E3 2015 – “Coming in 2016”

If you watched any of the Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference circuit this year, you may have seen a certain phrase bandied about by nearly every single trailer of any interest or note:

Coming in 2016

By no means do I mean to lump precisely every game in this category; some of them contained exactly zero tangible release date at all, just a promise of eventual release. Functionally speaking, most of these games exist as a sort of hopeful vaporware – maybe they will come out before my excitement wanes, and maybe not. This makes watching such displays, as a video game consumer, equal parts interesting and frustrating.

Then again, I remember these press conferences exist for two purposes. One of those purposes, really, remains inherent in the very concept – the video games journalism press needs news to cover, and thus companies use those resources in an unwritten agreement to keep each other alive. In an age where we can simply stream those conferences into our various media devices, however, that function no longer seems that relevant (consider that I remember watching such things online as early as 2006, the age of the traditional gaming website ended long ago).

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Not at all relevant to the words, but here is an image!

Now, E3 conferences exist in a weird middle ground between advertising spectacle and reassurances for shareholders/investors in the companies themselves. Companies appeal to both audiences in exactly the same way via very efficient marketing methods. Each press conferences has a theme of sorts (Nintendo, just for example, cited “transformation” as their theme, which is both an internal company stance AND an identifying marker for consumers), and that theme extends to what’s revealed and how they reveal it. These presentations create a certain persona, which consumers and investors alike find appeals to them.

Playstation, for example, is the cool, hardcore gaming dude. They tried to emphasize this heavily via the announcement of three long-anticipated games: the Final Fantasy VII remake (which will certainly be an absolute disaster, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves), Shenmue III, and The Last Guardian. Only two of these are actually exclusive to PS4 in any sense, but the effect of their presence at Sony’s conference demonstrates the vibe of “we love gamers” better than any other conference. That’s why, if ranked from “best” to “worst”, Sony’s usually worked out at number 1 from a pure gaming perspective. It speaks to hopes and aspirations of a specific demographic.

Most of the “talk” portions simply tell investors why a company is creating game or app X, and for what purposes. Just for example, nobody would imagine that Square-Enix would begin development on a sequel to NieR, least of all me, and least of all in an E3 press conference. The company that actually developed NieR no longer exists, and Taro Yoko’s weird games fail to sell in quantities that you’d like to think Square-Enix would want. Here we are, though, in a reality where NieR’s director returns and partners with, of all companies, Platinum Games to make a sequel. From an outsider’s perspective, this seems like an appeal to the cult fandom surrounding the game (or a bizarre dream come true I never thought possible – example: me). Rather, the real reason it exists is for brand recognition and demonstrating use of that brand to shareholders.

Taro Yoko Emil Mask

Also, he’s weird. This is a real photo.

In fact, absolutely no franchise with any intangible capital in the West failed to get mentioned at the Square-Enix conference. SaGa, despite celebrating its anniversary via a new mobile game, was no where to be found. The 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII remains a n0-show (even though the Dynasty Warriors spin-off earned a mention – different cultural appeals and all). Brands retain a certain kind of capital, and that’s what a company needs to show to its investors.

In that sense, conference display a long-term financial commitment to making money, and showing how Square-Enix will make a profit in the years to come. The company has already planned its fiscal year already, and these announcements anticipate future revenues, not current. The thing you get hyped about is down the line, not because a company couldn’t shove it out the door if so inclined, but because it needs to fit into a certain market where a company won’t cannibalize its own product lines. Hence:

Coming in 2016

is less an indication of the state of gaming – GAMES ARE EXPENSIVE TO MAKE AND REQUIRE TIME, HOLD ONTO YOUR BUTTS WHILE WE MAKE YOUR LIFE RADICAL IN ABOUT A YEAR’S TIME – and more about the inner workings of a corporation’s release schedule and anticipated profits versus losses. It’s not necessarily a sad realization by any means. Rather, to know that one is being manipulated helps to parse out the real gems from E3 versus the pandering announcements.

Just for example, I would call my “game of show” DooM. Yes, DooM. Why? Because, there was an actual game shown, one that hearkened back to the earlier games in the series with all the benefits of next-gen technology. I don’t know a single person who ISN’T excited for it, purely from a gaming perspective (that Anita Sarkeesian hated it only seems like a notch in its favor). I don’t love Bethesda much, but they sure do know to announce actual, tangible products that might exist at some point. Actual game footage (or in-game trailers, either/or) helps with that, versus a series of pre-rendered trailers of what amount to anticipatory concepts.

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Seriously, go watch the game footage trailer. Assuming you’re an adult who can handle ultraviolence in more ways than one!

You might call me cynical; I call myself realistic. I don’t place my hopes in things below, but things above. E3 demonstrates the very real empathy with the hope for a better future, manipulated to sell you stuff that won’t become a physical thing for many years. Misdirected hope, even in video games, is a dangerous thing; reams of paper of pre-orders, of nonexistent games where people never obtain refunds, probably litter this industry like far too many plastic rings in the ocean. I just don’t place stock in such things anymore. I like the games I have now, not the ones so far away.

Besides, there are plenty of other things to hope for far greater than the remake of Everyone’s First JRPG Trailer (Which Totally Made Me Cry You Guys). Christ is risen, and this is something that already happened; that rings far more true and sweeter than any hype over the digging up of old franchises and the blatant marketing inherent in the video game model. We have faith beyond this earth, so why not act like it?

12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified [f]against God that He raised [g]Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry whether Jesus Christ is

Coming in 2016

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.