The American studio Devolver Digital is the bitch of the games world. The company is small, but its annual presentations around the leading Los Angeles Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show are the sharpest analysis of all new game and hardware announcements. Since 2017, at the satirical ‘Big Fancy Press Conferences’ you can hear the echo of what gamers whisper among themselves at the serious press conferences of everyone else.
This year the tone of the digital presentation was again critical: see the giants strolling with their empty hypes once again! The criticism was that Sony and Microsoft are coming with the PlayStation 5 and the new Xbox, but only show little ‘real game’ and mainly show the atmosphere of the game. “Are we really going to announce games that we don’t intend to make?” A fake Devolver CEO told another. “The games don’t matter to them anymore, it’s just about the announcements.”
The season of presentations and previews is diffuse and long this year. Game fair E3, normal main stage of all press conferences of the game giants, has been canceled due to the corona crisis. “And without E3, there is a power vacuum,” sighs the “Devolver manager” in the satirical press conference. “Everyone is fighting for control!”
Now the E3 became less important. Large companies have increasingly taken control in recent years. This summer, the digital press conferences went very far: from the Summer Fest on May 12 to the big Xbox presentation on July 23. Non-E3 events, according to joking gamers. Would the E3 come back at all, now that the big companies have a taste of their own press moment?
It was a season of long pre-recorded press conferences, full of lonely but enthusiastic leaders in their own living rooms against digital backgrounds. The presentation of the major game company Electronic Arts was boring, at a new one Star Warsgame after. French Ubisoft was hit with digital rotten tomatoes instead of a hoped ‘Viking party’ around Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. The company declined to comment during the press conference about the many complaints of sexual harassment at the company that cost several managers.
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The battle is watering down
All eyes were on two companies: Sony and Microsoft. Their consoles from the eighth “cycle” of consoles – Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One – are retiring. For the first time, the big three of the game console world each choose their own strategy. It started with Nintendo. The Japanese company abruptly launched a new game console, the Switch, three years ago against all the timing rules of the game console cycle.
At Microsoft, too, belief in the traditional battle for the best machine seems to be watered down. The Xbox Series X is stronger and better than the One, for sure. But the real star at his press time last week was Game Pass subscription service.
Game Pass seems to be a radical step. All new games from Microsoft can also be played via the subscription service on the day of their release, on Xbox and on PC. With the xCloud service, games can soon be streamed on any screen. Costs: 10 euros per month. Game machines? They are no longer necessary. The expected price increase of games, which cost 60 euros for decades, will also drive gamers towards Game Pass.
PlayStation may soon lonely walk the traditional way. That suits Sony. The PS4 beat against Xbox and Nintendo’s Wii and later Switch, because it ‘just’ wanted to be a game console for ‘regular’ gamers, without fuss or fuss. When Microsoft announced that all its Series X games will also play on old hardware, Sony shrugged. The new PS5 offers more possibilities for game makers to make special things, and that innovation is important to Sony. “The most important thing we need to do is get our fans from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5 as soon as possible,” CEO Jim Ryan told the website. GamesIndustry.
And that translates into a simple strategy, a straight line from PS4 to PS5. Recent hits will be continued. The first bait for the PS5 is Spider-Man: Miles Morales, successor to the hugely popular Spider-Man game from two years ago. The second is Horizon: Forbidden West from the Amsterdam Guerrilla Games, a sequel to the beloved sci-fi game from 2017. Both promise more of the same, but more beautiful, better and bigger – just like the PlayStation 5.
Microsoft is opening the old box for the new Xbox. The first Xbox was launched in 2001 with the sci-fi shooting game Halo; the Xbox Series X opens with Halo Infinite. The game looks like a fairly traditional offspring in the genre, with a large playing world as has become established in the blockbuster games. The other draw is Fable, which is supposed to breathe new life into the legendary colderic role-playing series from 2004 after years of ailing.
What Microsoft actually sold during its press conference was a promise: a lot, and something for everyone. The company has not released many strong titles of its own in the past seven years, and therefore bought new game studios like crazy. That now pays off in a large number of new titles, from the psychological Hellblade II to the magically beautiful Everwild, and fantasy action game Avowed to the human drama Tell Me Why, about a transgender boy and his twin sister. Never again such game dryness as with the Xbox One.
Only it mainly remained with atmospheric videos. How do all those new games really play? Sony and Microsoft will show this in small pieces in the coming months.