Summer Game Fest was a good media event, but what's next
Summer Game Fest was a good media event, but what's next

Summer Game Fest was a good media event, but what’s next

6 minutes, 23 seconds Read

Microsoft’s showcase may have been delivered digitally, but there was a small lecture hall where you could sit and watch. Fans were there too, making a fuss as usual. Phil Spencer, Sarah Bond, Matt Booty, Todd Howard and a team of Microsoft executives took to the stage. It’s smaller, but it’s not a million miles away from the old Xbox press conference.

 The footage of Starfield started playing, and I decided to watch it later, so I left and frantically typed in a review of what I saw . By the time it was over, I was summoned to a panel with Xbox executives and taken to a deep dive session about the new Forza Motorsport.

 It was like E3. News and insights about AAA games, business leaders, and the future of gaming keep pouring in.

 And then… it stopped. Five hours later, there were no further plans. That never happened at E3. So I finished writing the panel session article and went out for a walk.

 Summer Game Fest and its related events weren’t E3. And in many ways that’s great, and in some ways it’s not.

 Even if E3 did happen, it would have been a week that betrayed its reputation for major games and big announcements. Across the three big showcases, only a handful of new titles were revealed (although there were far more, considering the variety of indie events). Geoff Keighley’s showcase featured 42 games, but only eight wholly new projects. There were good ones like Prince of Persia and Sonic, but most were either updates to previously announced games or new content for existing service titles.

Even if E3 was held, it would have fallen short of its reputation

 The Xbox event was similar. There were several first-party trailers, such as Clockwork Revolution and South of Midnight, as well as third-party announcements. But most of the games shown were the latest trailers for already announced projects, including Fable, Starfield, Forza Motorsport, Avoided and Hellblade 2.

 Ubisoft, meanwhile, had already announced big titles like Star Wars Outlaws and Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown by the time the showcase began.

 With no Sony, no Nintendo, no EA, it’s nowhere near as good as past E3s with big titles. But even in those circumstances, the surprises were lacking. This is partly due to the impact of COVID on game development, but partly due to the industry’s long-established direction that AAA games take longer to produce and live longer as live service products. right. Gone are the days when a major publisher would show up in LA with half a dozen new games and make a big fuss.

 But what about the physical elements of Summer Game Fest? There were effectively three significant media events held in LA. Hosted by Xbox and Ubisoft respectively, there was also an event called Play Days at Summer Game Fest. The latter included titles from Warner Bros, Bandai Namco, EA, Epic Games, Tencent, Disney, Sega and Square Enix.

 Play Days is a completely different event than E3. Produced by Iam8bit, the event had a fairly relaxed atmosphere without being flashy. And for many of the companies that were there, it was more effective. The biggest games on display were Mortal Kombat 1, Alan Wake 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 expansions. It was great, but it’s a little different than FIFA or Call of Duty. As a result, even small-scale titles were given the opportunity to exhibit. Almost every developer I spoke to at Play Days had a smile on their face. Two of the companies I spoke with said they were disappointed by the lack of foreign media, but most were happy with the large number of European participants.

 As for the media participants, it seems to have been more complicated. The coverage was much more enjoyable than E3, but it was a little disappointing that there weren’t many major titles. Good companies were also present, but they weren’t showing big works. EA was touting Immortals of Aveum, Square Enix with Foamstars, and Activision with Crash Bandicoot’s multiplayer game out next week. It’s a smart move to bring games that people don’t talk about, but it just doesn’t seem to be what journalists need.

 Xbox had big things in store for the showcase, but little to see at the actual event. Forza Motorsport deep sessions and some small games, media panels… that was it. Admittedly, nothing is playable. I can understand why the E3 booth exhibition was postponed.

 By contrast, Ubisoft’s event was much stronger, allowing the media to take a closer look at Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Star Wars Outlaws and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. There were also many hands-on opportunities, such as The Crew Motorfest and Prince of Persia. I can understand why they wanted an E3 booth.

 In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in LA this week. Not a lot of work. I got to see most of what this week had to offer. Instead of just nodding, I was able to stop and talk to people in order to rush to the next session. And I’m now on the flight home feeling rejuvenated and excited about video games. Everyone involved did a great job.

 But… something has been lost. When I attended E3 in the past, I always felt like I was part of something bigger. E3 transcended the boundaries of game media and entered the mainstream. It was global. I am ambitious. I’ve seen some great things in LA this past week, but it didn’t feel like the world was paying attention.

I’ve seen some great things in LA this past week, but it didn’t feel like the world was paying attention

 Stage shows at Summer Game Fest never sell out, Ubisoft and Xbox showcases are both held in smaller venues, film crews don’t do Vox Pops outside of conferences, and mainstream media presence is ubiquitous was lacking. There were also more than 100 international journalists in attendance, but the impression was strong that it was a US games media show.

 But does it matter? In a world where games are already mainstream, do you need to do anything big and flashy to get BBC or CNN coverage? And in terms of international attention, there are plenty of big shows around the world where publishers can reach global media, like Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show.

 Ultimately, I’m curious about how this week will go. It’s possible that E3 will be revived, but that will depend on how Nintendo and Xbox move, and it seems unlikely at this point.

 Summer Game Fest could be held as a US media event. As a prelude to the big shows in Europe and Japan in the coming months.

 Or, this is my guess, Play Days might get a little bigger, with big companies like Ubisoft and Xbox coming to LA to put on their own shows. There may also be broader industry events that aren’t media specific. Ubering around LA and jumping in and out of security lines can make for a bad experience for attendees, but the industry hasn’t stopped doing that in the past.

 When I went for a walk during Xbox Day, I ended up at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The door was locked, so I looked out the window and saw a sad sight. No big game banners, no excited industry conversations, no lines…just empty.

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