It is that time of year that all hardcore videogame followers yearn for – the kick-off of the Summer Gaming Convention Season with the Electronics Entertainment Expo (a.k.a. E3 Baby!)

I’m HobbyBoxBurns and I’m starting off my contributions to Outside is Overrated by following the announcements and hubbub surrounding E3 2018.

For the uninitiated, E3 is the first showcase of the gaming fiscal year where all of the gaming publishers and developers gather in Los Angeles, CA to show off what they are cooking for the coming year and beyond. However, this isn’t just targeted at games enthusiasts (in fact, regular fans couldn’t even attend the event until last year) – it is also where the companies pitch their roadmap to investors and wholesalers as to why their games are going to be awesome and need to be distributed in mass quantities everywhere.

Anyway, enough with the E3 background, and onto the first conference/showcase of E3 2018 with the EA Play Showcase.

Why is E3 2018 Important to EA?

It isn’t hyperbole to state that this is the most important E3 ever for Electronic Arts (EA). 2017 was most likely the worst year in the companies’ history, which may seem surprising given this is the company that has been named the “Most Hated Company” for multiple years in the past and in general has always been viewed as the “Evil Empire” of video game publishers (no surprise they ended up with the Star Wars license, right).

To prove my point, I only have to say one much maligned gaming phrase: loot boxes.

No company was torn apart to the level that EA was around the whole 2017 revolt against all things loot boxes. From the moment DICE developed Star Wars Battlefront II was given to reviewers, the company has been in a constant state of backpedaling and apologizing for the mistakes they made surrounding the impact of loot boxes on their progression systems within the game.

DICE and EA were instantly attacked by reviewers for how much the game was broken by the purchasable Star Cards, which then led to Reddit and the entire fan community exploding in rage. It even culminated in a reported call from Disney themselves, where I imagine Mickey Mouse dropped the nice-guy guise and cursed out the EA executives as they were worried it was going to lead to backlash against their release of The Last Jedi less than a month later.

Even with the success of many of their sports titles for the year, investors wavered as EA was continuously mentioned in all discussions of loot boxes and many articles, videos, and discussions centered around whether Disney needed to take away the Star Wars license from EA completely. These fires were only fueled by the closure of Visceral Studios and the cancellation of their Star Wars game, which was helmed by Amy Henning, the fan-favorite creator of Uncharted and lead writer of the first three entries in that series.

With their EA Play presentation this year, Electronic Arts needed to move past the drama of 2017 and sell some of the big releases they have coming down the pipeline. They needed to say what was next with Star Wars and give more details on their next big series, Anthem. And with the announcement of Battlefield V being set in World War II, they also need to deliver on how the series was evolving as well as what angle they would be approaching this conflict from, in the series’ first return since 2009’s Battlefield 1943.

What Was Announced?

I’ll try to lay out the biggest announcements in order of importance – though that is ultimately always subjective.

  • In the first of many announcements of its type at this year’s E3 – it was confirmed that Battlefield V will include a Battle Royale mode, which they referred to simply as Royale mode. No specifics as to number of players was specified, but it was mentioned that it would occur on the multiplayer maps they are utilizing for their other modes. More details were said to be coming in the summer. They showed a multiplayer trailer at this conference and will be revealing their single player during the Microsoft XBox showcase on June 10. Battlefield V is set to release on October 19 to PS4, XBox One, and PC via Origin.
  • In what will go down as one of the strangest reveals in videogame history, the next EA produced Star Wars game was announced by Vince Zampella, studio head at Respawn Entertainment. Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order will take place in between Star Wars Episodes III and IV and deals with the extermination of the Jedi from the galaxy. The game is being directed by Stig Asmussen, director of God of War III and Zampella confirmed you would be able to wield a “lightsaber” during “dark times” and that the game will be “awesome.” The game is scheduled for a Holiday 2019 release.
  • Two new games were announced under the EA Originals umbrella. ColdWood Interactive announced and instantly released Unravel Two – a sequel that now can be played completely in couch co-operative fashion or in a solo mode controlling both Yarnies.
  • The second EA Originals reveal is Sea of Solitude from Jo Mei Studios in Berlin, Germany. In what was an instantly endearing presentation, the game centers around exploring how humans when they become too lonely turn into monsters and how the only way to become human  again is to re-balance the emotions. The trailer had an interesting art style and seemed quite compelling – though it is hard to see how much of the emotions mentioned in the presentation are just subtext or are actually a part of the experience.
  • FIFA 19 will integrate the UEFA Champions League into all game modes, a first for the series (the license for the Champions League used to be owned by Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer). They also mentioned a story mode starring Alex Hunter will be back for the third straight year.
  • Battlefront II will be getting a future update adding the planet of Geonosis from the prequel trilogy and the Clone Wars and will include new playable heroes and villains of General Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Count Dooku, and General Grievous.
  • Command & Conquer is back! … as a new mobile RTS game, simplifying down the franchise to a battle between two sides to take over a control point and nuke your opponent (wah wah waaaaaaahhhhh). Want to see eight-plus minutes of cringe, take a look at the reveal in conference.
  • EA also announced an expansion of their Origin Access, which will be called Origin Access Premier. Only available on PC, this will allow access to all EA games released via a subscription price. The cost is $14,99/month or $99.99/year, but if you want to play everything that EA releases, as well as some other independent releases, this might be the program for you. Alongside this, they also discussed finding ways to make the games they make available everywhere people want to play them, including on PC and on mobile.

What About Anthem?

Anthem had a huge blow-out at the end of the conference that was full of lots of description from the developers (including new/old BioWare studio head Casey Hudson).

There will be four different classes (called Javelins in the game): Ranger, Colossus, Interceptor, and Storm. Unlike games like Destiny 2, you can switch between the different classes/javelins as needed when you leave the hub world. Similar to other games in this type of genre, players

BioWare did state that there will be no loot boxes. Cosmetics packs will be available, but it was stated that “you will know what you are buying before you purchase it.”

The main focus of the game will be on story and creating a co-op experience per how they talked about the game. Having different sets of the javelins in a group opens up different combos that you can use against enemies that will do more damage and open up more possibilities. It was also stated that players wanting to play alone can do so, thought it will be “a bit more difficult” to play the game that way.

However, that wasn’t all of the information. After the conference, Game Informer released more information that contextualized the game quite a bit more and ultimately made its main competition less Destiny 2 and more so Monster Hunter World.

Ultimately, my descriptions can only go so far. Take a look at the gameplay and discussion below.

What Can I Play Now?

  • FIFA 18 has a free trial period starting on June 9 in which players can play the entire game with no limitations, including their newly announced 2018 World Cup free update to the game. While the timeframe wasn’t specified either in the conference or after, so get it while it is hot!
  • Unravel Two, the follow-up to the 2016 Indie darling Unravel developed by ColdWood Interactive as the first game in EA’s Originals initiative, was announced during the presentation and is available now on PS4, XBox 1 and PC for $20.
  • Star Wars Battlefront 2’s Solo: A Star Wars Story tie-in expansion is available as a free update for the game presently.
  • Command & Conquer Rivals is available for a Pre-Alpha version on Android devices as of the conference (whatever Pre-Alpha means).

How Did EA Do?

This is definitely more subjective – and the majority of folks watching tended to tear EA a new one for their poor showing and awkward announcements, including a super strange Madden 19 E Sports discussion that I’m still wondering to myself “What was the point?”

In my opinion, I think they improved some of the things they were torn apart for previously. However, there were still some really awkward portions that don’t tend to happen at other shows as regularly as they do at EA Play. I think the EA Origins initiative is continuing to pump out some interesting ideas that wouldn’t get this level of attention if EA didn’t focus on them.

While the Battlefront II discussion had a slight apology for not getting it right from the start, it really seems like they needed a bit more of a mea culpa here in order to try to get more people into the game and to invest not only in this iteration of Battlefront, but whatever they might do with the franchise in the future.

As much of a let-down as some of this is, EA has learned from the mistakes of the past and I believe are improving their presentations. By breaking out large multiplayer gameplay into separate streams, it should eliminate the complaints of some of the awkwardness from the previous gameplay blowouts of Battlefield 1 and Battlefront II that took up so much time during the main presentation.

But, E3 has begun! Much more exciting announcements are coming soon with the June 10 presentations of Microsoft and Bethesda, with the rest of the conferences coming on Monday leading up to the opening of the conferences on Tuesday.