E3 2017: The Year of NEW Video Game Franchises?
In my opinion, this year’s E3 press conferences are shaping up to be the most intriguing in years. Most of that intrigue surrounds two companies: Microsoft and Nintendo. The reason? New franchises. Both companies are promoting new consoles. Nintendo already appears to have a hit on their hands with the newly released Switch. Microsoft is hoping to make a dent in PlayStation’s sizable lead with Project Scorpio. (Due Fall 2017)
However, there’s a problem for the houses of Mario and Master Chief. The lack of original (and NEW) AAA franchises.
Let’s start with the obvious leader going into E3:
The Playstation brand is STRONG to say the least. With a healthy 2:1 lead (roughly) over Xbox One (and One S), Sony came out swinging last year with a press conference full of incredible trailers. There were mainstay franchises like the return of God of War but there was also: Horizon: Zero Dawn, Days Gone, Detroit: Become Human, The Last Guardian, Spider-Man PS4 and Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding
Spider-Man may not be an original IP but it’s still an all new exclusive game coming ONLY to Playstation. The rest are all big, BIG exclusives featuring new worlds to explore and new characters to fall in love with.
Going into E3 this year, Sony could very well update us on their stellar slate of upcoming exclusives and drop the mic. But let’s face it, they probably have a few surprises in store. Not to mention strong third party support and partnerships for the big Fall releases like Destiny 2, Call of Duty: WWII, Star Wars Battlefront 2 and more. Let’s not forget about new games for Playstation VR as well.
Sony has employed a brilliant strategy of saving their exclusives for Spring/Summer and letting the big third party franchises dominate the busy Fall season. If gives new characters a chance to shine and the strategy works! They’ve already got a beast of a new franchise on their hands with Horizon: Zero Dawn and could very well release 1 or 2 massive new games every year for the foreseeable future. We’re just talking new franchises here. They’re also dominating with titles like Uncharted 4, MLB, Nier Automata (console exclusive), Persona 5, Nioh… The list is very impressive.
Sequels to existing franchises? Check.
Strong third party support? Check.
New franchises to look forward to? Check.
Microsoft’s first party studios have been a bit of a mystery since Phil Spencer took over in early 2014. Lionhead Studios (Fable) was shut down. Original franchises like Scalebound were cancelled. Behind the scenes, the Xbox strategy changed.
Who could forget this press conference:
A machine that let’s you watch TV in new ways, stream movies, connect with social media and also, maybe play video games a bit.
Spencer came on board and completely changed the image of Xbox One. The focus is back on games. They introduced backwards compatibility in a huge fan favorite move. (That alone is an exclusive PlayStation can’t claim.) They improved the interface of their flagship system and introduced new and streamlined features for Xbox Live. It was a fantastic series of gamer friendly announcements that did a lot to help the brand.
The Xbox team gained even more momentum when they released the HDR capable Xbox One S. A sleek system meant to reintroduce the Xbox One to fans.
It’s 2017 now. Spencer has helped the Xbox family gain a ton of momentum. They have a new system on the horizon that will become the most powerful on the market. Unseating the current champ: PlayStation Pro. All the moves and reorganization behind the scenes are done. Now it’s all about the games.
In 2017, Microsoft will not release a new Gears of War or Halo. With their two biggest franchises absent, how will Microsoft sell Project Scorpio to fans? A new Forza will help. Equally strong third party support from giants like Activision, Bethesda and more will help…
What about exclusive original IP? Currently their lineup for the next few years (?) consists of Sea of Thieves and (presumably) Crackdown 3???
It’s time for Microsoft to lay the cards on the table at E3 2017. The system needs strong AAA exclusives to compete. Halo and Gears can only get you so far. Forza can push you a little bit further.
Xbox fans need something new. Actually Xbox fans need about 2 or 3 NEW things. The stage is set for Xbox to make a big splash by revealing new franchises for the world to look forward too. New games that show off the incredible hardware powering the Project Scorpio.
Microsoft could also announce compatibility with Oculus… That would be something…
Side Note: My official prediction? The new Xbox will be called Xbox One E. Matching the naming convention of the S with the E standing for Elite. A word Microsoft already uses a great deal with their controllers etc…
Sequels to existing franchises? Maybe a Halo 6 or Gears 5 teaser?
Strong third party support? Check.
New franchises to look forward to? TBD…
Nintendo changed the video game world when they capitalized on the concept of the casual gamer. The Wii brought ‘the living room’ back to video game fans. But the trend didn’t last and, unfortunately, Nintendo lost the hardcore crowd as well. The under powered Wii and equally under powered and unsuccessful Wii U proved that Nintendo needed to switch things up. (couldn’t resist)
So they unveiled a fantastic new system geared towards the gamer. A system that let’s you play Nintendo’s brilliant franchises wherever you are. The Nintendo Switch is already a hit bolstered by game of the year contender The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo also revealed a brand new 3D (proper 3D) Mario game called Super Mario Odyssey. A true follow up to classics like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2. Releasing a brand new Zelda AND Mario game in the same year is risky because it exposes Nintendo’s biggest modern weakness.
The lack of NEW characters.
The rest of the Nintendo Switch launch lineup features Wii U ports of popular games like Super Mario Kart 8, sequels like Splatoon 2 and ports of older games already available on other systems.
What’s left? Kirby? Metroid? A console quality Pokemon? The inevitable port of Super Smash Bros U? Perhaps a sequel to Super Mario Maker?
Let’s start small. Nintendo has a fantastic mobile platform so they doubled down on indie titles adorably referred to as Nindies:
This is a crucial move as it will prove to third parties that abandoned Nintendo platforms that they system is worth developing for. It also gives unique opportunities for smaller developers as well as gamers looking for something different.
That’s enough to fill the gaps between AAA releases but what’s coming after Super Mario Odyssey debuts this Fall?
Games like ARMS and 1-2 Switch look fun but not 60-70 dollars fun. Hardcore Nintendo fans want the franchises they know and love. But we all know those titles and sequels are coming.
Personally, I’m excited to see something new from Nintendo. Why? Because Nintendo has yet to reveal their ace in the hole. The unified platform for all of their first party studios. Before 2017, Nintendo had their teams developing for the 3DS and, to a lesser extent, Wii U. Now the focus is (and should be) completely on the Switch. The final years of the Wii U produced a few hits like the aforementioned Kart, Smash and Maker but what have they been cooking up for the Switch?
Nintendo has effectively simplified their business and their award winning teams have a platform that fans love already. There’s never been a better opportunity to introduce us to new characters and adventures. Especially when we can play them on planes and our commutes to and from work.
Sequels to existing franchises? Check
Strong third party support? Not yet?
New franchises to look forward to? TBD…
It might be wishful thinking for companies like Microsoft and Nintendo to blow the doors off the industry with 2-3 new franchises each but I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Halo, Gears, Mario and Zelda aren’t going anywhere but it’s 2017. There are new consoles to take advantage of. Let’s see some new franchises!
Also well played Sony… (Initiating proud slow clap)