E3 2016 - EA Conference Recap

Kicking off E3 2016, EA broke away from their normal presence at the main Expo to hold their own fan-focused EA Play event kicking off with today’s conference.

As a reminder, here were my 5 predictions:

1.  EA Sports will still play a prominent role in the conference and we'll see an interview with a high-profile Football player (likely cover athlete Rob Gronkowski) to promote Madden 17. 
2.  Extended look at Mass Effect Andromeda and release date: March 7, 2016.
3.  Visceral's Amy Hennig Star Wars game announced for Holiday 2017.
4.  Criterion's Action Driving Game (aka "Go-Pro the Video Game") will re-emerge with a name and release date for November of this year.
5.  Titanfall 2: Campaign Trailer shown, Live MP match, and Release Date: September 30, 2016.

A pre-conference rehearsal leaked the release date of Titanfall 2 for October 28, 2016 so there goes my perfect 5/5 already.

Andrew Wilson, CEO came out to kick off the show. Describing the event as a preview taste, so the event will give snippets of some of the games available to play at the EA Play event.

Wilson then handed it over to Peter Moore live in London for a quick check-in during their version of the EA Play event.

Wilson handed off to Vince Zampella, CEO of Respawn, to show off Titanfall 2. He welcomed PlayStation players to the series and debuted Titanfall 2 multiplayer. The package definitely looked action-packed and stunning. A multiplayer technical test (often known as a "beta") was announced and players can sign up online.

Zampella, made a joke about this morning’s leak before officially debuting the single-player campaign trailer and release date of October 28, 2016.

Following the Titanfall reveal, we got a Madden 17 trailer segueing back to Moore in London to discuss eSports. He announced Challenger, Premier, and EA Major events; three different tiers of competitive events.

Moore introduces a pre-packaged clip of Eric Wright (“Problem”) and Zack Lane (“Serious Moe”), pitched as two of the best Madden players. When they came back to LA, Lane and other competitors in the Madden 16 Championships were shown on stage with Lane in a sling due a broken collar bone. So that was awkward, right?

Aaryn Flynn, General Manager of Bioware, comes out to introduce Mass Effect Andromeda. He described the premise and introduced a behind the scenes feature (saying we’ll learn more this fall. Dang it!). The game is being developed in Frostbite. Because EA is throwing everything in that engine.

Wilson returned to announce EA Access is available for a free trial this week. He also announced their new Play to Give initiative, which will culminate in giving $1 million among five charities.

Then it was back to Moore in London to show off FIFA 17. In order to introduce the new Story Career mode “The Journey,” “Alex Hunter” came out to deliver a monologue to the London audience, that was followed up by a trailer of the . Then managers were introduced to the game, which is apparently a big thing. Moore had a bit talking about three great managers, before another (apparently) notable manager came out to continue the bit. Aaron McHardy then came out to show off a few new features of FIFA 17. Really tough to showcase these iterative changes to the game so we get these weird little repeat character moments (a la Hoop Gawd and Pele) from last years conference.

Patrick Soderlund came out to present this year’s Yarny moment. Announcing EA Originals. One of the heads of Zoink Games in Sweden introduced the first EA Original: Fe. The game appears to place a lot of emphasis on sound and platforming in a somewhat dark and atmospheric world and reminded me of a mix between Ori and the Blind Forest and Tearaway in terms of art style and even maybe gameplay.

Jade Raymond came out to showcases the plethora of Star Wars titles. New Star Wars Battlefront confirmed for 2017. The Amy Hennig Visceral Star Wars game announced as a 2018 title. Respawn’s game said to be out some time beyond that. Then a montage of behind the scenes interviews from the different teams played. I caught a shot of VR Star Wars during the Battlefront conversation. Respawn game showed some lightsaber combat via motion capture performers. Amy Hennig and the Visceral game show some concept art and early in-game footage, working closing with LucasArts designers. The footage of a VR headset in there might be the most interesting piece of the entire montage. Other than that, the whole thing felt like "we've got nothing to show off yet but you all want to see Star Wars so here you go."

Battlefield 1 took the closing spot of the show. Patrick Soderlund returned and gave a little behind the scenes story about the Battlefield 1 pitch before introducing a brief new trailer. Patrick Bach of Dice came out to show some of the people playing the game during the hour-long livestream following the conference...like Jamie Foxx and Zac Efron? Swing and a miss, EA. Open beta coming later this summer. Then they started playing the Wiz Khalifa in the big, bombastic Battlefield 1 trailer.

Peter Moore closed out the show in London. And then Andrew Wilson closed out the show in Los Angeles in order to kick off the Battlefield 1 hour-long live stream.

So...that happened. I don’t get why EA went to this fan-centric conference approach only to present the same kind of conference that largely underwhelmed the audience and fans last year. And based on the crowd reactions this time around, I down think EA had a great showing here. The only real surprise wound up being the EA Originals plan and corresponding game Fe. But even that was pretty much a beat for beat retread of one of the few likeable moments from last year's show a la Yarny and Unraveled.

As for my predictions:

  1. They brought out somebody from the sports world to promote a game. Instead of Gronkowski or Pele, they brought out a team manager? Maybe .25 points for predicting an awkward sports icon interaction?
  2. Brief look at Mass Effect Andromeda. No release date. But it did feature the Fem-Shep equivalent. .25 points for Fem-Commander.
  3. Visceral’s Amy Hennig Star Wars game, thrown out for 2018. 0 points.
  4. No sign of the Criterion game. 0 points.
  5. Titanfall 2. Campaign trailer shown (w/ hip hop backing). Live multiplayer went to Battlefield 1 post-conference instead. Releasing October 28. .25 points for the trailer.

So, I’m calling it 0.75/5.00 points. Not off to a great start.

Here's hoping I turn it around with Bethesda later tonight.