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1. Sequels and Prequels Continue to Dominate
One thing I have written quite a bit about is the weird parallels between Hollywood and the video games industry. And one of the things these industries have in common is a paradoxical relationship with media.
For example, the average moviegoer and gamer will always say they want something new and innovative. But when you look at box office receipts and game sales, what fans really seem to crave is endless sequels, prequels, and reboots.
And if E3 is any indication, we’re just going to get more of the same. While there were some new titles announced, fans responded most positively to things like Battlefield 2042, Halo Infinite, Far Cry 6, and (via Nintendo Direct) Breath of the Wild II. If you invested in next-gen looking for all new games, prepare for some new variations on your old favorites.
2. The Death of Virtual Events?
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no E3 2020. For 2021, the planners decided to compromise and create an all-virtual event. And many pundits touted the possibility of going all-digital, including the fact that you could experience the entire event from the comfort of your own home.
However, going all-digital created planning issues that resulted in very little gaming news and favored more info on announced games instead of big surprises. The E3 portal designed to help fans enjoy the experience and interact with creators was a hot mess that almost nobody could get working.
Long story short? The all-digital event lacked the import of an in-person event and left plenty of space for dejected fans to vent about a disappointing show. At this point, it’s up in the air whether or not E3 has a real future, especially with rival events like the Steam Next Fest and companies like Nintendo preferring to reveal things on their own rather than through a show.
3. Exclusives Are the New Console Wars
“Console Wars” is an idea going back to Nintendo and Sega and their bitter rivalry. However, it seems to be an outdated concept. Even as consoles have been whittled down to three companies (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo), each one seems to be going their own way rather than directly competing.
And depending on who you talk to, Microsoft is charting a course that helped them emerge from E3 as the big winner. The company is already changing the way we play games and even think about them with Game Pass. And in order to keep Game Pass relevant, Microsoft is flexing with plenty of exclusives.
At E3, gamers really enjoyed glimpses of exclusive titles like Starfield, Redfall, and Halo Infinite. And Microsoft’s recent acquisitions also make it likely that future Elder Scrolls and Doom games may be Xbox and Windows exclusives. If exclusives are the new console wars, it looks like Xbox may finally be getting an edge over PlayStation.
4. Console Gaming Minus the Consoles
In any given year, a line like “Microsoft is changing the gaming industry forever” might sound like empty marketing speak. However, E3 2021 revealed that this is exactly what the company is doing in a real and tangible way.
Microsoft is the latest company to dive into cloud gaming. While giants like Google have failed in this endeavor, Microsoft is going so far as to develop separate devices to help people stream games. On top of that, they are working with TV manufacturers to integrate Game Pass into the average list of smart TV applications.
While Microsoft hasn’t said that much about this initiative, E3 focused quite a bit on what Game Pass would be offering in the future. And it looks like Microsoft won’t settle for anything less than giving gamers the ability to play Xbox games on their phones and TVs even if they don’t own a console!
5. Nostalgia Market Is Strong
For better or for worse, we are surrounded by a voracious market for nostalgia. Newer series like Stranger Things tap our love for the 1980s even as companies like 1Up take advantage of your childhood desire to have an arcade in your very own home.
At E3 2021, we got proof that the market for nostalgia is still alive and well. One of the hottest games previewed was Diablo II Resurrected, a remastered version of fans’ favorite game in the franchise. And during their Nintendo Direct, the Big N drove Metroid fans crazy by announcing Metroid Dread.
And even though the fact they will be limited to PC and mobile pissed fans off, Square Enix stepped into the nostalgia ring by announcing Pixel Remasters of early Final Fantasy games. If you like using fancy computer rigs or killer consoles to channel the games of decades ago, you’ll enjoy the next few years.
6. Diversity Continues To Be a Tricky Topic
For gamers, the culture war is still ongoing. Some players think that diversity and inclusion are the only ways to build a fandom and grow the industry. Others think that if developers “get woke” they’ll “go broke” because they aren’t focusing on the simple act of making entertaining games.
That brings us to Take Two’s awkward E3 panel. Fans were hoping to learn more about future titles like Grand Theft Auto 6 or the next Borderlands installment. Instead, the gaming giant put on a diversity and inclusion panel full of empty corporate speak.
Regardless of their individual politics, almost everyone who tuned into this panel hated it. As of this writing, it has over 23,000 downvotes on Youtube and only 555 upvotes. While it’s still a bit early to tell, the almost universally negative reaction to this panel may lead to devs keeping their mouths shut about diversity and inclusion at future events and even within (and about) future games.
7. Marquee Games Are Still a Hit
Not all the E3 2021 news is negative. For example, the insane hype surrounding Elden Ring shows that the future of next-gen gaming has plenty of room for prestige, marquee titles.
Why the hype for Elden Ring? Well, it’s coming from the creator of Dark Souls, and he is promising an open-world adventure as we have never seen before. And it even has a story written by George R.R. Martin, who still has plenty of cultural capital despite the piss-poor reception to the final Game of Thrones season.
We’ll have to reserve final judgments for Elden Ring until it comes out. But it’s downright heartening to see industry veterans teaming up to create something innovative and new rather than returning to the well of previous hit games. If this title ends up being a hit, we will hopefully get more of these marquee releases in the future.