LOS ANGELES — Traditionally, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is the place where video game publishers reveal their biggest and boldest creations. That’s changed in recent years as game release dates have moved beyond the holiday season and leaks about upcoming titles have spread across the Internet.
“It’s true that the Internet and social media are allowing ideas to fly quickly,” said Yves Guillemot, CEO of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry publisher Ubisoft. “This year, we were able to keep Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege a secret, so we were very happy with that.”
In the months leading up to this year’s trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, an unprecedented amount of both deliberate publicity campaigns announcing new games and seemingly unintentional breeches about upcoming titles meant that much of the typical E3 hype landed with a thud.
Can game makers still astonish?
“I still think it’s possible to surprise people,” said Matt Nava, the former Journey art director who wowed the crowd at Sony’s press conference last week with footage of Abzu, his undersea fantasy coming in 2016. “There’s still so many places you can take people where they never imagined they could go before.”
A sampling of some big surprises at this year’s E3:
Cuphead: Despite receiving only a few seconds of screen time during Microsoft’s briefing, the old-school 1930s animated art style of this run-and-gun game from indie developer Studio MDHR captured attendees’ imaginations. It’s coming to the Xbox One as part of Microsoft’s ID@Xbox indie initiative.
Powers: Sony touted a show set for its online service: a live-action adaptation of the graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis.
LittleBigPlanet 3: The prospect of a new LittleBigPlanet was a long shot. That made the revelation of LBP 3 coming to PlayStation 4 later this year with playable sidekicks a bombshell.
Splatoon: Nintendo unveiling Skylanders-like figures or a Legend of Zelda installment for the Wii U didn’t catch gamers off-guard, but no one guessed that the Mario Bros. maker was working on a zany online multiplayer shooter featuring an original crew of shape-shifting squids battling each other with paint guns.
Alien: Isolation: Buried in a press release was the shocker that Alien: Isolation, the upcoming survival game based on the original Alien film, would also be playable with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
Other jolts this week included the procedurally generated indie game No Man’s Sky bringing some gamers to tears at Sony’s briefing, and Electronic Arts launching the multiplayer beta test for the cops-and-robbers game Battlefield Hardline.