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E3 2017: Our Writers’ Take On Who Won, Lost & Everything In-Between

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Well, it’s all over for another year. After all of our predictions, all of our pondering, all of our waiting for something exciting to finally happen, the E3 2017 conferences are over. Last week, a bunch of our brightest and best offered up their thoughts on what we’d see from the big three at E3, and now it’s time for us all to reflect upon how wrong we were and fight about which company did the best job at convincing us to give them our money.

In comparison to the last couple of years, E3 2017 has been a relatively quiet one with little in the way of show-stealing announcements and curve ball reveals. Who “won” E3 is rarely unanimous, with only the 2016 and 2013 shows in recent memory appearing to offer up any sort of generally accepted consensus. On both those occasions, it was hard to see the conventions as anything other than victories for PlayStation, as in 2013 they effectively dismantled the entire Xbox One business strategy on stage and won the generation before it even began, and in 2016 their conference was a relentless stream of reveals and surprises that was widely regarded as one of the best video game conferences of all time.

E3 2017 is a little more ambiguous, though, and thus, a hell of a lot more interesting to talk about. Each of the big three did things right and they did things wrong, there were missed opportunities and little in the way of surprises. It won’t go down in history as a vintage year for the convention, but it does indicate that the next couple of years for Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony will be very interesting, and that gamers are going to have an awful lot to play before this generation of consoles is through.

With E3 2017 now in the rear-view mirror, we asked our writers to chime in with what they thought about the show, and to offer up their opinions on the various conferences, the best games on display, the biggest disappointments, and more.

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What did we think of the Microsoft conference?

John Cal McCormick: Microsoft really dropped the ball on this one, I think. One thing that I think that everybody agreed upon was that Microsoft desperately needed some new exclusive IP and this conference was a non-starter on that front. Announcing a new Forza once a year isn’t good enough anymore. They need new blood. This conference was, essentially, an advertisement for all of the third party games that you’ll be able to play on PlayStation 4 to complement all of the first party exclusives that they showed off in their presser. Oh, and speaking of exclusives, Microsoft’s lingual gymnastics to try and conflate how many exclusives they actually have is getting really tiresome. The conference was built around 22 exclusives, but none of them were actually exclusive at all. Stop muddying the water, Phil.

Brent Middleton: I thought it was strong. They were the best presentation-wise. It was just trailer after trailer of good looking games. Though they only had a few exclusives that weren’t timed, what they showed of Sea of Thieves and Ori: The Will of the Wisps has me sold.

Marty Allen: I thought it was OK. They did enough in order to keep the wolves at bay, but little more. It’s the only console I don’t own, and it will remain that way. I long for Cuphead and not much else. Anthem looks interesting, but it, like so many things on the ol’ XBox, isn’t actually exclusive.

Tyler Kellbaugh: Microsoft had my emotions swinging wildly throughout the show. It definitely was more entertaining than their usual performance and that was a huge plus. But there weren’t too many games that hooked me (The Darwin Project being an exception), and despite their best attempts to convince me otherwise, I still find their exclusive games to be lacking. They put on an entertaining show, but the substance struck me as “meh”.

Ricky D: I’m in the minority here because while I did find the press conference dragged at times, I was impressed with a number of games they did show. Microsoft did a great job in advertising a good number of games I want to buy but the only problem is, I am going to buy most of those games for my Playstation 4. They did little to nothing in the way of persuading me to buy the Xbox One X or any other Microsoft console for that matter.  And as someone who already owns the Xbox One and never uses it, I’ve come to a decision that once I play Cuphead, I’ll have no problem in selling the console and/or exchanging it for a handful of games I want on either the Nintendo Switch or my PS4. The bottom line is, there just isn’t enough time these days to play all of these games and there sure isn’t enough time for me to justify owning any Microsoft console at the moment when they have so few exclusives.

Did Microsoft do a good job of selling the Xbox One X?

John Cal McCormick: Not at all. I think the conference was a catastrophe on this front. Microsoft made no real case for why you should buy an Xbox One X whatsoever. It’s far too expensive for a console that offers no palpable advantage over the competition barring slightly prettier graphics. They need games to make the decision to buy one of these easier, and they absolutely didn’t deliver here. I reckon the Xbox One X is going to struggle upon release.

Brent Middleton: For $500? Nah. But they might’ve sold me on picking up an Xbox One S for the holidays.

Marty Allen: Nope, I don’t even like saying ‘XBox One X.’ While the ultra-high definition graphics are undeniably impressive, the games just aren’t there, especially at that price point.

Tyler Kellbaugh: Absolutely not. This was their primary objective and they completely failed. All their talk about teraflops means nothing to me. No matter how you slice it, the Xbox One X is a console that plays games you can already enjoy on other consoles at half the price. Even their “exclusives” are available on PC! Unless you’re a tech guy who doesn’t like PC gaming (do those people even exist?) there’s no reason to buy the One X.

Ricky D: Microsoft did everything they could to convince people NOT to buy the console. I don’t care how powerful this console is, the price is too high and there just isn’t enough exclusive games that I’m interested in buying. In all honestly, the games I’m most looking forward to are Cuphead and Ori and the Will of Wisps, and I don’t need 4K resolution to play those games.

Taylor Smith: I’ve never been too big on the Xbox brand. A lot of the console’s exclusives that I cared about eventually hit PC. That said, I don’t feel like $500 is a good price point to launch at. I am looking forward to seeing more of Crackdown though.


What did we think of the Sony conference?

John Cal McCormick: Good, but a definitive step down from their last couple of years at E3. They showed off a bunch of impressive looking first party exclusives, and they didn’t waste our time with facts and figures. In fact, they didn’t waste our time with much in the way of chit-chat at all. It was just a bunch of trailers and gameplay demonstrations. What was shown was great, but it lacked the surprises of previous years. 2018 is looking incredibly strong for PlayStation, though. Like, silly good.

Brent Middleton: Disappointing. They had more exclusives than Microsoft, but hardly any release dates for anything. The presentation itself just felt awkward and sluggish. I kept looking for a reason to finally buy in, but God of War and Spider-Man just weren’t enough.

Marty Allen: I wasn’t mad at Sony, just disappointed. Frankly, it felt like a lazy reel of a lot of things we’ve known about for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, there are several games in this camp that I’m pretty excited for, and the biggest reveal for me was the Shadow of the Colossus remake(which admittedly made me squeal like a drunken baby), but overall it felt like a long video that could just as easily have been streamed. I was sorely disappointed to see so little love for their indies. Shame on you, Sony!

Tyler Kellbaugh: Sony was the inverse of Microsoft for me. They always put on a great show, but this year it just didn’t have that signature spark. There was no huge game reveal and almost no surprises. God of War captured my attention, Detroit: Become Human is the first David Cage game that interests me, and Spider-Man looked exactly like the Batman Arkham games… and I loved the Arkham games. Sony did what they had to do to keep me satisfied.

Ricky D: The Sony press conference was great. The problem is, it just wasn’t as good as the event they held last year nor was it as good as the 2015 press conference, but to be fair, those are big shoes to fill. You can’t hit the ball out of the park every year but Sony still came out a winner. The quality and confidence we’ve come to associate with PlayStation was once again on full display and they did show a lot of Spider-Man, which is easily my most anticipated game of the year. The quality was high, and their lineup is still the best in the business, even if they don’t have Mario and Zelda.  The entire showcase was essentially a barrage of trailers and gameplay footage for big-budget PlayStation exclusives and let’s be honest, that is what the fans want to see. They also featured a couple of games that weren’t exclusive to the PlayStation 4, including Destiny 2, which will have content available as a timed exclusive on PS4. In addition, they put the PSVR lineup front and center and surprised everyone with the HD remake of Shadow of the Colossus, one of the most beloved PS2 games of all time. Sony may not have broken the internet like Nintendo did when they announced Metroid Prime 4, but they still had the best show in my eyes.

Did Sony do a good job of selling PlayStation VR?

John Cal McCormick: Slowly but surely the case for throwing $400 at PlayStation VR becomes more and more viable. We’re not there yet, though. What was shown off looked interesting, and the more stuff like The Inpatient they have coming the more likely I’ll be to give them my coin. Oh, and I’m way more excited for Skyrim VR than I should be. Dragons, man.

Brent Middleton: Like the Xbox One X, there’s no way for that price. It’s crazy that it costs more than the Pro.

Marty Allen: Alas, no. I like the little mousey game? There are a few new intriguing concepts, but nothing that comes close to making VR a must-buy, or even a kinda-might-buy. They’re stuck – they need enough people bought-in in order to make it worthwhile to build a truly excellent game, but in order to build a truly excellent game, they need enough people bought-in. Welcome to the futuristic future!

Tyler Kellbaugh: Absolutely not. I’m still not exactly sure what VR is besides a TV that’s really close to your face. Whatever it may add to the experience doesn’t make up for the cost of the device ($399.99). There’s no way I’m spending that much, and Sony didn’t do anything at all to convince me otherwise.

Ricky D: To be fair, I’m the wrong person to ask since I have absolutely no interest in virtual reality. They could have shown me an Uncharted 5 game in VR and I wouldn’t care. That said, their diverse lineup is a reassuring sign that virtual reality is something they are taking seriously and it won’t go away anytime soon.

Taylor Smith: VR still feels like a gimmick to me. It’s cool, and I like seeing how it’s evolved from where it was a year ago, but I’m not ready to dump money into another peripheral.

What did we think of the Nintendo Spotlight?

John Cal McCormick: It was pretty good. It definitely benefited from people having such low expectations. We mostly expected nothing, and they gave us slightly more than nothing. While I’ve got concerns about Mario, a lot of what they showed – dinosaur Mario! – looked really cool, it was nice to see Kirby and Yoshi, Pokémon coming is no surprise but still nice to hear, and of course the return of Metroid was the big crowd pleasing moment of E3 2017. But the near-future line-up for Switch is still barren, and the lack of third party software coming for the system is worrying. This was a (successful) smoke and mirrors Direct, aimed at distracting you from the fact that they announced hardly anything here that was coming any time soon.

Patrick Murphy: It was short and sweet, doing a fantastic job of showing us what first-party games we’ll be playing this year, but also (thankfully) giving us a glimpse of the future. No goofy interludes, very few talking heads; just games, games, and more games. We got major and minor franchises, and a variety of genres that should appeal to almost anyone. The perfect mix of surprise teases and revealing trailers, this was Nintendo finally showing some real confidence in their product and strategy.

Brent Middleton: They had the best surprise announcements of E3. The Metroid Prime 4 reveal was like a “Kingdom Hearts 3 is in development” moment for many gamers. They also announced some nice looking Kirby and Yoshi games, as well as what was arguably the best trailer of E3 with Super Mario Odyssey. Confirmation that the next core, mainline Pokémon game was in development for Switch essentially sealed it.

Marty Allen: I was very impressed with The Big N. It’s something of a testament to low expectations, as I went in predicting mostly footage of Super Mario Odyssey, and got a lot more. Just knowing that Metroid Prime 4 is in development makes me do a little jig (though a complete lack of footage hurts a bit). And many of the other announcements were genuine surprises and all looked great, from Pokemon to more Metroid to Kirby to Rabbids to Yoshi. I did not even see Rocket League coming, and that’s some excellent soccer car news.

Tyler Kellbaugh: Nintendo killed it, despite having the disadvantage of being forced to reveal most of their 2017 lineup back at the Switch reveal in January. They did an excellent job balancing showcasing the games we already knew and teasing what’s coming down the line. It’s unfair to judge them solely on the Switch Spotlight, which gave us confirmation of a core Pokemon game, Metroid Prime 4, and an incredible Mario Odyssey trailer because they used the Treehouse to show off gameplay. All in all, Nintendo owned E3.

Ricky D: Nintendo did the best job they could with what they have, which isn’t much but is at least a solid lineup of games. They were smart in including the teaser for Metroid Prime 4 (even if it was just a title card) and even smarter in having the president of the Pokemon company announce that they are working on a Pokemon game for the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo needs to reassure their fans that they will have some huge titles set for release in 2018 given that their two biggest franchises each had a game released this year. We know we won’t get Mario and Zelda in 2018 but chances are we will be seeing more of Pokemon and Metroid. But personally, the biggest highlight for me was the trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 followed by a 2018 release date. At least I know that I will have plenty of reasons to use my Switch later this year and with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Arms and the Breath of the Wild DLC, I’m guaranteed to sink in hundreds of hours playing the console over the next six months. I only wish they had announced an Animal Crossing game for the Switch.

Taylor Smith: It felt really short. I like that Nintendo has had a lot to talk about, but I’m wishing some of the things shown during the Treehouse streams were in the Direct. I’m not sure if I’m entirely sold on Mario Odyssey, but knowing that Prime 4 is in the works and that Pokken is getting an update is enough for me.

Did Nintendo do a good job of selling the Switch?

John Cal McCormick: Not especially. Most of what Nintendo showed we already knew was coming, or could have made reasonable assumptions about. We knew Pokémon would be on Switch. We knew Kirby and Yoshi would be. They told us last year they’d be talking about a new Metroid this year. The state of play hasn’t really changed for as good a job as Nintendo did here. Those who had reservations about a lack of compelling software for the Switch likely won’t have changed their stance from this showing, but those waiting for Mario before committing to shelling out for the system will probably be happy with what was shown of the game.

Patrick Murphy: Well, I already own a Switch, so no real selling was necessary, but they definitely made me feel better about it. Obviously there already was a plan in place for 2018, but I’m glad they clued us in on it. Knowing that there will soon be a new Kirby game, a new Yoshi game, and even some obscure space bounty hunter thing, will serve as a good pacifier if third parties don’t step up. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but for one company, Nintendo showed a damn good lineup, almost enough to carry the weight by themselves.

Brent Middleton: This was the conference I was most worried about because I already have a Switch, yet was starting to question my purchase. Nintendo did a great job of reaffirming that, yes, there are some awesome things to look forward to beyond 2017.

Marty Allen: I already own one, but yes, I think they did, though I’d give both pinky toes to have heard about a new Animal Crossing. They’re still available.

Tyler Kellbaugh: I already own a Switch, but they’ve taken my excitement for the future to a whole new level. Just look at the 2017 lineup. The Switch has ARMS (6/16), Splatoon 2 (7/21), Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (8/29), Pokken DX (9/22), Super Mario Odyssey (10/27), Fire Emblem Warriors (Fall), and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Holiday) all coming out this year. Next year already has a core release for the Fire Emblem, Kirby, and Yoshi franchises, while also likely featuring Metroid Prime 4 and the eighth generation of Pokemon. And that’s not even mentioning some great third party titles (I’m looking at you Sonic Mania).

Ricky D: I already own a Switch but after the press conference was over, I noticed ten of my friends mention on Facebook that they were going to buy the console right away. Later that day I went to the GameStop and while I was there, two customers walked in asking if they had the Switch in stock. So based on the reations I’ve seen and the reactions online, I would say yes. In fact, I think Nintendo has been doing such a great job of marketing the console, I see it easily outselling the Wii.

Taylor Smith: I certainly feel more comfortable owning it now than I did at launch. It’s currently been gathering dust for about 3 months, so hopefully that will change in the coming weeks.

Who was the best of the rest?

John Cal McCormick: EA was the same as always – it could have been a blog post and we wouldn’t have missed anything. Ubisoft wasn’t as embarrassing as usual and they’ve got a good stable of games coming. Bethesda nailed it even if their big announcements were already fairly common knowledge by the time they announced them. Bethesda gets my vote.

Patrick Murphy: This was a fairly tame E3 overall, but I’ll give the nod to Ubisoft, whose emotional reveal of Beyond Good and Evil 2 somehow got through my cynicism about the game itself.

Brent Middleton: Ubisoft, hands-down. The passion of their studios shone bright. The Beyond Good & Evil 2 reveal absolutely blew me away, and they even somehow managed to sell me on Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I’d argue they did better than both Sony and Microsoft overall.

Tyler Kellbaugh: Ubisoft had the best presentation of anyone. While I liked what Nintendo showed the most, Ubisoft’s stage presence was perfection. Games like Skull and Bones, Mario + Rabbids, and Beyond Good and Evil 2 moved the meter big time. Seeing their developers’ passion for their games was heartwarming, and even though games like Assassin’s Creed don’t appeal to me I found myself wanting to try all of their games because of how much those developers cared.

Ricky D: Ubisoft gets my vote if only for Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Taylor Smith: Ubisoft really surprised me. It feels like they finally got their act together. Having an actual speaker instead of a comedian helped a lot, as well as show casing a lot of new things. I don’t care about Assassin’s Creed or Skull & Bones, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Beyond Good and Evil 2 pans out. Also, Mario + Rabbids looks way better than what I was expecting and I sincerely cannot wait to try it out.

What was the most exciting announcement?

John Cal McCormick: Metroid Prime 4. I’m actually far more interested in 2D Metroid games than 3D ones, but that was hands down the most exciting, crowd pleasing moment of E3 2017. Honourable mention to Shadow of the Colossus.

Patrick Murphy: I don’t know which was better: a title card confirming the existence of Metroid Prime 4, or the gameplay trailer for Metroid: Samus Returns. Metroid, Metroid, Metroid. Two total shockers.

Brent Middleton: For me personally, Beyond Good and Evil 2 had a stellar reveal. But of course, the gravity of the Metroid Prime 4 announcement can’t be understated.

Marty Allen: The reveal of Beyond Good and Evil 2 was some real good fun. It’s about time. I want to hug that Ancel.

Ricky D: I echo Marty above in saying that the reveal of Beyond Good and Evil 2 was by far the biggest highlight of the week for me. The announcement for Metroid Prime 4 was great but it was just a thirty-second teaser. Honourable mention to Metroid Samus Returns.

Taylor Smith: I’m really looking forward to playing Dragon Ball FighterZ, Arc Sys is one of my favorite developers, and it’s cool seeing their cel-shading style used for a big action IP like Dragon Ball. I’m curious to know how big the roster will be, since it takes a hell of a long time to make and animate those models.

What was most impressive game on display?

John Cal McCormick:  Spider-Man. It was everything I’d been hoping it would be and more. The game looks absolutely ridiculous, and as a fan of Spider-Man, it looks like it can potentially do for the web-slinger what the Arkham series did for the caped crusader. I was blown away by this demo, honestly. Grinning like a jackass the whole time.

Patrick Murphy: Super Mario Odyssey looks insanely bonkers in an absolutely amazing way. I have no idea what the hell is going on in this new Mario adventure, but all the normal charm is suddenly joined by a creepiness (those mannequin T-man and a sentient hat that possesses enemies) that seems out of place, yet oddly very Nintendo. This might be an amalgamation of every crazy idea they’ve ever had, and I’m completely loving it.

Brent Middleton: Super Mario Odyssey continues to look like a dream. As someone who skipped out on 3D World for lack of interest, I’m beyond excited to get my hands on this one.

Marty Allen: I’m deeply intrigued by Super Mario Odyssey. The mechanics and worlds look new and exciting, and I can’t wait to play it. Woo hoo!

Tyler Kellbaugh: It’s Super Mario Odyssey. Whenever I think about the game I go back to that beautiful T-Rex. That game looks so crazy, yet so fun. It takes notes from A Link Between Worlds in order to mix in classic 2D Mario gameplay, lets you possess enemies and objects, looks visually stunning, and oozes charm. Nothing really came close to Odyssey for me, but Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle also captured my heart.

Ricky D: I would love to say Spider-Man but honestly, Super Mario Odyssey looks insane. The game introduces new ideas and mechanics and it is bursting with wild imagination. It’s impossible to get a proper sense of how big the game is but I wouldn’t be surprised if I sink more hours into Odyssey than I put into Breath of the Wild.

What was the biggest disappointment?

John Cal McCormick: I was absolutely convinced that Bloodborne 2 was going to get announced and was a bit sour that it wasn’t, but the Microsoft conference was really disappointing as a whole. Very weak showing from the Redmond lot. Phil Spencer will be getting a lump of coal for Christmas.

Patrick Murphy: As a Nintendo fan I walked away perfectly happy. I guess I could have used more third party support for the Switch?

Brent Middleton: No Animal Crossing announcement for the Switch. I guess there’s always next year?

Marty Allen: For me it was Sony. I feel spoiled, but I expected a few more surprises. I know they have a solid slate of games lined up – Spider-Man and God of War STILL look great. I’m just greedy, I guess.

Tyler Kellbaugh: It’s tough to say, but the Xbox One X takes the cake. I don’t really know what I was expecting them to show, but that product just doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. I’m not sure what they could have done differently to impress me, but there’s no way I’m getting a One X at that price given its purpose: to offer graphics that are better than before. When I see Horizon: Zero Dawn looking like it does I can’t justify a graphical upgrade. Today’s games already look phenomenal.

Ricky D: I was really hoping Nintendo would premiere a new IP. I really think the company needs to keep introducing new worlds and new characters to their fanbase. A few years ago we had the announcement of Splatoon and it went on to be a critical and financial success. While I have some reservations about Arms, I have no doubt it will sell well over a million copies. Nintendo needs to keep things fresh and they need to expand their universe. Disney wouldn’t be where they are today if they just kept making movies about Mickey Mouse.

Taylor Smith: I wasn’t really disappointed by anything. There’s obviously certain announcements I care less about, but seeing what publishers and developers have coming on the horizon is nice. I feel like 2017 is going to be a solid year for games, and that 2018 will continue the trend.

And finally: go on then, who won E3?

John Cal McCormick: Sony. Nintendo was surprisingly good, and Metroid was the biggest crowd-pleaser of E3 2017, but Sony’s first party game is way too strong for the competition right now. 2018 is looking like a massive year for PlayStation, with practically everything they showed off here looking impressive. The only definitive loser at E3 2017, for me, was Microsoft, as their objective was to sell the Xbox One X and I honestly can’t see how anybody could consider that a job well done considering the staggering lack of exclusive games they’ve got in their portfolio. Sony are coming out of this E3 with the next eighteen months looking very tasty.

Patrick Murphy: Well, it could be argued that Sony won based on the strength of their upcoming library, or that Microsoft won by exceeding expectations, but I’d argue that Nintendo made just the splash I was hoping for, delivering more details on what we knew was coming, but dropping two very large bombs, along with a smattering of smaller one. They’re really not playing the same game, but I’d still say that Nintendo won E3 2017

Brent Middleton: Microsoft had the best presentation, and Sony had the strongest lineup, but Nintendo won E3. They announced a Prime sequel, a 2D Metroid , a mainline Pokémon entry for the Switch and gave an October release date for one of the best-looking games at the show, period. I never would’ve imagined it, but they crushed it this year.

Marty Allen: With little competition and a concise and incredibly strong presentation, I think Nintendo stole the show by a wide margin. They’re still announcing games via Treehouse as I type this!

Tyler Kellbaugh: In case my last two answers didn’t give it away, Nintendo clearly won E3. The Switch’s year one lineup is the best of all-time in my opinion. Adding Super Mario Odyssey to Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe already creates a strong roster, but when you consider all the other games I’ve mentioned that are also coming out this year it’s impossible to question Nintendo’s software offerings. Nintendo also had the biggest presence online as well, wisely hosting three tournaments for Pokken DX, ARMS, and Splatoon 2, and slowly revealing new games on Treehouse Live. They came into this year’s show with an excellent strategy and executed perfectly. My only complaint was that the digital event didn’t have the quirky moments of E3’s past… that’s how great Nintendo was this year.

Ricky D: This is a tricky question because I think Sony has the best lineup but they didn’t show much of anything new. All Sony did was remind people why the PlayStation 4 is the number one selling console on the market today. Nintendo, on the other hand, convinced millions of people, including skeptics, to buy the Nintendo Switch and as Tyler pointed out in his article, the key to winning E3 is doing the best job of achieving the goals you set out to do. Nintendo achieved their goals while Sony struggled to sell VR. Nintendo more than exceeded expectations and also gave us not one, but three highly entertaining eSports competitions along with a three-day Treehouse event. Nintendo wins!

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What did you think of E3 2017? Feel free to sound off in the comments and let us know how wrong we all were.

Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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Most Important Games of the Decade: ‘Fortnite’

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Join us all month as our staff looks back at the most influential games of the past decade. This is not a list of our favourite games but rather a look back at the games that left the biggest impact in the last ten years on an artistic and cultural level. After careful consideration, we narrowed it down to ten games that have most defined, influenced and shaped the industry as we know it.

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You know, I never thought I’d be writing this article.

I thought Fortnite was going to be another one of those fads that came around quickly and left just as quickly, a fading blip of relevance like every other AAA game that releases and is buried under something better. Whether that be better looking, better playing, or just plain…better.

That never happened. Instead, what we got was a phenomenon.

There are only three other times in history where I feel like the world “phenomenon” really translates well: the original NES, PokéMania in the West, and the launch of World of Warcraft. However, Fortnite really captures the meaning of that word. It absorbed, and to a slightly lesser extent, continues to absorb large amounts of popular culture, integrating itself into the American ethos in a way that sent ripples throughout the larger, non-gamer market.

It’s hard to quantify the impact of a peak claim of nearly 250 million players. Most games don’t reach a fraction of that player base and those that do don’t often carry the clout that Fortnite accumulated for itself. Oftentimes, when a game is as mentioned and cited in the industry as Fortnite, it’s for unmitigated disasters or fads that quickly fade due to their failure to adapt.

Fortnite, on the other hand, has done nothing but adapt to changing player tastes, pumping out content on a hitherto unimaginable scale on an ever-expanding number of platforms. What started out confined to the typical trio of PC, PS4, and Xbox One soon expanded onto Android, iOS, MacOS, and Nintendo Switch quickly. Well-optimized ports and eventual cross-play enabled players to play with each other despite their own hardware choices. That two friends with an iPhone SE and a GTX 2080ti-equipped PC can play together is proof that Fortnite has done well to integrate players together from varying socioeconomic backgrounds.

If anything, Fortnite has proven right a premise that Nintendo has preached for years: that the more accessible a game is, the greater the success that it can be. Fortnite’s accessibility didn’t stop at its incredibly easy-to-run game engine or its easy-to-learn gameplay loop, but also continued in its actual presentation. For a game ostensibly about hunting down other players Hunger Games-style until only one player remains, it has strikingly bright and appealing visuals. Characters and skins are not only instantly recognizable, but easily marketable, ensuring that all fans–yes, even the middle-schoolers you overhear at your local games store–can purchase physical, in addition to digital, representations of their favorite characters.

In many ways, Fortnite, and its publisher, Epic Games, remind me of NES-era Nintendo.

Did they operate calculating business with a keen eye for profit through manipulating kids’ access to the First Bank of Mom and Dad? Yes. Did they create playground, and message board, conversation starters that create narratives that continue exist long after irrelevance? Yes.

But, in the end, did they create games whose importance changed gaming forever?

Yes.

Ultimately, I think that is the biggest aspect of Fortnite‘s legacy: it is one of the few games that did not shackle its free-to-play players with unfair restrictions or give paying players unfair, buy-to-win advantages. For all that it offered: hours of fun with friends, inclusion in massive social events, and the ability to continue your play across nearly every console, it gave it all for free.

And that, I think, will endure long after all the V-bucks and Battle Buses have faded away.

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‘KartRider: Drift’ is Gorgeous But in Need of Fine-Tuning

KartRider: Drift is Microsoft’s new exclusive racer coming in 2020. Here are hands-on beta impressions from behind the wheel.

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kartrider drift

KartRider: Drift had the odds stacked against it from the outset. Though the KartRider series has been immensely popular in China and Korea for more than a decade, its brand recognition in the West has been largely nonexistent. Thus, when it was showcased at Microsoft’s XO19 event in November, many dismissed the game as a generic Mario Kart clone. In reality, not only is KartRider is one of the longest-running competitive racing games in the world, but its closed beta weekend proved that Nexon is taking the impending Western release very seriously.

Push to Start

Beta players were given access to three modes: online matchmaking, solo time trials, and the garage for character and kart customization. The online interface is simple and intuitive; with a press of the “X” button players can toggle between Solo, Duo, and Squad (four-player) races across Item Mode (featuring traditional kart racer items) and Speed Mode (no items). Switching between different configurations is a snap and, thanks to KartRacer already being such a massive game in the East, I rarely had to wait more than 20 seconds to get thrown into a match. Creating private parties and inviting friends to race is also an option.

Although maps took a while to load, performance was consistently smooth once races actually began. It’s here where Nexon’s investment in Unreal Engine 4 really shines; the tracks are simply a joy to look at. Each manage to pop with personality despite not being based on recognizable IP like Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing. Of the nine tracks available during the beta only two stuck out as being a bit samey. Each of the drivers also benefit from colorful, distinct designs and fully customizable win/loss animations. The only portion of the presentation that didn’t impress was the music, which was quite catchy at first, but looped endlessly irrespective of the track.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the actual course design, which is largely serviceable but also initially frustrating. For instance, a forest-themed track features logs that stick up from the ground and stop racers in their tracks. This wouldn’t be too egregious, but the logs are so large that only tiny spaces on either side remain. Nearly half of my races on this map were marred by traffic jams caused by a couple of these choke points. Another map features a jump that must be hit at just the right time to not collide with a building and cost players the entire race.

Even maps that don’t demand unreasonable precision from new players suffer from jarringly sharp edges that make it easy to get stuck on corners. This is only exacerbated by a finicky drift mechanic that takes hours of experimentation and countless losses to nail down. While growing more competent at cornering eventually felt rewarding and worthwhile, the high skill threshold here feels like it’s at odds with KartRider: Drift’s framing as an accessible, beginner-friendly experience. These aren’t necessarily design flaws, but they seem like missteps in a game that’s trying to appeal to as many newcomers as possible.

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Tantalizing Customization

While KartRider: Drift’s core mechanics might aggravate the casual players it’s trying to reach, its customization options are some of the most appealing I’ve seen in any kart racer. Players can choose from a range of skins, emotes, kart types, and wheels to fully deck out their characters. Be it the aggressively adorable Bunny Buggy or skins that turn characters into little baseball and football players, it’s tough not to fall in love with the clean, cutesy charm on display here.

One potential worry is that since the game will be completely free-to-play, it’ll follow the route of relying on premium skins and emotes to generate revenue. There was no store or lootbox-esque system implemented in the beta build, but it’s clear from the “Epic” and “Rare” tags on items that premium customization will surely be a major focus. Considering players gain experience and level up the more races they compete in, there’s hope that at least some items might be unlockables to encourage higher attachment rates.

KartRacer: Drift is an unusual Microsoft exclusive, and yet it’s clear that Nexon has poured a tremendous amount of care and resources into it over the years. Having crossplay with PC this early on was crucial and ensures a built-in online community of millions from the get-go. It remains to be seen if the team makes any track design tweaks or alters the hyper-touchy drift, but what’s already here is at least worth giving a whirl when it releases for free sometime in 2020.

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Games

The Best Reveals of Indie World December 2019

From long-awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in the latest Indie World showcase.

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Indie World

It’s been a banner year for independent games, and Nintendo has closed it out with a new Indie World presentation. From long awaited sequels to unexpected crossovers to some surprising shadow drops, there was something for everyone in this showcase. We’ve rounded up a few of the very best reveals below.

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The show started off strong with the reveal of Sports Story, a sequel to 2017’s much loved, golf-obsessed RPG Golf Story. Whereas the first game focused solely on the noble sport of golf, the sequel has a much broader scope, integrating a variety of new sports like tennis, baseball, and soccer, to name only a few. On top of that, the gameplay is expanding with plenty of new elements, including dungeons to explore, espionage missions to sneak through, and numerous memorable characters to interact with. Just like its predecessor, Sports Story will be a Switch exclusive when it launches in mid-2020.

Some of the best indies can be immensely stylish experiences, and such games were well represented throughout this showcase. The first one shown was Gleamlight, a 2D action game created by developers who worked on the recent Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It puts players in control of a sentient sword, tasked with exploring a mysterious world made of stained glass. It leaves players to their own devices, with no UI or dialogue to tell its somber story. Like so many other games in this presentation, it will release in early 2020.

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Another eye-catching title was Liberated, which describes itself as “a playable graphic novel.” Literally taking place across the panels and pages of a cyberpunk comic book, Liberated features a mixture of stealth-based gunplay and action platforming, along with a dystopian story told from numerous perspectives. It will be a timed Switch console exclusive when it launches next year.

Indie World

Not all games were so serious or artistic – some were decidedly sillier. One such game was SkateBIRD, which, as the title implies, is all about controlling cute little birds on skateboards. This intrepid athletes will spend their time “grinding on bendy straws, kickflipping over staplers or carving lines through a park held together by sticky tape,” and if that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what does. These little birdies won’t take flight until late 2020.

Indie World

To get even sillier, imagine the bizarre bird-based dating simulator Hatoful Boyfriend set to an Ace Attorney soundtrack. As bizarre as that sounds, that’s exactly what Murder by the Numbers is. This murder mystery visual novel blends detective work with pixelated puzzling, featuring characters designed by Hatoful Boyfriend creator Hato Moa and music by Ace Attorney composer Masakazu Sugimori. Releasing early next year, this unusual mashup will be a timed Switch exclusive at launch.

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Procedural generation can feel like a tired trope in indie games. However, SuperMash, which describes itself as “the game that makes games,” looks like it should be a unique take on that style with its inventive genre-mashing style. Players will be able to mash distinct genres together – such as JRPG and platformer – to randomly created entirely new gameplay styles. It has plenty of unique mashing potential, releasing in May next year on Switch.

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It’s seemingly impossible for Nintendo to hold a presentation without a shadow drop or two, and that holds true with this Indie World showcase. The free-to-play multiplayer hit Dauntless was revealed to include exclusive weapons and armor in the Switch version, which also features full cross-play support. Likewise, the deluxe version of the philosophical puzzler The Talos Principle was announced for Nintendo’s hybrid wonder, featuring all the immersive mind teasers and world design that made the game such a hit when it launched years ago. Unlike most other titles in this showcase, you won’t need to wait until next year to play these – instead, they’re both available for download now.

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The presentation opened with a sequel to a fan-favorite indie, and fittingly enough, that’s also how it closed, with the announcement of Axiom Verge 2. Details are currently scarce, but this new title will return to the sci-fi universe of the original 2015 Metroidvania hit, including “completely new characters, abilities, and gameplay.” We’re sure to learn more about this mysterious new sequel ahead of its release in Fall 2020.

These are only a few of the most exciting reveals from Indie World. For everything announced, you can see the full presentation below.

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