The Electronic Entertainment Expo might not have taken place in the Los Angeles Convention Center this year, but the biggest gaming industry event of the year still had plenty to offer during its first all-virtual event.
E3 2021 kicked off June 12 and featured a variety of gaming news from the industry’s highest-profile studios and indie developers alike. The event marked the first E3 since 2019 and though it was less of a genuine industry convention and more of a collection of prerecorded marketing videos, the quantity of announcements still made E3 2021 a must-see event for gaming fans. E3 will be back in full force next year: Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced during the beginning of the 2021 event that E3 will return to the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2022.
There was an avalanche of game announcements, updates, and other topics to keep track of throughout last week, but some developers and publishers undeniably drew more praise than others. Here are the winners and losers of E3 2021:
The “Elden Ring” reveal trailer
“Elden Ring” was undeniably the most highly anticipated game to be featured at E3 2021 (though technically it was featured during the Summer Games Fest that ran concurrently with E3) and FromSoftware did not disappoint. The game, which hails from the developer behind the ever-popular “Souls” franchise and “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice,” is shaping up to be a more open-ended version of the gameplay formula that has made FromSoftware one of the most beloved developers in the business. Like the “Dark Souls” games, “Elden Ring” boasts a dark fantasy world that is brimming with monster designs equal parts breathtaking and horrifying, while the combat looks like it will be as visceral and challenging as the company’s prior offerings. Given the polished and well-received nature of FromSoftware’s prior titles, gradually expanding on the elements that have defined the company’s older games, rather than completely reinventing the wheel, should give fans plenty of reason for celebration.
That said, “Elden Ring” is a break from form in several key ways. As mentioned, the game is more open-ended; the world has been billed as FromSoftware’s largest yet and “Elden Ring” is expected to be less linear than the “Dark Souls” games. That extends to the game’s combat; game director Hidetaka Miyazaki told IGN that the game will boast around a hundred skills and a variety of weapons and magical abilities that can be mixed and matched. Also: George R.R. Martin helped create the lore and some of the main bosses in the game, so there’s that.
“Elden Ring” is promising a lot and consumers won’t have to wait long to see if the game matches up to the marketing hype: The game will release on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on January 21, 2022.
If any single company won E3 it would have to be Microsoft. The Xbox manufacturer unveiled a swath of game announcements and trailers, including the multiplayer reveal of “Halo Infinite” and a lengthy demonstration of the beautiful “Forza Horizon 5,” the latter of which will release November 9. A slew of sequels to other popular titles were featured, ranging from “Battlefield 2042” and “Psychonauts 2” to “S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl” and “Outer Worlds 2.”
Microsoft also unveiled a cinematic trailer for Bethesda’s “Starfield,” the first original IP from the “Fallout” and “The Elder Scrolls” developer in over two decades. There was unfortunately no gameplay in the trailer but “Starfield” finally has a release date: November 11, 2022. Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of Bethesda was one of 2020’s most significant game industry stories and a lot is riding on the success of “Starfield,” which will be Bethesda’s first major game to not release on the PlayStation consoles. Bethesda became one of the game industry’s most celebrated developers due to the success of “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” and titles such as “Fallout 3” and “Fallout 4” but the company’s reputation took a major hit with the maligned “Fallout 76,” the most recent game that the studio developed. Time will tell if Bethesda can course-correct with “Starfield.”
As for old games, Microsoft announced that “Among Us” — yep, it’s still all sorts of popular — will be getting 15-player lobbies and that “Hades,” which IndieWire lauded as one of 2020’s best video games, will be coming to Xbox and PlayStation consoles August 13, when it will be free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers.
Nintendo stopped having a physical presence at E3 years before the coronavirus pandemic began but the company’s virtual Nintendo Direct broadcasts have always produced some of E3’s most-hyped news in recent years. This year was no exception: Nintendo had a quiet 2020, but came out swinging with a variety of major announcements for its 2021 E3 broadcast.
The company unveiled footage of the sequel to the critically acclaimed “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” which is slated to launch in 2022. “Metroid,” another legendary Nintendo IP, is also finally getting an original 2D installment via “Metroid Dread.” (Reports of that game surfaced back in 2005 — good things come to those who wait.) A new “WarioWare” game, subtitled “Get It Together!” is on the way, as are new installments in popular Mario series such as “Mario Party Superstars” and “Mario Golf: Super Rush.” The list goes on but in short, if you’re a fan of Nintendo’s biggest brands, odds are there were more than a few things to get excited about during E3.
But wait, there’s more! Downloadable content for popular existing titles, such as a new playable character in “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and an expansion pass for “Hyrule Warriors” were announced and a handful of remasters and remakes were featured, ranging from “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD” and “Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania” to “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2” and “Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp.” Again, this list is not comprehensive, which should serve as a strong indication of how packed Nintendo’s E3 presentation turned out. It’s a good time to be a Switch owner.
Capcom is one of the hottest big-money publishers in the video game industry, but you wouldn’t know that by watching the company’s E3 2021 presentation. The company kicked things off with “Resident Evil: Village,” a video game that is already out. The game is getting downloadable content — eventually — and there’s no indication of what that content will be or when it is coming out. Capcom also showcased “Resident Evil Re:Verse,” which is essentially the multiplayer component of “Village” that was originally scheduled to release alongside “Village.”
In other news, Capcom featured upcoming content for “Monster Hunter Rise,” which released in March. At long last, consumers will be able to unlock a “play possum” emote and leather pants. Other news included a new trailer for “Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin,” which was already extensively featured in a Nintendo Direct last year, as well as a feature for “The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles,” a collection of two previously Japan-exclusive titles that released in 2015 and 2017.
Look, all of those aforementioned franchises have large fanbases and some of these announcements might have pleased diehard fans, but if this was the best that Capcom had to offer, skipping E3 2021 altogether may have been the wiser choice.
The PC Gaming Show
The PC Gaming Show has always felt like one of the least essential parts of E3, and its 2021 installment did little to change that. Look at practically any other E3 presentation, good or bad, and you’d be able to identify a few standout titles. Most people would be hard-pressed to do the same with E3’s latest installment in the PC Gaming Show, which was mostly a mess of seemingly low-budget and hopelessly derivative titles.
For every potentially enticing game — “Death Trash,” an indie post-apocalyptic action RPG, was one of the most interesting games to be featured at E3 2021 — there was also a deluge of generic-looking titles and little in the way of pacing throughout the event, which wasn’t helped by the mind-numbing banter and incessant shoutouts to the show’s sponsors, who were referenced to the point of distraction.
“I’m here to kill chaos!” Square Enix’s bonkers trailer for “Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin,” which mostly revolved around a generic-looking anime guy repeatedly grumbling about wanting to kill chaos, immediately became the most-mocked part of E3 2021. Admittedly, the gameplay in the trailer looks significantly better than the ludicrous dialogue, but that didn’t stop Square Enix from becoming the butt of every joke on social media. Then again, “Final Fantasy” is notorious for its ridiculously campy characters and plots, so hey, maybe the game will be good!
Square Enix’s real blunder lied in its “Babylon’s Fall” and Marvel features. “Babylon’s Fall” (which hails from PlatinumGames, the developer behind the phenomenal “Bayonetta” series and “Nier: Automata”) generated plenty of interest when it was unveiled in 2019, but its E3 2021 trailer was… just plain awful. The video quality looked strangely low-resolution and compressed and both the narration and character dialogue was cringe-inducingly hammy. The gameplay? It’s a hack-and-slash with swordplay and magic that looks utterly weightless. That’s an especially troubling sign, given PlatinumGames’ pedigree in the genre. To round things out, “Babylon’s Fall” will be a live-service game — the industry buzzword that developers and publishers use when promising to support a game with new content over the course of months or years; all too often, it just means that a game is released in an unacceptably buggy, heavily monetized, or feature-limited state. So, good luck with that.
Speaking of live service games, in a case of throwing good money after bad, Square Enix touted new updates for “Marvel’s Avengers,” (the game that lets consumers dress Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Verizon and 5 Gum-branded outfits), which released last year and was a critical and commercial bomb. The promise of Black Panther and a Wakandan adventure might entice superhero fanatics, but given how few people are still playing the game, it’s unclear if any content update is going to be able to salvage “Marvel’s Avengers.”
The upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy” game shows a bit more promise, but there are still some troubling warning signs. The game is being billed as a single-player game with no microtransactions — three cheers for doing the bare minimum — but the gameplay in the trailer showcased a lot of repetitive shooting of seemingly-mindless enemies and characters that look like bootlegged versions of their Marvel Cinematic Universe counterparts. The game will launch on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch October 26.