5 trends from E3 2015 that will reshape the world of gaming

5 trends from e3 2015 horizon
Horizon Zero Dawn
Another E3 has come and gone, setting the course for another huge year in gaming. This time last year the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and virtual reality were the buzz of the show, but still seemed like more potential than reality. This time around they were really ready for the spotlight. Here are five of the hottest trends in game design that we saw everywhere at E3 2015.

Wide open spaces

Open world design has been around since as far back as the 80s when the original Elite pioneered it, but this year it really locked in as the new normal. We of course saw the usual suspects, with games like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Fallout 4, and Just Cause 3 taking franchises that are already established open world juggernauts and making them even more massive.

More interesting, though, were franchises that had previously been more linear making the transition to an open world model. Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon and Metal Gear Solid have always been mission-based, tactical action/stealth games, but with Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (and its prologue, Ground Zeroes) both franchises are giving players those same tools, but re-contextualizing them into an open world format, empowering players to tackle their challenges as they see fit.

I would be remiss, of course, if I didn’t mention No Man’s Sky, which makes all other open world games look petty by presenting a procedurally-generated open galaxy that even the developers will never fully explore.

Reality is overrated

Oculus Rift revived the long-dormant hype and promise of virtual reality when it burst onto the scene a few years ago. This year virtual reality was present in full force, with actual games for people to play instead of just promises and tech demos.

Microsoft announced its partnership with Oculus, and will be shipping Xbox One controllers as the standard Rift accessory. It also has its own augmented reality headset, the HoloLens, which made waves with a phenomenal Minecraft demo during the Xbox press conference.

Sony had Morpheus, Samsung had Gear, and countless other smaller developers have joined the party this year and had their finest headsets on display. The lines to try VR games like EVE: Valkyrie and Adr1ft were consistently some of the longest at the convention, as fans were eager to get a taste of gaming’s sci-fi future.

Wonder women

This past year has been rough for women in gaming. When some women in the development and critical community started to speak out about gaming culture’s tendency toward toxic masculinity, a reactionary movement sprang up to prove their point, launching a disgusting campaign of harassment under the guise of an inquiry into ethics in game journalism.

Despite this, the industry seems to be listening to the better angels of our nature, as women had notably better representation in the games shown this year. New IPs like Horizon and ReCore featured female protagonists in their debut trailers, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and Dishonored 2 now have protagonists of both genders, and female-led favorites like Tomb Raider and Mirror’s Edge had strong showings. There’s still a long way to go until real parity is reached, but this year showed distinct progress.

Man’s best friend

Pets and companion characters have been a part of gaming for a while, but for some reason this year developers really didn’t want you to go out there alone. Fans immediately latched onto the dog that opens the trailer for Fallout 4, collectively naming it “Dogmeat” after the dog companion in previous Fallout games.

Snake also gets a canine companion of his own in Metal Gear Solid V, but in order to be sufficiently badass, it’s a wolf with an eye patch. Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune introduced his new, Xbox-exclusive game ReCore with a robot dog. And the big one, literally, is Trico the gryphon companion from the long-awaited The Last Guardian.

Maybe advances in AI have encouraged designers to create more lifelike companions, or maybe the characters were just lonely. We’re not complaining either way.

Power to the player-designer

PC gaming is on the rise, and its penchant for user-created content is spreading to other platforms as well. LittleBigPlanet developer Media Molecule is no stranger to player creativity, but its new Dreams takes it to a whole new level with players creating anything they can imagine and remixing one another’s content into psychedelic stew.

Bethesda has long encouraged the PC modding community, which is a big part of what has kept Skyrim relevant all these years later, but no one was expecting its announcement at the Microsoft conference that mods created for the PC Fallout 4 could be applied for free on Xbox One as well.

Doom’s new snap map level editor will also give consoles an injection of fiendish player creations. Nintendo also decided to hand over the tools to its fans with Super Mario Maker, which breaks down the familiar elements from 30 years of 2D Mario platforming and lets players combine them in wholly new ways for sharing and enjoyment. It’s great to see developers realizing the untapped creative riches to be found in their own players.


Games are going to be bigger in every way this year. Developers are creating much larger worlds for you to explore, and filling them with a wider range of characters and stories. The ubiquity of online connectivity now also means that a game isn’t finished on launch, but in many ways is only just beginning as development has longer and longer post-release tails of both official support and community engagement. Some of this is just due to the relentless march of technology allowing for more sophisticated design and engineering. There are also just more people playing games every year outside of traditional “gamers.” After years of the industry growing taller while developers furiously iterated on a narrow range of popular genres, it’s finally starting to branch out wider. For anyone at all interested in games, this is fantastic. We can’t wait to see what’s coming and share it all with you here at Digital Trends.


Once the dust settles, 'Fallout 76' will be a nuclear wasteland worth exploring

The launch of Fallout 76 has been nothing short of apocalyptic, but that doesn’t mean the game is dead on arrival. Bethesda has a path forward, paved by The Elder Scrolls Online, another game that suffered a rocky start.

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.

Check out the best Xbox One deals and bundles for December 2018

Microsoft's consoles are just as capable of streaming movies as they are of playing the latest games. Check out our top Xbox One deals and bundles, which include new and upcoming triple-A games like Battlefield V and Fallout 76.

Get caught up on all things 'Fallout 76,' including recent controversies

Bethesda's Fallout 76 takes the open world series in a new direction. With an emphasis on co-op, survival, and rebuilding a broken world, Fallout 76 is a far different game than its predecessors.

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…

The NES Classic is back in stock just in time for the holidays

The NES Classic is back in stock at multiple outlets at its original launch price of $60 in time for Christmas. Retailers offering it online are Walmart, GameStop, Target, and Best Buy -- if you're looking for the perfect holiday gift for…

These are the best video games you shouldn't leave 2018 without

Developers showed up with a number of amazing games this year. Each capitalized on something unique but there's always one that outdoes them all. Here are our picks for the best video games of 2018 and game of the year.

Some ‘Fortnite’ players aren’t too happy with the new Infinity Blade weapon

The most recent update for Fortnite added the Infinity Blade melee weapon to battle royale, and some players aren't happy with how much it has changed the game during competitions.

Soulja Boy’s ‘new’ console appears to include stolen Nintendo games

Rapper Soulja Boy recently released his SouljaGame console, and it includes several emulated games that appear to be stolen from companies like Nintendo, SNK, and Capcom. A handheld version is also available.

Razer’s classic DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse drops to $40 on Amazon

If you're looking to pick up a new gaming mouse for the holidays, Amazon has you covered with this great deal on the classic Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse with customizable buttons, RGB lighting, and a 16,000 DPI optical sensor.

Xiaomi’s Gamepad 2.0 turns the Black Shark into a mini Switch

Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi has introduced the Gamepad 2.0 for its Black Shark gaming phone that launched earlier this year. The new gamepad is similar to the Switch Joy-Con, with one piece attaching to each side of the phone.

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?

Skateboarding legend says ‘Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam’ will appeal to his fans

Tony Hawk's Skate Jam is now available for free on iOS and Android devices, and Digital Trends had the chance to talk to the legendary skater about its development and how it captures the magic of his best games.

Cops called to handle ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’ noise end up playing the game

A group of friends were playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch when cops arrived to respond to noise complaints from neighbors. In an unexpected twist, the officers ended up playing the game, too.