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E3 2018: From Console Consolidation to A-List Partnerships, 3 Big Takeaways

E3, the video-game industry’s massive, once-a-year outing in Los Angeles, wrapped last week amid news of more than 100 games, details of new tech and evenings of back-to-back parties that mashed celebrities with the internet famous and game developers with game players. As always, there were trends to take away — and this year promises to change the way the video-game industry does business.

Gaming Anywhere
The most meaningful trend to emerge from E3 actually started bubbling up in the week leading up to the show. Ubisoft founder and CEO Yves Guillemot told Variety he expected a rise in the popularity of game streaming to eventually kill off the console.

The concept is that powerful servers can essentially run any game from the cloud, and that players would just need a basic computer or screen to stream the gameplay in their home.

Four days later, rival Electronic Arts announced it was working to create its own take on a Netflix delivery system for video games. During a hands-off demo, EA’s chief technology officer Ken Moss showed how, by running a basic app, the company’s in-development service could stream a high-end game to a smartphone, an inexpensive laptop or even a smart TV.

Moss added that he knew multiple companies were chasing the same idea, and the next day proved him right: Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s executive president of gaming, announced during its E3 press conference that it too was working on a game-streaming service that would deliver “console-quality gaming on any device.”

However, neither Moss nor Spencer thinks the new service will replace consoles.

Talent Rolls Up Its Sleeves
Video games and Hollywood stars have a long history, but this year saw that relationship mature beyond simple acting roles to more meaningful partnerships.

Elijah Wood took to developer Ubisoft’s stage during its E3 press conference to announce a project his production company Spectre­Vision was working on with the developer: the VR game “Transference.” Wood later told Variety that he’s personally involved in the game’s creation and that he’d love SpectreVision to make more games. “I also want to express ideas that push things forward in the context of a video game,” he said.

During the same press conference, Joseph Godon-Levitt announced plans for his collaborative production company Hitrecord to team up with Ubisoft to create assets for upcoming game “Beyond Good & Evil 2.”

And “Rick and Morty” co-creator Justin Roiland’s relatively new studio Squanch Games revealed its next game, which Roiland is actively helping to create and most of which he voices.

Consolation for Consoles
Every half decade or so the major companies behind gaming consoles get a chance to reinvent themselves with new, more powerful hardware, fresh philosophical approaches to gaming and cutting-edge technology.

This year’s show saw signs that new hardware could be unveiled as early as next year.

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer announced that the team behind the Xbox One X is “deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles” — though he later told Variety that the announcement was made in part to reassure fans that Microsoft has a long-term commitment to the traditional console. While Spencer declined to say when the next Xbox would arrive, rumors put it at 2020. PlayStation may be preparing for a console shift. Finally there are the games. In the year leading up to new console unveilings, there always seem to be big, impossibly beautiful creations announced for current consoles that seemingly could never run them. This year, games like “Cyberpunk 2077,” “Halo Infinite,” “The Elder Scrolls VI” and gaming auteur Hideo Kojima’s highly cinematic offering “Death Stranding” all seem like the sort of spectacular content that could actually end up appearing on new systems.

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