Sony held a PS5 showcase today. It announced new games there. It showed some more footage of ones it had already revealed. There were big name drops, the occasional dud, and a lot of CGI. In other words: a completely standard video game marketing event. Against the backdrop of the past year under a pandemic, however, it was like watching a press event from the before times.
One of the best-ever RPGs, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, teased a remake. God of War: Ragnarok got actual gameplay and its name finally confirmed. Insomniac, which just released two huge games, revealed two more, a Wolverine game and Spider-Man 2 no less, the latter of which already has a release window of 2023. And Square Enix’s Forspoken looks like Infamous inside Final Fantasy XV. Plus a bunch of other games, like this sci-fi action platformer about aliens evicting humans from Earth came off the bench to lend additional support and intriguing vibes.
Will any of these games be good? Will they look like their trailers? Will they even come out when Sony says they will? I have no idea. But you know what will probably be good? Everything Insomniac’s working on, at least given its recent track record. No surprise, as the Burbank-based studio will soon out-staff the rest of Sony.
Remember, Spider-Man: Miles Morales was so good. And now that narrative team gets to take a crack at Logan, one of the few superheroes to not be completely hollowed out and turned to dust by the last two decades of market over saturation. Yet another video game grizzled white guy? Sure, but just this once, it actually sounds like a good idea. Naughty Dog, if you’re working on a Nathan Drake 3.0, please retire him immediately.
What I’m saying is, it was a very good showcase in an otherwise weird year for games. Coming off the rush of a new console launch in 2020, 2021 has seen a lot of delays as developers grapple with the cumulative effects of the ongoing pandemic. While it has not been a slow year for games — lots of amazing stuff came out this summer alone — it has been an off year for the big budget games industry marketing machine. But Sony managed to deliver some surprisingly satisfying hype boosters where others have struggled to find the vein.
E3 came back after a year’s hiatus. Do you remember the big showstoppers there? Xbox put forth Bethesda’s Starfield, but the teasers were nothing to write home about. Nintendo promised more Nintendo games like WarioWare: Get It Together and Metroid Dread. Both are solid staples but aren’t exactly showstoppers. Ubisoft revealed it is also making more Nintendo games. Square Enix showed Guardians of the Galaxy. Elden Ring finally got an official gameplay trailer.
Then there was EA Play, which announced the return of Dead Space with a remake of the first game, Quakecon, which showed 10-years-later isn’t too late to continue releasing Skyrim, and Gamescom Opening Night, where the big news was a new Marvel game from the XCOM developers. Most of these shows were fine. Most of them could have also probably been skipped.
Why did Sony succeed where so many others have failed? Those extremely mainstream Marvel licenses sure do help. Insomniac was only acquired in 2019, a year after Microsoft went on its spending spree, and it doesn’t seem to have skipped a beat. That’s not a knock against any of the fine studios making Xbox games. We just haven’t really gotten to see much of them yet, and what has been teased has occasionally been a bit on the bland side. A new Perfect Dark will be cool, but those skyscrapers and sandstorms in the initial reveal left me kind of meh.
Metroid Dread looks great, but it’s hard not to feel like Nintendo has a giant Breath of the Wild 2 release date announcement burning a hole in its pocket. Clearly it’s been keeping its cards very close to the chest following covid-19 slowdowns. Remember the Switch Pro? September Nintendo Direct when?
Much has been made, in the age of the Nintendo Direct, of the rise of publisher or developer-specific showcases that, in the olden days, would only be given the spotlight under a much bigger event. Perhaps even a simple blog post with a trailer. So far this year, Sony has managed to shine the biggest spotlight of all, at least so far. Maybe the 2021 Game Awards will show them up? What other superheroes are left?