakers release date, and the reveal of the upcoming XCOM 2 expansion.

Compared to other events the PC Gaming Show is much smaller and lighter. But I appreciate the talk-show format, and letting the developers talk briefly about the games and content they’re excited to show.

Final Grade: B

 

5) PlayStation

Sony had a very strong showing last year and the PS4 has been doing extremely well this console generation. It was disappointing to see them mostly resting on their laurels, continuing to show more impressive trailers for games that first impressed us last year.

Monster Hunter: World looks like a triumphant, AAA experience that should please fans of the series and a Horizon: Zero Dawn expansion is very welcome news. The rest was a collection of PlayStation VR games that are always difficult to show off in a trailer, and many new trailers for games we’ve already seen, like God of War III, Days Gone, and Detroit: Become Human.

Only a single person ever graced the stage, Sony’s CEO Shawn Layden. Layden always feels uncomfortable in his host position, leaving Sony’s event devoid of personality. Spider-Man was their big send-off trailer and while it looked nice, it also featured a whole bunch of eyebrow-raising quick time events.

Final Grade: B-

 

6) Electronic Arts

EA had one of the more traditional E3 press conferences with a hefty dose of flashiness – including revealing a new Porsche on stage to help promote Forza Motorsport 7. It was also ridiculously long. With a Saturday time slot all to themselves the EA Play show lasted a bloated three hours.

A solid 30 minutes was dedicated to shoutcasting a Star Wars Battlefront II multiplayer match. While I always appreciate raw gameplay footage of upcoming games, it came across as awkward and even a bit embarrassing as they tried to explain the game during a live match where many players clearly didn’t know what they were doing. The actual press conference was not the best time for this.

Almost the entire rest of the show was dedicated to the next sports game installments, which are mostly incremental, and racing games like Need for Speed Payback and Forza. EA felt far less diversified this year. Oddly while they did get to announce the upcoming Destiny-like BioWare title Anthem, we didn’t get a good look at it until the Microsoft show.

The one memorable highlight from EA Play was A Way Out, a uniquely forced split-screen co-op game. Josef Faris, maker of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons took the stage to talk about his upcoming title and was one of the more engaging speakers at E3.

Final Grade: C+

 

7) Devolver Digital

If you wanted to bottle up all the weirdness and memes of internet culture into a game publisher, you might end up with something like Devolver Digital. The small publisher has made waves producing dozens of small but fun indie titles, many of which are very streaming-friendly. The publisher held a very late night press conference that lasted all of 15 minutes. They didn’t  announce any new games and only two actual game trailers were shown.

The majority of the show was designed  to poke fun at and explicitly mock traditional E3 press conferences, as well as modern gaming trends like Early Access games and knee-jerk community feedback. Comedy is tough to pull off but Devolver did an admirable job that went over very well with its fans. I enjoyed it for what it was but I wish they would’ve peppered in more games.

Final Grade: BANANAS

 

8) Bethesda

Oh, Bethesda. You had such a fun idea. I loved the show’s theme around “Bethesdaland,” a visual representation of all their franchises. But when it came time for the actual show, the publisher just didn’t have anything new and exciting this year. At just over 30 minutes it felt more like they needed to hold a press conference since they’ve hosted one the last few years.

It was business as usual with some new content for existing games (Dishonored 2 DLC, expansion for Elder Scrolls: Legends) and VR spin-offs of Fallout and DOOM. They sneaked in a new paid mod system called Creation Club, but it raised more questions than answers.

The two new announcements were sequels – The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The latter had an especially cool eight and a half minute trailer but ultimately it wasn’t enough to lift Bethesda from last place.

Final Grade: C-