Big game reveals (and media announcements in general) have undergone a radical shift in the modern era as social media and live streaming have become prevalent. The cost/benefit analysis for attending a major event in person compared to an HD live stream in the comfort of your own home is hard to argue, especially when gaining access at all for events such as PAX is nearly impossible due to extreme demand. Combined with major publishers such as Electronic Arts and Nintendo moving to separate events and a pre-recorded presentation respectively, the importance of a big stage event such as E3 is increasingly challenged.
That said, I strongly believe that major events like E3 still matter for gamers and the entertainment industry overall. Holding an event equivalent to the industry’s Super Bowl attracts significant attention to new and exciting developments such as virtual & augmented reality, new console hardware, 4K gaming and AAA games that energizes gamers and industry professionals alike.
E3’s tradition of major press briefings also brings an intense focus on participating developers & publishers that motivate them to bring hardware, software and services to their presentations that live up to the expectations of the annual event. Reveals such as Xbox 360 backwards compatibility on the Xbox One would have been big news under any circumstance, but unveiling it as the hammer for Microsoft’s E3 2015 briefing brought a huge amount of attention and public interest to the announcement.
Twitch, Mixer, Twitter, YouTube and other online services will continue to grow in importance in breaking and sharing news about the video game industry, but the sheer spectacle of E3 and other events such as PAX and The Game Awards will continue to serve as yearly industry milestones that take full advantage of the big stage for the largest possible audience.
At a time when mobile games based on major franchises are increasingly free to play revenue generators or basic collectible games with online service links, it has been refreshing to play the Go series by Square Enix Montreal. Translating their big franchises in Hitman, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and Deus Ex into portable titles that take design elements from each series and distills them down into a turn based, square or diagonal point grid to eliminate enemies in increasingly elaborate puzzles is both surprisingly addictive and savvy in approach.
Porting the games to the PlayStation 4 has been a big win, introducing many console gamers that missed out on the initial mobile launches. The combination of a current console release version, trophies, sale prices and a big screen presentation drove me to try the Lara Croft version followed by Hitman before diving into the iOS versions to play through them again. While Deus Ex Go is currently mobile only, it is expected to follow its Go brethren to Sony’s console and should translate as well onto television screens.
Hitman Go is the most abstract in its interpretation as a board game, rendering Agent 47 and the array of enemies as figures on a grid that knock pieces off with each kill. It has a steep difficulty curve in later levels that relies extensively on complicated pattern shifting that can be frustrating, but the mix of abstract design and clever scenarios make it worthwhile.
Lara Croft Go keeps more of the core adventure style with more focus on navigation and the environment while translating parts of Hitman like the chasing enemies over. It has a wider range of colour palettes and enemy variety to go with treasure hunting side quests layered into each level, making it closer to its inspiration in both aesthetic and action. This is my personal favourite!
Deus Ex Go switches to a triangular grid but keeps many of the other mechanics from the previous Go games. It feels more constrained by the format, in part due to the slower speed and smaller screen of its mobile version.
Overall, Square Enix has a winning formula with this series. The translation of obvious franchises like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts or dark horse candidates (Life is Strange?) are opportunities that I hope they explore.
Amazon Prime is a fascinating service, combining offers on physical goods and virtual services with a product portfolio that is unprecedented in retail. Their ability to combine different products or services (availability varying by region) including same-day delivery from a catalog of millions of physical items, online television and movies, virtual book library, cloud storage, live video game streaming and much more has disrupted every industry that they have decided to compete in.
The last item in the aforementioned list is particularly important for the interactive entertainment world as Twitch Prime combines the premium video quality and subscription support abilities from the pre-acquisition version of their platform with a rolling assortment of free games and in-game content that rivals the benefits of plans such as Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus. This matters for gamers because it marks the first significant PC subscription plan with frequent content available to be claimed; other services or stores such as EA’s Origin and Humble Bundle have dipped their toes in the limited time free game space, but this has the scale and brand recognition to drive a much higher volume of user retention.
The initial offers have been mostly cosmetic or supplemental with items such as a Hearthstone premium hero and SMITE DLC available to be claimed, but there is a huge opportunity for Amazon to add scale to those rotating offers as it continues to add partnership agreements and developers increasingly use their Lumberyard engine to create games.
Where Twitch Prime also holds a distinct edge is its ability to integrate with Amazon Prime’s combination of same-day guaranteed delivery and 20% pre-order/release window discount for physical games. It creates a feedback loop of pre-order, purchase, play and stream that entices gamers to stay firmly with Amazon as their primary source of video game consumption.
Microsoft is making a bold play with their recent acquisition of Beam and YouTube Gaming is a steadily growing competitor, but Amazon is the current market leader in online video game streaming with Twitch and the Prime version of the service only reinforces that dominant position.