From instant game launches to heroic women, these were the trends of E3 2018

In case you haven’t heard, E3 2018 has come and gone. We saw and played a decent number of the biggest games coming out in 2018, 2019, and a few that might even slip into the next console generation. When you put all these games in one place and look at them all quickly, patterns start to emerge. Some big, some small, some gameplay related, some related to the business and culture of gaming. Here’s what is coming next to the world of video games.

Play it right now!

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Back in February, Netflix pulled off a shocking Super Bowl marketing stunt. It announced a rumored movie, The Cloverfield Paradox, would be available later that night. The sheer surprise inspired a lot of people to watch even if, by most accounts, the movie was awful.

The success of the maneuver did not go unnoticed by gaming’s biggest publishers, many of which took advantage of the massive viewing audiences at E3 press conferences to quick-launch games and new content.

For the most part, publishers used these stunt drops for smaller games and announcements. Even the largest of these— Epic Games announced Fortnite’s launch on the Switch during Nintendo’s E3 Direct livestream — was a port, not a new game. Given the number of these ‘surprises,’ and some early successes, it seems safe to assume more publishers will try their hands at unveiling and launching games on the same day.

More women in the hero’s seat

The Last of Us Part 2

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Far and away the best trend we noticed at E3 2018 was the addition of women into many games where playing as a woman just wasn’t possible. Some of them are new characters, like Jesse Faden in Remedy Games’ fantasy thriller, Control. Some are returning favorites, like Lara Croft in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Several games on the horizon, including The Last of Us Part 2 and Gears of War 5, have pivoted their story so they now focus on female heroes.

In some cases, the uptick in women on screen was just a matter of publishers using female versions of characters to show off games where players can choose to play a man or a woman. Ubisoft used Kassandra, the female character in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, to demo the game during its E3 press briefing. During our hands-off demo of Cyberpunk 2077, a game in which you create a character named V, our version was a woman.

We’re still a long way from approaching parity or true diversity. No games we saw with character creators or options featured explicit non-binary options, and the majority of pre-written player characters are still white. That said, every step in the right direction is a good thing, and we hope these games deliver on the promise of more fully realized women heroes in games.

Welcome to the post-post-apocalypse

The Division 2 review

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What’s cooler than setting your game in the wake of a world-resetting catastrophe? Setting your world so far after the end of the world that there’s a new world for us to save – or break.

Numerous games allude to the fact they’re set sometime after the end of the world as we know it, but a striking number of games within that group that have opted to set themselves in the “post-post apocalypse,” as Id Director Tim Willits called it, after the dust has settled and a new world has started to form.

It’s worth noting that many of these games are sequels to games that took place during the world-ending events that triggered these circumstances. The shift is a convenient excuse to change a series’ aesthetic tone (Dying Light 2) and setting (The Division 2), or reset its narrative (Rage 2).

Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn used this conceit to great effect, so we’re on board with the premise. We just hope that developers write a good story around the idea, rather than use it as crutch to compensate for a poor one.

February is the new October

Anthem Hands-on Preview

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I heard this phrase from no fewer than five developers or fellow journalists at E3 2018 this week. Many, many of the biggest games announced at E3 2018 are currently on track to launch in the first quarter of 2019. February is the sweet spot. Three high-profile games are shooting to hit stores on February 22 alone — Metro Exodus, Days Gone, and Anthem. (Four, if you count a now-deleted tweet specifying Crackdown 3’s release date).

In the past, most developers announced the release of their biggest games in the fall, between Labor Day and the week before Thanksgiving, so they’d be out and “on shelves” for the holiday shopping season. Most years, we see a very large number of games shoot for October and November dates, though some of them suffer strategic delays to early the following year. This year, a lot of publishers are ditching the pretense and opting to shoot for 2019 right away.

Why are they doing this? It may have something to do with the games already launching this Fall. The line-up includes Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Battlefield 5, and Black Ops 4. Or, it may be that more of these games need a decent amount of work before they’ll be ready to ship. We still expect to see several games delayed, of course. They’ll just launch in the Spring or Summer.

Hints are the next generation of games

Cyberpunk 2077 review

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Compared to the last few years, there was a relatively small number of playable games at E3 coming out of the largest publishers at the show. Many of the games shown will likely come out in late 2019 or later. This, in conjunction with rumors in the last couple months that the next PlayStation (PS5) and Xbox (Xbox gen-4) will launch around 2020, has led us (and most pundits) to wonder whether some of these games will make a debut on those consoles.

At the top of the list is our fave game of the show, Cyberpunk 2077, which looked so sharp and detailed, it made us wonder whether it could run on current console hardware. Though the games have been announced for the PS4 and Xbox One, we could see developer CD Projekt RED publish the game on both generations to facilitate the transition. Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding also seems like a shoo-in for the PlayStation 5. We saw some gameplay during Sony’s media showcase, and still have no idea what that game could be.

Not to get conspiratorial, but any game that’s been announced, but has no specified release window, could potentially be a next-gen title at this point. Keep that in mind as the hype sets in.

Bonus! Why does everyone have weird arms?

sekiro shadows die twice sparks

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Did anybody else notice that a lot characters have mechanical, deformed, or otherwise abnormal arms and hands?

This is at least, in part, a diegetic excuse to give characters extra abilities without forcing them to carry gear. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is basically built around the fact that your character has one arm and replaced the other with a prosthetic that doubles as a grappling hook. Everyone in Cyberpunk 2077 has mechanical arms and hands. In the demo, V had blades hidden inside that let her decapitate goons and climb walls. Even the woman in Battlefield V’s marketing material has a prosthetic arm.

I don’t even want to know what happened to JD Fenix’s hand in Gears of War 5.

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