E3 is over, and the dust has settled. This year we saw a total of 7 publishers/developers host a keynote, and I am here to rank them. Starting with the worst, and working up to the best, here is what I think:
Square Enix - Square Enix comes in last, not because their conference was bad, but because it didn't really feel like a press conference. It was only 30 minutes long, and offered nothing more than slightly interesting reveals. Babylon looks interesting, sure, especially since it is developed by Platinum Games. But I don’t put too much stock into CG reveals that show no gameplay.
Kingdom Hearts III was present and looked great, of course, but this is a game that has already had a lot of gameplay showcased before. New trailers of it were also present at other keynotes, which further diminished the impact it had during Square’s. If they had saved the release date reveal for their keynote, it could have made a difference. But that too was announced a couple of days before.
Sony - Sony just barely avoided being bottom of the pile this year. I was immediately suspicious when Shawn Layden announced that they were doing things a little differently this year, because that is almost always code for “we don’t have much to show so we have to mask that somehow”. Unfortunately for everyone, the masking only made things worse.
If having to sit through two separate out of place musical performances, as well as a weird intermission where everyone had to switch buildings was the only problem with Sony’s keynote, I think they would have been okay. But even when their conference started to build up it disappointed. The footage of their games we saw looked great, assuming non of it was scripted (looking at you, The Last of Us II). But the show still lacked any big surprises, or a deep dive of any of their titles. Resulting in a very disappointing E3 for them.
Ubisoft - Ubisoft’s conference wasn't anything too spectacular, but it certainly wasn't a disappointment. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Beyond Good and Evil 2, and the Star Fox and Donkey Kong announcements made for a pretty solid lineup. Just like the other keynotes, a big surprise reveal could have taken it over the top, but I am satisfied with what they presented.
EA - EA’s was fairly similar to Ubisoft’s in that they were both standard press conferences that featured exciting content but lacked a huge surprise. I actually had trouble placing these two, but in the end I gave the edge to EA for a couple of reasons. The first was a great gameplay showing of Anthem. I feel it is always important to not only show gameplay, but to show it how players will actually experience it. That means having a UI and controls readily apparent.
The other reason was the announcement and launch of Unravel 2. I’ll talk more about this later, but I always appreciate when publishers actually launch games at E3. It gives gamers more than just things to look forward to, and I feel not enough publishers do that these days.
Bethesda - Bethesda also had a pretty good show. It was full of odd announcements that felt a little out of place a gaming’s biggest event of the year, but they didn't detract from Bethesda’s reveals in the end. The bulk of the show went to the recently announced Fallout: 76, a game that I was ready to write off the second multiplayer was mentioned. But I actually walked away impressed with the vision for 76. I am still a skeptic, but I plan on watching the game closely before release.
Having said that, if Fallout 76 was the final reveal for Bethesda, I would have been let down. But the Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI announcements saved the show. I do hate that we got nothing more than a logo for each of them, but knowing that Starfield exists is enough for me.
Nintendo - Nintendo comes in second this year because, despite not having too many announcements, they did provide an exciting E3 by giving more to gamers now. An Octopath demo, Hollow Knight, and the Splatoon 2 expansion were all surprise launches that made Nintendo’s showcase about more than just the future.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also gave Nintendo a significant lead this year. Not only does the game look incredible, they also provided those watching with a ton of real gameplay. They even hosted a tournament that allowed professional Smash players the chance to play the game and voice their impressions to those not lucky enough to attend.
Microsoft - I’m putting Microsoft on top this year because they were one of the few that had what I would consider a real press conference. They announced some interesting exclusives for Xbox, talked about more than just games, and even got to reveal exciting 3rd party titles like Sekiro and Cyberpunk. At the end of the day, the gaming experience is still going to be best with Playstation, as the best games Microsoft announced will also be on PS4. But as far as keynotes go, Microsoft has risen above all others for the first time in years.