E3 2018 has taken on a different feel than previous years. For the first time in a long time, all three major first-party publishers find themselves in their own uniquely-strong places with their own identities. Microsoft, while suffering in many ways from a lack of exclusive games, has forged its own path with powerful hardware and robust services. Sony continues to plug away at releasing stellar first-party content on the best-selling console of the generation. Nintendo has found new life with the Switch and its already expansive library of unique experiences.
Fans can expect the gloves to come off during each company’s respective conference given the quality of the competition across the board. With no shortages of surprises in store, there are a few developments we are sure to see come out of LA during the event. Let’s take a look at some of the overarching themes each company will probably lean into with their time in the spotlight.
Microsoft – First-Party Exclusive Games
Fans will find perhaps the largest elephant in the Microsoft Theater on Sunday. The tension surrounding the future of Xbox in regards to its software is palpable, and fan patience and goodwill has grown remarkably thin — if not completely disappeared. The start of 2018 has seen solid, but not remarkable, first-party games launch with Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2. Neither title set the critical or commercial world on fire, despite the company rolling out impressive statistics about player-bases.
No doubt, Microsoft will continue to shine a light on the Xbox One X and the bevy of services that they offer, including Game Pass and Backward Compatibility. But the fact remains that people need to see what experiences the company will give them that they won’t find elsewhere. Currently, we know some of the games in the pipeline including Crackdown 3 and Ori and the Will of the Whisps, and we have a good idea of other games the company will show — Halo 6, Gears of War 5, and the next installment in the Forza series. Speculation has swirled that another Sunset Overdrive is in development, as well.
This year, it feels like Microsoft will have to show something outside of the regular cast of characters in order to move the needle. Yes, Halo, Gears, and Forza still have their sizable fanbases, but the predictability has grown stale, and even a strong third-party presence on their stage can only carry the company’s outlook so far. Could the team at Xbox have an unannounced project that steals the show?
Sony – Release Dates
This year, Sony announced they are taking a different approach to their E3 press conference, choosing to focus on four unreleased first-party titles: Death Stranding, The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, and Marvel’s Spider-Man. The PlayStation 4 is at an interesting place in this console generation. In many ways, it feels like fans already have a really clear sense of what the immediate future holds for the console, it’s just a matter of putting all the pieces in place.
Sony finds itself in a precarious spot in the modern world of game reveals, however. The industry has lately been trending more towards shorter marketing cycles, announcing games closer to their release date. Going in, we know that Spider-Man will be the first game to launch following this year’s E3, with Insomniac already announcing its September 7 release date. But the other three games don’t even have a confirmed release window, even though Sony revealed some back in 2016.
Expect to have a clearer picture of when to expect at least some of these games after Sony is done on June 11. Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part II seem especially primed for at least a release window announcement, while the continued mystery of Death Stranding could still mean we are a ways off from getting our hands on the game. The company may also surprise fans with some other first-party announcements, but even if they simply stick to the roadmap they’ve laid out, there will be plenty of meat on the bone to chew on.
Nintendo – Forward Momentum
Nintendo came out of the gate swinging when they released the Switch in March 2017. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brought home award after award, with other exclusive games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, ARMS, and Mario Odyssey adding to the monstrous first-party lineup for the new handheld/home console hybrid.
This year, Nintendo has already set the stage for the Switch’s second holiday season with a new Pokemon entry and Smash Bros game revealed. Fans can expect a lot more details about those games during Nintendo’s direct, but with those announcements taking place prior to E3, they probably have some other tricks up their sleeve. Pokemon and Smash are two of the company’s biggest franchises, but still, others wait in the wings with their own fanbases to stir up.
We already have an idea of what some of those games could be: Yoshi, Metroid, and Bayonetta to name a few. It seems there is no shortage of potential announcements Nintendo could make during their conference. With the Switch, the company is on top of the world, and their announcements could be carried exclusively by games only coming to the hybrid console.