The winners and losers of E3 2018

The show is over. We’ve seen all the E3 2018 games (opens in new tab), watched every press conference (yes, even the Square Enix one), eaten the questionable show food, and played the demos. Generally speaking, E3 2018 has been a good one, if a little weirder than usual. There were few genuine surprises and a handful of massive teases (yes, we’re looking at you Elder Scrolls 6 (opens in new tab)), but we’ve seen more of the games we know about than usual, and the quality bar of most titles is exceedingly high. There were winners, definite losers, and some stuff that just sits in between. We’ve rounded up all the highs and lows of the show, curated by members of the team actually at the show, and the others who observed everything from a distance. Here are the kings of the castle and the dirty rascals, who will remain so until E3 2019 inevitably washes it all away and rejuvenates us with fresh games next year. 

The Winners of E3 2018:

Winner: Ubisoft, generally (again) 

Ubisoft’s press conferences contain some of the most genuine, sincere, and human moments at a show dominated by marketing speak and hype. That alone earns high marks. But even if you don’t care for all the mushy bits, like the Beyond Good & Evil 2 (opens in new tab) devs excitedly saying “We nailed it!” into a hot mic backstage (or the creative director of Mario + Rabbids tearing up when Shigeru Miyamoto praised his game at last year’s conference), the developer / publisher still had great stuff to show off. BG&E2 is coming along, Skull and Bones (opens in new tab) gameplay looks exciting and fun, another Nintendo crossover will put Star Fox’s Arwing in your hands, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (opens in new tab) is a bold new direction for the franchise. Compare this to just last generation when the press conference was hosted by Mr. Caffeine (opens in new tab) and you can see how far Ubi has come. 

Winner: Gabrielle Shrager and Guillaume Brunier (who nailed it) 

What could’ve been a total E3 blunder actually turned out to be one of the most charming moments of the show. After unveiling a thrilling CG trailer for Beyond Good and Evil 2, then following up with some actual gameplay and a Joseph Gordon-Levitt cameo to introduce the game’s user-generated content options, Gabrielle Shrager and Guillaume Brunier – from Ubi Montpellier – left the Ubisoft conference stage on a high. And, with their microphones still active backstage (unbeknownst to the pair), Gabrielle exclaimed “We nailed it!” to her on-stage partner, for the whole world to hear. Technical difficulties suddenly became a moment of pure joy, unwittingly shared with the world. And that’s the true spirit of video games, right there. 

Winner: Cool women with weaponry 

So many of the games shown at E3 2018 put their female characters front and center, including The Last of Us Part 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Battlefield 5, Gears 5, and even the Cuphead DLC starring Ms. Chalice. And to anyone who bristles at the idea of starring roles for these women, the message from developers is sounding clearer and clearer: if you don’t like it, kick rocks. Whether they were rocking a sword, sidearm, bow and arrows, or any other type of weaponry, the women of E3’s games are a force to be reckoned with.  

Winner: 2019 

“Coming 2019” was perhaps the most commonly used phrase at E3. When’s that new game out? Oh yeah, it’s 2019. While this may be seen as a negative for some, we say that it’s a massive win for 2019, because there are some kick-ass games coming out next year. One particular winner in 2019 is the date February 22, which sees the release date of Days Gone, Anthem (opens in new tab), and Metro Exodus. Crackdown 3 is due in February too, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it vying for that coveted Feb. 22 slot. And we’ll already have had Resident Evil 2 Remake, Kingdom Hearts 3, and Trials Rising by then. Just in the first six weeks of 2019. After that? The Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima (opens in new tab), Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (opens in new tab), Gears of War 5 (opens in new tab), and – maybe if we’re really lucky – Hideo Kojima’s backpack management sim, Death Stranding (opens in new tab). That’s a big win for 2019. 

Winner: The shark from Maneater 

No one was expecting much from a reveal of Blindside’s new game at the PC Gaming Show, tucked away mid-order as it was. But there’s massive appetite for a decent shark game, it seems, and Maneater (opens in new tab) lit up the crowd by being one of the best games of the show. The shark is, to be clear, the absolute winner of the demo, as it gets to feast on a wide variety of delicious humans in a very short span of time, leaping out of the sea and dragging them under with real relish. Maneater just looks like heaps of fun, and nobody saw the hyped-up reception coming. With the exception, perhaps, of Blindside themselves. Oh, and the shark. 

Winner: Xbox Two (or whatever Microsoft calls it) 

Really, all that was said about Microsoft’s next console came from Xbox head Phil Spencer. During the Xbox E3 2018 press conference, Spencer said the team was “deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles, where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming”. So, no details, no codename, just a quick announcement that amounts to ‘Hey, we’re making another box.’ But read between the lines here: all Halo Infinite (opens in new tab) had to show was an engine, and those five new studios added to the Microsoft umbrella (opens in new tab) aren’t because Xbox thinks it can turn this generation around. We wager it’s gearing up for the next console cycle, and wants the world to know it. Xbox One stumbled hard, but it looks like Microsoft is already taking steps to ensure the next Xbox (which probably won’t be called “Xbox 2,” but we really don’t know what would make sense at this point) won’t make the same mistake. 

Winner: Gaming on the go 

Whether you’re playing on your phone or packed your Nintendo Switch to travel, E3 2018 gave us plenty of excellent titles made for on-the-go gaming. The Elder Scrolls: Blades (opens in new tab) was surprising, both as an out-of-the-blue announcement and as a genuinely good Elder Scrolls game in its own right. But it makes sense that Bethesda would go back to the mobile well after the immense popularity of Fallout Shelter (now on PS4 and Switch! (opens in new tab)). Fortnite (opens in new tab) was already the game to beat before the show – but its playerbase positively exploded after the jump to iOS, and the Switch port has already spread like wildfire. Sure, not every mobile game fared as well – that Command & Conquer Rivals didn’t look so hot, and no one asked for Gears Pop! – but mobile gaming no longer carries the kind of stigma it once did at trade shows like E3. 

Winner: E3 organizers 

E3 2018 LOGO

Ok, so it would’ve been tough not to improve on the disfunction that was last year’s E3, the first time that the show was opened up to members of the public (who purchased tickets). E3 2017 was crowded and chaotic, especially its first day. Thankfully, the organizers of E3 2018 did a much better job of putting everything together. Security scans and bag checks were long overdue for a convention of this size and helped contribute to a safer-feeling atmosphere, and the different access points for different badge holders were a smart way to manage traffic. It was far from perfect – no place so thoroughly choked with jostling humanity will ever be a pleasure to inhabit – but it was a big improvement. 

Winner: Smash Bros. fans 

We knew we would learn more about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (opens in new tab) going into E3, as its set to debut later this year – but what we saw during the Nintendo Direct was something straight out of a Smash fanatic’s wildest dreams. For over 20 minutes, the man, myth, and legend Masahiro Sakurai went into every granular detail imaginable – but knowing that every character in series history is returning means that everyone’s happy no matter who your main is. On top of all that, Ridley’s confirmation for the roster was the realization of a pie-in-the-sky request fans have made since time immemorial. For anyone with even the slightest fondness for the Smash Bros. series, you really couldn’t have asked for more.  

The Losers of E3 2018 

Loser: Nintendo fans who like literally anything other than Smash Bros. 

Hey Nintendo Switch owner. How’s it going? Wanna hear about a new Metroid game, or Animal Crossing on Switch (opens in new tab), or maybe Pikmin, or even new console features like Netflix? Tough [kicks sand in face]. Here’s half-an-hour of Smash Bros. minutiae that’s only really relevant to hardcore players and tournament pros. Sit down, pay attention, and listen to us explain – in the kind of detail that you’d apply to a space-shuttle launch – about every character, stage, move, and feature in the game. Are you taking notes, Switch owner? No? YOU’D BETTER START – there will be a written test after the Direct. And it will not be multiple choice. 

Loser: Anyone who watched the Square Enix press conference 

There were two Square Enix press conferences at E3. The first of these was a small segment in the Microsoft press show on Sunday, and it showcased the best of Square’s line-up for 2018 and beyond. The second came the day after, as a separate show, which kinda just repeated all the stuff from Microsoft, added in a few weak reveals for FF15 and some other obscure JRPGs, and featured the once heroic and iconic Lara Croft dispassionately murdering her way through an entire encampment of mercenaries. “Stealth Kill +30XP” shouted the on-screen display, as Lara took zero pleasure in her mundane butchery. The conference was rounded out by the exact same video of Kingdom Hearts 3 that we saw at Microsoft the day before, marking a severe low-point for E3. 

Loser: Bad guys standing under a tree or next to long grass 

Here are some life lessons for you. 1) Always invest in property, if you can. 2) Manners cost nothing, so be polite. 3) Never stand anywhere near tall grass, for any length of time, because it’s statistically likely that there’s an angry video game protagonist crouching in there, waiting to kill you with a broken bottle or a crudely-fashioned bow and arrow. A few years ago, if you were lucky, you’d find a wild Pokemon in a bush, or a dog-eared copy of Hustler. But now, there are only video game protagonists – like Ellie from The Last of Us 2 or Lara from Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Researchers estimate that there could be as many as 35 video game protagonists roaming the average back garden of a suburban home, right now – twice as many if you haven’t mowed the grass for a couple of weeks. Stay safe: don’t hang around near the grass. And if you hear a rustling noise in that ornamental cherry tree, it definitely isn’t the wind. Run. 

Loser: Your Fortnite account 

As the long awaited union of two of the hottest things in games, the arrival of Fortnite on Switch (opens in new tab) should’ve been nothing but happy times. And it was… until everybody who’d ever used their Epic Account (the thing that keeps track of all your progress, skins, and other in-game rewards) to play on PS4 realized that they couldn’t also use it to sign in on Switch (opens in new tab). We still have whiplash from how quickly the mood shifted from joy to confusion to anger, and the main culprit quickly became clear: Sony and its longstanding resistance to cross-console play. We’ll see if all of the noise disappointed players are making (opens in new tab) is enough to convince Sony to finally tear down that wall – or at least set free unlinked accounts. 

Loser: Sony’s experimental approach to press conferences 

Audiences are only able to withstand so much self-congratulatory back-patting, and Sony’s smug stage show this year pushed that leading-console cockiness too far. First and foremost, people watch these press conferences because they want to see games, not extended musical performances (which goes for many of the shows this year). Making the in-person attendees shuffle between two locations to see the show – thus forcing an awkward intermission for the livestream after only a single game had been shown – brutally murdered the presser’s pacing like Ellie slitting a Seraphite’s throat. And spare a thought for Dreams, which was relegated to ‘cutesy animations in between trailers’ instead of being showcased in any meaningful way. Sony’s new direction for press conferences has whiffed twice now, both at E3 2018 and PlayStation Experience 2017, and the only thing bringing the show back from oblivion was the quality of the games themselves. Don’t distract from these exciting titles, Sony – elevate them. 

For all the exciting titles from this year’s show, check out the best E3 2018 games (opens in new tab).  

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