E3 2021 in Review

The livestreams have finished and all (or most) of the news is in. Those of us around the rest of the world can take a breath and reflect on everything we’ve learned. If there’s something you missed in the flurry of announcements over the last week and change, you’ll find it here! Well, here and my next news article. I’m sorry to say that I’ve ultimately made the decision to cut several in progress write-ups on certain shows, often indie-focused ones. That was not in any way intentional, I do not mean to treat these games as lesser, that’s just how the scheduling panned out for my last two weeks’ worth of writing and editing panned out. Frankly this is long enough as it is and it’s somewhat of a mercy to you readers. These sections are being cut to get this out on time and…because the work I do is very taxing and I needed to stop somewhere. I was in extremely poor physical condition by the time I finished E3 2019 in Review, I had barely slept for two weeks, and successfully avoiding that this year was a priority for me that I’m grateful to have kept. And again, please keep in mind that these shows won’t go completely uncovered, they’re just now relegated to the Rest-of-June Roundup that I’ll publish a little late, sometime in July, while E3 2021 in Review focuses a little more on the “core” event experience. I’m truly sorry for having to do this. Thank you for understanding.

This is an assembly of all major news that’s released across all platforms and publishers, and will provide a space for final discussions among the community here on The Avocado. For completeness and organization, information will be divided by date and start prior to E3’s beginning with the Batttlefield reveal from Wednesday June 9th, continuing with the start of E3 during last weekend, and finishing…well, whenever this damn industry wanted this week.

Due to sheer amount of text present here, I will be breaking up the major sections with interesting art from major upcoming games.

Battlefield Reveal on June 9th

After much hullabaloo over when exactly it would happen, EA and DICE released the reveal trailer of Battlefield 2042 on June 9th. The extended cinematic provided a representation of gameplay through intermittent first person sections, and showing off new key gameplay features specific to the game’s globetrotting near-future setting. These include glider suits, drones and robots, various futuristic vehicles, and the destructive interruptions of real-time mid-battle dynamic crises such as tornadoes, sandstorms, and a failing rocket launch, all experienced as players fiercely battle for resources to survive in a world devastated by climate change. What a wonderfully escapist experience. As detailed outside the trailer, Battlefield 2042 features 10 Specialist classes available at launch which include your usual support roles, saboteurs, and frontline assaulters, and a new ‘Plus System’ which allows for quick weapon customization on the…battlefield. Vehicles and weather events are specific to each of the seven maps available at launch.

The game is multiplayer-only, providing an ongoing live-service narrative rather than a single player campaign, and features several main ‘experiences’, the All-Out Warfare classic experience, which in turn comes in both Conquest (freeform) and Breakthrough (structured point-capturing) modes, and the squad-driven survival mode Hazard Zone. The game as a whole and the series’ traditional wide-scale maps and battles are optimized to next-gen console and high-end PC hardware, matches containing up to 128 players on these platforms versus a maxed out 64 on PS4 and Xbox One. Price varies between $60 and $70 depending on platform. As suggested by the trailer’s closed and confirmed by EA’s Andy McNamara shortly after, gameplay for the title debuted at the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase on June 13th, which will be discussed later. More from the game will be seen at EA Play Live on July 22nd, including the game’s third “multiplayer experience” from DICE LA, and multiple opportunities to play it pre-launch will be available, from an invite-only technical test in July to an open beta. Battlefield 2042 is scheduled to launch on October 22nd 2021

What’s Next for Gaming Xbox Panel on June 10th

Microsoft representatives on the panel discussed the company’s immediate and longer term hardware plans among other subjects. The next Xboxes after Series S/X were casually declared to already be in development (of course they are, but also you’re going to have to work so much even harder to convince me of their necessity). Their service plans were detailed extensively, announcing that the beta for web browser xCloud and Game Pass streaming will hit 1.0 later this year while fully expanding across Smart TVs, streaming boxes, their own upcoming stand-alone streaming connectors, Windows PC, Mac, and iOS mobile devices (after very publicly tense negotiations with Apple I’ve previously reported on). In mere weeks later from the event, those updates will begin, and for both existing Android users and new users across all those other devices, Xbox Series X hardware and software will start becoming streamable, expanding the quality of the streams, but also, and this has been explicitly underlined as the plan, pursuing a new form of cross-gen support in which next-gen exclusive games, like the recently announced Bethesda titles, can and will be streamed to the households of those without an Xbox Series S or X.

Summer Game Fest Kickoff on June 10th

The Summer Game Fest Kickoff event opened with a slate of major reveals, starting with a teaser trailer announcing Gearbox and 2K’s Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, scheduled to launch in Early 2022 for Windows PC, X1/Series, and PS4/5. Wonderlands is equal in scope to previous Borderlands titles, with a full campaign, four player co-op, and post-game/endgame content. It features fully customizable class-based player characters wielding typical Borderlands weaponry in a fantasy setting, a world which Tiny Tina, voiced by the returning Ashly Burch of course, maintains full control over to change at will, in a similar vein to her TTRPG-themed Borderlands 2 DLC. Per the abomination known as Randy Pitchford, the ideas of Wonderlands have been in development for more than a decade, with the aforementioned Dragon Keep DLC being the result of scaling down Gearbox’s first attempt of a full game of this nature. The game was accurately leaked in 2020, and then again in early June on Reddit as part of a larger slate of 2K games (featuring the currently still unannounced Marvel tactics title by Firaxis and Hangar13’s Lovecraftian open world game in early development, and NBA2K22), with Jason Schreier commenting to verify these leaks the same day, ahead of 2K posting a teaser website for the game on Monday June 7th. This announcement trailer also credited Andy Samberg, Wanda Sykes, and Will Arnett for the voice cast. Developer Leikir and publishers Dotemu and SNK announced Metal Slug Tactics, a tactical RPG with roguelike elements, and gameplay is featured in the reveal trailer, but no platforms or release date are yet confirmed. In case you forgot, SNK recently became co-owned by Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose royal family is responsible for violent oppression and murder of journalists and a 5 year campaign of war and genocide in Yemen.

Hideo Kojima appeared for a brief video interview discussing his experiences in the pandemic and current thematic influences, in lead-up to the announcement trailer of Death Stranding Director’s Cut for PS5, an enhanced rerelease of the game expanded with new content which I first heard of a few months ago. Director’s Cut was part of the initial contract Kojima signed for the game years ago and has no bearing on his future plans and partnerships. The trailer messed with the audience by depicting a quiet extended sequence of hero Sam Porter Bridges taking an iconic MGS cardboard box off the shelf, hiding in it, before putting it away and leaving it behind. Geoff Keighley and Kojima affirmed that the full reveal for this game is mere weeks away, which will probably part of the next Sony State of Play which has recently been reported as airing mid-summer.

Noted paycheck-taking supremely checked out creep Jeff Goldblum stopped by to announce Frontier Developments’ Jurassic World Evolution 2, which is scheduled to launch in late 2021 for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, and PS5 with next-gen optimizations. The cinematic trailer showcased new biomes and dinosaurs for the management sim series, which will launch with more than 75 dinosaurs available at launch, with an emphasis on prehistoric airborne and marine creatures (which the first entry excluded entirely) like the prominent Mosasaur at the end. Both the dinosaur AI and the management mechanics have been enhanced. The game features two narrative modes, a campaign set between JW: Fallen Kingdom and the forthcoming Dominion starring Goldblum and Bryce Dallas Howard as their characters, and a new Chaos Theory mode which ‘reimagines’ key moments from throughout the franchise in which players can change the course of events. There’s also the more standard Sandbox and Challenge modes. Another celeb appearance followed Goldblum, the singer Japanese Breakfast whose performance accompanied gameplay footage of the indie open world survival game Sable, which has a demo temporarily available through the ID@Xbox event, and ending on the announcement of its release date, September 23rd 2021 for Xbox and PC, arriving on Game Pass Day One.

Trailers played for 2018 Korean MMORPG Lost Ark‘s Western launch, coming this fall as published by Amazon Games, and CoD Warzone Season 4, which started June 17th. Ryan Reynolds popped in to promote a COVID-delayed project, Free Guy, but this is a game news series, not a ‘movies inspired by or adapted from video games’ news series, so I’m moving on. Among Us announced an update featuring new costumes and a new Hide and Seek mode ahead of the smash hit’s then-upcoming Xbox and PS debut. Shuhei Yoshida dropped in to present a set of indie game announcements partnered with Sony: that Greg Lobanov’s Kickstarter puzzle-RPG Chicory: A Colorful Tale was launching that same day, June 10th, on PC and PS platforms, and revealing Salt and Sacrifice, a bigger-budget sequel to hit handdrawn Soulslike Salt and Sanctuary, will be coming first to PlayStation platforms in 2022. Chicory, the story of a dog painting a black and white world alone or in co-op, has already become widely acclaimed as one of the year’s best games. Heart Machine’s Solar Ash showed off further stylish 3D traversal and combat gameplay in a new trailer, which focused on a sequence of traveling across and attacking a beast’s wings in the vein of Shadow of the Colossus. There was unfortunately no update on the game’s release beyond that it’s still 2021. A trailer promoted 64-player medieval warfare first person battler Chivalry 2 after its launch earlier this year. Riot’s Valorant for an extremely brief promotion of its new character and season, which was literally a few-second animation. Take Two brought the first look at one of its big releases for the year, Sony brought an updated console exclusive, and Riot brought..that.

A look at a new area from online shooter Escape from Tarkov was shown, a game which has been plagued by hacking, real-currency expenditures, and the pigheaded attitudes of its developers. A trailer announced Smite‘s next crossover event, featuring Stranger Things and releasing July 13th. Sega and Two-Point Studios announced their college-centered management sim sequel, Two Point Campus, coming to all platforms in 2022. This is the official reveal after the Xbox store accidentally leaked it by listing it early. I really struggled when I tried Two Point Hospital on Game Pass, it overwhelmed me very quickly, but college builder is a very exciting new angle for this genre, and it’s definitely charming and well-made, so if you have any interest I highly recommend checking it out or anticipating this new entry. Geoff Keighley officially announced the founding the new subsidiary publisher Prime Matter, accompanied by a sneak preview of a montage of games from the publisher, but there was a separate event covering its contents, so I’ll discuss them there. The Anacrusis, a sci fi Left 4 Dead alike (four player co op FPS) with AI-controlled dynamically changing battles, was announced for Xbox and PC and Day One Game Pass in Fall 2021. An extended gameplay trailer for the game played during the Extended Xbox Showcase. The Fast and Furious film franchise announced its return to Rocket League which released on June 17th. Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodhunt was announced, a battle royale meant to tide over an anxious audience during the massive indefinite delay and reboot Bloodlines 2 is undergoing. The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes appeared again to announce its October 22nd 2021 release date and a Pazuzu Edition collector’s release. While this is very arguably an insensitive corporate instinct of marketing and upcharging the game off the name of a figure of ancient Mesopotamian religion and the game’s narrative use of Pazuzu, it isn’t in fact a reference or tie-in to the Exorcist series, which hardly owns a name older than it by thousands of years. 

The attempted comeback kid in one of Bandai Namco’s key JRPG series, Tales of Arise, had another new trailer ahead of its September 10th launch. I’ll be honest with you, I really tried to find something informative to say about its content. Sky: Children of the Light, the Journey developers’ open world mobile title, announced its final Switch release date as June 29th. The game will receive a new content season themed after The Little Prince on its newest platform in July. A reveal trailer played for Planet of Lana, a handpainted Swedish adventure game about preserving peace coming to Xbox and PC in 2022. The very recently appointed new director of Overwatch 2 made a brief appearance just to present a couple more updated appearances for the game’s characters. The upcoming D&D Dark Alliance was promoted with a montage of streamer reactions ahead of its June 22nd launch, while one of the few other surviving hero shooters, Paladins, announced a new crossover with Rooster Teeth’s gen:LOCK animated series. Capcom previewed Monster Hunter Stories 2 for the first of five times just in this past week. Weezer performed a new song of theirs in conjunction with the Switch launch of Wave Break, an 80s-themed arcade “world’s first skateboating” game. The gameplay reveal for Endless Dungeon premiered. Geoff Keighley interviewed Giancarlo Esposito about his role in Far Cry 6, and it took some bizarre, horoscope and genocide related turns. Fall Guys announced a new costume of Nier‘s 2B which I saw at the beginning of May before entirely forgetting up to its announcement. Genshin Impact had a trailer for a new character.

New developer Deviation Games introduced itself through its co-founders, ex-Treyarch devs Dave Anthony and Jason Blundell, the writer/director of CoD Black Ops 1 and 2 and the creator and director of CoD Zombies, respectively, who announced that they have been working in partnership with Sony on an exclusive shooter title for the last year. There was brief preview of the free Sonic the Hedgehog 30th anniversary philharmonic orchestra premiering online on June 23rd. Back 4 Blood showcased a new boss fight and announced the opening of its public beta as August 5th. Tunic was presented, it’s about exploring the world as a lost adventurer fox, it will launch on PC, Mac, and Xbox One as a console exclusive this year and its demo is currently available via ID@Xbox. A Gearbox-published survival game themed on Norse mythology, Tribes of Midgard, had a trailer announcing its launch on July 27th for PC, Xbox One, PS4, and PS5. The event reached its penultimate announcement with the gameplay reveal for Evil Dead: The Game, which debuted at Geoff’s 2020 Game Awards and is coming to all platforms later this year. The game’s 4v1 asymmetric multiplayer was showcased in which demon hunters scavenge and cooperate in battle against a player-controlled Kandarian Demon who flies around, possesses players, summons Deadites, and manipulates the environment. The trailer presents fan favorite playable characters like Kelly and Pablo from the recent Starz series, and Army of Darkness’ Lord Arthur as the final surprise.

During his introductory speech for this final reveal, Geoff outright admitted that this game was supposed to be at the 2020 Game Awards before being pulled last-minute. It’s the long and loudly awaited triumphant return of FromSoft’s Elden Ring with a full gameplay reveal trailer. After Sekiro, Elden Ring still provides a tight, fast combat experience integrated with a return to Dark Souls’ leveling, build variety, and multiplayer, deep range of player options and customization of experienced married to an increased emphasis on QOL and new gameplay ideas like horseback combat and more open-world level design, with a new world and lore wrapped around them. Elden Ring is scheduled to release on January 21st 2022 on PC, PS4/5, and Xbox One/Series, with free next-gen upgrades supported for both PlayStation and Xbox. And please keep in mind, this is a game which was already in development for three years and change by the time next-gen devkits came in, from a very iterative developer, so don’t let the pandemic-induced release date cause you to expect a full next-gen experience. FromSoft will get there eventually, but certainly not yet. On Monday the 14th, a few days after the trailer released, Hidetaka Miyazaki took several interviews with publications like IGN and Famitsu to further promote Elden Ring, in the process providing massive amounts of new info. The world is the overall largest by FromSoft’s to date; it’s organized around and divided into: an overworld of connective tissue featuring landscape, ruins, etc., a central hub, and six major levels/dungeons which can be completed in any order but must be traversed and their accompanying demigod boss defeated. For the first time since this saga began, the player will have access to a world map to aid in navigation, although it doesn’t extend to each of the discrete dungeons. The map won’t be cluttered with icons from the outset, but the player can place their own markers to help remember important things and find them again. That seems to be specifically inspired by Breath of the Wild.

Fall damage has been cut down on to better encourage exploring. There is a modified, straightforward stealth system inspired by Sekiro. The stamina bar will not be as restrictive in its effects as before, and new options for healing during exploration and combat will be available. There are new systems not identical to but in the vein of Sekiro’s resurrections to “keep you in the flow.” Co-op groups have no size limits and have new features to aid in ease of assembling and playing. On top of traditional online co-op summons, there’s a new form of AI summons known as spirits, the spirits of defeated enemies which can be stored and used. However, spirits are not all of equal worth. PvP also returns, but has been modified to make it less intrusive, lend less to outright trolling, overall made more positive. The horse is implemented in service to traversal and platforming, including the occasional charge past/through enemies. Use of the horse is kept balanced, the horse isn’t available in every single situation and corner of the world, like during multiplayer and when interacting with NPCs. Overall the game reminds me most of Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 with the even more greatly expanded form of Dark Souls 1‘s nonlinearity, and a great deal of newly added Quality of Life changes in acknowledgment of accessibility concerns and criticisms. Elden Ring is about freedom and about fun, period. Despite some recently cropped up goofy fan theories, Elden Ring is not in fact a prequel to Dark Souls, the burden of the full trilogy’s scale of story and lore is simply too overwhelming for them to work with it again for some time, it would simply be too limiting for any project’s new ideas. Miyazaki expresses the general sense that the game is in its final stages of development and is unlikely to see many more major obstacles and delays. And lastly, perhaps most importantly: yes, there will be another new poison swamp.

“This really feels like a culmination everything that I’ve enjoyed about game development and everything I’ve brought to this point.”


Tim Schafer’s Day of the Devs indie presentation on June 10th

The second annual Day of the Devs from Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Geoff Keighley’s SGF featured many games that have been seen at previous recent indie events like Nintendo Indie World and ID@Xbox, while shining a new light on them nonetheless. Axiom Verge 2‘s new trailer confirmed PS4 and PS5 versions from the hotly anticipated sci fi Metroidvania sequel. TOEM announced its demo which released on June 16th. Phantom Abyss is a first person platformer in an Indiana Jones vein with a multiplayer twist, which we’ll see again at the Devolver Direct. Wholesome Direct participant Garden Story isn’t just a fusion of adventuring and management, it’s also a celebration of connection and community. The reappearance of the vividly rendered cooking game Soup Pot, coming in August, featured new mechanics like grilling and skewering. A Musical Story is a narrative rhythm game about reconnecting with memories through the music of a groovy 70s band, which launched its demo and announced an October 2021 launch on Xbox, Switch, and PC. Vokabulantis is a puzzle platformer currently in crowdfunding and built entirely in stop motion, whose trailer emphasized observing the process of producing the game’s animation.It’s nice to start to get more stop motion games not connected to Doug Tennapel, huh? A new story trailer played for the roguelike road trip coming later this year, Road 96. The Wandering Village is a Kickstarter project currently in Steam Early Access about building and managing a community in one of the strangest situations imaginable, the safety of a giant beast’s back after the surface becomes poisoned.

Rhythm-action Kickstarter project Unbeatable promoted its recently released Steam demo which tells a distinct side story within the game’s stylish dystopian world. Death’s Door is an intense top down action game launching on July 20th, which we’ll see again during the Devolver show. Behind the Frame is a puzzle game coming soon to PC and MC about painting and drawing. ElecHead is a puzzle platformer about, well, your electric head and its oh so many uses, coming this summer to Steam and itch.io. Demolition Robots K.K. is coming to PC and Switch, a competitive multiplayer demolition game in the vein of the perhaps least predictable game listed among my personal favorites, Rare’s Blast Corps. Kazumi Studios’ horror game Walk announced the release of its demo as part of an itch.io bundle. There was a first look at fishing RPG Moonglow Bay‘s aquarium that the player visits and donates their catches. Loot River is an intricately rendered pixel art Tetris-roguelike about battle and exploration, but also managing the construction of new pathways to help you explore. Despelote, as seen above, is an Ecuadorian game coming soon to Xbox about childhood in the beautiful city of Quito against the backdrop of the World Cup. The distinct visual style, to me, powerfully captures the hazy warmth of memory. Annapurna’s narrative adventure from the developers of Virginia, Last Stop, began the show’s close out with a trailer announcing its release date, July 22nd, and showing more of the full scope of its narrative triptych anthology. Then Oxenfree II: Lost Signals came in and completed the show with a surprise musical performance accompanied by further mysterious, teasing symbols.

Koch Primetime on June 11th

Koch Primetime is an extended, frankly way too extended, introduction dedicated entirely to Koch Media/Embracer Group/THQ Nordic’s new premium publishing label, Prime Matter, and this label’s assorted indie properties, which were first teased with the sizzle reel that played during Summer Game Fest Kickoff. The full Prime Matter sizzle reel is as follows: Iron Harvest 1920+ and Phoenix Point‘s 2021 next-gen console releases, the announcement of Outward: Definitive Edition (TBC), King’s Bounty 2 – August 24th 2021, Encased – Sep 2021, Gungrave GORE – 2022, The Chant – Spring 2022, Crossfire Legion – 2022, The Last Oricru – ‘22, Dolmen ‘22, Scars Above – ‘22, Echoes of the End (TBC), Kingdom Come Deliverance for Switch (TBC), Mount and Blade 2 Bannerlord for consoles (TBC), Final Form – TBC, Payday 3 (2023), and Painkiller reboot (TBC). Details for these games as provided by the presentation are as follows: Encased is a turn-based sci fi CRPG currently in early access which will have its full 1.0 and multiplat launch on the aforementioned date. Crossfire Legion is a RTS spinoff of the massive online shooter hit which is still forthcoming to the West. The Chant (working title) is a third person survival horror game with psychedelic and cosmic themes. Focused on a spiritual awakening gone wrong, this game developed by Brass Token happens to take inspiration by two of my favorite horror film genres, folk horror (Wicker Man,) and giallo. Kingdom Come Deliverance for Switch has a strange origin story: the initial retail listing was a genuinely an inaccurate error, but the demand it inspired led to pursuit of partnership between the dev and Nintendo. Final Form (working title) is a sci fi shooter developed by Reikon Games, both a cinematic and brief pre/alpha gameplay were presented. Dolmen is a Brazilian Soulslike with an industrial sci fi aesthetic. King’s Bounty 2 will be Prime Matter’s debut full title (as opposed to port). It takes a lot of inspiration from the development of Western RPGs in the 30 years since the original game, and it features an accessible stand-alone narrative with no continuation of the original’s story. The last full segment I saw was from Scars Above, featuring extended third person gameplay footage of traversal, exploration, obstacle clearing, and combat in its setting of an unsettled alien planet.

Ubi Pre-show: The transition segments for the pre-show were very extended animations of quiet forward movement in various Ubi games. I am utterly baffled at how this seemed like a good idea versus just starting at the half hour mark. The one thing worth mentioning about this show for reasons beyond mockery is a dedicated segment for Ubisoft’s accessibility department and initiatives. This is on top of having a descriptive audio/sight-disabled accessible version of the stream, all of which is nice. I’m really happy that it’s a big enough issue now for these big companies to start engaging with it. It doesn’t cancel out gestures all of that other stuff. 

Ubisoft Forward on June 12th

I know none of y’all have any illusions about this to begin with, but I’m not going to mince words here. This is roughly what I wrote about this company just weeks ago, with credit to Games Industry Dot Biz and Le Télégramme: accountability has been failed across the board as minimal changes have actually occurred at Ubisoft almost a year after the widespread allegations first went public. Implicated HR Director Cécile Cornet has only just now left the company in May, replaced by Anika Grant of Uber, a company with its own dense history of abuses and exploitation. Sources within Ubisoft state that HR staff below the Director who were part of mishandling previous harassment reports still haven’t been replaced, while at Ubisoft’s Canadian offices, “nothing has changed.” New harassment cases have been filed since the initial reports last year, and those who filed were sidelined in December. Several key perpetrators haven’t left the company, like Florent Castelnérac, who has a dozen reports of harassment by him, but is being protected by management, and Hugues Ricour, who has merely shuffled around to a new position as several others have done. This corporation is systemically abusive and protective of abusers from Yves Guillemot on down. It is unacceptable. So I’m going to report on the news that they have produced via their marketing event, because it is news, but I do so while keeping you aware of their crimes, with the understanding that I do not endorse this company and actively suggest you to please consider not supporting it.

It started with Rainbow Six Extraction (nee Quarantine, nee Parasite) returning after two years with cinematic trailer showing off the game’s strange post apocalyptic sci fi alien goop setting and enemies. Something tells me this game changed a lot since it was called Quarantine. Launch date was announced as September 16th. Bruno Lilan and Alicia Fortier detailed the game further, including that Extraction features full crossplay with RS Siege. Now, gameplay footage, showing off various enemy types. It’s basically Left 4 Dead plus Siege. Rocksmith+, a new paid subscription version of the educational music game, was announced, shown off with a fully live action trailer (some UI elements on computer). It is currently only on PC and available via a closed beta. Bass guitar support, weekly song additions, and easier amp support are all among its new features, along with the Rocksmith workshop – creating and sharing arrangements of songs licensed to the subscription. Steep spiritual successor Riders Republic debuted extensive gameplay footage, including idle scenery-enjoying and gear management in between races, and announced its new scheduled launch date of September 2nd 2021. That’s only two weeks before R6 Extraction, because this company will still happily pile up its slop in quick succession just like it tried to last holiday and this spring, before delaying most of those titles. Rainbow Six Siege received an update, announcing its June 30th Stadia launch, and that crossplay support is launching in 2022 in a staggered release across the various platforms. The segment ended with a stylized 3D animated trailer for the new character, a Native American pilot named Thunderbird. I don’t even have the energy to comment on that. There was a fast live service updates montage summarizing the entire contents of the pre-show I watched for this article, because this company is waging war against me: For Honor’s Mirage update launched the Friday before this event, the Ninja Turtles are coming to Brawlhalla Trackmania has a special summer promotion with daily challenges, Watch Dogs Legion is launching its first paid narrative expansion, Bloodline, in July.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint teased franchise 20th anniversary news with no further details. Just Dance 2022 was announced after a one year hiatus, guest starring Todrick Hall and featuring a newly written and produced version of his song, coming November 4th. AC Valhalla‘s Siege of Paris DLC was teased and is coming this Summer. Expansions for Valhalla continuing into 2022 was confirmed and given its own teaser trailer. A trailer for the Werewolves Within movie and a brief Mythic Quest Season 2 finale trailer each played, continuing the tradition of Mythic Quest and the Netflix Division movie being announced at E3 2019. A new cutscene was showcased for Far Cry 6. Can you tell I’m incredibly riveted by this story of anti-fascist revolution produced by a morally bankrupt company? There was confirmation of the previously leaked info that post-launch DLC will be based on playing as various past series villains, Vaas, Pagan Min, and Father Joseph, ending with a very brief tease for the return of Blood Dragon content. The latest Ubisoft Forward concluded with a two-pronged One More Thing TM, the first of which was hilariously undercut by none other than the official Nintendo website the morning before this presentation.

Mario+Rabbids: Sparks of Hope is a wildly ambitious follow-up to Ubisoft Milan’s 2017 surprise hit. This turn-based tactics game significantly revamps its traversal, combat, and level design in order to make it “more than a sequel.” The game introduces a new theming after Super Mario Galaxy, in which Mario and co., including the new Rabbid Rosalina and plot-significant Rabbid Lumas called Sparks, employ fully 3D free movement both in and out of battle to experience fully explorable planets on their journey through the cosmos to defeat new mysterious original enemies. These planets feature not only tactical battles, but secrets to find and side quests to complete. Beyond the various leaks for the title in the last few days before reveal, it was announced in the presentation with a gorgeous cinematic cutscene trailer followed by BTS footage in Milan and a quick gameplay sneak peek labeled as “pre-alpha” footage. Concrete info on this game was successfully kept very locked down up to the last week before its reveal, and there’s a reason for that. The original’s massive success (more than 7.5 million players as of 2021) combined with the extensive pre-reveal leaking it was subject to led to this project being greenlit on the condition of Nintendo explicitly instructing Ubisoft employees to keep it as secure as possible, or risk their partnership with Nintendo. This not only led to the wonderful irony of the early Nintendo site listing, but also to multiple reporters going on to testify very recently that their Ubisoft contacts passed on this info with the firm instruction they not compromise the game’s marketing, with Jason Schreier having described it as being “begged and pleaded.”

Officially the game is only set for a 2022 release, but I can tell you with confidence that its target is Early 2022, February or March before the end of the current fiscal year. If they continue to be on track to meet their target that will probably be announced in the Fall Direct. I for one can’t wait to buy it used (or obtain it by other secondary methods) so as to minimize my support for a legitimately monstrous company which has seen no improvements and the nepotistic systemic abuse enabling chucklefuck in charge of it. I wholeheartedly encourage this practice for you my readers. Not that it’s pertinent, but since it is on my mind, I’ll go ahead and say that about Five Nights at Freddy’s too. Not making them himself anymore doesn’t mean that guy no longer owns or profits from the series. Putting money into that series directly puts money towards supporting those who are doing a bang-up job of violently legislating people like me out of existence, and there’s nothing about it being someone’s comfort series that makes that less true.

Anyway, the final reveal. First announced via press release in February 2017 during the Game Developers Conference, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is a first person open world action game, a AAA production built in the Snowdrop engine by its creators, The Division 1 developers Massive Entertainment, alongside several development support teams. The game’s trailer was first person and “in-engine”, depicting the player Na’vi exploring a new piece of the Pandora setting, the Western Frontier, and facing off against human military forces. Finally shown with footage for the first time more than four years later, Frontiers of Pandora is a follow up to Ubisoft Montreal’s 2009 game planned as promotion for the ever-spiraling-outward James Cameron’s Avatar franchise plan, currently scheduled to launch in 2022 in time for the first cinematic sequel that December, only on PS5, Xbox Series, and PC/the PC servers used for Google Stadia and Amazon Luna. Google Stadia, a product which will definitely be around by the end of 2022, and is definitely just as relevant as PS4 or Switch. I can honestly say that I have intermittently, actively wondered when we’d be seeing footage of this Avatar game, and I was still shocked when it actually happened. James Cameron does what Michel Ancel can’t, I suppose.

You made me think about James Cameron’s Avatar!

Devolver Digital on June 12th, 1:30 PM Pacific

The Devolver Digital Direct ran shorter and less ambitiously this year, emphasizing the nonexistent Devolver premium subscription service concept as its framework, after opening with a sketch where the joke is that it’s an unsuccessful pitch of the entire concept, hiring actors to play fake executives and act bizarrely, etc. Flying Wild Hog featured both yet another set of gameplay footage from Shadow Warrior 3 and the announcement of its new title Trek to Yomi, a 2.5D sidescrolling samurai action game coming in 2022 to PC building on the ideas of homaging classic samurai cinema that the AAA industry flirted with in last year’s Ghost of Tsushima. As mentioned above, Phantom Abyss is a first person platformer about traversing procedurally generated temple and ruin courses to reach artifacts in competition with your friends, who are the phantoms. They run alongside you, but cannot affect your run, just contribute to the experience of excitement in a more atmospheric sense. Phantom Abyss announced its June 22nd Early Access launch. Wizard with a Gun was announced, a top-down shooter and and online co op survival game set in a mystical forest coming to Switch and Windows PC in 2022.

Top-down 3D soulslike Death’s Door with its cute crow warrior hero was announced to launch on PC and Xbox July 20th 2021. After its teaser announcement last year, Inscryption, a deckbuilder which integrates puzzles, roguelike, and horror narrative elements together, from the creator of Pony Island and The Hex, was announced to be coming later this year. Tumble Time, a mobile game that’s a narrative satire about predatorily monetized mobile games, was announced to be coming later this year. Both Tumble Time and the final, previously announced game, Demon Throttle on Switch as the launch of a physical-exclusive-release line of games, are stunts that I find a lot shallower, less satisfying, and generally worse and less necessary than Devolver’s previous ones. The other company that announced its physical-only games around the same time has already backed down into releasing digitally after a six month window, so we’ll se how it goes. I’m certainly interested in some of these games, but all in all Devolver is not currently sending a convincing message that it, in a year where it will become a billion dollar plus in value publicly traded corporation, is still worth following in the same way and true to the same meaningful criticism of the industry as before.

Gearbox on June 12th, 2 PM Pacific

Even speaking as someone who vocally hates Randy Pitchford and doesn’t like the games Gearbox makes besides, Gearbox’s 30 minute E3 debut was fucking abysmal. I refuse to believe that even the biggest Borderlands fan wants that large a portion of an E3 presentation to be focused on the Borderlands movie. It was almost half of it! Never mind that these segments were starring Gearbox founder Randy Pitchford, who has a laundry list of crimes including embezzlement and physically assaulting voice actor David Eddings, palling around with the film’s director Eli Roth, accused rapist. They were followed by things like an ad for the two year old Borderlands Science puzzle minigame, a straight up replay of the Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands trailer from Summer Game Fest Kickoff accompanied by a few pieces of concept art with developer voice over, and Tribes of Midgard reappearing and similarly scooped by Keighley’s show. Somehow the most notable development was the announcement that PS5 launch title Godfall will be coming to PS4 on August 10th, accompanied by free gear, weapons and so on, the in this case really obligatory next-gen free upgrade, an eventual paid expansion titled Fire and Darkness, and online matchmaking somehow only being added this long after launch.

Lastly, E3 Day 1 proved to be a banner year for bizarre interstitial choices, with not only the aforementioned Ubisoft pre-show, but also the multiple very brief appearances of Blackbird Interactive developers discussing Homeworld 3 in between the presentation’s other segments. Just the title card, different audio from the dev, for a few seconds each, appearing over and over. If you’re like me and don’t know that much about old PC games, Homeworld is a sci fi RTS game series which was produced by Relic Entertainment in the late 90s and early 2000s until it struggled under the ownership of THQ, before then being bought by Gearbox in 2013 during THQ’s dissection and auction. The success of the subsequent Remastered Collection and prequel Deserts of Kharak, from returning key personnel under this new Blackbird banner, led to Homeworld 3 being greenlit. Homeworld 3 received crowdfunding and investing via the Fig platform in 2019, but the portion of that money that was submitted as investment had to be canceled and returned upon Koch Media/Embracer Group/THQ Nordic acquiring Gearbox earlier this year. It is currently scheduled for a late 2022 launch. All in all I’m sincerely astonished that this company managed to limbo below the bar of what an abysmal E3 show traditionally looked like, by barely resembling an E3 show at all. It was mostly a behind the scenes movie promo. What is this, Comic-Con?

Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase on June 13th

The Xbox E3 event committed right out the gate to showing off Phil Spencer’s new toys, opening with Todd Coward himself introducing Bethesda Game Studios’ new RPG Starfield, scheduled to release exclusively on Windows PC and Xbox Series X on November 11th 2022, three years after it was originally announced alongside The Elder Scrolls VI. Ultimately the game was apparently not ready for the full blowout reveal that was originally planned for this year, as it was exclusively showcased via an extremely vague cinematic trailer that really was functionally not much different than 2018’s logo reveal. It showcased a run-down spacefaring aesthetic more like Alien than something sleeker, and confirmed that it is the first Bethesda game running on Creation Engine 2. You know, I’m not always opposed to cinematic trailers. I’m upfront about that, and I occasionally feel out of step with my friends, peers, and colleagues for it. In fact, there’s one from later in the Xbox show which I’ll discuss at the right time, and which I consider particularly, personally successful. But the Starfield trailer was not that! Not in the slightest. It conveyed an aesthetic, and absolutely nothing else about its setting, characters, story. I may not have any interest in first party Bethesda RPGs regardless, I’ve spent a long time being one of those dorks hating Fallout 3 and 4 and Skyrim, talking about when Fallout used to be good, but that doesn’t make me any less qualified to recognize and criticize bad marketing. That was bad communication, it was bad marketing, it did not sell the game in any sense, simply assumed like you would have rapturous interest even if they did nothing, which is exactly what they did. It’s very typical Bethesda hubris, and it was all the more annoying when they proceeded to start releasing concept art on social media shortly after that gave a stronger, more detailed impression of the game!

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, with its final title announced as STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl, had a plum second place spot for its release date trailer featuring a campfire-set dialogue scene followed by its first person shooter gameplay. The release date is scheduled as April 28th 2022. Back 4 Blood was announced as a Day One Game Pass title. Just Cause developers Avalanche, not the Disney Infinity/Hogwarts Legacy Avalanche, finally announced their Xbox-exclusive, next-gen-exclusive title previously known as Project Typhoon, an open world co op game titled Contraband, which was announced with an extremely vague, brief cinematic teaser. However, it was somewhat further detailed in an Xbox news post written by the game’s director, Omar Shakir. Contraband is about the world of 1970s smuggling, is meant to further innovate the field of emergent gameplay, and has been built in a new generation of Avalanche’s Apex Engine over the past three years and counting. The presentation proceeded to jump from a next-gen game we don’t really know anything about yet to a seasonal live service announcement with a regrettable licensed tie-in, in an incredibly succinct, apt summary of the least interesting parts of the current games industry. That announcement was that Sea of Thieves would launch a Pirates of the Caribbean films themed season, A Pirate’s Life, on June 22nd featuring Jack Sparrow, Tia Dalma, and Davy Jones among others in a full narrative arc. Just as aptly, as if a personal apology to me, the next announcement was that Yakuza: Like a Dragon would be available that day on Game Pass, thus sharing a game I dearly love and am currently playing with even more people.

As promised four days earlier, Battlefield 2042 had its gameplay reveal trailer. After showcasing for many years and all three summers of gaming news that I’ve covered, indie murder mystery time loop game 12 Minutes had its release date announced as August 19th 2021, with the game being a Day One Game Pass title and timed exclusive to Xbox consoles. An even longer awaited release announcement then arrived with the release date trailer for Double Fine’s Psychonauts 2. The 3D platformer sequel will launch on August 25th 2021 for PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Mac, Linux, and Windows, and I will literally play it ASAP on day one, I am so consumedly excited for this game. Bethesda representatives arrived on the cute little stage to confirm that the rest of Bethesda’s back catalog would arrive on Game Pass later that day: Arkane’s Arx Fatalis, Fallout 1, Fallout 2, and Fallout Tactics on PC only*, Doom 2016, Evil Within 2, Dishonored Death of the Outsider, Rage, Fallout 3, and Wolfenstein 2 all on PC and console. Also, Doom Eternal‘s full next gen update comes June 29th 2021. Considering that other first party very old school CRPGs like the original Wasteland from inXile have been ported to Xbox, it’s a shame that hasn’t been done with the original and still best Fallout games as of yet. The Bethesda did continue until morale improved, with updates for both live service titles, Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online, which look at this rate to be the only content Bethesda will put on and support for PlayStation platforms ever again. A trailer announced the Brotherhood of Steel themed 76 expansion Steel Reign which will launch on July 7th, and teased the first Expeditions expansion, which visit settings far away from West Virginia, with Expeditions: The Pitt coming in 2022. Elder Scrolls Online‘s next gen update on Xbox Series and PS5 was announced to launch June 15th, while the Deadlands expansion coming this fall was teased.

Party Animals, a Gang Beasts clone fumblecore party brawler coming day one to Game Pass, was announced as a 2022 release. Hades‘ release date for all Xboxes on Game Pass, the Windows store, and PS4/5 was announced as August 13th 2021. The physical editions for these releases will be handled by Take Two’s Private Division instead of Nintendo. The current gen versions come with support for free next-gen upgrades on both platforms. The PS5 version supports haptic feedback, with the developer’s PS Blog post specifically highlighting its usage for a heightened experience of petting Cerberus the three-headed good boy. Somerville, an apocalyptic right to left side-scrolling narrative game by Jumpship, a studio founded by Dino Patti after leaving Playdead, will launch as a Day One game pass timed exclusive for Xbox One and Series in 2022. Halo Infinite returned right smack dab at the middle of the show, leading with some extended cinematics including a cutscene about the alleged death of the recently rogue Cortana. Halo Infinite’s campaign and first season of multiplayer were confirmed to launch together in Holiday 2021, then multiplayer debuted with an extended and wonderfully chaotic gameplay trailer, very true to the spirit of what made the series’ multiplayer big back in the 00s. 343i representatives discussed the multiplayer trailer in detail during the Xbox Extended Showcase, explaining particular new and updated weapons like the shotgun and commando rifle, and establishing the Commander Laurette character who trains new Spartans. Activision-Blizzard and Vicarious Visions’ Diablo 2 Resurrected was announced to launch on September 23rd 2021 for all platforms, featuring 8-player co op and cross progression, as well as next-gen optimizations and unique optimizations on Xbox.

A Plague Tale: Requiem, the sequel to Asobo’s idiosyncratic passion project, was announced as a Game Pass title to launch in 2022 on next-gen consoles, Windows, and on Switch as a cloud streaming game. Very shortly before this event and this trailer within it premiered, I happened to gain info from someone connected with it who was willing to share since the title had already leaked. They revealed that the first game in this now series, A Plague Tale: Innocence, is receiving a next-gen remaster which will be coming to Xbox Series, PS5, and Switch via Cloud Edition, just like the sequel. The next-gen upgrade is releasing on July 6th 2021 to promote next year’s sequel, and will be a PS+ title for that month. All of this was officially announced on June 17th during the “extended cut” of the Xbox show. The next-gen upgrade runs at 4K60fps and supports 3D audio. There was a dedicated trailer for showing Far Cry 6 gameplay running on Xbox Series hardware. Open world first person cartoony sim Slime Rancher 2 was revealed as a Day One Game Pass next-gen Xbox and Windows timed exclusive coming in 2022. Timed exclusive indie snowboarding game Shredders is launching for Xbox Series in December 2021. After a long hiatus, surrealist Russian first person action RPG Atomic Heart, coming to Windows, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series, reemerged with a trailer showcasing very interesting gameplay and announcing it as a Game Pass title. Replaced was revealed, an incredibly stylish 2.5D side-scrolling action platformer coming as a timed exclusive to Xbox One and Series in 2022. Keep your eye on that one. Obsidian’s ongoing Early Access survival game Grounded had its new Shroom and Doom update announced for a June 30th release. The update features among other things the highly requested sitting for player characters, and a new Broodmother spider boss fight, which the trailer invoked the Arachnophobia setting about in a rather disrespectful way. Achievements were confirmed to be coming soon to Grounded during the Extended Xbox Showcase. Among Us was announced to be coming to Xbox (and PlayStation) platforms on June 15th, the same day that lobbies will be updated again to include a 15-player match option.

Suikoden spiritual successor and Kickstarter project JRPG Eiyuden Chronicle Hundred Heroes was announced as newly part of a funding partnership with Xbox, making both it and its newly revealed spinoff game Day One Game Pass titles. Hundred Heroes is now rescheduled for a 2023 launch, while Eiyuden Chronicle Rising, the town-building action RPG prequel spinoff, is scheduled to launch in 2022. The timed exclusive, Day oneGame Pass indie isometric cyberpunk RPG The Ascent had its launch date officially announced as July 29th 2021. First party PC exclusive Age of Empires IV‘s launch date was announced as October 28th 2021. Empires’ final two playable civilizations at launch were announced as the Rus and the Holy Roman Empire during the Extended Xbox Showcase. That later presentation also detailed new tutorials added to the console release of Microsoft Flight Simulator, and the new feature to Land Anywhere. Two more first-party titles followed in the main event, with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 now officially coming to Xbox Series S and X on July 27th 2021, slightly less than a year after its Windows launch, and Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds 2 (yet another UnrealEngine 5 game) revealed with a cinematic trailer parodying the concept of cinematic trailers and broader prestige game marketing. My partner LibraryLass described the Outer Worlds 2 trailer as having Xbox/Microsoft/the games industry “pegged to the fucking wall, it pegged them like a dominatrix.” Microsoft Flight Simulator also had a free expansion themed to the film Top Gun 2/Top Gun: Maverick announced to launch this fall featuring playable fighter jets, which is the kind of pure dumb bullshit I’ve been missing this E3. Also there is a very silly and very expensive specialized Xbox controller coming from Turtle Beach for a more complete, complex, immersive flight sim experience.

Forza Horizon 5 was announced, launching November 9th 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series and Windows PC. Forza‘s extended gameplay demo, set in Mexico as rumored, displayed the latest version of this open world racing series, but also some questionable elements of cultural representation like a new “Piñata Pop” minigame. It’s a depiction of Mexico that is honest, authentic and you can fuck every bit of it up with your car. Playground Studios had already began developing this game when pre-production on the upcoming Fable started, and work on the two games has been occurring concurrently for years after the team size was significantly expanded right after the studio’s acquisition by Xbox. Phil Spencer finally stepped onto the stage which is probably not in Los Angeles to sum up the show so far and introduce the One More Thing ™, which was none other than Arkane Austin’s Project Omen, now announced as Redfall, coming Summer 2022 exclusively to Xbox Series X and S, and PC. Redfall is an open world first person survival shooter, which was introduced with an extended cinematic trailer emphasizing the game’s co op play, depicting a team of uniquely equipped vampire hunters fighting their way through the island town of Redfall together. The player chooses between this set of Borderlands-esque unique character classes with their own exclusive abilities, style of combat and gear, and backstory and characterization, which you can see in their character bios on the website. Arkane’s developers posit consistently that the game is still first and foremost an immersive sim with a world as carefully designed as Prey‘s and an in-depth narrative of mysteries to solve, that it’s not a frantic pure action game, a Left 4 Dead alike as seen elsewhere this E3, but a deliberately paced survival experience with co op purely as an option and experimental addendum in the same vein as the addition of roguelike elements to Prey: Mooncrash. That may well all be marketing BS. We’ll know for sure eventually.

In the meantime, my partner and I find very this game very exciting, look forward to playing it together, and find the perspective of Arkane Austin’s developers convincing. Our concern right now is in regards to how immediately hard-line Microsoft has shown itself to be with locking down Bethesda software as full stop console exclusive nomatter where on the scale of production is. Live services are the exception so far, the wide-reaching Bethsoft RPG and niche Arkane immersive sim is being painted with the same brush right now, outside of the two games with pre-existing contracts which of course were not rpomoted at all. Can you imagine the years of work that went into the PlayStation 5 versions of this game and Starfield that had simply gone to waste once the buyout went through? Again, corporations are not and are never your friend, I as an anticapitalist have no illusions of that, but the extent of waste, of leaving money on the table and potentially sabotaging smaller developers like Arkane by universally counting on the instincts of “something available on Game Pass will get played” and “audiences will follow games to the platform they’re available on instead of simply giving up on them,” it’s hubristic and foolish, and even as someone now in the Xbox ecosystem, I can’t help but criticize and remain unconvinced that this will pay off.

In the days after the Xbox Showcase aired, both Venture Beat’s Jeff Grubb and Andy Robinson from VGC reported that Rare’s upcoming open world title Everwild is in the process of restarting its development from scratch. Its planned release was internally delayed from 2022, to late 2023 or 2024 as the “optimistic” possibility. Despite publicity statements to the contrary, creative director Simon Woodroffe’s departure last year was apparently and unsurprisingly symptomatic of serious difficulties, culminating in Rareware veteran Gregg Mayles’ appointment as the new creative director in order to oversee “a complete overhaul of the game’s design and direction” starting in late 2020. Mayles as the replacement creative director has been confirmed by Everwild executive producer Louise O’Connor. Many other first party AAA development teams for Xbox, whose titles are in comparatively better condition, opted out of diverting resources and personnel towards readying a vertical slice by the June deadline. I for one am deeply grateful that these teams not only had this option, but took it, for the betterment of themselves and their works.

Xbox Game Studios has five first party games launching in the second half of 2021, counting the still undated Halo Infinite, and various timed exclusives as well. Previously discussed third party exclusives Gigerian horror game Scorn and Image&Form’s The Gunk did not appear at E3, but were both dated for between Fall and Holiday 2021 by press material surrounding E3. Of those aforementioned unseen first party AAA games, Hellblade II did make an appearance a few days later, where it was confirmed to still be in early development, building the first core piece of the game world as the foundation for the rest, with help from Epic Games on creating characters in the unfinished Unreal Engine 5. The full list of games featured or added to in Thursday’s Xbox Games Showcase Extended (essentially a re-air of Sunday’s show with material that was cut from the premiere) is as follows: Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Xbox Design Lab, Battlefield 2042, Sea of Thieves, Psychonauts 2, The Anacrusis, STALKER 2, A Plague Tale, Age of Empires IV, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Hades, Grounded, Shredders, Scarlet Nexus. The details of these additions are largely included where these games previously appeared in this article, with the exception of Xbox Design Lab, as it only appears here. Xbox Design Lab relaunched this week now supporting the next-gen Xbox console and its controller.

Square Enix Presents on June 13th

The presentation opened with Eidos Montréal’s now finally official Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy project, which was first reported on and leaked back in 2017 not long after Square Enix and Marvel Studios finalized their contract, Crystal Dynamics and Eidos received their assignments, and Marvel’s Avengers was announced with a teaser trailer. Guardians was developed from the outset as a project which is entirely about its single player story mode with no additionally monetized elements whatsoever, barring potential story expansions. It’s a total opposite counterpart to Avengers‘ live service, one which genuinely just stumbled into only being announced after Square Enix lost millions of dollars on Avengers. In similar contrast to Avengers, only Peter “Starlord” Quill is fully, directly playable in this game, the rest of the cosmic superhero team (Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket Racoon, with Mantis and Cosmo the Spacedog in supporting roles) being managed by real-time mid-battle tactical commands to otherwise autonomous AI. A stand-out gameplay element adapting from the popular MCU films is that the game dynamically plays needle drops from a playlist of 30 licensed songs, which activate on their own during climactic moments of combat, and which the player activates themselves as part of a team huddle mechanic to boost morale mid-fight.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy arrived out the gate with a substantial trailer of cutscenes and gameplay that announced its October 26th 2021 launch date, followed by a very extended straight from the start screen demo, which together added up to about half the show and start to overstate its welcome by the end. It’s very apparent that Square will sell this game as hard as it has to as its biggest release of the fiscal year and as something that needs a much better return on investment than its predecessor. Eidos has integrated a lot of its past immersive sim design elements, as well as some from Western RPGs, into this game, incorporating dialogue choices, event-altering decisions, and dynamic teammate conflicts all as part of attempting a meaningful story which puts the player in the role and mind of Starlord. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a cross-gen release, releasing on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PC, and, although it wasn’t announced yet at this conference, Switch via Cloud streaming. The game will have its next-gen optimizations of course, it is very much a more demanding “late PS4/Xbox One” game, but it is nonetheless of that hardware generation first and foremost.

Similarly to the below final reveal, updated remasters of the original 8-bit and 16-bit Final Fantasy games had been leaked and rumored for months leading up to their official announcement in this presentation, but with some unforeseen caveats. The Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters are a set of the series’ first six games more carefully preserved and updated compared to previous releases, but also will only be available individually and were announced for only Steam and mobile. There are no provided details on when they will release, their price, and no current indications of further plans for them. As Square has not provided any press screenshots or images whatsoever from these remasters, this graphic from RPG Site, which has the sprites ripped directly from the Youtube-compressed trailer, is all that is currently available as a close look and comparison on the remasters’ quality. The remastered PS1 Legend of Mana made a very brief reminder appearance ahead of its June 24th launch. Marvel’s Avengers premiered the full trailer for its War of Wakanda expansion update, launching in August, which adds playable Black Panther in a story involving villain Ulysses Klaue. There was a quick set of mobile game updates like the spinoff Hitman Sniper, confirmation that Nier Reincarnation is coming West, and the FF7 battle royale. Years after the last time it was seen, Platinum Games’ Babylon’s Fall, now coming to PS5 as well as PS4 and PC, was re-revealed to a rapturously negative reception. It really seems like most of the people who remembered and anticipated this game are no longer interested. The game being announced as a four player co op live service, with large parts of its Neo Babylon setting being procedurally generated, are the main concerns. The quality of the footage for the hack and slash gameplay is also apparently in question. This all sounds very familiar with a certain superhero game, doesn’t it? Signup for the closed beta, which starts in July, is on the game’s website. Life is Strange Remastered Collection showcased gameplay and announced its stand-alone launch date as September 30th. As previously reported, you receive the Remastered Collection early as part of the Ultimate Edition bundle of Life is Strange: True Colors. True Colors as a major release was in the presentation for only like, 30 seconds.

After leaking a couple weeks early, Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin was the closing reveal for the second Square Enix Presents. Final Fantasy Origin (notably not the PS1 rerelease title Final Fantasy Origins) is a Soulslike action-RPG spinoff by Team Ninja and an isekai reinterpretation of 1987’s Final Fantasy, in which three ordinary men from an ordinary world are brought into that game’s world before its events. They encounter the iconic knight Garland early in his fall from grace and transformation into Chaos, and ultimately must defeat him after he betrays them. The game is developed primarily by Team Ninja’s Dissidia developers with some (fewer than rumored) personnel from Nioh, and Kingdom Hearts creator Tetsuya Nomura is the character designer, producer, and art director responsible for the game’s gritty, “brutal” aesthetic, as opposed to a more faithful rendering of the original’s aesthetic. Regular Final Fantasy mainline and spinoff writer Kazushige Nojima is writing the game’s story and script, originated from an idea pitch by Nomura. The reveal trailer features cutscenes and gameplay alike which largely disappointed audiences excited from the leaks and/or its premise with its tone and action less like its Souls and Nioh inspirations and more like a standard hack and slash. The classic Final Fantasy jobs are available as classes freely switched between in the game, including the black mage. It also turns out that the game will release for not only PC and PS5 in 2022, but also Xbox One, Xbox Series, and PS4. The limited-time trial of the game, playable from June 13th to June 24th, is PS5-exclusive, which is what created the confusion on whether the game was coming to additional consoles or not. That trial created additional controversy due to not being able to launch because of corrupted files, it was eventually patched and fixed on June 15th, losing the first two days of its limited time availability.

WB Games – Back 4 Blood on June 13th

Warner Bros Games, still not completely out of the confusion it was subjected to by AT&T’s sudden sale of its parent company to Discovery, had a ten minute presentation dedicated entirely to a deeper dive into Turtle Rock’s Back 4 Blood, a spiritual successor to the developer’s Left 4 Dead frantic co op shooter series. This video was dedicated to a full reveal of the game’s PVP mode in which the special classes of monster zombie are playable and teams switch back and forth between survivors and monsters each round, as was the case in L4D. Each class of “Ridden” monster was shown in detail, and line up very exactly with equivalents from the two predecessors. You have your tanks, exploding tanks, vomiters, guys who tackle and rip, guys who grab and slam, spitters, guys who drag you away, and of course your Witch equivalent, the creature you try to sneak past without provoking. The sheer degree of “same as before” with no new novelty of it all is frankly unimpressive. I’ve been interested in this game, but it will need to offer an experience I can’t already have with the games I do own. You’d think some inspiration and innovation would come along during a decade-long hiatus. Monsters’ movement and attacks are less rigid than they were before, just like the players, which is a nice improvement. And the playable monsters can mutate and add persistent upgrades further mid-match, that is a new feature, but it’s only been vaguely described, not actually seen, so far.

I’ve seen a lot of people ask about where the in-house AAA WB projects were, like Hogwarts Legacy, Gotham Knights, and Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, or even the new Lego Star Wars. The issue is a lot like what I discussed above with Xbox, that these AAA developers were given the choice between committing resources towards marketing materials on an extremely strict deadline, or dedicating 100% of resources toward progressing development as much and as quickly as possible in exchange for the marketing campaign having to wait a few more months. It’s really not surprising that most developers opt for the latter when it’s available. In addition, while WB Games is a somewhat smaller publisher than the companies most able to just advertise whenever they want to and make it work, your hardware manufacturers, it also had the highly, unexpectedly successful debut of the DC FanDome event last year. DC FanDome was supposed to be a one-off event just to compensate for the absence of E3 and minimizing of Comic Con, but it performed so well last year that WB is now content to keep it going, save stuff for a few extra months, and in the process provide its game developers with easier deadlines to it. Summer Game Fest social media confirmed a week out from the show’s airing that the WB show would only be this title, but this was still a bit too little too late relative to the tide of “hype” that already develops that close to E3, just like the other last-minute attempts at transparency.

There was a Take Two video call Panel on Diversity and Inclusion in Gaming on the morning of June 14th. This was subject to issues of miscommunication like Warner Bros above, Capcom and Bandai Namco below, but unlike those shows which probably should have just been fully absorbed into larger presentations, this event is very valuable and necessary. I wholeheartedly support this occurring and being a public-facing event for reasons which should be obvious, it is something this industry needs and society needs. Nonetheless it was mishandled in terms of communication. Merve was right when he said they should’ve kept Take Two’s sponsorship off it and called it a D&I panel from the start. It was like much of this year’s E3, a victim of expectations. Still, none of that remotely excuses any inappropriate or unacceptable responses during and towards the event.

Capcom on June 14th

Capcom’s paltry show opened with a brief Resident Evil segment confirming that the multiplayer deathmatch RE:Verse is relaunching in July, and announcing that development has just begun on a story expansion DLC for Resident Evil Village due to the game’s reception. I suspect Capcom had held off on greenlighting it due to the severe delays that RE7‘s Not a Hero and End of Zoe DLCs went through. Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin had the most gameplay centered trailer yet of the innumerable trailers I’ve seen for the RPG. The game is about raising baby monsters and cooperating with them as mounts and partners known as “monsties,” including the highlighted Baby Rathalos. The game’s tie-in material with MH Rise includes a Palamute being added the week after launch on July 15th. Monster Hunter Rise announced and released its 3.1 update. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles provided a new trailer detailing the new mechanics unique to this spinoff series, the Dance of Deduction and the Examination Summation. The former occurs during investigations in which the player must match wits with detective Sherlock Holmes to guide him away from incorrect conclusions about the evidence with abductive reasoning, while the latter is about interrogating and swaying jurors mid-trial to ensure they don’t forcibly conclude the trial in the wrong way. The rest of the runtime was esports stuff. I don’t mean to be dismissive, there’s just only ways I can describe that, you know?

Nintendo Direct on June 15th

Switch development general manager Yoshiaki Koizumi returned for the first time since 2019 alongside Shinya Takahashi to introduce the E3 2021 Direct. The penultimate DLC character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was revealed as Kazuya Mishima from Tekken, bringing a second Bandai Namco representative to the battle. A full slate of gameplay was showcased twice for the new fighter, one in typical montage form featuring his notable Devil Gene form, and a more slickly produced one with labels for all the moves from Masahiro Sakurai himself. The full Sakurai Presents Kazuya was announced to air on June 28th. Shortly after, it was confirmed after he was heard in the trailer that the Tekken series’ classic announcer would be making a guest appearance for Kazuya’s victory screen quotes in place of the primary Smash Bros. announcer Xander Mobus. The very final DLC fighter presently remains a mystery, as this was Smash‘s only appearance in the Direct. Kazuya doesn’t mean a lot personally, but is a very cool contribution to this series’ celebration of fighting games and broader gaming history.

Nintendo then proceeded through its first set of third party headlines, starting with a special animated trailer confirming that Life is Strange: True Colors, the narrative adventure series’ third major entry, and the Life is Strange Remastered Collection featuring the original and its prequel, are both coming to the Nintendo Switch family in 2021, after I reported these releases earlier this year. True Colors will be on Switch the same day as every other platform, September 10th, while the remasters’ Switch version is currently only slated for later this year. Life is Strange 2‘s Switch port is still not yet official, but I can assure you it’s coming at some point. These are fully ported retail releases, while Square’s other major Direct announcement, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, will exclusively be a Cloud streaming title when it becomes available on the game’s launch date, October 26th. Worms Rumble (coming later in June), hand-painted turn-based JRPG from Final Fantasy veterans Astria Ascending, (coming September 30th) and Two Point Campus (coming in 2022), all previously announced, were briefly featured as well. The first brand new announcement of the Direct came next, although it had sadly been leaked just the day before with full screenshots and cover art appearing on Twitter after ratings boards had listed the title a few times this past year. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania is coming to the Switch family, PC, and all current Xbox and PS platforms on October 5th in time for the series’ 20th anniversary. An HD remaster and compilation of the series’ original and most beloved entries from the Gamecube, the 300+ levels and 12 party minigames of 1, 2, and Deluxe rebuilt in the engine of 2019’s Banana Blitz HD, featuring 4 player local co op in Story Mode and local competition in the minigames, online multiplayer Time Attack complete with leaderboards, and a full creator mode for a customizable character and ball.

The Direct transitioned into its next brand new first party announcements right from there, starting with Mario Party Superstars, which compiles and fully remakes in HD more than 100 minigames and five of the most beloved game boards from the original three Mario Party games on N64, supplemented with the feature of saving the game mid-session and returning to it later, full online support for all content and modes, and full button-only support, addressing major criticisms of its predecessor Super Mario Party. Mario Party Superstars will launch on October 29th 2021 as the most casual of the key holiday titles. It’s such a quintessential Classic Nintendo TM move to suddenly support the previous release in the series in a valuable way right before announcing the next entry in the same series which has the same selling point built in from launch. But hey, that series used to release annually, three years isn’t that bad of a cycle in comparison. Shinya Takahashi returned to introduce the next title, directly addressing Metroid Prime 4 to express, yes, they understand that it’s highly anticipated and people will ask about it, and it is progressing, but it won’t be showed yet. And finally, advising to not let yourself be distracted by that because in the meantime, none other than Metroid 5 as both my previous reports and the trailer itself describes it, Metroid Dread, the fifth core Metroid side-scroller, one of Nintendo’s most infamous pieces of vaporware software, is launching later this year! October 8th 2021, in fact!

Metroid Dread is a 2.5D side-scrolling Metroidvania (search-action game), developed by Spanish contractor studio MercurySteam returning after their work on Samus Returns for 3DS, in which Samus is on the run from the Galactic Federation and its new unstoppably lethal hunter EMMI robots on the planet ZDR. Samus has crashed deep into the planet’s crust and must fight and explore her way back to her ship on the surface, in a clever inversion of a traditional series structure, starting on the ship and delving further and further out from it. Metroid Dread will launch alongside a new Amiibo figurine two-pack of Samus in her new armor and an EMMI, and comes in both standard retail release and a $90 collector’s edition which celebrates the series’ history. Based on info from the same multiple sources that accurately leaked Metroid Dread ahead of announcement, the game’s content was completed in late 2020 and it has been purely in the phase of polish in 2021. It has no chance of being delayed, even beyond the apparentness since the pandemic started (and really since the Prime 4 and New Horizons delays in 2019) that first party Nintendo announcements don’t happen until they can happen with confidence, and that those announcements have a very consistent track record of not slipping.

Series veteran and producer Yoshio Sakamoto appeared at the outset of Nintendo’s E3 Treehouse Live to discuss the background of Metroid Dread, in both narrative and production. The game is a chronological and narrative sequel to 2002’s Metroid Fusion and thus the new latest point in the series’ timeline, and indeed the conclusion to the current story arc traced through Metroid (1986)/Metroid Zero Mission, Metroid 2/Samus Returns, Super Metroid, and Metroid Fusion, ahead of the likely beginning of a new narrative arc starting with the upcoming Metroid Prime 4. Metroid Dread was first pitched and began it original aborted development cycle as a DS game start in 2004 until cancellation in 2006, a whole 15 years ago during which the game was highly anticipated and rumored (a tease of it in Metroid Prime 3 played a part) with no official answers being given, until now. In 2006 it was determined that the mechanics Sakamoto wanted to pursue weren’t doable with the available hardware of the time. It was never completely abandoned by either Sakamoto or Nintendo executives, having multiple further false starts in the ensuing years, until the confluence of the Switch hardware and Sakamoto’s satisfaction with MercurySteam on Samus Returns. As it is in essence the same game Sakamoto first tried to make back then, the project has ultimately been given the oft rumored and discussed working title it had back then, Metroid Dread. Looks to be quite the opposite of Duke Nukem Forever, eh?

More third party titles followed like Just Dance 2022, Cruis’n Blast, a console exclusive port of the 2017 arcade release in the racer series tightly associated with N64 nostalgia, officially announced to be coming Fall 2021 after a ratings board leaked it in May, the similarly leaked licensed RPG Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, which releases for Switch on September 24th as a complete package with its subsequent Cell and Buu Saga DLCs, and Monster Hunter Stories 2, the demo of which will release on June 25th. Mario Golf: Super Rush made a very brief appearance typical of games in its release spot, which did newly confirm free post-launch updates featuring new courses (New Donk City pictured) and characters. Then the Direct got to the next new first party announcement, Intelligent Systems’ WarioWare: Get It Together!, launching on September 10th for $50. For once the random, last-minute, minor detail that attracted speculation was absolute evidence of impending news, given the survey I mentioned in the last news roundup, and of course my own reporting on this title. Clearly we now know which IntSys project won the horserace to release first.

This new WarioWare game takes the competitive party microgames and playable avatars of the series’ eclectic cast from past console entries, and updates them to more fully 3D yet still cartoonish models that the player more fully controls. There isn’t just the specific mechanics of a microgame itself, but a fully navigable environment within each microgame that each character is equipped differently for based on their attributes, such as size, or having a flying broom you can ride instead of needing to jump. This can be experienced in the latest iteration of the series’ traditional Story Mode and competitive mode, and in a series first, in two player local co op. The return of a popular series tradition, 9-Volt Games, was highlighted during the WarioWare Treehouse stream. WarioWare‘s microgames each originate from a different character in the cast who develops them with their own themes and interests in mind, and 9-Volt is a literal Nintendo fan whose microgames are themed after other Nintendo games. Among the latest slate of 9-Volt Games are ones themed after Luigi’s Mansion, Splatoon, Animal Crossing, and of highest importance in the LovelyLass household, a Fire Emblem: Three Houses tea party microgame.

Another notable exclusive highlighted in both the Direct and Treehouse was Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei V, which was announced to be officially globally launching November 12th 2021 exclusively on the Switch family, after an update to the game’s Japanese website accidentally went live early for a brief period and tipped this off ahead of its announcement. Pre-orders begin on June 21st. Preceding the release date was the gameplay reveal for the latest mainline entry in the biblically themed JRPG series, showing the hero and their party of strange companions exploring a ravaged future Tokyo and engaging in a refined form of the series’ turn-based combat. The trailer in the Japanese version of the Direct depicted additional enemies, NPCs, and environments fans might not want to be spoiled on. This game is the last remaining piece of software announced at the January 2017 Switch presentation left to be released and it looks like its time has finally come, and brings a series which has been tightly tied in partnership with Nintendo since the Famicom into the next generation after the recent success of its spinoff series Persona.

The next title doesn’t have quite the same history behind it, but it is celebrating its tenth anniversary in style as Danganronpa Decadence, a new compilation of the hit series, was announced to be coming exclusively to the Switch family later in 2021 as a physical release of the compilation and individual digital releases of each. The compilation features all of the series’ core entries, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, as well as an expanded stand-alone version of the digital crossover board game Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp. Another delightful cult classic anniversary celebration emerged as a remaster of the previously Wii U exclusive survival horror game Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water (Project Zero in some non-US territories), a game which Nintendo previously co-owned with Koei Tecmo alongside its Wii predecessor upon a buy-in during the 2000s, was announced to be arriving on Switch later in 2021 for the series’ 20th anniversary. In fact, it’s also coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, PS5, and PC, as Koei Tecmo has arranged for sole publishing rights on this rerelease, potentially having bought back Nintendo’s stake in the overall series as well.

A quick sizzle reel occurred next, featuring a reminder that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+ 2 Remake will release on Switch June 25th, announced that the Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Part 1 DLC, and the co-op puzzle shooter Strange Brigade were both shadowdropping on Switch that day,
and featured brief new gameplay snippets from third party exclusive Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope. The last first-party (and overall) announcements of the E3 Direct proceeded from there, starting with the reveal of the return of the cult classic Advance Wars, as Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, launching December 3rd 2021 only on Switch. Features the 2001 and 2003 Game boy Advance games Advance Wars and Advance Wars: Black Hole Rising, and a four player local and online Versus mode. Siliconera’s Jenni Lada contacted Nintendo and received first confirmation tha this remake was developed by WayForward with the “support and advice” of Nintendo and the series’ original developer Intelligent Systems, before WayForward themselves confirmed it on Twitter in the evening after the announcement. Wars is Nintendo and Intelligent Systems’ other first party tactics (primarily turn-based, with two real-time tactics spinoffs) series alongside Fire Emblem, having started with Famicom Wars in the 80s before debuting in the West with the two GBA entries that are the subject of this remake. The series has been on hiatus since its two DS entries as it became overshadowed by the increasing prominence of Fire Emblem from its success on 3DS.

Koizumi confirmed that the next segment of connected announcements would be the presentation’s last. It was dedicated to the Zelda series as a whole and guided by series producer Eijo Aonuma, starting by detailing the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity Expansion Pass Wave 1, which launched June 18th and features a new difficulty mode with new enemies, a new playable Guardian, and new weapons like nunchuks made of Guardian legs and the returning beloved Master Cycle motorcycle. Skyward Sword HD made a very brief appearance to promote its launch with no new info. I guess this new remaster really doesn’t have the same degree of updates and new QOL features that previous 3D Zelda remasters had, after all. I will gladly take the L on that, as it were, that is a huge shame. Aonuma then announced and showed off a special 35th anniversary Zelda Game and Watch, which features the full original NES games The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, the full original Game Boy version of Link’s Awakening, as well as quite gamified digital Clock and Timer modes, and the Vermin Game and Watch game modified to feature Link much like Ball featuring Mario last year. The device will launch on November 12th 2021 for $50 and there is currently no evidence of it being a limited release like the previous anniversary Game and Watch.

While introducing the special Game and Watch, Eiji Aonuma stated there was no other software plans for the Zelda 35th Anniversary, besides Skyward Sword HD and the Game and Watch. This came as a surprise after intensive rumors from earlier this year about Wind Waker HD, Twilight Princess HD, and NSO releases of the N64 Zeldas, which I’ve previously reported on. Several of the sources on these games, most vocally VGC’s Andy Robinson who’s quite reliable and was one of the primary sources on Super Mario 3D All Stars before its official unveiling, have chimed in since this statement. He especially has reaffirmed in light of this that he has no reason to believe the ports weren’t in development and aren’t eventually coming, the timetable has just evidently been adjusted due to both the already quite full release schedule for this year and the impending release and sales performance of Skyward Sword HD which Nintendo does not want to undermine. Indeed it is entirely possible those games see announcement and release sooner than later, once Skyward Sword HD‘s launch sales have rolled in, as the opinion of Robinson among others is that Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD in particular, newly optimized for 4K resolution on the upcoming Switch revision, will release in 2022 at the very latest.

Anyway, the Direct ended on the second trailer, the gameplay reveal for Breath of the Wild 2, albeit a fast, brief one, ending on a release window announcement after two years, 2022. The incident depicted in the game’s debut trailer, and briefly at the beginning of this second trailer, has led to Link having a magically infused robotic prosthetic arm which empowers him with new or augmented abilities, like phasing through solid matter, and mysterious manipulations of time including a new form of Stasis. He also has new weapons, like a fucking flamethrower, and there are new enemy encounters like Bokoblins who have built their fortifications on a Talus giant. The world has been expanded with a swathe of islands suspended high in the sky to explore and skydive through, and there is substantive speculation, based on certain scenes, the trailer’s music, and the depicted time powers, that the game could employ a variation on the dual-world structure where one world is the distant past. Ultimately I think that speculation is fun and fine to do, but we should remember they’re clearly still withholding more thna they’ve given and not jump to a lot of conclusions yet. Nintendo of America’s Bill Trinen later confirmed in an IGN interview that the upcoming sequel’s title has already been finalized and isn’t what I’ve been calling it for two years now, it’s just unsurprisingly not being disclosed at this time due to potential implications or spoilers about the game and its story. During another piece of the same interview, Trinen stated, “I think as we start to show a bit more of the game over the coming months to the next year or so, it’ll probably start to be a bit more apparent where this game stands on its own and what makes it so unique,” suggesting that this second teaser will be followed up on soon, that the game will be seen again during 2021 .

Once the Direct’s broadcast was complete, roughly 4 hours of Treehouse Live demonstrations of gameplay for various games were streamed, in increments that ranged from roughly 10 to 40 minutes each. The following games were featured, in this order: Metroid Dread, Mario Party Superstars, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, Mario Golf: Super Rush, Shin Megami Tensei 5, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, and WarioWare: Get It Together!, with Metroid Dread and Mario Party Superstars receiving some of the longest and most intensive coverage, as two of the three main holiday titles, and Metroid Dread both opening and closing the broadcast. Metroid Dread’s footage showcased additional abilities, environments, and enemies which I have chosen not to discuss further to preserve the surprise. There was also a segment on No More Heroes 3 curiously not livestreamed, just exclusively uploaded straight to Youtube. Shin Megami Tensei V is also M-rated, so that wasn’t the issue, but I’m not sure what is. Oh also, Mario Golf‘s Treehouse coverage heavily emphasized the story mode and made it look quite interesting. It apparently has survival mechanics!

With these new announcements, the updated Switch first party and console exclusives schedule is as follows:

July – Pokémon Unite, Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, Skyward Sword HD, NEO The World Ends With You,
August – No More Heroes 3
September – WarioWare: Get It Together!,
October – Metroid Dread, Mario Party Superstars,
November – Shin Megami Tensei V, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl
December – Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp
Adding up to eleven console exclusives for the second half of the year, in addition to the ten in the first half. Fatal Frame is not dated yet and is no longer an exclusive, but it still was once first party, so I’ve made this note of it.

And this is what 2022 looks like right now:

January: Pokémon Legends Arceus
Official and undated: Mario+Rabbids Sparks of Hope, Splatoon 3, Breath of the Wild 2,
Unofficial but very likely: Donkey Kong, Fire Emblem, Xenoblade Cronicles 3

One, maybe even two more, exclusive releases will be in that final fiscal quarter/the first three months of the year. March never goes without a title. It’s just a question of what they are.

Bandai Namco on June 15th

Bandai Namco’s show after Nintendo’s was a single trailer and interview entirely focused on yet another look at SuperMassive’s The Dark Pictures: House of Ashes. Once again, I love horror games, I want them to exist and be good, so I’d like to engage with this quite seriously. The interview highlighted two major aspects: 1. Newly added features and settings like multiple difficulties and being able to turn off certain UI elements, all in favor of a more personalized experience that can be more casual or more intense and immersive, and 2. that the US soldiers and Iraqi soldiers are meant to be treated equally in their story of needing to attempt to survive together. The thing about narrative equal footing between an overrepresented group and an underrepresented one, let alone in such a specific real-world one-sided violent colonial dynamic as this, is that you’re still a lot more likely to just repeat tired, harmful stories in slightly muted form than actually achieve something meaningful, because you’re still upholding that very power dynamic rather than challenging it.

Final Thoughts

Even as at least somewhat the targeted audience for that game, this was yet another pretty damn miscalculated choice. Bandai Namco has a strong slate for this fiscal year. I’m personally very happy to see what’s basically a show floor demo actually available to the public, because it interests me. But this industry and its audience simply isn’t prepared to handle the impact of putting every single floor demo, every closed door interview, right into the public eye in a completely hyperfragmented independent way instead of integrating them into a show, even an aftershow, against the prestige presumptions of what an E3 presentation looks like. Which is truly the industry lying in the bed it made, but nonetheless a pain in the ass too. In the case of Bandai Namco, it doesn’t help that the company has plenty of content for Elden Ring just on its own, between the footage at Keighley’s show and Hidetaka Miyazaki’s various recent interviews with major publishers. If it was determined that the best way to maximize attention for that game, never mind other titles like Scarlet Nexus or Tales of Arise, was to put them in other shows, maybe the company simply shouldn’t have attempted to have self-dedicated a show at all. Maybe it should have simply accepted that its presence was in other, bigger shows, like Sega did. This is the notion that I’ve been building to from Gearbox to WB to Capcom, which ultimately leads to the realization that the sense of obligation to do E3 again while the industry clearly wasn’t yet ready has only worsened what was already and always a mixed experience at best. But this isn’t the best conclusion I can give, is it? Let’s go further.

In many cases, negative reception hasn’t mattered for these companies because they still get the views, they still get the publicity. It doesn’t matter how many dislikes Square Enix got on Youtube, because the algorithm rewards higher engagement points regardless of whether they’re likes or dislikes. Eyeballs were met, data was collected, but was the marketing as successful and meaningful as it was meant to be due to the blunted impact of the same hyperfragmenting, repetition, etc. that we saw last summer? At the end of the day it is just marketing, but it ought to at least be good marketing, that’s the least this industry can do considering every other problem it has. And it all adds up to a continually frayed relationship between publishers and audiences, a relationship which only gets more profitable the more unhealthy it is, a relationship which vacillates between blind faith, paranoia, cynicism, sheer rage of varying degrees of righteousness and entitlement, etc. It’s all such a goddamn mess and it’s not going to begin to be fixed without a wider, deeper range of reform of the larger forsaken system that the games industry would just happen to be caught up in. And that, my friends, is E3 in Review.

In the spirit of the incredibly silly, pointless “Most Anticipated of E3” Awards on Tuesday, I will end on a note of positivity by providing a selection of my own personally most anticipated games from these events in no particular order.

  • Psychonauts 2 – I know I’ve said this so many times before, but I’m not just excited for a major new 3D platformer, I’m excited for this as an experience to share with my mom, who’s been as excited for this game as I am. I’m excited for it to be another normal mother-daughter bonding activity like we’ve had since I came out.
  • Despelote
  • Walk
  • Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Metroid Dread
  • Replaced
  • Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope
  • Halo Infinite
  • Elden Ring
  • 12 Minutes
  • Redfall
  • WarioWare: Get It Together!
  • Shin Megami Tensei V
  • Danganronpa Decadence
  • Life is Strange: True Colors – “Cautiously Optimistic” is a popular perspective in our community, sometimes it’s the most positive we get, and it’s hard to blade us given the industry we’re dealing with. It’s about where I fall on this game, I am somewhat skeptical but I see a lot of potential, and my positive experience with Tell Me Why has me a lot more open minded about this whole brand than before. I don’t have the same level of experience with Deck Nine as I do with Dontnod, which contributes to the complexity of my feelings.
  • and Breath of the Wild 2. Obviously.

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