2020 has been an unusual year, that's for sure.
If we think back to our expectations at the end of 2019, there was plenty to look forward to for gamers across the spectrum. Both Microsoft and Sony had new hardware coming, and despite Nintendo's slate looking relatively blank (aside from Animal Crossing), there were sure to be some big announcements coming, likely from the inevitable E3 2020 Nintendo Direct.
Except that it wasn't inevitable. Even before the global pandemic led to E3 2020's cancellation, it arguably felt like a make-or-break year for the expo. It was set to be rebranded as a "fan, media and influencer festival", which may have excited some gamers, but left us feeling uneasy over the direction it was heading.
it's been a challenge to keep track of every stream and broadcast, with announcements spread out across several digital stages
We've discussed before how E3 was--and still is--an exciting time of year and how its gradual transformation from an industry-focused event into one of many fan shows arguably diluted its appeal for the vast majority of people who don't physically attend the show. With organisers who lacked experience putting on fan-focused events, the past few years left many attendees unsatisfied, and plans for "queuetainment" didn't sound promising this year. Still, it had the potential to be one of the biggest E3 in years (Sony's no-show notwithstanding).
In its place, numerous online substitutes and events from a host of media outlets and publishers have filled the summer schedule and kept us busy in lockdown. Volume-wise, we probably had around the same amount of gaming news (with Nintendo being the exception), but it's certainly been a challenge to keep track of every stream and broadcast, with announcements spread out across several digital stages.
That's not to say we haven't enjoyed the events that have sprung up in E3's stead, especially considering the challenging circumstances they've been organised around. Several indie events have done a great job of highlighting smaller teams, and Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest has provided a curated platform to highlight new games. Of all the major reveals, Sony’s PS5 reveal presentation seemed to go down the best with fans – ironically the most straightforward, old-school approach of the lot. Billed as 'The Future of Gaming', it served up an hour of gameplay trailers, talking heads and teased hardware shots before finishing up with the full PS5 console reveal. Microsoft's recent Xbox Games Showcase was accompanied by a host of demos made available following the presentation, and gave us a glimpse of what an online version of E3 could be like in the future.
Nintendo’s 'little-and-often' approach has been novel, though it hasn't pleased everyone
However, despite all the alternatives, we have to admit we've missed the focus that the lens of E3 brings every year to disparate gaming announcements. The fog of partnerships and semi-affiliated events we've seen in 2020 has been a tad overwhelming even for seasoned gamers, let alone casual fans. It's all been a bit scattershot.
Nintendo’s 'little-and-often' approach has been novel, though it hasn't pleased everyone. The announcement and relatively swift release of Paper Mario: The Origami King went down well, for example; the Bakugan Champions of Vestroia reveal and Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase less so. Nintendo obviously has games up its sleeve for the back half of 2020, but for gamers desperate for an E3-style full-fat Nintendo Direct, these mini-presentations aren't quite scratching the itch. It's not a big deal in a bigger broadcast if several announcements don't do anything for you, but if you're not into Cadence of Hyrule or Shin Megami Tensei, it's tough to get excited when they're the lone stars under the spotlight.
Admittedly, despite clear messaging, it's clear that some people simply don’t read - you can't expect first-party announcements in a Mini Direct clearly labelled 'Partner Showcase'. However, this disregard for the details is driven by a hunger for substantial news--a big old juicy burger of a blow-out--which this summer's drip feed of announcements hasn't satisfied. Whether the adaptive approach taken this summer has been better for publishers isn't clear, although Ubisoft noted that its Ubisoft Forward presentation "achieved record-high peak concurrent viewership during this event, surpassing our previous E3 conferences", according to chief financial officer Frédérick Duguet.
In fact, several presentations have ended with the tease of another: the first Pokémon stream teased the second (which ultimately didn't go down well with fans), Nintendo said there will be future Partner Showcases, and Ubisoft announced another event was on the way. Presumably, this tactic is engineered to keep buzz levels high, but as a viewer you're left hanging; you're left with the distinct impression that you're not getting the full Monty.
But what do you think? Have you missed the blow-out buffet of E3 this year or have you found the more frequent alternative appetisers just as satisfying? Pining for a packed presentation, or placated by a platter of proxies? Let us know by voting in the polls below and share your thoughts in the comments: