I never understood why someone has to “win” E3 every year. I guess it made more sense before when it was just the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo duking it out and putting out showstopping press conferences in the hopes of enticing gamers to buy their systems instead of their competitor’s. Then again, I was never a hardcore fanboy for any of the systems out then; if I had the money and means, I would buy each and every video game console and have the beefiest PC out there. With publishers like EA, Ubisoft and even Square-Enix throwing their hat into the ring, so to speak, finding a winner is becoming rather pointless and rather crowded. Besides, E3 is the venue where publishers and developers show us what to expect in the following months and years to come. Aren’t the winners the gamers all over the world?
Okay, that sounded trite, I know. I guess it’s kind of become a tradition for every gaming publication on the Internet to pick a winner for E3. This year, I have to give the prize to Bethesda.
Before I do talk about Bethesda’s E3 presentation for 2018, let’s go examine the other keynotes. I have to say that E3 2018 was a lackluster affair and most of the keynotes were bereft of excitement. There weren’t any big surprises nor any mind-blowing announcements from any of the keynotes this time around. Square-Enix’s presentation, were mind-numbingly boring, they weren’t anything you would consider competition. EA, despite having tons of money thanks to all of that lootbox purchases gamers have made for the past couple of years before they did a 180-degree turn on the entire thing, wasn’t able to pull off a stunning show thanks to poor choices, such as opting to make Anthem’s presentation a weird Q&A panel.
The PC Gaming show was, like the previous 4 years, a weird mishmash of video games presented in a very sterile manner. Ubisoft lessened the cringe but the overall presentation was not well executed. There were even times when the sound guys forgot to cut off the presenters’ microphones when the left the stage. I do have to address Devolver Digital’s sophomore attempt at E3. While incredibly funny and I applaud how the poked fun at other video game companies and culture, I can’t really call it an “official” E3 show as it’s supposed to be a parody of E3 keynote shows. Still, you owe it to yourself to watch it and last year’s Devolver Digital shows if you’re a gamer and you have a good sense of humor.
Even the fabled Big Three didn’t make a huge splash. Sony’s show was focused on their four big game offerings, leaving the show rather barren from content. It didn’t help that the overall pacing was terrible, with musical intros performed live that dragged on too long and even a venue change right in the middle of the show. Nintendo fared much better with a more streamlined show that focused on the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, however, it simply lacked any kind of energy and humor. Microsoft had the best of the Big Three shows as they showed a plethora of games, which is why we watch these E3 shows in the first place, and, honestly, I can’t really say anything all that terrible about their show this year. It’s just that they didn’t announce anything huge to put them over the top. They would’ve “won” E3 this year if it wasn’t for Bethesda.
Bethesda’s E3 show wasn’t a spotless gem, mind you. There were some downright cringeworthy moments, like the entire Rage 2 presentation with some long-haired singer rocking it out at the start and those awkward pauses when the producers took the stage. They didn’t even really showed a lot of actual games but just teasers for the upcoming Doom: Eternal, The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield.
So, why did Bethesda win this year’s E3? Two reasons: Skyrim: Very Special Edition and Fallout 76.
Now, everyone was expecting the show to be focused on Fallout 76 since they teased it a week prior to E3. But before they actually talked about it, Todd Howard, the director of The Elder Scolls and Fallout, revealed Skyrim: Very Special Edition. Essentially, it’s a version of one of the most ported games ever on the Amazon Alexa. Okay, good joke, Todd Howard… except it’s not. Okay, it’s not exactly a full-fledged version of the sprawling RPG but more like an old school Choose Your Own Adventure book or a very tame Dungeons and Dragons adventure with Alexa taking the role of Dungeon Master. But the mere fact that you can play any version of Skyrim, even a simplified version such as this, is a minor miracle. And the weird thing is that Todd Howard played the entire thing totally straight! He made it seem like a gag even though the thing actually exists.
After the entire Skyrim on Alexa “prank,” Todd Howard then moved to the meat of the presentation, Fallout 76. And they really delved into what the game is. They answered most of the big questions that everyone had when it was announced. It was going to be a multiplayer game set in the Fallout universe but you can still play it like a single player game. You can go out and work with other players or you can go all homicidal and kill every player you encounter. You can build new settlements and live a life of peace or you can just launch nuclear warheads all over West Virginia.
I also have to give props with the way they actually presented it. Although he had lied to me in the past, Todd Howard has a way of explaining his games that makes him sound like an honest man. He was able to poke fun at himself and his games, which is always a nice touch. He also sounded very positive and hopeful that fans will be accepting of them taking the multiplayer path. Tying his presentation together were short animated vignettes featuring Vault Boy mixed with some actual gameplay clips. Everything looked well rehearsed and, more importantly, came off without a hitch.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions, such as if Fallout 76 will still allow mods since it’s an online game or if they’re going to have a system in place to stop others from being jerks and just disrupt the other players who want to try out the single player experience. But what Bethesda did show us about their upcoming game was definitely enough to whet the appetite of fans.
With that said, while I have to give Bethesda the win for this year’s E3, it just barely edged out Microsoft because of Skyrim: Very Special Edition and Fallout 76. Without those two games, I would’ve called the Xbox home the victor. Winning E3 2018 may sound like a big accomplishment and I still have to congratulate Bethesda for putting on a good show this year, they basically won because this was a very lackluster E3 season. At least I walked away from the shows with the vague hope that I’ll be able to walk around the desolate wasteland of West Virginia with the hopes of some idiot not shooting me in the back because I decided to play solo.