9 innovative, entertaining, and downright strange gaming trends from E3 2017

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Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
Creative work isn’t made in a vacuum. While video game studios across the world don’t necessarily know what their contemporaries are working on at any given time, every developer makes sure to keep aprised of the current state of the industry. And E3 remains the place the most important show where studios converge en masse to showcase their upcoming games. With the show floor closed, countless game-makers will look back at the event, looking at patterns and trends to see what’s coming next. Let’s take a look at nine video game trends that unfolded over the course of E3 2017.

Lots of developers are trying new things

When a game developers makes a hit, chances are it’s going to keep making that game series, or at least the same kind of game, until players can’t it anymore. Game franchises rarely change their core identity mid-development or in between entries. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo, however, a lot of studios showed that plans to change things up.

At Ubisoft, two established franchise showed off major course corrections.

BioWare, best known for creating the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series’, revealed Anthem, a brand new action RPG in the vein of Destiny. While new franchises are born each year, BioWare has spent the last decade Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Star Wars: The Old Republic — three stable, successful RPG franchises that have made the studio one of the biggest names in the genre. Anthem seems like a huge change of pace from the narrative driven RPGs that BioWare is known for. And given the implied scope of the game, it could very well put all three of Bioware’s franchises will be on the back burner for the foreseeable future.

Crytek, the studio behind the Crysis series, showed off Hunt: Showdown, a game that we learned in May had been resurrected from the ashes of Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age. Since we last saw it three years ago, the game has been completely retooled. Previously, it was a fairly rote zombie horde fest (basically a Left 4 Dead knock off). Now, Hunt: Showdown is a complex and eerie PvP title that pits two teams against one another. Maps are riddled with zombies, and each team must evade or kill them while searching for each other, as well as demonic targets. Showdown is much more tactical than its previous identity, as once you die, your character is gone from the game forever.

Lastly, at Ubisoft, two established franchise showed off major course corrections. Assassin’s Creed Origins shakes up the decade-old series’ combat, exploration, and inventory management. Ubisoft’s open-world racing game, The Crew 2, will abandon the crime story from the original, essentially rebooting the franchise. And instead of just street races, The Crew 2 emphasizes all forms of motorized travel, including boats and planes.

Developers are finally shipping their long-awaited games

Video games, no matter the size, take time to make, more than the average player probably realizes. Still, it’s no fun when it seems as if a game you’ve been looking forward to has dropped into development limbo, with no word as to whether it will ever come out. Thankfully, a positive trend from this year’s E3 was that a trio of highly anticipated games that experienced long development cycles will arrive before the calendar year changes.

Cuphead, the sidescrolling indie title with an incredible 1930s cartoon-style animation, launches September 29. Developed by Studio MDHR, Cuphead was originally announced at E3 2014, and we’ve had our eyes on it ever since.

Crackdown 3 was also announced at E3 2014. The third game in Microsoft’s over-the-top GTA style franchise has suffered delays ever since, which may have been caused likely by its ambitious “everything you see is destructible” game mode. Delays are a thing of the past now for the game, though, as Crackdown 3 lands on Xbox One and PC November 7.

Fortnite, a co-op survival game that tasks players with building sustainable structures to ward off monsters, hits Early Access July 25. While not technically an official release date, Fortnite has been announced and re-announced multiple times since Epic Games unveiled the project at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards.

Some small-scale hits are getting a shot at building a franchise

Indie games are typically one offs, whereas AAA studios like to build brands through franchises. At E3 2017, however, we learned of followups to two recent, heralded indie games.

Moon Studios announced Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a sequel to its dazzling 2015 game Ori and the Blind Forest. And while technically a prequel, Life is Strange: Before the Storm will chronicle the events leading up to Dontnod’s Life is Strange. The three episode arc was developed by Deck Nine, not Dontnod, but it’s nice to see that an intellectual property as different as Life is Strange has legs. Oh, and Dontnod is currently working on a proper Life is Strange sequel as well.

This new game franchise seems awfully familiar…

Like we mentioned before, video games aren’t made in a vacuum. New IPs often hark back to existing franchises in terms of mechanics, style, and even setting. At E3 2017, we saw an assortment of new franchises with noticeable ties to games we’ve played and loved, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

When Ubisoft revealed Skull and Bones, we had flashbacks to the surprisingly fun naval combat in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Anthem feels like BioWare and EA’s take on this online shooter that you may have heard of called Destiny. Like Destiny, Anthem focuses on the grind for new loot. We could also say that the setting reminds us of Horizon Zero Dawn, but it’s clear that Anthem looks to appeal to the Destiny crowd. And it looks great, so all is well.

When Code Vein was first teased by Bandai Namco, we instantly likened it to the Dark Souls series, which the studio publishes. Code Vein doesn’t look like Dark Souls — it has an anime art style and loads of vampires — but after seeing a little gameplay at E3, it’s apparent that Code Vein‘s methodical combat was indeed derived by the popular FromSoftware franchise.

Batman is DC, and Spider-Man is Marvel, so the two don’t coexist, but that doesn’t mean that their video games won’t be likened to one another. Insomniac’s upcoming Spider-Man was once again shown off at E3, and this time around, we got a better look at the gameplay. Whether or not Insomniac played the Batman: Arkham series, we don’t know, but some of Spidey’s moves, particularly his “perch” and stealth abilities, feel like nod directly to Rocksteady’s take on the Caped Crusader.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a weird pairing, we know, but what’s even more strange is how closely its combat mechanics hew to the modern XCOM franchise. The combat arena, which sets up Mario and pals (including Rabbids dressed as Mario and pals), looks and feels like a lighter take on the very intense XCOM games. Needless to say, we’re excited that Mario + Rabbids is a thing.

When Ubisoft revealed Skull and Bones, we had flashbacks to the surprisingly fun naval combat in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Ubisoft obviously took notice that Assassin’s Creed fans enjoyed that aspect of Black Flag, and decided to ratchet up the pace while turning the experience into a full game.

Slow-motion aiming in mid-air is officially a thing

Earlier this year, Horizon Zero Dawn impressed us on nearly every level. One minor gameplay mechanic, the ability to slow down time when aiming in mid-air, was just one of the many neat mechanics featured. While Horizon certainly wasn’t the first to include such mechanics, it appears that numerous other studios also fancied slow-mo aiming.

At E3 2017, we saw at least four games with a similar slow-mo mechanic — Assassin’s Creed Origins, The Darwin Project, Spider-Man, and Extinction. Slow motion is cool and all, but it’s also apparently a new trend.

What’s with all the bears?

There were bears everywhere at E3. Yes, bears. There were bears on stage and bears in games. From Just Dance panda, to the titular bear in indie game Disco Bear, E3 was bear-y furry this year. We know you need to read more about this, so we did the responsible thing and ranked the bears of E3.

People go bananas when Nintendo simply says a few words

Nintendo showed some great games at E3 this year. Super Mario Odyssey impressed us enough to earn our award for “best of show.” Despite this, the publisher’s biggest news never made it to the show floor. In fact, the games fans seemed most excited for this weren’t even showed. Nintendo may be the only studio that can “reveal” a project without any footage or even a trailer, and create pandemonium.

During its Spotlight event on the first day of the show, Nintendo said the three little words that every fan has been dying to hear — Metroid Prime 4 — and everyone went nuts. Accompanied by a brief teaser trailer that simply showed some stars in space and the logo, that was enough. Metroid fans had been waiting for that moment for nearly a decade, so we understand. The mere announcement that developer Game Freak would eventually release a Pokémon RPG on the Switch basically stole the show.

Maybe Nintendo shouldn’t even show game trailers anymore. Maybe it should just provide a list of games on the horizon and let its fans do all the talking.

Press conferences? More like trailer roundups!

As an overall trend, the major press conferences are moving more and more away from formal, investor-facing presentations, and shifting toward a series of trailers, with barely anything in between. Microsoft’s showcase, in which it displayed 42 games, had little commentary in between. Sony’s press conference was practically a movie, and Bethesda and Nintendo also had trailer heavy showings. While Ubisoft‘s and EA‘s pressers had more lengthy periods of presenters on stage, there’s no denying that E3 2017 focused more on showing than telling.

VR games are still in the background

While it’s still up for debate whether VR is the natural evolution for the industry at large, at E3 2017, VR certainly didn’t receive as much attention as we expected. At Microsoft’s conference, in which some thought there would be a mention of VR support for Xbox One X, the letters “VR” were not uttered a single time. Sure, Bethesda showed Doom VFR and Fallout 4 VR, and Sony debuted The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, there was a general lack of “big” VR games. Those three, the biggest ones at E3, are all existing games for traditional platforms. We aren’t saying VR is a fad, but it may be a little while before the technology draws enough players to take center stage at E3.

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