Continuing my three part "Pre-E3" blog series that started a few days ago, part two will focus on two of the video game publishers that have become staples at E3: EA and Ubisoft. Both publishers are coming into E3 2015 with their own cases of negative public perception that branch back to their previous respective conferences at E3 2014.
Heading In: Last year at E3, EA had that bizarre series of developer documentaries which all basically went, "Hey guys, we don't have anything official to show you, but here's some concept art and some rough alpha footage, I guess." The conference was severely lacking and was met with harsh criticism, asking why the company even held a press conference if they had nothing to show. Outside of E3, EA actually had a pretty successful year. They launched a new IP in Titanfall, which was met well by critics and Xbox/PC owners. Their robust sports lineup sold well, including their first attempt at a UFC licensed game, a FIFA game that was powered by the popularity of the 2014 World Cup, and Madden NFL game that made some major, risky changes for the long-running series. EA's crown jewel last year was the cross-generation Dragon Age: Inquisition, which picked up many "Game of the Year" awards. EA's only major release this year so far is Battlefield: Hardline, which took the series out of the battlefields of war and into the streets of cops and robbers. The game was met with mixed reviews and solid opening sales. Outside of its usual lineup of annual sports games, EA is releasing a Star Wars: Battlefront reboot (developed by DICE) with a hard release date of November 17th to coincide with the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Both BioWare and EA Visceral are working on additional Star Wars games, that have remained secret for some time now. EA is also hard at work on new entries to their Mirror's Edge, Mass Effect, and Need for Speed series. Criterion is also working on a new, funky driving IP.
The Biggest Question: We know about Battlefront, but what other Star Wars games are in development over at EA? Both Visceral (Dead Space series) and BioWare (Mass Effect, Dragon Age, KOTOR) are working on new Star Wars games that remain a mystery. Both developers seem perfect for Star Wars. Visceral's Dead Space is one of the best sci-fi games ever made and the developer recently hired Uncharted writer/creator Amy Hennig. If any developer can deliver the next best thing to the cancelled Boba Fett game "1313," its Visceral. With BioWare, we have already seen them make one of the greatest Star Wars games of all-time in Knights of the Old Republic, but they have since made their own deep space sci-fi epic in the Mass Effect trilogy. Whether its another KOTOR game or a brand new series, there is little reason to doubt that it will be great.
- In order to calm down the fans upset/confused that Star Wars: Battlefront doesn't have a campaign, EA's conference will open with a single player demo of one of Battlefront's missions/battles, going against AI bots. After around 5 minutes, the single player will be joined by other players playing cooperatively and competitively for another 5-10 minutes. Battlefront will undoubtedly be EA's big game for the conference that they will be selling the hardest.
- No less than three celebrities/professional athletes show up to talk about EA's new sports lineup. Who will they be? Odell Beckham Jr.? Rory McIlroy? Drake? We will have to wait and see, but you can bet that it will be awkward.
- The new Mass Effect gets a decent-sized reveal. I think its bankable that EA will formally announce their new Mass Effect in some capacity, but I have doubt that it will be little more than a cinematic teaser. But one can hope. Remember when they showed off Mass Effect 3 by Shepard running away from the giant Thresher Maw? How cool would it be if something similar to that happened to either open or close the show?
- Need for Speed: Underground is announced and demoed. It's a reboot of everybody's favorite NFS series with fully customized cars, pretty visuals that include bright neon lights on rainy, dark city streets with minimal traffic. This is the Need for Speed that I think everybody wants, mainly because we had nothing like it last generation. It was the only NFS series not to get a reboot.
Heading In: Last year at E3, Ubisoft had a pretty robust lineup of new video games to show off including Assassin's Creed: Unity, The Division, Rainbow Six Seige, Far Cry 4, and The Crew. The only problem was that everyone watching the conference had a hard time believing what they were seeing. Just before E3 last year, Ubisoft's "Watch Dogs" came out after years of hype. This game won not only won "Game of Show" awards from E3 2013, but E3 2012 as well. In both instances, we were shown a beautiful look at the game's open world version of Chicago, complete with individually lit light bulbs and seemingly realistic wind physics. The footage looked absolutely gorgeous. However, the Watch Dogs game that they sold hardly resembled anything that was previously shown by Ubisoft. Comparison videos that brought forth discussions of false advertising went viral online and many questioned Ubisoft for what felt like the first time. Fall 2014 saw Ubisoft's name get dragged through the dirt again and again. Assassin's Creed Unity was met poorly by critics and fans alike. It felt rushed, overambitious, overwhelming, unnecessarily connected online, and broken. Far Cry 4 was met with lukewarm reception and suffered technical issues of its own. The Crew came out and is already being forgotten, despite being an MMO. But perhaps Ubisoft's worst offence last year was their use of microtransactions. Being constantly reminded in-game that you could unlock anything in the game early if you pay for it with real world money is incredibly immersion-breaking, greedy. This year, Ubisoft is battling some harsh negative PR heading into E3, which is a shame because they actually had two great, smaller-sized games that came out in 2014 that were both thrown around in "Game of the Year" discussions: "Child of Light" and "Valiant Hearts: The Great War." Ubisoft started 2015 quietly, as usual. Their only notable releases are the smaller-sized games "Grow Home" and "Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China", the former being a PC adventure game and the latter being an 2.5 dimensional spin-off of Assassin's Creed. With The Division delayed into 2016, Ubisoft looks to have an end of the year that will be softer than usual. The only 2015 Ubisoft games that we know about are the recently revealed Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Rainbow Six Siege (assuming it doesn't get delayed).
The Biggest Question: How will Ubisoft win people back? After a disastrous 2014, many people who bought Ubisoft products (including myself) feel scammed and unappreciated. Ubisoft would be foolish not to address their negative reception on microtransactions, claims of false advertising, and their public perception of them shipping of broken games.
- Assassin's Creed Syndicate is the first game shown and it looks great. From what I've seen so far, this game makes sense for the series going forward. No multiplayer, a strong and fresh setting, and a story that seems interesting. I'm getting a Gangs of New York and Red Dead Redemption vibe from this game early on, which are two great things to be compared to. Assassin's Creed is Ubisoft's biggest series by far. It's too important to them to mess up, so I expect a return to form. To quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, "that's the bottom line."
- The Division is a no-show. Every year, there's always at least one game that everybody expected to see at E3 and then it never shows up, as unfortunate as it may be. This year, it's looking like The Division. It's already been delayed to 2016 and with all of the problems surrounding online, socially connected games that verge on being MMOs, this game could be looking at a re-imagining.
- Valiant Hearts gets a 2015 sequel that takes place during a new historical event/war. The trailer that they showed last year for this game actually brought me to tears. Practically anything with a dog will, but that trailer was something special. The full game of Valiant Hearts absolutely lived up to that trailer, in fact, it was one of my favorite games from last year and is maybe my favorite "indie" game, if you want to call it that. I'd love to see the people who made that game tackle another horrible time in history and bring humanity to it in a way that most video games can't.
- The first Prince of Persia game since 2010 is announced and shown off. The 2008 reboot had a lot of great things going for it, all to be derailed by both the movie adaptation of Prince of Persia (I still can't get over that terrible plot twist) and the 2010 tie-in game. I'd love to see this series make a triumphant return, even though I have never been a huge fan.
Out of all the press conferences, I'd say I'm least excited for these two. There's just so much negative energy surrounding both EA and Ubisoft right now and to be honest, I don't know if I can trust either one of them. I'd love to see Assassin's Creed get back on track (Black Flag was awesome and it came out only two years ago) and I'd love to see as much Star Wars as possible from EA. I'm interested in Mass Effect 4, but I'm hoping that it's more similar to the first two games where you're exploring the galaxy instead of shooting at it... So what do you think? What are you expecting from EA and Ubisoft this year at E3? What are you hoping for? Thanks for reading and please comment :)