Ubisoft held their Ubisoft Forward this week. They showed off various important projects like Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Hyper Scape, and even officially announced Far Cry 6. However, as Yves Guillemot stated at the end of the presentation, they had much more to announce and that another Ubisoft Forward would be coming later in the year.
But why? Why do they need two separate digital showcases to show off all their wares? And why is it coming later in the year?
Usually, big gaming conferences are where announcements are made and the biggest of them all was E3. Due to the pandemic, most events have all been canceled or at least postponed. So, as a result, companies have followed Nintendo's lead and started making their own online showcases to get the word out about their games. It seemed like a good solution to a unique problem but it's created something far more sinister. Now we live in a world of seemingly endless game announcements and it's simply too much to follow or care about.
Once You Board The Hype Train, You Can Never Leave
E3, for all its faults, felt like an event. Like some kind of holiday season where gaming companies revealed their games and made everyone hyped up for the future. Who can forget magical moments like Miyamoto coming out on stage with a sword and shield to announce The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess or the revelation that Final Fantasy VII Remake was actually going to be a thing? It felt special and impactful.
Yes, the press conferences were often embarrassing and gross with executives waltzing on stage, reading some marketing buzzwords off of cue cards, and then showing a game trailer to the applause of a room filled with journalists and easily amused fans. It could be incredibly cringey with bad segments like Mr. Caffiene or that godawful Wii Music presentation. And yes, underneath all the glitz and glamor was nothing more than a conference for video game executives to try to peddle their wares to the public and rouse the interest of current and potential investors.
But you know what? At least it was held during one weekend of the year and everything we needed to know was delivered in a neat little package. Now Ubisoft is promising another Ubisoft Forward later in the year which is long after the traditional E3 season. And there's no doubt that other companies will follow suit. This means that we could get an EA Access in September or Microsoft will let Phil Spencer out of his cage to squint in front of another webcam in January.
It's Not A Lake Of Game Announcements, It's An Ocean
This moment from the 2020 Devolver Direct accurately sums up the situation we find ourselves in. Whereas once we had E3 to act as an Olympic-sized swimming pool of gaming announcements we now are facing a constant, ever-flowing stream of news. And it all happens so suddenly. Any major developer or publisher could decide to trot out their execs to announce everything and anything in the middle of November for all they care.
We can thank Nintendo for this fine little mess. Nintendo Directs seemed innocuous at the time but they've opened a Pandora's Box of marketing. They showed how it could be so much easier to announce new titles. Just grab a big-name executive in the company, put them in front of a white wall, have them read a script about the newest Star Fox game, and there you go. Hype is built, preorders are sold, and it can all be done from the comfort of a studio or as its currently done, from inside your own home.
It's not hard to see why every developer wants in on these livestreams. It's cheaper than renting a convention booth and it's easy advertising for their upcoming games. But much like everything in the gaming industry, everyone has latched on something Nintendo did first and are beating it into the ground. It happened with motion controls and now it's happening with these online direct presentations.
There are so many videos and livestreams going on that you need an itinerary to keep track of them all. It's overwhelming and when things get this out of hand it's quite possible to simply detach from it all and stop caring. Nobody wants to have to set aside a portion of the week to watch a marathon of digital gaming press conferences. It's just too much and shows that for as much as we used to complain about E3, at least it was self-contained and made gaming announcements feel like memorable moments.
Please Come Back E3
The ESA has stated that E3 will return next year, but it's hard to see why any of these companies would want to go back. They can just load up the announcements on their corporate Twitch or Youtube channel and get the same results without having to fly out to Los Angeles. This may be the new normal. Constant news, constant hype. An industry so full of announcements that it can't help but keep making more and more presentations until everyone from Activision to Square Enix has a new show every day of the week.
If all we have now is a year-long barrage of livestreams where dead-eyed presenters gush about the newest Assassin's Creed or Halo, then it's impossible to not mourn the loss of E3. At least when it was over, you could sit back, relax, and not have to worry about seeing another cringeworthy choreographed Just Dance presentation until the following year. Now, those florescent pandas could strike at any time.
NetEase called it a bug, but others called it a feature.