Game on! E3 offers fewer surprises, more insight into trends

2014-06-20T00:15:00Z Game on! E3 offers fewer surprises, more insight into trendsBy DAVID KEATING For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
June 20, 2014 12:15 am  • 

All of the big Electronic Entertainment Exposition announcements have been made this year, and despite all the fanfare and hype I am honestly not too fired up about any of the news revealed this year — probably because most of it was leaked weeks prior to the three-day event, which wrapped up June 12 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. There are a handful of exciting upcoming titles, but nearly all of them are multiplatform games that will run best on a nice gaming PC and don’t really make a strong case for buying any of the new consoles.

That’s not to say there’s no new games to be excited about; it’s just that as a whole, E3 2014 was a tad short on surprises. It seems that the days when Microsoft could boast about their latest exclusive Bungie or Bioware title and Sony would proudly tout their special relationship with Rockstar and Konami have vanished, leaving only a small handful of exclusive titles for each console giant to bang their drums about. Surprising nobody, Sony teased a new Uncharted and Microsoft has another Halo in the works. Nintendo announced a new Zelda game, which was a welcome bit of genuine news, but none of these games are coming out this year and none of them came out of left field. Not even close.

That’s not to say that there aren’t noteworthy games set for release in the coming months, either. Traditional first-person shooter games were almost nonexistent, but the new trend for shooters seems to be enhancing player mobility with jetpack wall running. Typifying this change, the new near-future angle of “Call of Duty” actually looks like it may reinvigorate a series struggling for relevance in the post-”TitanFall” era, and it’s nice to see that the FPS juggernaut was able to break free from its safe, stale pedestal. Games with expansive, open worlds clearly ruled the day: “Far Cry 4” and “Assassin’s Creed Unity” will add cooperative play to their winning sandbox formulas; “Shadow of Mordor” puts an interesting emphasis on your enemies personalities; “The Witcher 3” looks poised to deliver gorgeous RPG thrills; indie darling “No Man’s Sky” sounds like an Asimov fan’s dream with its free-roaming, limitless exploration; and “Metal Gear Solid V” will take stealth to a broader, darker battlefield than ever before. However, none of these open worlds are exclusive to any singular platform, meaning E3 has become less about how hardware manufacturers excite their current and future customers with experiences they can only have on their devices and more about which publishers they were able to court.

Maybe it’s a good thing that, increasingly, it matters less which device you choose to play games on. It certainly makes it easier on consumers trying to decide between committing to either Xbox or PlayStation when more than 95 percent of the content will appear on both platforms. It’s also good for developers: By not limiting their audience to a single install base, games are more accessible and therefore more profitable. In fact, it almost feels as if an ever-expanding percentage of the truly great games coming to market will be multiplatform, as though paying developers for exclusivity has become little more than a gamble hardware manufacturers take in order to get lucky with a new brand that will result in short-term console sales until the game eventually becomes popular enough to graduate to the more lucrative multiplatform model. In other words, E3 is no longer the main stage for the console wars — it’s more about the games themselves, which is a good thing.

In addition to being a hard-core video game enthusiast for more than 30 years, David Keating has a master’s degree in counseling and enjoys cooking, writing and imagining just how much better the “Star Wars” movies can be now that George Lucas isn’t going to be running them into the ground.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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