Summer Game Fest Doesn’t Need Massive Game Reveals, And Neither Do We

Summer Game Fest Doesn’t Need Massive Game Reveals, And Neither Do We

Summer Game Fest kicks off this week, rising from the ashes of the now-defunct E3. While host Geoff Keighley has been pretty clear on what to expect (and perhaps more specifically, what not to expect), it still feels like fans are holding their breath for something big. But why? Why is it that we expect events like this to be a constant stream of massive global reveals from major IPs, under threat of labelling the entire showcase a flop? And, perhaps more importantly, should we?

Since kicking off in 1995, E3 held the top spot in June as the place for big gaming reveals until it died of natural causes in 2021. When players think of iconic gaming moments – Keanu Reeves appearing on stage for Cyberpunk 2077, the announcement of The Elder Scrolls 6 (which we’ve still heard no more on since) and Bioshock Infinite are among those that come to mind. All of which occurred at, you guessed it, E3. So many of these major announcements have something else in common, too: the “one more thing” reveal that sent gamers to the internet, ready to escalate the hype beyond measure.

As the June Show and Tell season for video games grew, the fan expectation that every single livestream should include a mic drop announcement or complete surprise reveal has only grown too. Watch any livestream with a live chat function and watch as viewers, hyped and ready to see what’s next (and perhaps overly caffeinated at ungodly hours if they’re in the Southern Hemisphere like me) slowly turn to spamming the chat with “L” or disappointed abuse when the announcements aren’t a constant cavalcade of much-anticipated next installments in massive franchises.

As crunch culture, studio closures, project cancellations and industry layoffs become a near-daily occurrence, we’re seeing fewer and fewer of these big announcements. Even Keighley has gone on the record to confirm that this year’s Summer Game Fest won’t be filled with new game announcements. Instead, we’ll see mostly news on already-announced titles, or updates for currently released live service games. And that’s probably a good thing – the aforementioned TES6 got the shortest, most vague reveal in 2018 just to squeeze in that ‘one more thing’. Six years later we’ve not seen any more of it beyond Bethesda’s fragmented reassurances that it’s still in the pipeline. The years-long hype trains of old just about ate Cyberpunk 2077 alive when it launched less than polished in 2020. 

While there are plenty of reasons for developers not to always push for a major franchise announcement at every showcase throughout the gaming calendar (and especially in June), it doesn’t stop audiences from feeling disappointed when they don’t eventuate. But do we need them? These expectations we all have for what a Summer Game Fest or E3-style parade of publisher presentations are built on a three-decade old marketing and industry model, and times are well and truly a-changing. Could it also be that these expectations are what push publishers to think that players only want major tentpole releases, leading them to consider closures of studios at the helm of successful, albeit smaller games

This isn’t to say that I’m not guilty of sitting through a Summer Game Fest presentation and feeling well and truly baited when there’s not a major global premiere. However, there’s plenty more to these showcases than just that – we often see arguably more interesting smaller titles announced all the time at these events, and I for one have previously overlooked some of these in favour of those big moments and massive game announcements. 

We’ve been trained to look for these big gaming moments at Summer Game Fest throughout the years, in a constant cycle of hype, announcement, hype, release, rinse and repeat. The excitement leads to conversation, and word of mouth leads to free marketing for game franchises — a win for publishers keen to get their games selling. If we’re not constantly served something shiny and new, something exciting, we’re disappointed. But can we break out of this trained mentality? With a bit of reframing of how we think of games less as consumer products in an endless cycle and more as art forms we can engage with and experience at our own pace, perhaps we can.

Maybe we don’t even need to retrain ourselves out of this mindset, though. The approach of a major game reveal at every Summer Game Fest is becoming less common, yes, but even when publishers do go for it, is it even working? When so many new games are letdowns before they even make it into players’ hands (and more once they do), gamers are jaded, and the ability to get them hyped is even harder now than ever before. When Fallout 76 dropped after a considerable amount of hand-wringing and excited pre-ordering, many players felt completely and utterly let down – I consider this launch to be a final turning point for the player-developer dynamic, when hype and praise were traded for distrust and criticism in droves. 

Of course, we’ve seen the hype still held for GTA 6 in the six months since Rockstar’s first trailer dropped. But beyond that, I personally cannot think of another game that’s had that level of excitement based purely on a trailer or announcement in years.  Even if a massive game is announced at Summer Game Fest and beyond, will the people actually care anymore? Can the model of a mega reveal even be sustained when the whole industry is shifting to a live service model no-one but the publishers seem to want?

Perhaps this leaves you with more questions than answers, but I hope that if (or when) you tune in to Summer Game Fest and all the showcases this week, you might take a second to think about why it is we need a new Halo, Metal Gear Solid, or GTA premiered every. single. time. these presentations get trotted out. 

And maybe while you’re at it, ask yourself honestly if that’s something you even want.

Image: Xbox / Summer Game Fest

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