Three Questions as E3 Makes Its Return

Three Questions E3 Makes Its Return
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

A year after E3’s planned 2020 exhibition was called off in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the gaming industry’s biggest expo is finally back, albeit virtually.

Kicking off Saturday, E3’s return follows major developments throughout the media world, such as PlayStation and Xbox releasing new consoles and content giants enacting significant strategy shifts to orient themselves further around streaming, not to mention new mergers and acquisitions, such as the monumental sale of Bethesda parent ZeniMax Media to Microsoft, which was finalized in March 2021.

Microsoft’s event set for Sunday will likely answer the major lingering Bethesda question.

Will Bethesda’s “Starfield” kick off a new era of Xbox exclusivity?

Following the news of Bethesda’s sale to Xbox, top Microsoft gaming exec Phil Spencer confirmed two upcoming Bethesda titles, “Deathloop” and “Ghostwire: Tokyo,” would honor timed exclusive agreements with PlayStation 5 before coming to the Xbox Series consoles and that PS5 availability for future Bethesda titles would be “case-by-case” decisions.

However, recent reports indicate inside sources say “Starfield,” the first new IP in decades from Bethesda Game Studios, is intended only for Xbox.

While maintaining ownership over a wide range of IP is crucial to the health of leading subscription service Xbox Game Pass, reportedly at 23 million subscribers, analysts project PlayStation will again beat Xbox over the course of the new console generation, as was the case with PlayStation 4 outselling Xbox One by more than twice as many units, per VGChartz.

Releasing “Starfield” as an Xbox exclusive would be a major stepping stone toward rivaling PlayStation due to Bethesda’s brand recognition off the back of “The Elder Scrolls” and “Fallout,” its two biggest franchises.

Plus, Xbox is taking over publishing rights for “The Outer Worlds,” a 2019 multiplatform title released by Take-Two publisher Private Division. The game’s developer, Obsidian Entertainment, was bought by Microsoft in 2018.

If it wasn’t apparent Bethesda is getting an exclusivity makeover, E3 is bound to settle that score. 

Is Warner Bros.’ gaming unit in okay shape?

Another Sunday presenter is Warner Bros. Interactive, which will show off “Back 4 Blood,” an October 2021 release and spiritual sequel to the popular co-op zombie shooter series, “Left 4 Dead.”

However, “Gotham Knights,” “Hogwarts Legacy” and a “Suicide Squad” game are all confirmed no-shows for the presentation, despite the first two titles having planned 2022 releases.

Seeing as Warner Bros. missed out on the 2020 bump many gaming companies saw as a result of the pandemic, one would think now is a great time to present a promising batch of games tied to Warner Bros. IP. It's fairly strange the unit doesn’t seem to want to reassure gamers these titles are coming along nicely for next year and beyond.

Such reassurance is somewhat necessary, as one year ago WarnerMedia was reportedly mulling a sale of the gaming division. More prescient than that is the merger planned with Discovery, which will naturally lead to consolidation that prioritizes the companies’ shared streaming push – something that might not bode well for the gaming division’s current lull.

Will an updated Switch console continue Nintendo’s hardware sales streak?

Set for Tuesday, Nintendo’s E3 showcase appears to be dedicated to software only, even though reports indicate Nintendo is preparing to release an upgraded model to its Switch console as early as September 2021.

Similar to PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, an update midway through the Switch’s lifecycle would be meant to boost graphics and unit sales, but Nintendo is doing just fine on the latter.

As of Q1 2021, Nintendo is still seeing year-over-year quarterly hardware sales bumps alongside monstrous increases in games sold, with the console far outselling PS5 and Xbox Series in Q4 2020 off the back of its distinct strengths.

But the pandemic bump in console sales won’t last forever, so now is undoubtedly the right time to maintain this streak and formally announce the upgraded Switch to better whet gamer appetites ahead of Tuesday’s presentation, which Nintendo still has time to do in the coming days.

Read the full special report