Reviewing EA’s E3 2016 Press Conference

EA thought that this would be a good year to break away from E3 and host their own event adjacent to the traditional convention.  This led me and plenty of other people to think that they really had something special planned.  Boy were we wrong.  EA’s showing was by far the worst of E3.  The gimmick of having Peter Moore in London and Andrew Wilson in LA worked, but not much else did.

They did start the show with a showstopper though.  Titanfall 2 looks amazing, and it had a great showing at the conference.  It started with a multiplayer trailer that showed plenty of new abilities, focusing heavily on the grappling hook, but also reminded me of what made the first game so great.  They then showed a trailer for the singleplayer campaign.  I’m one of the people who is against the idea of Titanfall 2 having a campaign, but I’m happy to see that they seem to be going all out with it.  The story is focused on the bond formed between a pilot and a titan, and that sounds both incredibly silly and heartwarming.  These guys made some good Call of Duty campaigns in the past, so I have hopes that they can pull this off.  This was all followed by a release date of October 28.  Releasing this game a week away from Battlefield might be a dumb move, but it also might be a way to really make a dent into Call of Duty.  We’ll just have to wait and see what the result of that decision is.

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Sadly, the conference never came close to reaching this high again.  They transitioned into Madden with what was a pretty good high-action trailer.  Then everything fell apart.  As if sports weren’t boring enough for most of the audience (myself not included), they needed to double down and promote E-sports.  Peter Moore talked about their initiative to make competitive gaming available to everyone with new events.  He didn’t really describe any of them though or give specific examples of how they will be implemented.  This meant that it was both boring and pointless, something a press conference should never be.  They then showed a quick video about two Madden players before bringing a group of them out on stage to do nothing.  But that wasn’t all.  Peter Moore had to go back on stage to talk more about the Madden Championships before finally moving on.  This segment was terrible, and it makes me think that they have nothing exciting coming to Madden this year.

But don’t worry, BioWare’s here.  They’re going to save us, right?  Wrong.  What happened next was the most disappointing showing of all E3.  The GM of BioWare was on stage giving his general pitch for the game followed by a trailer which showed brief shots of gameplay and other shots people sitting at computers.  This game comes out in less than a year.  They needed to show a demo.  But even if they didn’t show a demo, they needed to show a prepared presentation that feels like something complete and tangible.  We saw developers sitting at computers two years ago, you don’t need to convince us that people make these games.  It just gives me the vibe that they aren’t ready to show anything yet, and it really makes me question the validity of the Spring release window.  Seeing the main character was nice, and it was cool to finally see stuff that was in-game.  It was just disappointing to see nothing more than that.  This is a big game, but it  EA was treating it like an afterthought.

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Andrew Wilson then took the stage to talk about the fact that they update their games.  That’s…great.  I mean, I know that you do that.  Every video game publishers does that.  Why is this a big enough deal to talk about on an E3 stage?  He then transitioned into the Play to Give charity initiative which is legitimately cool.  More publishers should do things like this, and props to EA for doing so.

Then it was time for FIFA.  They showed a trailer for their story mode, and I think story modes in sports games are a cool idea.  But they then had the main character come on stage and monologue about his life story.  That was pretty terrible.  I think EA doesn’t realize that the only thing people hate more than sports games demos are people talking about sports games.  They always try to add gimmicks to them, whether it is this dude’s monologue, a live fantasy draft, NBA Live slam poetry, or Drake talking about FIFA.  You can show a quick trailer that gets the sports fans excited and doesn’t annoy the rest of the crowd too much.  But when you try to appeal to everyone, you really don’t appeal to anybody.  The sports fans want to see the game, and everyone else just wants the segment to end.  This presentation continued with Peter Moore talking about them putting real coaches in the game, and then some soccer coach I don’t recognize came on stage and stared at him for a few minutes.  Then another person came on stage to talk about FIFA.  He’s gave a short presentation about new features that probably should have been the only FIFA thing they did, and now they had spent ten minutes on a game plenty of people watching didn’t care about.

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But let’s drop the bitterness because Patrick Soderlund came out to talk about EA Originals, which is basically the new EA Partners.  The Partners program never worked out great, but it is nice to see EA continue to try to fund independent projects and studios they don’t own.  The first of these is Fe.  The developer came up on stage and seemed very genuine about everything.  He then showed the trailer, and it looked promising.  I don’t know exactly what the game is, but it looks like somewhat of a stylized 3D platformer where you interact with different creatures in the environment.  It didn’t blow my mind in the same way Unravel did last year, but it could be cool.

Then Jade Raymond came on stage to talk about Star Wars.  Awesome, I had no idea what she was working on was ready to be shown.  It turns out it wasn’t.  We saw a video that showed the different developers currently working on Star Wars games.  In terms of actual new information, we saw a short clip of the Visceral game and some mo-cap actors from the Respawn game that confirm lightsabers will be involved.  Everything else was fluff.  I guess that this is what you do when you have the Star Wars license and nothing to show for it, but they should really have something to show for it by now.  It’s been three years and all we have gotten is a mobile game, an expansion to their MMO and an under cooked FPS.  The sequel to that FPS will be the next thing we get, and the actually exciting projects won’t be here until 2018 or later.  This presentation only further hammered home how weak EA’s Star Wars output has been.  And honestly, a CGI trailer and a title for the Visceral game would have been more effective.  It wouldn’t be much, but it would make it seem like a real game and not just an abstract concept.

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Then came the most bizarre Battlefield 1 segment you could ever imagine.  They showed a small part of a trailer.  Then they talked for a bit.  Then they interviewed Zac Efron and Jamie Foxx who couldn’t have been any less interested in what was happening.  Then they talked some more.  Then they showed the full length version of that trailer.  I can’t comprehend how they thought any of that was a good idea.  The E3 audience doesn’t care about bored celebrities, and you don’t tease a trailer that you are going to show in ten minutes.  If you wanted you could watch celebrities be bad at the game after the conference, but they chose not to show gameplay in the conference for some weird reason.  I have no idea why, and it all honestly feels like  a mistake.  It could have been a strong closer to a mediocre conference, but it was instead a train wreck that solidified this conference as being bad.

To put it simply, EA’s conference sucked.  It wasn’t a disaster like Sony 2006 or Konami 2010, but those at least have an entertainment factor to them.  EA was just boring.  Titanfall looks great and Fe could be cool.  Mass Effect and Battlefield will be good games that were just shown poorly.  In fact, every game EA showed will probably be good.  But if this press conference was your first exposure to them, you would have no idea why.  Mass Effect was the biggest blunder because it could have had a ton of hype coming out of the show but is now being completely overlooked by games that actually had something to show.

Final Score: 1 Star

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