E3 2018 Preview: Electronic Arts & Bethesda
E3 is almost upon us, so let’s take a look at we could expect from this year’s show with EA and Bethesda as our first two third-party press conferences of E3 2018.
Now that the three big platform holders settled in with their current pieces of hardware for the next few years, this year’s show should be all about the games, and that’s good news for third parties. EA once again kicks off this year’s show with their EA Play showcase on Saturday, June 9 at 11 AM PT/2 PM ET. This is the day before everybody else since EA hosts their own show outside of E3. Bethesda steps back on the stage for another year as the second press conference on Sunday, June 10 at 6:30 PM PT/9:30 PM ET. You can find each of their shows streaming on Twitch, Youtube, and other streaming platforms along with our own SmashPad Twitter account tweeting out the news at it happens if you’re unable to watch them on your own.
EA has their work cut out for them since last year’s show was not great with Need for Speed Payback and Star Wars Battlefront 2 bombing hard due to microtransaction backlash and/or general disinterest. They debuted Anthem at Microsoft’s press conference to a lot of interest, but the word of mouth around Destiny 2 post-launch and the poor reception to Mass Effect Andromeda makes the decision to have Bioware make a Destiny-style RPG a potential bomb if they can’t address some key concerns. Anthem will be their big tentpole title for this year’s show as they announced early that we’ll get a new trailer, some new gameplay footage, and a look at the core combat. They’ll have an interesting tightrope to walk when presenting the game. It has to prove to Bioware fans burned by Mass Effect Andromeda that they’re putting a better foot forward for their next game, even if the same developers and constraints are not in place for this new game. When courting Destiny fans for Anthem, they have to prove that they’re not falling for the same traps that Bungie fell into trying to make Destiny 2 a better but more shallow experience that didn’t offer much of a reason for hardcore fans to keep playing it indefinitely.
Battlefield 5 looks to be their other big tentpole game as the latest big shooter from Dice. The announcement event seemed to be a big success despite a small amount of people being upset for questionable reasons that may be more about their own issues than the game. Returning to World War II and having the campaign focus on lesser-known stories beyond the mainstays will be a fresh breath of air compared to last year’s stale Call of Duty: WWII campaign. The multiplayer looks to bring a big focus on chaos and customization. Cosmetics will be a big part of the experience now that the premium pass will not be a part of Battlefield V. This means all players will get the maps for free and those that want to look different can purchase special items to customize their characters without having to worry about loot crates. It very well may be the tentpole shooter of this fall with the way that Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’s lack of campaign has give the shooter king a major crack in their armor for EA to capitalize on when trying to sell their game.
With the Star Wars license, EA only has one other potential game to show that could top Anthem–Respawn’s game with God of War III director Stig Asmussen at the helm. That could be a gamechanger for EA’s fortunes with the Star Wars license if Respawn’s game is ready to show since that is kind of it for them right now. Battlefront 2 will, at best, get some talk about a new update. The Amy Hennig game at Visceral Games was cancelled and moved to another developer, which doesn’t seem likely to be ready any time soon.
On their other fronts, EA Sports should show their standard set of offerings with Madden NFL 19, FIFA 19, NHL 19, and NBA Live 19. Yes, NBA Live 19 should be back since last year’s game was actually pretty good and it seemed to garner enough good will with the many sales it had at $10 or less. That should give the team some confidence–they don’t have to start over yet again and should be able to build on what worked well last year for the first time in nearly a decade. I don’t see any racing game action for this year’s show since Need for Speed is in a state of irrelevance after Payback launched with a microtransaction design every bit as rotten as Star Wars Battlefront 2, but because nobody played Payback, there were no complaints about that. The only surprise here would be if Burnout returned for a brand new game, which would beg the question of who would be making that since Criterion is a support studio at best now. Most of the devs that moved over to Ghost Games, which made a subpar Burnout clone called Need for Speed Payback.
With the huge success of A Way Out, look for EA’s Originals program to get a renewed focus with at least one new announcement, if not more, to show their commitment to helping indies get the support they need. There don’t seem to be any rumors about potential titles, so this part of the show is wide open for possibilities. EA Access is the last part of EA’s offerings, though I doubt that there is much more than a brief update announcing additions to Star Wars Battlefront II and Need for Speed Payback.
The only surprises I could see happening with EA’s show is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 3 and Titanfall 3, which would continue those popular multiplayer shooters. If so, they would hopefully launch in early 2019 to stay out of Battlefield’s way and avoid the launch date issues that Titanfall 2 ran into between Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in 2016. EA finally announcing Switch support for more than their contractually-required FIFA game would be a big surprise, but which titles that includes would be the million-copy question. Madden seems obvious for a general audience, but do they bring the other sports titles to Switch to try to capture that audience with the general lack of licensed sports games on the system? Anthem and Battlefield 5 don’t seem likely to make the jump to the Switch with the way that EA has reacted to the Switch thus far.
Bethesda comes into E3 having done us some favors by announcing two of their big games ahead of time. Rage 2 is the rebellious sequel to the original id Software game that was from their pre-Bethesda acquisition era when id was more of an engine provider than a developer. The original game was more like an ambitious tech demo for megatextures than a compelling game. This time around, Rage 2 has more attitude to it with a punk Mad Max or Borderlands-style to it, which makes sense because the developer of the recent Mad Max game, Avalanche Studios, is co-developer on Rage 2 with id Software. That put the game on the map by combining the over-the-top sensibilities of the Just Cause developers with the rejuvenated studio that released the great Doom reboot two years ago.
Fallout 76 was Bethesda’s other pre-E3 announcement that came out of nowhere until they teased it the day before with a “Please Stand By” gif. The rumors suggest this game is an online multiplayer survival spin-off in the vein as DayZ or Rust. It sound like they took the settlement building part of Fallout 4 and made that into its own game with co-op and online support. We’ll have to wait to see if there is anything for fans of the open world RPG part of the Fallout experience. Additionally, it will be interesting to see they follow Fallout 4’s model by releasing this fall.
The rest of what Bethesda may present at this year’s show could go a number of different ways. For games that are out right now, there are a few updates they could do. The Elder Scrolls Online is getting its Summerset expansion the week before, so that could get a quick trailer to acknowledge its release. A normal Elder Scrolls game could be teased somewhere, but with Fallout 76 being co-developed between Bethesda Game Studios and Bethesda Austin suggests they don’t need to rush that out anytime soon, especially since the Skyrim remaster is still raking in the money and the team is working on something else for the time being. We may also get word of the next big update to The Elder Scrolls: Legends, adding to the reasons why a mainline Elder Scrolls game likely won’t be announced here.
We could see an update on when Quake Champions is leaving Early Access with a full release, especially if it’s really going to be free-to-play. There is a long-running rumor that a possible Prey expansion could be standalone like the Dishonored 2 expansion that was announced at last year’s show. It may focus on a new facility on the moon, and their teaser tweet is still pinned on the Prey Twitter account.
The big rumor that fans of trademark filings have been speculating about is that Starfield will finally be revealed. This reveal was originally teased for last E3’s show, but skipping E3 only fueled Bethesda rumor mongers even further. There was also a potential mobile tie-in associated with this space sci-fi RPG that could make its grand appearance at any point. It would be a suitable new IP to unveil this year.
Doom did really well when it launched in 2016, though sales weren’t quite as good as the critical and fan praise from those who played it. Do we see a Doom 2 announcement to make this a more confusing sequel to talk about compared to the original Doom 2? It would certainly get a big pop from fans, so it’s something to look out for on Sunday.
Bethesda was one of the few big publishers supporting VR last year with Doom VFR, Skyrim VR, and Fallout 4 VR, which all seemed to do really well as big IPs for PSVR and Vive owners to fawn over. Fallout 4 VR getting a release announcement for PSVR would be long overdue, but what else could they adapt for VR if they’re not doing new titles? Prey? Quake? Dishonored? This will be an interesting part of the show to keep an eye on any VR offerings that Bethesda has in the works.
Do we see more Switch offerings after the huge success of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Doom, and the upcoming Wolfenstein II release? That could include games like Prey, Elder Scrolls Legends, and maybe Fallout Shelter for a less resource-intensive Fallout game that the Switch could handle. This could be a part of Bethesda’s offerings that would be more likely to show up on Nintendo’s E3 Direct on Tuesday instead of at Bethesda’s main show.
Bethesda certainly has potential to steal the attention from the other third-parties doing press conferences at E3 if Fallout 76, Rage 2, and whatever else they have to announce looks as good as they could. You’ll have to tune in on Sunday night to see how their show goes.
Stay tuned for the next E3 Preview feature on what to expect from Square Enix, Ubisoft, and the rest of the third-parties at E3 2018.