FIFA 18 just came out on Nintendo Switch, which should be reason for cheer. It's a decent port of this year's game, albeit running on an older engine and understandably without all the bells and whistles of its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One counterparts (and missing a few features such as The Journey mode and small details such as quick substitutions).
Selling video games to people who like video games should not be hard. Often, though, it seems like the hardest thing in the world - especially at E3, where even the greats can stumble on stage. Over the last few years, it seems to have been getting harder and harder, too. Each summer, EA struggles bravely to simulate convincing human behaviour as it trots viewers through the mega-brands. Bethesda scowls through the smoke and gunfire as it conjures Nazis and radioactive horrors. Microsoft opts for T-shirts and leather jackets, and looks less like a new Top Gear presenting team, which would be bad enough, and more like a series of rookie commanders-in-chief, lecturing the troops on the deck of a battleship. And it never really feels like it's anybody's fault. It just feels like glossy conferences are a deeply imperfect means for exploring the joys of this particular industry. They're good at expressing the idea that games are a serious business, that they are expensive undertakings put together by serious professionals, but they're less good at acknowledging that games are fun, that they're amongst the most human of human artefacts, even if underneath it all they're made of light and maths.
Like Gatsby, Shawn Layden does not like to talk more than he has to. That's the impression that has emerged over a handful of E3s, anyway, as his dapper presence on the PlayStation stage has generally seen him restricting his comments to a few breezy thoughts here and there. He loves games, and he knows, in his collegiate way, that we all love games too. The future is coming! The future is now. He plays with his cuffs, he checks his pocket square. He does a lovely thing with his hands that makes him look like he is shelling peanuts and tossing the husks to the wind. And then he is gone, into the wings while the games take center stage. He doesn't call us "sport", but it is implied. We all know what this is about. We are all here for the same reason.
The Xbox One X is going to be a beast. Amazing specs. Amazing look. Amazing tech chatter, a lot of which went over my head. It's built around power, compatibility, and craftsmanship, according to Kareem Choudhry, Xbox Director of Software Engineering, on stage at Microsoft's E3 press briefing, and somehow, it's a magic trick too, because it fits in the smallest box - the smallest Xbox - Microsoft has ever offered. Just look at how powerfully dinky this thing is, like an elephant squeezed into a service elevator. A controller leans insouciantly against one edge of it, and that insouciant controller pretty much towers over the machine. True 4K textures! True 4K assets! Enhanced visual fidelity, isotropic filtering and faster load times on the games you already own! Enough of this blather. Kareem is a man in a hurry. Let's see, he says, what this monster can do.
As a longtime console war correspondent, one of my maxims is "never rule out Nintendo". Another is "it only takes one game". Looking at the strong launch of Nintendo Switch, I feel both vindicated and embarrassed. Vindicated, because Switch is Nintendo's fastest-selling console ever in both the US and Europe, shipping almost three million consoles in a month, and proving that Nintendo's innovative third-way approach to video game hardware design can still work wonders when it turns up something that customers understand and want.
We would say this, but Microsoft's decision to reveal the specs of Scorpio, its Xbox One hardware refresh, exclusively through Digital Foundry was a very smart move. They knew a leak was likely once the machine was presented to developers, so they got in front of it. And they know that this souped-up console needs to win back the hearts and minds of the gaming hardcore who defected to PlayStation three and a half years ago. To convince those guys, you need to convince core-of-the-core communities like NeoGAF, and to convince NeoGAF, you need to convince Digital Foundry.
Deputy Editor's note: A year ago I reported on Hypespotting 5, one of the UK's biggest fighting game tournaments, after it suffered a raft of technical issues and disappointed some fans. After we ran the article I was contacted by a number of people embedded within the UK fighting game community who defended the scene and called for a deeper look. I thought now, with Hypespotting 6 taking place, it was a great time to do just that and investigate the state of the UK fighting game community.
Steam Greenlight, Valve's process for finding new games to place on the store, will soon be gone. In a few short months Valve will replace it with a much more straightforward system they're calling Steam Direct because, well, it's a more direct method of getting onto Steam. I know, I know, I don't know how they came up with the name either.
I was halfway through a piece on poetic game mechanics as allegory, but then Trump won the US election, and I just didn't have the heart. So you're excused that until next month, at which point I'll probably do, like, a Christmas Pumpkin Spice column anyway.
The time for tearful Wii U eulogies has likely been and gone (it felt like notice was already being served on Nintendo's home console not long after it came out four years ago), but as production winds down now is as good a time as any to take stock of its legacy. Maybe you might look for it in its sales figures, which are notoriously poor - the 13.36m sold as of September fall well short of the 21.74 million GameCubes Nintendo shifted, making it comfortably the company's poorest performing home platform. It's edged ahead of Sega's Dreamcast - itself with a tally of 9.13m sold - but looking at the sales alone the Wii U has been a disaster.
Last night, Bethesda laid clear its policy on media reviews from Dishonored 2 onwards. In a short statement on its official site from global content lead Gary Steinman - himself a former games journalist - Bethesda announced that you won't see any reviews before the launch of its games because it will continue to send out code to publications a day before release. It's not a particularly surprising statement, even if Bethesda deemed it shocking enough to put behind an age gate.
Later today, Sony will reveal the console codenamed PlayStation Neo - a more powerful version of the PlayStation 4 which will, reportedly, run the same games at higher resolutions or otherwise enhanced. Alongside the similarly conceived Xbox Scorpio, due next year, Neo represents a major departure from industry orthodoxy that will change the fundamental business model of games consoles.
Sometimes I worry I've read so many video game press releases I've started to talk like them. A few years ago, for example, I remember saying to my husband, "I think we should leverage the success of our existing legacy brand to extend the franchise in an exciting new direction." It was only when he saw I was wearing a new nightie he realised I wanted another baby.
Within two decades, possibly sooner, our notion of what constitutes reality is going to completely collapse in on itself like a supermarket own-brand tent at a rainy music festival. Hello, welcome to another article about Pokémon Go.
Earlier this week, we reported that Nintendo NX will be a hybrid portable console, powered by Nvidia's Tegra mobile chipset. We'd heard both elements of this story as isolated rumours before, but suddenly - presumably in the wake of a round of presentations by Nintendo - we were able to corroborate both with multiple reliable sources. We were also able to establish a few new details, including the form factor, which intriguingly features two detachable controllers.
Nintendo shares have risen in value by over 50 per cent since the launch of the smartphone phenomenon Pokémon Go. Small wonder when you consider that the app is the most popular mobile game in the US ever in terms of daily active users, raking in millions of dollars a day, and taking down social network titans like Tinder and Twitter in terms of engagement. One small detail though, which most mainstream media coverage (and a good deal of specialist coverage too) either ignores or glosses over: Pokémon Go isn't actually a Nintendo game.
Once upon a time, Halo was the tale of a place. A tale of it, and a tale shaped by it. Installation 04's famous skybox - that pristine curl of oceans and meadows, rearing amid the stars - may be very obviously a flat backdrop, but it does create the impression of an underlying 3D continuity, the vague conviction, as in a Souls game, that you can pick out the site of a previous battle high above the skyline, winking through the atmospheric haze.
During the video for Project Scorpio, two minutes of puffery dedicated to Microsoft's bright Christmas 2017, there is a man who speaks with his mouth but betrays everything with his eyes. "This doesn't mean we're leaving the Xbox One behind," he says, but the truth is there to see as his eyes flick away from the camera. Microsoft began its E3 conference by revealing the redesigned Xbox One S - and then, it still amazes me now, closed the show by telling everyone they'd be fools to buy any kind of Xbox One.
This is going to be a weird one. As we head into E3 2016, the console games industry is undergoing seismic shifts that will change its course radically and forever. But there's a good chance the tip of this looming iceberg will barely break the glossy surface of the annual promotional whirligig in Los Angeles. If you'll forgive the mixed metaphors, that's one hell of an elephant in the room.
Here's a hot take that's both more than a little lukewarm and likely isn't all that controversial: I think I preferred Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes to its full-blown follow-up The Phantom Pain.
There's 90 seconds until the extraction is complete and I'm eyeing the clock. I'm standing next to a guy I met up with a few blocks back. He was pinned down by looters. We finished them off together and exchanged jumping jack emotes, then headed off to the extraction point to secure our reward.
I chose to be a doctor for lots of reasons. Some of them good! None of them to do with improved marriage prospects (I am only half Asian). None of them very sexy either, mind. If medical school was X-Factor, I wouldn't be picked to tell my life story in the crowd. I don't have a dead nan who always believed in my ability to take blood pressure or anything.
Sixteen months ago, I left the games industry. It was a grand gesture, as you'd expect from someone who'd spent seven years acting like his opinions were worth money. I deposited a 2500-word screed on a vestigial blog, emptied a carrier bag full of cheap mics onto my desk, and left the industry, forever. Never to have another public opinion.
This article contains spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, specifically regarding the character Quiet.
What's your favourite Batmobile? If you answered the Tumbler, the thick, bulky and brutally functional supercar/tank hybrid from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, then I'm afraid you're just plain wrong. The Tumbler had a place within Nolan's universe, with its thudding logic dictated by the inevitable and rather joyless collision of immovable objects, but looking back through the history of Batman's garage it's an unsightly addition - a tool fit for a soldier rather than a vigilante, a guardian, a silent predator.
Nintendo's E3 was always going to be a strange one, yet what unfurled in its Digital Event was as bizarre a piece of corporate theatre as its infamous 2008 conference, where the company danced to the grating tune of Wii Music and its over-energetic re-reveal. Back then, Nintendo fell out with its fans for forgetting the hardcore, but this year - when it's playing to no-one but those faithful few - the fall-out came for entirely different reasons.
Over the next few days we'll be looking looking at the fortunes of the major players who'll be holding press conferences at E3 - each of the three platform holders, and a roundup of the bigger publishers. We'll be looking at where these companies are, where we think they're going, and how they're going to use gaming's glitziest stage to get there - as well as making a few informed predictions.
I don't know where you guys have found the time to play The Witcher 3, but I can only assume it's when I've been emptying the dishwasher. I don't know how it happened but a few years ago something changed. Something... domestic.
At the end of April, elderly gamers felt a brief flutter of excitement across their desiccated loins. Over 2500 games from the Internet Archive's Software Library could now not only be played using browser emulation, but could be embedded and played in tweets.
What to make, then, of yesterday's Nintendo announcement? A certain amount of shock met the news that Nintendo was partnering with DeNA and making the move into mobile gaming development, but it could hardly be called a surprise. This is a company, after all, that used to run a taxi firm as its playing card business sprawled outwards in the 60s, and has a proud history of the unexpected. But even though yesterday's news marks perhaps the most significant shift since Nintendo moved out of the arcades and into the home with the NES, it's a move born of nothing more than common sense.