Every year, E3 comes to grace us with its promise-filled presence. It brings us warm and colorful trailers, teasing new ideas and interactive delights sure to tempt our button-mashing palates. But sometimes, the things they show us never materialize. The promises they make never come true. And worst of all, the stuff that was supposed to come out never does, and the companies that are responsible can’t ever give you a straight answer on whether or not something lives, is dead, is in limbo, or even existed outside of a promotional trailer.
Every year. Every single year, this happens. And because of this phenomenon being an annual industry event in and of itself, I’m taking a look at things that each of the major three console manufacturers promised and haven’t delivered on, whether it’s news, updates or even a finished product. All of these things, they’ve been teased at E3 in some way, shape or form. And all of them have practically vanished. Here’s my missing products report. Have you seen them?
Microsoft: Phantom Dust
Man, Phantom Dust was flippin’ AWESOME. If you were one of the forty people who played it on the original Xbox, you’d know that already. But, considering the fact that forty people can’t really constitute a fan base outside of something a godawful cover band garners each Friday night at Applebee’s, I can’t say I’m all that surprised that news on Phantom Dust has been pretty scarce. I mean, there’s been some rumblings that the developer in charge of the game is no longer attached to the project, and some video had surfaced outside of normal channels that showed the new game as being pretty much functionally identical to the old one. That’s not a slight against it at all, mind you. If you doubt me, re-read the first sentence of this paragraph.
Problem is, it was a game that hyped me up in ways I couldn’t have foreseen, and there’s been almost total radio silence on the matter ever since then. One prerendered trailer trumped their whole damn show last year — for me, at least — and nothing they’ve shown me since then has made me feel better about Microsoft during the upcoming 2015-2016 changeover. What, another HD remaster? Yeah, sure, let’s revisit Gears Of War, because the Master Chief Collection was such a bang-up job. I swear, it’s like their whole strategy involves resting on laurels from past systems. And Phantom Dust is kind of included in that, if you really want to talk technicalities.
Problem is, Phantom Dust is just as new and different now as it was back then. That probably has a lot to do with why only (approximately) forty people know why it was so damn good in the first place. But the fact remains that Microsoft could use something new and different to set itself apart from the pack, because all they have thus far are games that other people port to the system, and prettier versions of the stuff you already paid $60 for years ago. And two years into the current system generation lifespan, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. Phantom Dust would be like a breath of cool, fresh air in a car doubling as a summertime convection oven.
Or at least it would be if Microsoft doesn’t decide to nickel-and-dime customers over high-tier, card-based abilities. Phantom Dust fans (yes, all forty), you know damn well that they’ve either a.) considered it, or b.) this has been the plan all along.
I get wanting to play it safe, but come on, Microsoft. The Xbox One has been out for almost two whole years. And even though it can’t natively play Xbox 360 games, you sure can’t see fit to publish anything else for your current flagship system that isn’t from the previous flagship system’s library. Surprise me. Do something different.
Okay, fine. Sunset Overdrive is kinda cool. BUT STILL.
Nintendo: Star Fox
Really, Miyamoto-san? Prove it.
So let me get this straight, Nintendo: you have a console that uses a controller with a touchscreen, it’s independent of the display that the system is using, and you can’t just use that as a form of radar or cockpit what-have-you in a new Star Fox game? I mean, it can’t be that hard to conceptualize how a game like this would work on the system. Guys, you have the ultimate stable of hits to draw from. You can make anything happen. You can pull characters from anywhere and do anything at any time. No other company can make that boast, no matter how hard they’ll try to convinvce people otherwise.
And while Splatoon is certainly awesome, you can’t seem to get the entirety of that huge “core” gaming audience you lost to come back after using the Wii Fit board (and really, the Gamecube and Nintendo 64 before that) to shove them all away. Do you want to know why that is? It’s because you don’t make the games you used to. Plain and simple. Well, that and the fact that you insist on forcing people to use control methods that are equal measures of “oh, wow” and “oh, why,” but that’s another story altogether. If you’d have put out Star Fox, or F-Zero, or maybe a new Pilotwings or a Metroid game that made clever use of the touchpad as an interactive scan / map, then maybe, JUST MAYBE you wouldn’t be where you are right now.
And really, you know that you hold the ultimate weapon on the board. You know that all you have to do at E3 is have a twenty-second press conference. Have Reggie Fils-Aime walk out in a shirt that says “Pokémon online RPG for Wii U,” have him stand there for ten seconds without a single word spoken, have him turn around to show the back reading “you’re welcome,” stand for another ten seconds, and calmly walk off stage. Nintendo wins E3. Hell, they may never have another one with the sort of corporate death toll that kind of announcement would cause. But, I digress.
Really, everyone knows you’re looking into dropping a new system / hardware / whatever. But for what? So you can forget about all the things that made people fall in love with your company after getting another $300 from them? How about this: you release the games that people love to remember playing, and I bet it works out for you. Dropping a new Star Fox — in its single-game entirety, forget this rumored “episodic” nonsense — would certainly turn my head back in your direction. Heaven forbid we get new versions of the games that made us into dedicated video game players, never mind seasoned Nintendo fans. Because if you’re not the kind of company to actually make use of the downright massive stable of quality IP that you’re sitting on, I have to ask a Reggie question: What’s wrong with you?
Sony: The Last Guardian
“Oh, here comes another whining rant about a game that will never see the light of blah blah blah.” You know what? I don’t care. Sony, either pronounce the thing dead or release something about it. For real, it’s been in the deepest level of development hell since the year of our Lord two thousand and seven. It was formally announced at E3 2009. TWO DUBBLE AUGHT NINE, SONY. What, are you trying to challenge Valve’s claim to the “let’s see how long we can get away with dragging people still hanging on every word” crown? Gaben hates the competition, especially when it’s involving a hat Steam isn’t catching residual money on!
I swear, Sony — you’re like a deadbeat dad who always promises a pony for Christmas without having the means to make it happen. You’ve never come out and said, “listen, guys, the thing is over and done with, we just couldn’t get this off the ground the way we wanted to, and it’s a shame that it came to this sort of end.” I’d at least have RESPECT for that. But no, you’re constantly keeping people in a holding pattern like “hey, I bet I know what you want this year, guys!” Staaaaaahp. Please, just provide a death certificate already, or at least tweet a picture of it chilling by a resort pool somewhere. I just want to know that the damn thing exists. I’d be at least 40% more satisfied with that. At least this way, you know, when it doesn’t show up, I can be like “well, did you see the bar at that pool? I wouldn’t want to leave, either” rather than feel abject disappointment when the one thing that I want to see most from you gets “maybe next year”‘d for the S-E-V-E-N-T-H time in a row.
You know what the difference between The Last Guardian, Duke Nukem Forever and Final Fantasy Versus XIII is? One of these games got a name change and a playable demo, the other one was critically panned for being a tired, broken mess when it finally exited development hell. But both of the games that aren’t The Last Guardian have been confirmed to still actually exist, and Sony’s press event had better end with a new trailer for the game or pictures of development set to a montage with Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” playing in the background. Give us the concrete evidence, or give us some measure of closure. Stop jerking people around. It’s rude.
So there you have it. My hopes and dreams for E3 are to see these three games actually show up. And there’s a lot more than this list. I mean, I could go into Quantum Break for at least a good hour or so, probably hammering home the fact that blending a video game and a TV show only sounds appetizing to those who want to eat pizza-flavored ice cream. But I picked my top three, and I stand by ’em. I’ll probably end up being disappointed with this year’s E3 as well, but hey, at least I can count on seeing trailers for amazing games and then running the office over-under on what gets canceled before January. I know that game is always my E3 GOTY, every year.