E3 2019 is officially over, y’all. Though the world’s biggest gaming expo came and went faster than Elon Musk swiping that 2B artwork, the conference left us with plenty in the way of announcements to dissect and games to fawn over.
As with our pre-E3 2019 coverage a few weeks back, your favorite panel of dream chasers — David Silbert, Sam Martinelli, and Kei Isobe — will be doing a rapid-fire post-mortem on the best and worse of this year’s show. Easy peasy, Keanu Reevesy?
Okay, I’ll stop with the jokes. Don’t hit me.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate this year’s show, and why?
Sam: 7/10. To be honest, the show wasn’t necessarily bad; it just mostly showcased games we’d already seen and known about. Sure, getting more gameplay footage of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 was nice, but it’s not like people weren’t fully aware of these games three weeks ago. Overall, I just felt most of the major players were just gearing up for next year, with a few teasers here and there of the major stuff people want (Halo Infinite, Breath of the Wild sequel) and not a whole lot else. Essentially, my view of the rest of the year isn’t all that different than it was a month ago.
Kei: 7/10. There were some games this year that really excited me, which is more than I can say for some years, so it seems overly harsh to give E3 2019 a failing grade (by the outdated American grading system). The presenters mostly did a good job, with no major embarrassments or scandals, and there was some good diversity on display (anecdotally — I haven’t run the numbers on this, so to speak). It’s a bit of an in-between year for both E3 and the major publishers, which might explain some of the lack of going “all-in” by the big players this year. For E3, the convention continues to grapple with its niche as it struggles with declining attendance and slipping relevancy. For the major publishers, when we all know we’re one year away from the next generation, it makes sense to hold your cards closer to the chest and I think we saw that play out this year.
David: 8/10. I know, I know. Sony wasn’t at the show, EA was practically a no-show, Microsoft underwhelmed, and Bethesda was ruined by the dude who wouldn’t shut up. Even still, I enjoyed this year’s E3. Despite the clear holes in many publishers’ presentations as we gear up for a new generation, E3 2019 somehow managed to still show off the absolutely stunning amount of current-gen games coming in 2019 and 2020. Cyberpunk 2077, based on closed-door previews, sounds like it’s shaping up to be one of the biggest games we’ve seen to date. Final Fantasy VII Remake, likewise, looks like a polished and exciting return to form for Square Enix after its rocky history with recent franchise entries. Heck, even Watch Dogs: Legion managed to impress with a breathtaking demo highlighting some truly impressive tech. And then, of course, there was Nintendo, which showed game, after game, after game, after game.
Was it my ideal E3? Far from it. Was it entertaining and exciting? You betcha.
Using letter grades, how would you rank the conferences you saw?
Sam: It’s hard for me to give grades on matters like these, mainly because we are essentially evaluating how good a company is at presenting commercials and selling hope. That said:
Kei: I’m going to rank these in two ways — my personal rating first, and then a more general consensus type ranking that doesn’t take my specific personal taste in games into account.
EA: D / D
Microsoft: B- / B
Bethesda: B / B-
Ubisoft: B / B+
Square Enix: A / A-
Nintendo: D / B+
David: My grades are a bit more straightforward than Kei’s (ha). While I took a few things into account when crafting my rankings, my general thought-process can be distilled down to a single metric: Did “X” publisher deliver on past promises while continuing to tease the future? Based on that premise:
Square Enix: A-
Nice little upwards trajectory as the weekend went on.
Explain your top presser pick(s).
Sam: Nintendo stole the show, and not just with the BotW 2 teaser and bringing Banjo and Kazooie to Smash. The Big N made me interested in franchises that I’ve never played before, such as Luigi’s Mansion and Seiken Densetsu, for God’s sake. Everything was presented clearly and swiftly, without a ton of bells and whistles (besides, obviously, the Doug Bowser stuff). A lot of E3 presentations have a tendency to dwell a little too long on various game updates instead of making big reveals (looking at you, Bethesda), but Nintendo this year brought the goods, making announcement after announcement after announcement, inundating the audience with a wealth of awesome-looking experiences. Also, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 looks better than the Crystal Dynamics Avengers game. Yeah, I said it.
Kei: As evidenced by my conferences grades, Square Enix stole the show for me this year. The flow and presentation of their conference was rougher, but I’m cutting them some slack in that department as they don’t often host live conferences and the other publishers have much more experience here. I was just so impressed by what they showed of Final Fantasy VII Remake, from all of the character designs to the music to the gameplay.
David: I’m with Sam; Nintendo killed it this year. I said during our pre-E3 2019 preview that in order for Nintendo to have a successful show, all they had to do was show off the sheer variety of already-announced games they have in the pipeline. They did just that: Luigi’s Mansion 3, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Astral Chain, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Pokémon Sword and Shield… there were too many great games to count, and yet Nintendo somehow managed to give each its time to shine.
Nintendo didn’t stop there, however, and went above and beyond by dropping some exciting new announcements. The reveals ranged from blood-pumping (No More Heroes III! The Dragon Quest protagonists in Smash!) to absolutely earth-shattering (Banjo making it back onto a Nintendo platform!!! The sequel to Breath of the Wild!!!). Even the slight delay of Animal Crossing couldn’t take away from what was easily Nintendo’s strongest E3 effort in several years — and the bar was already really high.
Explain your bottom presser pick(s).
Sam: I guess EA, though I’m not sure it’s fair to call what they did a “presser.” They didn’t really bring much to the table besides a Fallen Order gameplay video (which I thought looked pretty cool, to be fair) and some updates to a bunch of games I don’t really play.
In terms of actual E3 pressers, my LVP (least valuable player) award goes to Bethesda, who have started devolving into the kind of company they proudly aimed to avoid in previous years: one defined by multiplayer, live services, and mobile games. It’s not necessarily a problem for me: clearly, there is a market for Elder Scrolls Legends, for example, but I am not really that market. I thought Bethesda had the best show of 2018, but they didn’t really bring anything particularly new and exciting to the forefront this time around. At least Microsoft added Legos to Forza Horizon.
Kei: Reason stands to say that I should discuss Nintendo or EA here, but my reasons behind disliking those shows are so steeped in personal bias that those elaborations wouldn’t be particularly interesting. For EA, the only game they showed of interest to me was Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which looked both impressive and disappointing within the same demo. On the other hand, Nintendo showed me nothing that was of real personal interest to me except for the BotW 2 tease, which is more just me falling into the “statistical anomaly” range of Nintendo video game fandom.
So I’m going to instead discuss why I felt Microsoft’s press conference was a disappointment, despite my reasonable B- grading of their show. With no Sony, and Nintendo firmly doing their own thing, this felt really like a really good opportunity for Microsoft to really show off everything they’ve been doing behind the scenes to improve their portfolio both in the twilight years of the Xbox One and going into the future.
Certainly, I can understand Microsoft’s trepidation to showing things before they’re ready, and if they don’t have anything to show they don’t have anything to show. But for all of their bluster about exclusives, 60 games, and world premieres, there wasn’t much at Microsoft’s conference that got me excited for their future in particular. The fact that Microsoft’s press conference, a bold 100 minutes long, dedicated precious time to games like Spiritfarer, which looks great but is a 2020 indie releasing on all major platforms, or Twelve Minutes, another intriguing project that actually doesn’t even have voice acting and looks to be in semi-rough shape is kind of concerning. Perhaps my expectations are too high, and Phil is saving his bullets for 2020, but this year’s conference didn’t get me particularly jazzed for the future of Xbox.
David: Hoo, boy. While the other conferences at E3 2019 — save for Nintendo’s — all had their own set of faults and missed opportunities (seriously, Microsoft? No Playground Games? No The Initiative?), EA really hit a new low this year. Following the disastrous showing that was last year’s EA Play, the publisher essentially decided to scrap the conference format all together in favor of morning-long livestreams of their upcoming sports titles and Apex Legends/Battlefield content.
What a huge misstep. No reveals, no new games (unless you count a half-baked developer diary highlighting a few indies without actually showing them), and to top it all off, an underwhelming reveal of their biggest game of the year. Say what you will about Fallen Order — whether or you loved it or hated it (more on that in a bit) — but there’s no denying that EA was just an absolute snoozefest, through and through.
Most impressive game of the show?
Sam: In the weirdest of senses, I kind of have to give it to Luigi’s Mansion 3. I haven’t played either of the previous games in the series, so it’s definitely a strange choice, but I tend to judge “game of the show” by two measurements: 1. How good does it look? 2. What’s my level of hype now relative to before E3?
In terms of how good it looked, LM3 honestly looks like the kind of puzzle-platforming nonsense that Nintendo fanboys like me crave, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some slimy Gooigi action. The multiplayer mode certainly looks appealing as well, and Nintendo tends to make fairly solid party gameplay.
In terms of hype, I sort of shrugged off the original announcement for the game, since I just never thought it was for me. After seeing some gameplay footage and a deeper explanation of the mechanics, I was hooked. Is it going to be as good as Cyberpunk 2077 or Final Fantasy VII Remake? Who the hell knows, man. All I know is that haunted hotel looks like a blast, and that’s not something I imagine I would have said just two weeks ago.
Kei: For me, Final Fantasy VII Remake. I was growing concerned by the relative radio silence and how the trailers seemed to be static menu overlays placed over gameplay, but the live demonstration assuaged all of my fears. We had known beforehand that Mitsunori Takahashi, the lead battle planner for Kingdom Hearts II (one of the most well-regarded character action games of all time) was involved in VIIR, but this is the first we’ve seen his touch on the game and it has me very excited for what’s to come.
That, and my girl Tifa finally made her appearance, and I couldn’t be happier with her portrayal.
David: I think I have to go with VII Remake as well. Seeing as how Cyberpunk 2077 footage was kept behind closed doors (and thus wasn’t available for those like us who didn’t attend the show), I can’t render a verdict on it until the demo is made public in August at PAX Prime. VII, on the other hand, practically dominated the show this year, with a meaty demo and a series of juicy trailers shown off during Square Enix’s conference. Combat looked great, Cloud and Barrett’s chirpy interactions were fantastic, Tifa made her grand entrance, and the game looked absolutely stunning — especially the new character model for Aerith (sorry, Kei, Aerith 4ever <3).
Most disappointing game of the show?
Sam: The Crystal Dynamics Avengers game, which to be fair didn’t have an actual gameplay trailer. Still, the character models looked weird, the gameplay appeared to be fairly derivative and a little too dark/gritty for my tastes, and it just seemed to miss a lot of the brightness and flair that have helped make the MCU such a roaring success. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 — a fairly standard beat ‘em up with inferior graphical capabilities and probably a worse story — blew Avengers out of the water for me, as it at least appears to have its own identity. Avengers looks like trying to retrofit superhero mechanics into Tomb Raider, and I’m not convinced it’s going to work.
Kei: My pick would probably go to Pokémon Sword/Shield, simply due to the confirmation that only Pokémon in the Galar Pokédex can be caught in Sword and Shield, with no National Dex Pokemon being available at all. That’s just such a massive disappointment for someone who’s been a longtime fan (even if my interest has waxed and waned with certain entries).
David: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The footage at EA Play had me so dumbstruck that I immediately had to get my grievances down in print. Sluggish enemies, static world elements, jerky animations… it just didn’t seem polished enough for a game coming this fall. Hopefully I’ll be proven wrong, and I’m glad those who had hands-on time at E3 2019 are coming back with positive impressions.
Biggest surprise of the show?
Sam: Breath of the Wild 2, though I do want to give Ubisoft a shout-out for showing Gods & Monsters and Roller Champions — games that few other major Western publishers would make.
Kei: In terms of pure shock value, Keanu Reeves walking on stage (and then being a major character in Cyberpunk).
David: Watch Dogs: Legion, for me. The demo completely caught me by surprise, with gorgeous visuals, slick animations, and a truly ambitious-looking gameplay hook. Also want to give a shout out to 12 Minutes, which was a bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming Microsoft conference.
Worst surprise of the show?
Sam: Nintendo is still keeping people in the dark about the future of Switch Online, and that’s still a bummer.
Kei: I don’t know if I actually felt there were that many negative surprises. Maybe I’m forgetting something.
David: Honestly? Probably that horrific-looking Contra game during Nintendo’s Direct. Looked like an early PS2 title, and even then I’m being kinda generous.
Sam: I’ll let the trailer speak for itself…
David: Twelve Minutes’ trailer during Microsoft’s conference was awesome, as was Cyberpunk 2077’s, if only because we got my boy Keanu.
Most disappointing no-show?
Sam: I guess Metroid? I’m not even a particularly big fan of the series, but you know the internet would have flipped out if the Big N so much as ported Metroid Prime Trilogy to Switch. Also, Microsoft not showing more on Gears Tactics was disappointing, especially since they showed more on the weird Funko Pop game.
David: Beyond Good and Evil 2. I understand that, y’know, people still need to work on the game, but the refusal to show even so much as a teaser of new gameplay footage was a serious downer for me. Additionally, unlike Metroid, which seems like it’s been pushed back at least a year or two, BGE2 feels like it’s getting close to a potential release window. 2021, perhaps? Regardless, I just hope we see more of it soon.
And now, for a series of lightning round one-liners!
Y/N – Will Cyberpunk 2077 hit its April release date? If not, guess the actual date.
Sam: Nah. I’m thinking summer 2020 is more likely.
Kei: I swear on those poor overworked, underpaid Polish developers that it hits that date.
David: Agreed with Sam. More specifically, I’m betting on a slight delay to June 2020.
Over/Under on the Breath of the Wild sequel releasing December 31, 2020.
Sam: Slight under; I see it as a February 2021 thing.
Kei: It’ll release in 2020.
David: Over. I expect we’ll see the sequel sometime in fall 2020.
How many episodic entries will we get with Final Fantasy VII Remake?
Sam: As many as people are willing to buy.
Kei: True to form… seven episodes.
David: Back when it was first announced that VII Remake was going episodic, I imagined we’d get three episodes: one for each disk. With how much detail is going into this first entry, though (Midgar is only like 10 to 15% of the original game, and yet we’re getting a full fledged RPG for that section), I’ll go with five. I expect they’ll pick up the pace in terms of what’s covered during the subsequent ones, too.
Taking early guesses for Project Scarlet’s name and MSRP.
Sam: NextBox. $500.
Kei: Xbox Access. $450.
David: Xbox. $600.
Wrap up time!
After all we saw at E3 2019, what would you say is your most anticipated game for the remainder of the year?
Sam: I’d still say Super Mario Maker 2, which was barely on display at E3. Link’s Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 all get honorable mentions.
Kei: Is it rude of me to say Death Stranding?
David: Death Stranding is definitely my pick, in spite of all the great games — namely Switch ones — rolling out in the coming months. Link’s Awakening and Luigi’s Mansion 3 are my two runner-ups.
Most anticipated game for 2020 and beyond?
Sam: Do I even have to say it? GIVE ME MORE ZELDA.
Kei: Final Fantasy VII Remake.
David: Cyberpunk 2077. Not even close.
Any concluding thoughts about this year’s show or E3 in general?
Sam: This was the first time in a while that E3 overall just felt like a dog-and-pony show. I mean, it always has been, but it was just more apparent to me this year. We crave surprises and judge how each company shocks us with what commercials it opted to present, though if anything we should be pleased with the increased transparency throughout the year from our beloved developers and publishers. Instead, we act as though, say, Nintendo has wronged us by not giving more Metroid information, or that Microsoft needs to “get its shit together” because… a bunch of major announcements were leaked before the show. We sarcastically say Sony “won” the show by not attending at all, and last year Nintendo “lost” the show by talking too much about Smash Ultimate, even though it ended up being one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed titles of 2018. Basically, as fun as it is to discuss E3 as though it’s the pinnacle of games discourse — and I do still enjoy it — inevitably it will become a relic of the past due to natural progress and technological advancements. It makes me wonder if we’ll miss it when it’s gone, or if we’ll wonder why we cared so much in the first place.
Anyway, already looking forward to #E32020!!!
David: Hopefully this year wasn’t a sign of the decline of E3, but even if that premonition does come to pass, a smaller show doesn’t mean it’ll have any less heart, nor any fewer talented creators eager to show their games off to the world.
Here’s to you, E3. Hope to see you back and stronger than ever in 2020.
Thank’s for following along with our E3 2019 coverage! Do you have a particular game or announcement that resonated with you? Let us know in the comments below.