E3 2016 Preview: Electronic Arts

EA is deciding to start the party this year by throwing their own party.  Instead of attending the show, they are hosting the EA Play event across town.  That won’t stop them from having a press conference though, and they are jumping from their usual Monday afternoon spot to 1 PM on Sunday.  And like every year, we also have a good idea of what might be there due to their recent financial statement.  The big surprise that won’t be there is Need for Speed.  Last year’s reboot didn’t go as well as they hoped, so they are taking another year off.  EA will also be releasing Mirror’s Edge Catalyst soon, so I would expect an acknowledgement of it without showing anything.  EA has been criticized heavily for their press conferences the past two years, and now all eyes will be on them going first and out on their own.  They have a potentially interesting lineup, and I’m curious to see if they can show it off properly.

Mass Effect Andromeda

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As is series tradition at this point, Mass Effect Andromeda recently got delayed out of Q4 2016 and into Q1 2017.  Despite that, it will still have a huge presence at EA’s conference this year.  I expect the game to get a full length demo, possibly to start the show.  What they choose to show will be interesting.  Last year’s CGI trailer tried to communicate the wild west style, the fact that the mako is back, and some new gameplay mechanics.  I expect to see all of those in action this year in a demo that might even follow a similar structure as the trailer.  I could totally see them choosing a planet to visit, driving the mako for a little, and then getting into a fight.  However, the biggest draw to Mass Effect is the story and more specifically the characters.  I expect them to have the protagonist interact with one or two party members and maybe a quest giver on the planet they visit.  And that’s about it.  I think it is too early for a release date and that there is plenty of time to release things like story trailers.  I also think it’s possible that they release a Mass Effect Collection to hold people over, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Other BioWare Games

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BioWare is a prolific studio though, and I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable that we won’t see anything else out of them.  BioWare Montreal is working on Mass Effect right now, but Edmenton is known to be working on a new IP.  This game might have taken a hit when Casey Hudson left the studio, but they have confirmed that it is still in development.  It was two years ago when they first mentioned it and showed some screenshots, so it might be time to formally announce it.  However, they might want to get Mass Effect out the door first.  After the success of Dragon Age: Inquisition, it would make sense that they plan on continuing that universe too.  However, DLC for Inquisition just wrapped last year, so I wouldn’t expect to hear about Dragon Age until at least 2017.  BioWare Austin will probably announce a new expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The recent boom in Star Wars popularity has helped that game a lot, and they have been able to put out expansions on a yearly basis.  Austin cancelled their new game Shadow Realms last year to focus on The Old Republic.  I imagine that’s still where all of their focus is, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if they tried something new again.

Battlefield 1

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EA’s big game for the fall is going to be Battlefield 1, the new entry in the franchise that takes it to World War I.  We know a fair bit about the game, but we haven’t seen any actual gameplay yet.  I think it is obvious that they will show a demo at the show.  What’s less obvious is what will be in the demo.  Battlefield has always been a multiplayer focused franchise, but they have spent a fair amount of time talking about the singleplayer in Battlefield 1.  Looking at previous games, Battlefield 4 had a singleplayer demo at the Microsoft conference and a multiplayer one at EA, Battlefield Hardline had a multiplayer demo at EA, and Battlefront had multiplayer at EA and co-op at Sony.  I would expect something similar to Battlefield 4 this time.  My only concern is that EA won’t show up at any other conference because they’re hosting their own event.  If they do only show one thing I expect it to be multiplayer, especially since they probably want people at the EA Play event to play the multiplayer there.

Titanfall 2

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EA has another big shooter this year too.  Titanfall 2 is rumored to be coming out in October, which would be weird considering that’s also when Battlefield comes out.  The sequel to an early Xbox One exclusive will be coming to all platforms this time and will also feature a campaign.  And while they might want to stress the campaign part, I think it’s obvious that the focus is still going to be on the multiplayer.  The short teaser trailer they put out showed a titan with a sword, and the leaked promotional art showed a grappling hook.  I could see both of these featuring heavily in a multiplayer demo.  I’m excited to play Titanfall 2, but I’m not expecting much from the demo.  In fact, I bet it will be a lot like the demo for the first game because they probably don’t want to do too much to change a good thing.  Showing two demos for multiplayer shooters might drag down the conference, but it can work if they are both exciting and different from each other.

Star Wars Battlefront 2

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It was recently confirmed that a sequel to last year’s wildly successful Battlefront reboot will be coming out in 2017.  I don’t expect to see it at the show because it would be the third multiplayer shooter, and they probably don’t have much to show yet.  However, it is the only Star Wars game which will be available next year, and I think EA wants to show at least one Star Wars thing at the show.  If neither of the other projects are ready to be shown, then a short Battlefront trailer wouldn’t hurt.

Other Star Wars Games

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The other two Star Wars games in development right now are Stig Asmussen’s game at Respawn and Amy Hennig’s game at Visceral.  Both have been described as third person action games, and given the pedigree I think it’s safe to assume that the Respawn game will be in the style of God of War and the Visceral game will be in the style of Uncharted.  In fact, I think the Visceral game will look very similar to the cancelled Star Wars 1313.  It also won’t be out until 2018, and we have no release window on the Respawn game.  Announcing a game two years in advance is probably too early, but we have known about this game for a while.  I think putting out a title and a CGI trailer that gets people excited wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  It could also build on the excitement surrounding Uncharted 4 by putting “From the creator of Uncharted” in the trailer.  The Respawn game is probably further off, and I wouldn’t expect to see anything until next year at the earliest.

New Criterion Game

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Two years ago, EA showed a developer diary a their conference for something Criterion was working on.  It was very early in development, but the idea seemed promising.  It looked like they were taking their experience with racing games and expanding it to helicopters, boats, ATVs, and pretty much every other form of transportation.  They didn’t give it a title and showed only concept art and very early footage.  Last year this game was nowhere to be seen.  If it doesn’t show up this year, it’s probably dead.  However, it has been a while since Criterion put out a game.  The studio is much smaller than it used to be, but it’s still a big name.  Whether or not it’s this game, I think we will see something from Criterion at E3.  If it’s not the game they showed two years ago, then the obvious thing would be a new Burnout.  I think a new Burnout game makes sense, especially while Need for Speed is struggling, but I don’t think it’s likely.  I hope to see Criterion at E3 this year, but I think it’s about 50/50 on whether or not we actually do.

Hazelight

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Hazelight was announced back at The Game Awards 2014, and we haven’t seen anything from it since.  And I mean nothing.  No leaks, not even developer updates.  The last thing on their website is a post from 2014 that says they will be using Unreal Engine 4.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that Hazelight is just the name of the studio and that the game will be called something else.  However, it was mentioned in a recent interview with EA’s Patrick Söderlund.  This could mean that an announcement is fairly imminent.  Hazelight is a new studio, but it is mostly made up of people who worked on Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  Brothers was a special game, so I’m excited to see what Hazelight is about.  Normally I would say that EA wouldn’t announce a game like this on their E3 stage, but they did show Unravel last year.  If they want to keep up the appearance that they are supporting smaller developers, which they very clearly do, Hazelight would be a good title to show at E3.

EA Sports

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Much to the chagrin of a lot of people, EA has to talk about sports at this thing.  Those games are incredibly popular, so they are going to get time on stage.  The smart thing to do would be to spread them out.  Last year’s show started strong and then just got weighed down by sports presentations that weren’t very good.  But regardless of how they pull it off, just the mention of sports is going to make some people groan.  But putting that aside, FIFA, Madden, and NHL are all going to be there.  Those are all franchises that saw solid entries last year and will probably announce some new features for this year’s games.  EA also released an underwhelming golf game last year.  I don’t know if they want to return to that well immediately, but we could see some sort of announcement for a game that will be out next year.  The biggest question is NBA Live.  The struggling series won’t be launching this fall and will instead be launching in the middle of the next NBA season.  This probably means that they want to take more time on this game and won’t be ready to show anything at E3.  However, anything is possible.

Skate 4

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I am almost positive that Skate 4 is in development.  Due to becoming popular on youtube, Skate 3 started to chart again in 2014 despite being a 2010 game.  Now, every post on EA’s social media feeds are filled with comments asking for Skate 4.  Then when you consider the anger that followed the disastrous release of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5  last year, it would be foolish of EA not to see a market there.  And when you’re hosting an event specifically for fans, this is the type of announcement you make.  The only question would be who makes it.  Black Box was shut down, so there is no go to answer.  But that’s a problem worth solving, and maybe it’s what Criterion is working on.

 

And that’s EA.  I don’t think all of these games will 100% be shown, but that’s about everything I can think of that could possibly be there.  If they do it right, this could make for a great show.  They just need to pace it correctly.  Last year’s conference actually showed some cool games, but it got bogged down with back to back sports demos.  This year could have that same problem with both sports and shooters.  By being bold enough to go out on their own, they are putting a lot of expectations on themselves.  I hope and believe that they can deliver on them.

 

 

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