June 12, 2014

2014 E3 All About Games – But Sadly Not Innovation

Hardware won’t play a big role in the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Nintendo unveiled its Wii U two years ago and, since then, the 100+ year old company, which once made playing cards, seems to be making bad plays. At this point – to mix metaphors – it is all but phoning it in.

Sony and Microsoft each unveiled their systems – the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One respectively – and the systems blew the doors off Nintendo last November. While Sony has sold 7 million PS4 units to Microsoft’s 5 million, it is still early in this race. Both systems are doing well, and Microsoft made the bold move to unbundle the Kinect motion controller from the Xbox One.

This allowed for a slimmed down unit – at least in price – which is now available for $399, the same price as Sony’s PS4 without the Motion controller and camera. Unlike Nintendo’s moves, that is probably a good move by Microsoft.

But back to E3, which this year will be about games.

Microsoft’s Monday morning press conference kicked things off and the company unveiled a nice slate of offerings, including a new Halo game, another Call of Duty game for the Xbox One from Activision, another Tomb Raider game from Square Enix and another Assassin’s Creed title from Ubisoft.

It isn’t so much that “everything old is new again,” it is just that everything old is still the same.

Microsoft wasn’t alone in unveiling more of the same, as Electronic Arts (EA) and Ubisoft followed suit in the afternoon on Monday with their own respective press conferences.

EA announced a new Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Inquisition (so much for Dragon Age: Inspiration), Sims 4 and a new version of the Battlefield franchise called Battlefield: Hardline.

The take away is that the games look better, but is there any innovation? Even with new franchises and so-called “original IP,” we’re still seeing the same violent shooters, racing games and basically what we’ve seen year after year.

Even EA’s Battefield: Hardline is hardly innovation – instead it takes a military shooter and transforms it into a truly disturbing version of cops and robbers. Somehow shooting law enforcement while making off with the loot is now considered innovative gameplay!

Ubisoft then announced Far Cry 4, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Assassin’s Creed Unity and two new Just Dance titles. The company clearly is banking on proven franchises, and there is no denying there is money there. While the company did provide more details on Tom Clancy’s The Division, it still feels like a shooter by another name – it just happens to take place the day after the end of the world. So original it wasn’t

The most interesting game from Ubisoft actually could be the animated title Valiant Hearts: The Great War. This puzzle adventure game centers around four strangers who try to help a German soldier his love in what has been called a story of survival, sacrifice and friendship.

Unfortunately this is a smaller title and thus lacked the bang of the action games – but big bangs, big guns and big explosions is unfortunately where the industry is headed. Strategy is all but dead, and apart from sports and racing almost all the games shown on Monday were loud, big and brash.

Sony ended the day of press conferences by starting off with yet another big action game – Bungie’s Destiny. However, Sony did reveal that it would remaster Grim Fandango – a game originally released 15 years ago to critical acclaim, but not great sales. So perhaps there was some innovation, but even that was just going back to what didn’t previously work.

And isn’t this all what makes E3 so great?

Image Credit: Bungie

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Email


Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

Send Peter an email