This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, the gaming industry’s largest conference, had a new flavor with the massive presence of VR (Virtual Reality) hardware. There were many players demonstrating this exciting new way to experience gaming, with a big presence from Sony Playstation VR which will be available in October for $399. Oculus also had a large presence with gamers lining up for more than an hour to experience the variety of games being demonstrated. The Oculus Rift although extremely fun, will not be affordable to everyone at the $599 price point. Other VR options include the Razer HDKR at $399 and the Nyko VR Guardian at $99. After trying out several different VR experiences at the show, I can say I am a big fan and can’t wait to play more.
Speaking of hardware, Microsoft announced the Xbox One S, available in August, which is a slimmer version of the Xbox One but with double the hard drive at 2T, 4k support for Blu-ray/compatible media and can upscale games to a 4K output. So if you have a 4K TV, want more space to store your games or DLC, or simply like the new look of the console and new gamepad, this is the console for you for $399. Microsoft also announced their next gen Xbox console, Project Scorpio, set to launch for Holiday 2017, which will play VR games as well as play games in 4K resolution. On the Microsoft games side, one of the standouts for me was Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3, I myself a long-time fan of racing games.
Sony, who did not speak about their next gen console at E3, focused on Playstation VR and new 1st Party and 3rd Party games such a God of War, Days Gone and an exciting new Spiderman game from Insomniac Games. My favourites for the Playstation VR included a spine-tingling demo of Resident Evil 7, survival game Far Point set in an alien world and Star Wars Battlefront X-Wing which is exclusive to VR and puts you right in an X-Wing cockpit.
Nintendo focused much of their entire E3 presence on one of their long standing key franchises, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is the first new Zelda game in two years. The breath-taking open world game was brought to life at Nintendo’s booth with 140 demo stations where gamers waited sometimes up to two hours in line to try for themselves. Like Sony, Nintendo did not talk about their new console, Nintendo NX which is said to be launching in March 2017, instead the focus was on new games and fan favourites on the Nintendo 3DS such as Pokemon for its 20th anniversary and Yokai Watch, which also has a tie-in with toy company Hasbro.
For the big game publishers, EA and Activision did not have their traditional large booth presence on the floor this year, so the West Hall felt a bit more lackluster than the usual hustle and bustle I have seen in year’s past. However, the games that were on the show floor were impressive. Ubisoft, for example, revealed a new game franchise called Steep. For anyone who enjoys extreme winter sports such as base jumping and paraskiing, this is the game for you. Ubisoft also showed off an impressive demo for Watch Dogs 2 and For Honor, the Viking 3rd person brawler and for VR, an exciting new game Star Trek Bridge Crew where you can play with friends and take command of the bridge. One other noteable takeaway from Ubisoft was the announcement to take Assassin’s Creed to the big screen, coming to theatres this December featuring the popular Michael Fassbender.
Take 2 featured a beautifully created New Orleans style mansion including theatre to show off the intense new Mafia III as well as the new games from 2K Sports NBA 2K17 and WWE 2K17. Let’s also not forget about Warner Bros who had an action packed showing featuring new Lego Dimensions expansion packs, Lego Worlds (think Minecraft meets Lego) and on the superhero side, the much anticipated Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the new Injustice 2 and for the VR experience Batman: Arkham VR.
And although Activision was not on the floor, they did hold a press conference to highlight the new Call of Duty Infinite Warfare (think Call of Duty in space) and Skylanders Imaginators where you can create and customize your own characters. EA also hosted a separate conference to reveal new games for Star Wars, Titanfall 2 and FIFA 17 which features for the first time in the franchise a single person story mode.
Overall, even though this year’s E3 had a different feel to year’s past, it is clear that the industry is continuing to innovate and push forward into new frontiers. The potential of the VR category is absolutely massive and only getting started, with a new round of next generation consoles approaching in 2017, and the sheer volume of triple A games being developed for this generation and the new generation to come, I continue to be amazed and predict nothing but positive growth for the category in 2016 and beyond.