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E3 2021 wrap-up

E3 2021 kicked off with news about E3 2022. Kind of a funny way to start a show, as Mayor Eric Garcetti told the crowd, “we look forward to seeing you in-person, here in the City of Angels, in 2022.” Also a bit funny when the mayor’s video game show announcement has less confetti and Minions than his state-reopening speech, but that’s something for another post.

It’s understandable, of course, that E3’s organizers led with that news. The 2021 show was, like so many other things over the past year-and-a-half, a historic anomaly. After opting to skip the 2020 show altogether (understandably), it went ahead with the first — and for the time being, last — all virtual event.

The virtual event always seems like a good idea, in theory. In practice, results vary wildly depending on a number of factors, not the least of which is content. Many shows have an uphill battle when it comes to moving all online. CES, I think, was a struggle, due in part to the size of the show, but also the content. As ubiquitous as consumer electronics are, I don’t see wide swaths of the internet champing at the bit to watch a presentation from anyone but, say, Apple and maybe Samsung.

E3 doesn’t have that problem. The show already had a leg up, having moved away from industry-only to something more hybrid years ago. Unlike other shows I attend regularly, people in downtown LA actually get a bit of a buzz when E3 comes to town. Everyone’s a gamer and most are excited about some piece of upcoming news. Uber and Lyft drivers love to tell you about it that week.

It follows that the show’s online presence is immense. The days leading up to the event, E3-related content was trending all over the place — people watch trailers, argue about the trailers, stream about the trailers and argue about other people’s streams about the trailers on their own streams. It’s a recipe for success around a virtual event — especially coming after a year when, even before the latest Xbox and PlayStation were released, the industry was already setting records amid the pandemic.

Of the big three, Microsoft won, hands down. Sorry, Sony, you can’t win if you don’t play. Nintendo was solid, but not spectacular. But more on that in a moment.

I talked a fair bit about the Xbox press conference in the last one of these. But the long and short of it is Microsoft won on two flanks: sheer volume and Game Pass titles. That last bit feels about as close to a silver bullet as we’re going to see in this generation of consoles. Likely Sony is going to have its own virtual event in the near future — but it’s going to be a tough act to follow.

In all, Microsoft showed off 30 games (and a fridge), a whopping 27 of which will be available on Game Pass, if there were any doubt as to how all-in the company is on its subscription service. And, of course, there’s the fact that this was billed as a Microsoft/Bethesda event, which shows you how important that massive acquisition is to the future of Xbox.

As for Nintendo, let’s be honest. Anything that didn’t include the long-rumored Switch Pro was going to be a disappointment. The original Switch is four years old and due for a big upgrade, beyond the Switch Lite and a refresh with added battery. It’s time for that HD screen — the thing would sell like hotcakes next holiday.

Thing is, the Switch had a spectacular 2020. Even with an initial supply chain shortage (something all three current consoles are guilty of), it did gangbusters during the pandemic, due in no small part to the arrival of a long-awaited new Animal Crossing game. A low-pressure, social title between fuzzy animals was precisely what the world needed last year, and Nintendo was happy to deliver.

There’s also a good chance that Nintendo is dealing with continued supply chain issues around the new components. So while it seems likely the Pro is on the way (see: the new Guardians of the Galaxy game), we’ll likely have to wait until next year.

We’ll also have to wait until next year for Breath of the Wild 2, but at least the sequel to the much-loved Zelda game had the decency to show up this year. And, of course, we’ve got a bunch of great-looking titles coming for the system. Some highlights.

Some old-school 2D side-scrolling hotness for Metroid Dread.

Hey, neat, a Game and Watch with some classic Zelda titles.

Talk about long-awaited, Shin Megami Tensai V has been teased since 2017.

Mario Party Superstars is coming October 29, with 100 mini-games.

Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania arrives October 5, doing what Super Monkey Ball does best.

In addition to all of the Square-Enix and Ubisoft stuff we discussed last time, Capcom gave us updates to Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin and Resident Evil Village.

That about does it. See you next year in LA. But maybe leave the Minion costumes at home (sorry Mr. Mayor).

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