The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is the biggest event on the gaming calendar. A trade event in Los Angeles that attracts more than 50,000 attendees from around the world that includes game developers, publishers, retailers, influencers and media. If there’s an event that shows the way ahead for video games, this is it. While the main expo starts today, June 14th, there have already been huge showcase events for new games and hardware. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
“Platforms” are Replacing “Consoles”
Trying to explain the nature of the video game console business to someone unfamiliar with it can raise some eyebrows. The notion of bespoke pieces of relatively expensive gaming hardware being used to attract millions of players, only to abandon them all after five, six or seven years seems like utter madness. If gaming was the movie business, it would be like Hollywood insisting that every movie theater in the world was torn down and rebuilt every 10 years because the new movies won’t play in theaters with chairs that are the wrong color.
This time around, things are changing though. Just prior to E3 this week, Sony acknowledged that its “high-end” PlayStation 4 is coming later this year, and at its pre-E3 event this week, Microsoft talked about not one, but two new variants of its Xbox One console, each more powerful than the last. It also laid out its plans for blurring the lines between Xbox and Windows.
A key element was the company’s new “Play Anywhere” initiative, which allows new games released for one to be played on the other. Buy Gears of War for Xbox One, and you can also play it on your Windows 10 PC. If you buy Dead Rising 4 for PC, you’ll also be able to play it on your Xbox One, or your Xbox One S when it’s released this August, or the new super-powered, VR-ready “Project Scorpio” Xbox, dubbed “the most powerful console ever,” set for release next year.
Ultimately, all this means that Microsoft now views the Xbox as a task-specific gaming PC, and it’s massively expanding the potential audience for games made for its ecosystem by saying that, essentially, a PC is an Xbox is a PC.
What does it mean for you?
There are certainly benefits to the new iterative approach from both Sony and Microsoft, chief of which is the fact that you won’t have to worry as much about your games collection becoming obsolete. With both Xbox and PlayStation viewed as “platforms” rather than “boxes,” your games are pretty much guaranteed to work when you buy the more powerful consoles.
Virtual Reality is Here to Stay
Until recently, one of the chief complaints about the first batch of virtual reality games was the lack of any big budget blockbusters. Independent game developers have been doing some fascinating and innovative stuff with the technology, but big name game franchises have been conspicuous by their absence.
That’s starting to change at this E3. Ubisoft’s Star Trek Bridge Crew has ably demonstrated that virtual reality games can be exciting, simply by placing you in an iconic location. Meanwhile, Sony announced that it will have 50 games available for its upcoming headset, due this October, and showed a brief glimpse at some big names. These included Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing: VR Mission and Resident Evil VII, which reimagines the iconic horror franchise as a dark-and-creepy virtual reality adventure. It also showed a brief glimpse of a Batman Arkham title.