Smoke, mirrors and sequels: E3 2014

Like attention-deficit children on Christmas Eve, the entirety of the video game industry has been anxiously and impatiently awaiting the inevitable, upcoming surprises. Gamers, journalists and industry professionals have been waiting for E3 2014 in order to reveal the direction each individual company, and the fastest growing entertainment industry in the world, is headed.

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From June 9 to 12, the Electronics Entertainment Expo was held in Los Angeles, California, open exclusively to thousands of industry insiders and media outlets. This week-long exhibition draws massive media attention and creates an environment where hard-breaking video game announcements, news, trailers and hands-on gameplay is unveiled to the world. While the conference might be dismissed by some as a simple attempt to appeal to the causal, uninformed consumer, it also brings together fans and gamers (even if it is just to fight on anonymous message boards online).

As frustrating it was to hear developers talk on video about in-game engines, pixels and frame rates, there was also an unmistakable focus on the games. Microsoft corrected previous years’ mistakes of focusing on television, movie and app capabilities of the new console, but Sony fell into the trap of droning on about the underwhelming Playstation TV in their annual press conference.

These press conferences were held by many of the biggest publishing companies with massive presences at the exhibition, including  Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, whereas Nintendo streamed a digital event, premiering announcements and news.

Some of the biggest bombshells of these conferences included the unveiling of a new The Legend of Zelda title with a new art style and open-world gameplay for the Wii U; the reveal teaser trailer for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End for the PS4 and the Halo: Master Chief Collection, which will combine the content of Halo 1 through 4 as well as guaranteed access to the Halo 5 multiplayer beta.

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Even with these large-scale, high-pedigree game announcements, the stars of the show seemed to come from third-party publishers. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity, taking place in the French Revolution and allowing 4-player online cooperative play in one of the most beautiful and highly detailed environments to date stunned the gaming community. Additionally, Ubisoft showed off Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, a five vs. five competitive online title that pits two highly-armed teams against each other — one trying to rescue a hostage, the other trying to escape with the hostage.

This year’s E3 presented a truly diverse, and almost contradictory palette of titles. While delivering some of the most groundbreaking multiplayer, online titles, it also provided a place to show off rich singular narratives. Furthermore, as much as many of the titles seemed to be followed with a number, there were also a handful of extremely original, smaller intellectual properties, like No Man’s Sky for the Playstation 4 (PS4).

Bridging the gap between the previous console generation (of the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii) to the next generation hardware of the Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U, the exposition showed off games that were as ambitious as they were beautiful. As a result however, it seems like most of the games shown or revealed at the show are slated for a late 2015 launch, making this holiday season appear to be a bit of a drought for great games.

While E3 certainly is a precursor to how and where the video game industry is developing, by looking mainly at console and handheld consoles, it seems like an incomplete vision of the future. With virtual reality making its debut in a big way with the Oculus Rift, Valve creating waves with its streaming Steam Box, and mobile developers continuing to dominate handhelds and hardcore titles, E3 may look very different in the coming years. Only time will tell however; next year’s E3 is already planned for June 16 to 18 in 2015.

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