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Some Thoughts on E3

Game on

Alright folks, this is it. We’re only a week away from E3, when the Video Game Industry makes most of its major announcements, and it’s looking like it’s going to be one hell of a show this year. Between what we know, what’s rumored, and speculation, there’s a LOT to cover, and I can’t cover all of it. So, let’s get right to it.

Full honesty, I only have a PS4, so most of my thoughts will be related to the PlayStation and multi-console games. I will do my best to be fair though.

Electronic Arts: OK, if we want to get technical, EA stopped participating in E3 a few years ago and hold their own thing the day before, but it’s still going to be covered along with everything else. EA is coming in this year with a LOT of baggage. They’ve already been voted the worst company in America twice, and they currently hold the spot as the 5th most hated company in America. To put that in perspective, EA is currently liked less than the Weinstein Company and the Trump Organization. That’s not me making any sort of political statement one way or the other; it’s simply a fact, feel free to look it up. They’re still reeling from the Star Wars Battlefront II loot box fiasco, as well as the negative reception to Mass Effect Andromeda and the closing of Visceral Games. The fact that instead of listening to customers, they’ve doubled down on loot boxes by arbitrarily deciding “it’s not gambling,” has not won them any fans. And quite frankly, we’re about this close to seeing the U.S. Government step into regulating video games; the governments of other countries already have. I won’t lie, I’d personally rather that not happen, but if this behavior continues then they’re essentially leaving consumers with no other choice. Hopefully they’ll get their act together. Anyway, here’s what games we know EA has coming down the pipe and can expect to see.

Battlefield V: Announced last week, this is probably the biggest one. Battlefield V returns to WWII, which makes sense. Battlefield 1 was well received, and Call of Duty, Battlefield’s main competition, went back to WWII last year. I haven’t actually played a Battlefield game, even though I have copies of 4 and Hardline, but everyone I know who plays it regularly lists it as one of the better shooter franchises currently on the market. The trailer, looked cool, but didn’t feature any gameplay; it was very clearly a cinematic trailer. Supposedly there was controversy because the trailer featured a woman on the frontlines, I can’t speak to that. Personally, I was more confused by the fact that the lady in question had what looked like a bionic arm, which I wouldn’t expect in a WWII setting. That said, someone else in the company who was either American or British was carrying a katana on their back, and yet the trailer was very clearly in the European theater, not the Pacific theater. So maybe Battlefront V is going to be a kind of alternate world WWII? That could be interesting, although as a history buff, I’d prefer to see something more historically based. Still, if an alternate WWII is the direction their going, it’s at least an original idea. For now, I’m a “wait and see” on this.

Anthem: Hooboy, where to start with this one. Anthem is a MMORPG in development by BioWare, the former golden boys of RPGs. I say former not out of any disdain or anything, BioWare is one of my favorite developers. I always buy their new games, or I did. BioWare is treading on thin ice right now. Dragon Age: Inquisition was released four years ago, and it did a lot to win back the goodwill they’d lost over Dragon Age II and the ending of Mass Effect 3. I’ll actually defend Dragon Age II as a seriously underrated RPG that deserves more love, but that’s for another day. Dragon Age: Inquisition was released at the start of this gen/end of last gen, and was really the first truly great RPG to be released this gen. It won a lot of critics and naysayers over, unfortunately Mass: Effect Andromeda killed all the goodwill that Inquisition had brought back. I won’t get into what went wrong with Mass Effect: Andromeda, because that’s its own article, but the fact is that it was a critical and commercial disappointment for BioWare and EA. BioWare has faced a lot of accusations of diminishing quality games since EA bought them out, and Andromeda only exacerbated the problem. On top of that has a reputation, and a history, of shutting down studios that don’t perform up to expectations. See Visceral Games. So, there is a very good chance that Anthem is a make or break for BioWare. If Anthem doesn’t hit the commercial or critical expectations EA, a lot of people (myself included) think it will probably be shut down. That's a lot of pressure on the Devs, and quite frankly, the fact that several key figures have left BioWare, including Anthem’s lead writer Drew Karpyshyn, is not encouraging.

The release of Anthem got pushed back an entire year following the Battlefront controversy, which has led to speculation that loot boxes or micro-transaction may either be a heavy part of the game or was going to be so ingrained that they needed a year to remove it and rework the game. Again, this is only speculation, but it definitely feels plausible. Lastly, we still really don’t know what Anthem is about. This is BioWare’s first new IP in nine years, and we know almost nothing other than its a Shooter/RPG/MMO in the vein of Destiny. I get that EA wants to move towards “games as a service,” as a recurring revenue stream, and away from story focused single player games. Personally, I don’t think games like Destiny have the same audience as the games BioWare makes. The vast majority of their games have been single player RPGs with deep emotional stories, insane amounts of lore, and interesting characters that fans love. People who enjoy those types of games tend to not be super into multiplayer or online gaming; and that’s not speculation, I speak as someone who mostly plays single player story driven games, and rpgs in particular. Furthermore, gamers that are already playing Destiny or Overwatch or any of the other multiple Shooter/RPG/MMOs don’t tend to be single player gamers, and I have a hard time seeing them jumping ship over to Anthem. If I’m being completely honest, I think EA is trying to grab a share of the market that’s already over-saturated and are going to again be disappointed.