E3 2021 came at us from the digital frontier after a struggle with the global pandemic. The year’s biggest gaming event has changed over time, but this year saw the most significant departure from the norm. E3 had to skip 2020 because of the pandemic, but its return took over the entire month of June – starting with Summer Game Fest. Hosted by Geoff Keighley, Summer Game Fest revealed the highly anticipated Elden Ring ahead of E3, and that set the tone for E3 in a way that felt familiar.
Of course, fans of gaming tune in for multiple reveals, but there are always specific titles that we expect. Elden Ring was a great title to set the mood. So, once the official E3 began, anticipation was in the air, and it could have suffocated the show.
I’m not taking a deep dive into the content shown at E3. I will instead point out the show’s overall theme from my perspective. E3 2021 operated successfully on two fronts: Showing new entries of fan-favorite franchises and teasing us with a few of the games on our ‘must-see’ list.
Nostalgia Powered E3
Perhaps it’s not fair to call the phenomenon nostalgia, considering Life is Strange: True Colors falls into my point. Now, what I’m about to say is not a criticism. The digital E3 event mainly showcased the return of popular franchises. Considering the longevity of certain games and their leads, how could it not? If a franchise has staying power, they deserve every sequel and spinoff.
Summer Game Fest revealed the latest entry in the Battlefield series, a Borderlands spinoff, and Ubisoft showed a new Far Cry and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Extraction. Xbox revealed Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite, Psychonauts 2, among other sequels. I can’t forget to mention Metroid Dread and Breath of the Wild 2!
There were plenty of characters of old returning to the spotlight, giving fans plenty to be excited about! Understandably, there were complaints because certain games did not make appearances.
E3 2021 lacked major, new I.P.s
Lacking does not mean there weren’t any new games to speak of. The Xbox and Bethesda showcase presented Starfield. Developer Arkane Austin has Redfall, an open-world, co-op F.P.S. Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora was also revealed. However, all three were cinematic teases.
REPLACED, a 2.5D sci-fi action platformer, is one of the new titles generating buzz. Players take on the role of R.E.A.C.H., an artificial intelligence trapped in a human body. The dark, pixel art direction is a breath of fresh air.
The absence of a mass of new titles isn’t a disappointment so much as it’s an observation. In my opinion, returning to fan-favorites and peppering in a few new names was very much needed for E3’s return.
E3 2021’s true gift – The news that surrounded E3
What I enjoyed most about the event is the news that emerged before and after it. The Xbox Series X|S and PS5 have not been out long. Microsoft and Sony must, as always, prove that their consoles have value in our homes not just now but in the future. I believe that both, on some level, achieved that synergistically.
Microsoft’s vision of the future
On June 10, 2021, Microsoft announced statistics for the Xbox Game Pass program. It has been a massive success for them and the publishers who utilize it, but that is not what I want to focus on. In the same announcement, Microsoft details “Xbox and Xbox Game Pass are Coming to More Screens,” and there are a few bullet points that stand out:
- Xbox is working with global T.V. manufacturers to embed the Xbox experience directly into internet-connected televisions with no extra hardware required except a controller.
- Xbox is building its own streaming devices for cloud gaming to reach gamers on any T.V. or monitor without the need for a console at all.
More ways to game will bring more players to the table, grow the community, and improve our experience overall. No longer having to chase plastic boxes against impossible odds is always welcome. I questioned the value of Game Pass at the beginning of the year. No more! So, if Microsoft intends to offer it directly through a streaming stick or T.V. app, more power to them.
Awaiting Sony’s News
Sony opted out of E3 2021 and did not attend the 2019 show either. I felt their absence. It left me and many others hoping for a post E3 show. Honestly, Sony holds the State of Play semi-regularly, so their attendance does not seem necessary. Still, we’re waiting for news about games like God of War 2, Horizon: Forbidden West, and Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
With healthy competition from Microsoft in a way I did not expect, I’m eager to see Sony’s next step forward.
Jim Ryan did not leave us without some announcement, though it’s unrelated to E3. “We support and encourage cross-play,” he told Axios in an interview published on June 18, 2021. He claims, “That number will continue to grow,” and notes that numerous games support the feature. Sony’s relationship with cross-play support is improving. I won’t discount baby steps toward all platforms existing in a larger ecosystem.
My final thoughts on E3 2021
I have mixed feelings about the presentation itself. Most presentations brought the games, but not everyone was in attendance. Yet, there were numerous titles – in my opinion – worth hopping out of our seats about! Recent blunders will keep the hype in check.
What I enjoyed most was the energy that surrounded the event, from fans and media alike. The announcements and leaks came pouring in. I may not be a fan of leaks, but we gamers must know more about our most anticipated games!
Microsoft and Sony offer ongoing competition through each generation. As much as Xbox One’s multimedia conquest boggled my mind last gen, I’m confident in the value of my Xbox Series X. The same goes for the PS5 I struggled to obtain until this week. E3 took over our minds for a couple of weeks, and in those weeks, I saw promise. If I’m excited about the future of gaming, E3 2021 served its purpose.