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There were actual tears. Actual emotion. The kind of reaction you see at a major sporting event when the completely unexpected plays out and you, looking on, simply cannot believe your eyes. PlayStation's E3 press conference in 2015 felt remarkable, special, almost unique for an industry gathering of its kind. Fans in the building and watching at home fell apart with happiness, relief, and the best kind of shock as Final Fantasy VII Remake was confirmed (I, too, gasped), a new trailer for the long-awaited The Last Guardian appeared from out of nowhere, and Shenmue III was revealed to actually exist.
It was an exceptional show in an exceptional year for E3 - regularly seen as a (Northern Hemisphere) summertime Christmas for gamers around the world. Elsewhere, Nier: Automata, Mass Effect Andromeda, Dishonored 2 and Sea of Thieves received their proper world premieres, and with both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 having really found their feet in terms of high-quality games making the most of their hardware, enthusiasm was incredibly high for all the major conferences. Nintendo's waning Wii U might not have had the best time, but they knew what was coming - the next year, we got to see The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in all its glory.
The Ubisoft Forward event will showcase more of Far Cry 6, which is releasing in October. Check out our gameplay video, below...
After a year off in 2020, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, E3 is returning in 2021, albeit in an all-digital form. At the time of writing, confirmed press confere... I mean, digital showcases are thin on the ground, with only Ubisoft and Xbox-plus-Bethesda events booked in, for June 12 and 13 respectively. There are other presentations locked in, including the PC Gaming Show and Limited Run Showcase, but so far there are no dates for the diary when it comes to bigger publishers who've promised activity, like Square Enix, SEGA, Bandai Namco and Capcom.
Also keeping their cards incredibly close to their chest right now is Nintendo, who will put out an all-new Direct at some point during the E3 period, but exactly when, we don't yet know. (OK, we do now.) Fans will be hoping for news on the Breath of the Wild sequel first shown at E3 2019, and a progress report on Metroid Prime 4, teased way back at E3 2017 but restarted from scratch at Retro Studios in early 2019. There's also the small matter of the it's-definitely-coming revision of the Switch, which could be officially revealed later this month for release before the end of 2021.
And then there's PlayStation, who just like Nintendo had all but withdrawn from the traditional E3 model prior to the pandemic, preferring to do their events their way, but who should have a multi-game showcase coming soon (maybe at the end of June). We should expect more on the God of War sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, and probably a surprise or two. Maybe even news of the second chapter of the Final Fantasy VII Remake? Couldn't hurt, be that via Sony or Square Enix itself (though, they might want to focus their own showcase on Final Fantasy 16).
But I want to suggest we all sink a valuable dose of realism, ahead of E3 2021 kicking off in earnest - which it sort of does when Summer Games Fest starts on June 10 with a Geoff Keighly-hosted show promising a healthy handful of reveals and, ahem, world premieres. Rewind six years and E3 felt like an event apart, an exception to the norm - but it's that level of didn't-see-that-coming shock and awe that feels, increasingly, like what fans are demanding from this season of previews. When, really, we should all know by now to not pin our hopes and dreams on the news of a two-week period in June, when publishers and other major stakeholders are more content than ever to show their wares when they're ready.
I am not saying: don't be excited about E3. There's a few things I know about (don't even ask, I'm NDA'ed to the nines) which will blow viewers' proverbial socks clean off, and no doubt there's plenty more of that besides. I just want people to be surprised in the right way, and not crushed when we don't get a Metroid update, or there's no Silent Hill revival, or The Elder Scrolls VI continues to be shrouded in mystery. We gamers, we have an annoying habit of asking for the impossible and improbable like it's the easiest thing imaginable - just optimise these several things, devs, and we'll love your game more; simply slap these filters on here, and tweak that resolution and come on, how hard is this?
Very, actually - which is why, this year more than any other before it, E3 2021 is probably going to be a lot more about what's almost ready, what's on the horizon, than all that much that's wildly beyond it. (Nintendo have confirmed as much, an emphasis on 2021 only.) Developers are still getting to grips with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, and publishers big and small are punching the numbers after an unprecedented period of global lockdowns and stop-start production processes. Big new games may actually be less of a thing, this year.
Expect Xbox to talk as much about services and infrastructure, studio acquisitions and player base growth as any new games (though the improved Halo Infinite will, surely, get a deep-dive showing off). Assuming they do confirm a Direct, expect Nintendo to focus on hardware, on the so-called Switch Pro and maybe even some other console-kinda-thing, and not pull many first-party rabbits from their voluminous sleeves (Rabbids, on the other hand). PlayStation... No, PlayStation really does need some big new games, don't they?
Or: expect nothing, and enjoy everything. Just don't immediately complain when something you so desperately wanted to see isn't shown off, because it's been a year - hell, it's been more than a year. To see E3 happening at all feels like a step back towards the old normal. Whether we need that old normal or not - brilliant though it felt in 2015 - remains to be seen, and this year's showcases will help to determine that. Now, hurry up and do something with the Snatcher IP, Konami, before I throw virtual hands all over ResetEra.
Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment, Nintendo, Entertainment Software Association
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