E3 2017 Day 2 report: QTE hype returns with a vengeance, racing games go AAA, and the taboo of cross-platform broken

T3's roving reporter Marco Zangirolami reports in from the show floor

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Today there are really lots of things to talk about, so let's get straight in and start from the beginning.

Yesterday in T3's Day 1 coverage of E3 2017 I said that exclusives are disappearing and the biggest proof of what I am saying is when even a cash-cow such as the Monster Hunter series is now available - for the first time in history - for PC and PS4 with the upcoming Monster Hunter World, you know times are changing. Trust me as someone who follows the Japanese market closely, that is the equivalent of seeing a new Mario game on PS4.
 

Totally unbelievable! If anybody would have told me year ago that the market would have changed in this way, probably I would have thought it was just a joke, or a fake rumour. But that's the way it is, and now it is now a reality.  

With this official announcement it also makes clear how even Capcom needs to look abroad more (the game was not translated easily and on time before), and more important on any device / system available to get the income to survive during the present situation. As said in this previous article, you already know that despite Resident Evil 7 been praised by critics and hardcore gamers, it failed on the stock market (who directly through the stock exchange funds the company) making her lose first 7%, and then the 9% in but a few days.

Another big thing and one that probably most do not pay big attention to yet - but something that is the real innovation at this 2017 edition of E3 - is the so called 'blockbuster scheme', i.e. the heavy implementation of cinematic and drama on any kind of genre.

For some examples of what I am talking about just take a look at Insomniac's Spiderman, EA' s Fifa 18, now even NFL 18 and, most of all, Need for speed: Payback. These felt more than games while playing the demos here and they all seemed like we were watching a Marvel or Fast and Furious movie at the cinema, with sandbox style decisions and QTE sequences.

It is not a criticism per se, I mean, improvements and some kind of experimentation on driven games is always appreciated, but the heavy implementation of the QTE now in 2017 (i.e. Quick Time Events), a pretty old technique in which players must push or move his character in just one single direction and at a precise time (limiting the gameplay), as we used to do in Dragon's Lair, in 2017 seems a little bit limited. I mean, we all love '80s laser games, but on new games to add this technique (in 1983 innovative) to improve the cinematic feature seems to me nonsense.

Spiderman in particular also mutated the gameplay from Rocksteady's Batman Arkham series, and really reminded me of this aspect, even if at the same time I must admit that completing the demo gives me a sense of completeness (as when you finish watching a movie at the cinema), and it makes me wonder if the whole industry will soon go in this direction. 

The same thing is going to happen with the latest 'Need for speed: Payback', when William Ho the game director declared yesterday: "we viewed our core gameplay through a blockbuster movie lens".  It seems like the main thing of the game will be focused on the cinematic experience, so the story drama based on a revenge, then after a racing game.

Being honest, we're not keen about this, as we have witnessed in the past years various kinds of hype such as DLCs, HD remaster editions, VR sets, and now apparently the next big thing is going back to playing games such as Dragon's Lair and Cliff Hanger. Hmm... 

And it is not just the QTE aspect that could lead to this transformation from the videogame experience as we know it today to something more similar to a blockbuster movie at the cinema, but something bigger and sophisticated that surrounds the game: story, drama, directors and actors which, as in the movie business, could determinate the success or failure of a single title. 

Some may say that cinematic dalliances with famous actors have been already done in some games, and I agree with that (I still remember Jean Renò's appearance in Capcom's Onimusha), but we have never experienced yet two and a half hours of real interactive movie footage with real famous actors, and different plots and finales (that would be around 6~10 hours of pure acting and directorial cut).

And, most of all, as the industry doesn't do subtly very well, it is going to be applied to games where it is not supposed to be. For example, just check out Fifa 18 and NFL Madden 18 to have a clear idea of what I am saying: 

On Fifa 17 EA experimented and tested this new feature with 'the Journey', having in mind to improve and (probably) enlarge the advantage achieved from any competitors (Konami with PES), with the full length story of a fictional football player named Alex Hunter (coming back in the 2018's update).

Equally, with Madden's 'Longshot' EA has invested even harder and not just fictional actor, but real actor Mahershala Ali who has already won the Academy award with 'Moonlight' last year. But the real deal is what is going to happen when these two and a half hours of interactive 'experience' will be substituted by popular demand with material from big names such as Scorsese or Oliver stone and actors like Al Pacino. Imagine an interactive version of Any Given Sunday.

And this is not just a shift for the sport genre, think about Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz as an enemy or commander in the next Call of Duty:

No, like it or not, that's what really awaits us from what we are witnessing today here at E3 2017. As we predicted in April that cloud gaming, little by little, will substitute our consoles, and then Microsoft confirmed Xbox Game Pass just one month later, you will now remember that you read this new shift in the industry first here.

Penultimately, we now reach probably the hottest topic of E3 2107: cross-platform gaming (i.e. the possibility to play one game with a friend from a different system, console, PC or tablet/smartphone), which right now is the real Achilles' heel of Sony. Yesterday Jim Ryan, Sony's PlayStation global sales and marketing head, said that: "it's a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders."

Now this clearly shows that Sony is currently not on board this train, and probably for one single reason: they will lose users. Now, from its point of view, this must not happen otherwise the stock market will punish them just as happened to Capcom in January.  Exclusives are no more a strong link for Sony and at its press convention it did not announce really any new AAA titles, so the situation is not going to be easy for them for the year to come. As such, retaining gamers is crucial.

Right now Sony's position is likely sustainable in the short term, however, as more and more of its competitors start to go cross platform, casual gamers will begin to abandon the PS4, so this limitation will become a decisive factor and Sony will need to address it sooner or later. If Sony doesn't embrace this cross platform feature very soon it may put itself in a very dangerous position, from which it will be pretty difficult to survive. 

Last month Tekken's game designer Katsuhiro Harada requested that Sony alter its current cross platform stance (since Microsoft's will is pretty clear about this point), but clearly the interests on the table for Kazuo Hirai are evidently too big and important to let them go. This is the big unknown of this E3, whether or not Sony can ignore the cross gaming shift or if it will be forced to surrender to it and lose the advantage it has achieved in the market over the last three years with the PS4? 

We're quite confident this will end with Sony backing down and going cross platform, as publishers (99% of them) in the short and middle term to gain more and more money will invest more on those consoles who will guarantee this feature (they double or triple their potential market). There is only so long Sony can block cross platform play such as witnessed in Rocket League in our opinion.

Last but not least is an observation on the changing power of certain IPs. A clear example of what I am going to talk about can be seen with Star Wars: Battlefront 2. Even if we knew that nobody really cared or payed credit to the prequel Star Wars films, like it or not, a whole generation (the so called millennials) born and grew up with them and relate massively to its characters and story.

But StarWars: Battlefront 2 is not the only example, with Crash Bandicoot pulling in huge numbers as well on the show floor.

So it may sound incredible but the bigger queues this year at E3 are for this game, especially because for the first time the ESA (i.e. E3's organiser) decided to open the show to the public, so there are lot of young people here.

For the generations that grew up with the mighty Mario, Pac-Man and Space Invaders, they will be genuinely surprised that while today Mario is definitely still a draw, he has been eclipsed by these new IPs to a degree. I know it may sound absurd, especially for gamers of my age, but that's the way it is. 

So in conclusion on Day 2 of E3 2017, Sony, EA and the other publishers are going focus their attention of this new generation, and more than probably will progressively abandon in the years ahead the old generation to focus on them to maximise sales. 

For today that's all. Be sure to check in tomorrow to read about the games that have stolen the show here at E3 2017.