Starfield: Why game delays are a good thing

If you missed the announcement, Bethesda Game Studios’ upcoming sci-fi role-playing game Starfield has been delayed. Originally planned for a November 2022 release, that has slipped back to “the first half of 2023,” which potentially means that the game is a year or more away. With Starfield having shown off a cinematic teaser and some concept art but no real gameplay yet, perhaps the delay was not entirely unexpected! Regardless, some folks are upset by this move, with some PlayStation super-fans even hailing it as a “failure” for Xbox. Obviously that isn’t the case, so today we’re going to use Starfield as an example of why delays really are a good thing.

First up, it’s never fun when a game I’m looking forward to receives a delay. I don’t think anyone is trying to pretend that a delay to a highly-anticipated title – particularly a lengthy delay of six months or more – is something that fans and players are thrilled about or want to see. Instead, I’d describe delays as “understandable.” Particularly in light of a number of recent titles that have been disappointing due to feeling like they weren’t ready to go on launch day, I think more and more players are coming around to that point of view.

Concept art for Starfield.

Increasingly, these kinds of announcements are treated with maturity and understanding by players – and you need only look to some of the comments and responses to Bethesda’s announcement about Starfield as a case in point. Yes, there are some folks who are angry or unhappy – toxicity exists within the gaming community, who knew? And there are the aforementioned PlayStation ultra-fans who are taking a victory lap. But many responses were positive, saying something along the lines of “if it needs more time, that’s okay.”

Failing to delay a game when extra development time is clearly required never ends well. A game’s reputation is largely set within a few hours of its release, and attempting to change the narrative once “it’s bad” or “it’s full of bugs and glitches” has become the overwhelming impression is nigh-on impossible. For every No Man’s Sky that manages to pull off some kind of rehabilitation, there are dozens of titles such as Anthem, Aliens: Colonial Marines, or Warcraft III: Reforged. It’s much better to launch a decent game out of the gate than to try to fix a broken mess after players are already upset.

Concept art for Starfield.

One game has done more than any other in recent years to soften attitudes in favour of delays and to remind players just how badly it’s possible to screw up a premature launch: Cyberpunk 2077. Despite receiving a significant delay earlier in 2020, Cyberpunk’s launch in December of that year was so catastrophically bad that the game ended up being forcibly removed from the PlayStation store, found itself widely criticised by players, and it even saw CD Projekt Red’s share price take a tumble from which it has yet to fully recover.

Starfield exists in a similar space to Cyberpunk 2077 – both are role-playing games, both include science-fiction elements, both are open-world titles, and so on – so many of the players anticipating Starfield have been burned already just eighteen months ago by a game that was released far too soon. Those players, perhaps more than any others, are inclined to understand the reasons behind this decision. And even folks who didn’t personally get caught up in the Cyberpunk 2077 mess are at least aware of what happened.

Cyberpunk 2077 needed a delay or two of its own.

In 2022, with so many games having been released too soon, the attitude from players in general has shifted. Where delays may once have been met with a louder backlash from those who felt disappointed, reactions today are more mature and understanding. That’s not to say toxic or aggressive individuals don’t exist or that there won’t be any criticism of such a move, but rather that the scale of backlash that delays receive is now less significant than it used to be.

At the end of the day, even the most aggressive critics of delays are still likely to buy a game that they’re excited for when it’s ready. It would take some serious self-harming spite to say “because you didn’t release the game in 2022 I’m never going to play it ever!” so from Bethesda and parent company Microsoft’s point of view, the longer-term damage is limited. That isn’t true for every company, though.

Bethesda is owned by Microsoft.

Delays have a disproportionate impact on smaller companies and independent developers, because a delay in those cases can potentially mean that there won’t be enough money to fund their project. If a developer only has enough money in the bank to keep the lights on and the computers powered up for a certain number of weeks, then there’s naturally going to be a hard limit on how far they can push back a release – and the income it brings. In those cases, more leniency can be required when assessing a game.

But when we’re dealing with Starfield, Bethesda, and Microsoft, that’s a non-issue! Backed up by one of the biggest corporations on the planet, Bethesda doesn’t need to worry about running out of cash, and from Microsoft’s point of view it’s infinitely better to ensure that Starfield gets all the time that it needs to be ready for prime-time. This is Bethesda’s first big title for Microsoft, their first new IP in years, and a game that has a lot riding on it for the success of Microsoft’s Xbox brand and Xbox Game Pass. Getting it right is so much more important than rigid adherence to arbitrary deadlines, so if release windows need to shift then from a business perspective that’s what makes the most sense.

Starfield is likely to be a big title for bringing in new Game Pass subscribers.

There are instances where release dates are announced that seem, even at the time, to be unrealistic. Bethesda’s 11th of November 2022 release date for Starfield, for instance, came eleven years to the day after another of their titles: Skyrim. In addition to getting the game out in time for the Christmas rush, there was also clearly something poetic or symmetrical about such a release date that was appealing to Bethesda. But they recognised that the release date wasn’t practical and changed it – good for them!

As consumers in this marketplace, I think we have a responsibility not only to call out and criticise companies when they get it wrong, but to at least acknowledge when a correct decision has been made. As I always say, I have no “insider information” – so I don’t know what condition the current version of Starfield may or may not be in – but if the developers, testers, and management at Bethesda have recognised that the game isn’t far enough along to be in with a realistic chance of hitting its release date, then the smart move is to announce a delay as early as possible. That seems to be what they’ve done, and I commend them for it.

Concept art for Starfield.

In an industry and a marketplace that is too demanding of its employees sometimes, delays can be incredibly welcome respite. I’ve talked before about “crunch” – a practice that I have some personal experience with having once worked in the games industry – and that’s another reason why delays can be a positive thing. Maybe Bethesda could have crunched the teams working on Starfield hard enough to get some semblance of a playable title ready in time to hit its planned release date – but if doing so would have come at the expense of those developers and their health, then I wouldn’t want to get Starfield this year.

Crunch is a bigger subject that we’ll need to talk about at length on another occasion, but if a delay like this one helps to minimise the stress and difficulty of working under such conditions, then suffice to say we have one more reason to be supportive.

I’m looking forward to Starfield, despite some missteps by Bethesda in recent years. If this delay means that the game will be significantly more polished, free from as many bugs and glitches as possible, then I’m all for it. If this delay means that developers and staff at Bethesda aren’t pushed too hard and overworked this year, then I’m all for it. And if this delay means that Starfield will be an all-around more enjoyable experience, then I’m all for it. Though there will be critics and a vocal minority of toxic “fans,” more and more players are coming around to this way of thinking. Delay Starfield if necessary, and if it isn’t ready for the first half of 2023 then delay it again! All that really matters is that the game is in the best possible shape when it finally arrives, and if that means waiting a little longer, that’s fine by me.

Starfield has been delayed and is now due for release sometime in the first half of 2023. Starfield is the copyright of Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, and the Microsoft Corporation. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Bethesda teases more information about Starfield

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Starfield.

The in-engine teaser trailer for upcoming space-themed role-playing game Starfield was a bit of a let-down at E3 back in June. There’d been a lot of hype and rumours before the event that something big was coming from Bethesda and that we’d get our first major look at the game, so to only see a highly stylised teaser that might as well have been totally “fake” wasn’t the best. But the company has recently put out three new mini-trailers showing off three of the locations in Starfield, as well as dropping some more tidbits of information about the game, so I thought we could take a look at what’s been revealed and start to get excited!

Remember, though, that too much hype can be a bad thing! Just look at the disastrous Cyberpunk 2077 as a case in point. As fun as some of these bits of Starfield news may seem, it’s worth keeping in mind that we haven’t yet had a real look at the game itself. And as much as I hate to be too negative, Bethesda doesn’t exactly have a good track record in recent years when it comes to big releases. Their overreliance on a massively out-of-date game engine is also a concern. But Starfield is still over a year away, so hopefully there’s enough time to iron out all of the issues!

With that caveat out of the way, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned about Starfield since E3 – with a healthy pinch of speculation and guesswork thrown in for good measure!

Promotional artwork for Starfield.

The United Colonies is described as “the most powerful established military and political faction in the game.” Their capital city – or capital planet, not sure how best to describe it! – looks like a futuristic Dubai or New York City; a wealthy, clean megacity. This is the city of New Atlantis, and it’s described as being a “melting pot” of different peoples.

The “melting pot” reference is clearly meant to give the city and the faction an American vibe; the United States often likes to see itself as a mixture of cultures. But it could also mean that the United Colonies is akin to something like Star Trek’s United Federation of Planets – semi-independent cultures and worlds co-existing, perhaps under some looser federal form of government.

Concept art of New Atlantis (with a starship in the foreground).

I could be way off base with this, but it seems like the United Colonies isn’t going to be an evil or villainous faction. I didn’t get the sense that this was something like Star Wars’ Empire or First Order, but the fact that it’s described as being powerful – and with a strong military to boot – could mean that the player character is operating outside of the law, or that large parts of the game take place in areas beyond the United Colonies’ jurisdiction.

There were trees on New Atlantis, so the United Colonies clearly have some respect for greenery and the environment – even if just for aesthetic reasons. This is also something I think we can assume to be positive, as at least New Atlantis doesn’t have that overly industrialised, dystopian feel of some sci-fi megacities.

Concept art of New Atlantis showing a couple of trees!

If I were to hazard a guess I’d say that only parts of New Atlantis will be able to be explored and visited. The teaser image depicted a huge building complex with more buildings and lights in the distance, but it seems like making all of that part of the map might be too difficult to pull off; the last thing any of us want is a bland, mostly empty map that’s superficially large but has nothing going on or no one to interact with (looking at you, Fallout 76). New Atlantis was specifically mentioned in the context of a spaceport, so perhaps the spaceport and surrounding area will be able to be visited.

Going all the way back to 1994’s Arena, Bethesda has created contiguous open worlds – that is, game worlds that are one large, single space. There have been examples where smaller areas branched off from the larger game world – such as Morrowind’s expansion pack Tribunal, for example. But by and large we’re talking about single open worlds. Starfield, with different planets to visit and a spaceship being used to travel between them, seems like it will be a game where the game world is broken into smaller chunks. Some of these planets may be quite large, but the concept represents a change from the way Bethesda has worked in the past.

Large open worlds have been a Bethesda hallmark since 1994’s Arena.

Moving away from the United Colonies brings us to Neon, a watery planet with a facility run by the Xenofresh Corporation. This floating city resembles a large oil rig, and although the upper levels look well-lit and probably quite wealthy, I wonder if the lower levels of the platform might be home to the kind of sci-fi dystopia that didn’t seem to be present on New Atlantis!

The backstory of Neon was interesting – and perhaps the closest we’ve got so far to any “lore” of Starfield. The Xenofresh Corporation established Neon as a fishing platform, but soon stumbled upon a drug called “aurora” that they used to turn Neon into a pleasure city. Neon clearly operates outside of the jurisdiction of the United Colonies, and is the only place where this drug is legal.

Concept art of the floating city of Neon.

Previous Bethesda games allowed players to take drugs and drink alcohol, complete with screen-wobbling consequences! I can’t imagine that the developers would mention this aurora drug at this stage if players weren’t going to be able to try it for themselves in-game, so I think we can be pretty confident that aurora will play some role in the game’s story. Perhaps smuggling it from Neon to planets where it’s illegal will be an option for players to make some extra cash! Neon also gave me vibes of Star Trek: Picard’s Freecloud – a similarly independent, pleasure-centric world.

The final location shown off was Akila. The Freestar Collective, of which Akila is the capital, is described as “a loose confederation of three distinct star systems.” Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but singling out the word “confederation” could indicate that this faction is villainous or adversarial. The Confederacy or Confederate States was the official name for the pro-slavery southern states that seceded in 1860-61, instigating the American Civil War. We’ve also seen the name “Confederacy” used in Star Wars, where the Confederacy of Independent Systems was the antagonist faction in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Concept art of Akila, a city in the mountains.

Perhaps I have recent news reports on the brain, but something about the concept art for Akila reminded me of Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. The mountainous terrain, smaller buildings, and hooded or cloaked figures all gave me the impression of that kind of settlement. Perhaps a better analogy, though, would be a Wild West frontier town, and this is reinforced by the narrator saying that all of the people in the Freestar Collective place a strong emphasis on personal freedom and liberty. The whole faction seems very libertarian, then!

Akila was definitely the most Star Wars-seeming settlement, and there are several locales from the Star Wars franchise that Bethesda may have used for inspiration here. It was on this planet that we learned about the first confirmed alien enemy – the ashta, described as being a mix between “a wolf and a velociraptor.” Yikes! As above, there’s no way this critter would be mentioned at this stage if it wasn’t going to be something players could interact with, and like other iconic Bethesda open-world monsters like Fallout’s deathclaw or The Elder Scrolls’ slaughterfish, I think this is something we’re going to do battle with!

A closer look at some of the people and buildings in Akila.

So we know of three locations, each of which is controlled by a different faction. Presumably the Freestar Collective has at least two other planets under its control, as the narration specifically mentioned that the faction controls three star systems. Whether all three will be able to be visited or not is not clear, so I guess watch this space!

The Xenofresh Corporation could easily be in control of more worlds or settlements; I got the impression that it was the kind of mega-corporation that we often see in sci-fi, and thus it seems plausible that it controls holdings on other planets as well as its settlement of Neon.

The United Colonies would seem to be the most widespread and populous faction, but if players are potentially operating outside of its jurisdiction we may not get to visit all of the worlds that make up the United Colonies.

Is the United Colonies going to be similar to Star Trek’s Federation?

Then there’s the player’s faction or group – the organisation called Constellation, described as “the last group of space explorers.” The ship shown in the E3 teaser appears to belong to this group, so it’s assumed that the player will have some kind of relationship with them as well. If this faction is interested in exploration, they may not have a large settlement or permanent colony – but that’s pure speculation!

So that’s it for now. Starfield is still on course for a November ’22 release, but it goes without saying that that’s subject to change at any point between now and then. I’m tentatively looking forward to it, and nothing we’ve seen or heard so far has been offputting. If anything, these little teases are intriguing and make me want to learn more about the game, its backstory, and its factions and locales. I’m a little surprised that Bethesda didn’t include some of these details at E3; it would’ve been more impressive to give players a bit more information about the game rather than just sharing that stylised teaser trailer, and none of what’s recently been revealed seems like it couldn’t have been included a couple of months ago. This is all just backstory and concept art – things Bethesda certainly had at the time. But regardless, we’ve got another little tease of Starfield to pore over!

Starfield will be released on the 11th of November 2022 for PC and Xbox Series S/X. Starfield is the copyright of Bethesda Game Studios and Microsoft. Concept art featured above courtesy of Bethesda Game Studios and Microsoft. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

E3 Roundup

Spoiler Alert: There are minor spoilers ahead for several of the games shown off at this year’s E3.

E3 2021 is over, and it was an interesting long weekend of games and gaming! I’m sure some people will come away disappointed – a lot of the games that were shown off aren’t being released imminently, with many of the bigger, most-anticipated titles not being launched until 2022. But overall, I had a good time. Because E3 was all-digital this year, the presentations were slicker and smoother, and while there were a couple of cringeworthy moments as presenters and CEOs were clearly talking to an empty room instead of a crowded auditorium, on the whole I think E3 benefits when the public stays away!

I mentioned this last year when Electronic Arts had their big annual presentation, but digital events really feel like the future. Live events have the potential to go wrong – very wrong, in some cases – and also drag on a lot longer. E3 this year was more concise, and several of the big presentations packed a lot of games into their hour or two. Though this is still a pandemic-riddled world, and that’s why E3 has gone digital this time around, I won’t be shocked to learn that future years will keep this kind of format.

With Sony skipping E3, Microsoft dominated proceedings. A number of big Xbox exclusives were shown off, and with the eyes of the world on the games industry in a way that seldom happens, I wonder if Sony will come to see the decision to stand alone as a mistake. There will be a Sony event later in the year – perhaps even this summer – but having missed the party at E3, Microsoft will come away dominating the gaming headlines in the days and weeks ahead.

Pandemic-related delays continue to afflict the industry, and some of the bigger titles shown off won’t hit shelves until next year at the earliest. Despite that, however, there are still big games coming out in the next few months – hopefully enough to tide us over until 2022! Though I didn’t subject myself to every minute of the presentations and chatter, I had fun with this year’s E3. It was generally well done, with plenty of exciting upcoming games to talk about – which is the point, after all.

Let’s take a look at my E3 roundup. I’ve picked out twenty games that I considered to be the most interesting (or the biggest) from this year’s E3. Here they are – in no particular order!

Number 1: Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 4 was the game that tempted me to sign up for Xbox Game Pass last year, so I’m definitely going to take a look at the next game in this fun racing series when it’s ready. Forza Horizon 5 will see the action jump to Mexico, using a similar semi-open world to the previous game, with different types of races, a multitude of cars to choose from, and a focus on a more arcade style of racing over the simulation of the mainline Forza Motorsport titles.

Forza has grown from humble beginnings to become Microsoft’s answer to Gran Turismo, and a fine addition to the Xbox and PC lineup. Mexico is an interesting idea for a setting, and it seems like there will be plenty of dusty deserts and paradise-like tropical beaches to race around. Racing games always manage to look fantastic, and Forza Horizon 5 was definitely one of the prettiest games on show at this year’s E3.

Number 2: Avatar – Frontiers of Pandora

This one was a surprise; I don’t think anyone had it on their radar! Avatar – Frontiers of Pandora was shown off during Ubisoft’s presentation, and was really the highlight of what was otherwise a dull hour populated by updates, expansions, and sequels. The game is due for release next year, which is also when the first of four sequels to 2009’s Avatar is scheduled to hit cinemas. It doesn’t seem like the first-person action game will be a direct adaptation of the film – at least, that’s the impression I got – but the timing can’t be coincidental!

Despite Avatar becoming the highest-grossing film of all time when it was released, more than a decade later it’s not unfair to say that it hasn’t made a huge impact in the cultural landscape, even within the sci-fi genre. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say Avatar has been largely eclipsed by titles released in the decade since, and is almost forgotten at this point. Commissioning what looks to be a big-budget video game of this kind is a bit of a risk under those circumstances, but it seems like it has potential – and the Avatar sequels may succeed at establishing the basis for an ongoing franchise of which this game could be a big part. We’ll have to wait and see! So we can add this one to the pile of games I’m tentatively excited about.

Number 3: Starfield

I was rather surprised to see so little of Starfield – even though its “in engine” trailer was well put-together, and it was certainly our biggest look so far at a game Bethesda chief executive Todd Howard described as both “a new universe” and something set in the future, I had expected to see more actual gameplay. Considering Starfield is still a year and a half away, perhaps the game just wasn’t ready for a more in-depth look.

What we saw was interesting, though. Starfield seems to be doing something superficially similar to television series like The Expanse in the way it handles its spacecraft – a combination of modern military, industrial, and astronaut aesthetics seemed present in the design and layout of the ship we saw in the trailer. I quite like that style, it arguably gives stories a semi-realistic feel when compared to the likes of Star Trek or Star Wars, which both rely on technobabble and fictional technologies. Spaceships in Starfield are said to be fuelled by helium-3 – a real-world substance that can be used for spacecraft fuel.

But, of course, this is the studio that brought us The Elder Scrolls and the modern Fallout games, so it won’t just be a realistic spaceflight simulator! It seems as though there will be exploration involved, as well as encountering alien races!

As I predicted, Starfield will be exclusive to Xbox and PC following Bethesda’s acquisition by Microsoft. This seemed patently obvious to me, but doubtless some PlayStation fans will still be disappointed.

Number 4: Elden Ring

Upcoming hack-and-slash title Elden Ring was one of the first games shown off this year, debuting on Thursday as part of the “Summer Games Fest” presentation. I stated in my preview of E3 that Elden Ring might not be the kind of game I’m interested in, personally speaking… and having seen more of it I can now say that with certainty!

If you’re looking forward to Elden Ring, that’s fantastic. I have no doubt that for fans of certain genres it will be a fun time – but as someone who doesn’t much care for the “extreme difficulty” hack-and-slash gameplay of other FromSoftware titles, this is one I’m going to skip. Nothing in the trailer – from its dark, bland colour palette to its monsters that looked like they’ve been copied and pasted straight from one of the Dark Souls games – appealed to me, and you could’ve told me this was Dark Souls 4 and I’d have believed it.

The involvement of author George R. R. Martin did admittedly pique my curiosity when the game was first announced, and I have no doubt his input will help craft a fantasy setting that is, at the very least, interesting. But that’s about the nicest thing I can say about Elden Ring. It might have an interesting setting with enjoyable lore. Everything else about it makes it look like a game I’ll happily skip.

Number 5: Sea of Thieves crossover with Pirates of the Caribbean

What?! What on Earth did I just see? This crossover between Rare’s multiplayer pirate game Sea of Thieves and Captain Jack Sparrow from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean looks utterly bonkers, and was a total surprise. Multiplayer generally isn’t my thing, as you may know, so I haven’t played much of Sea of Thieves. But this crossover looks like a blast, and I’m sure fans of the game will have a lot of fun.

Sea of Thieves underwhelmed when it launched in 2018, with criticism for feeling rather barebones. But in the three years since launch, developers Rare have added a lot of new content, and the general consensus seems to be that the game is in a good place in 2021. This crossover with Pirates of the Caribbean will surely bring in a lot of new players, and it looks set to give Sea of Thieves a significant boost.

Number 6: The Outer Worlds 2

The Outer Worlds 2 wins the award for “funniest trailer!” Other than a very early tease at the fact that the game exists, we don’t know much at all about the sequel to Oblivion’s 2019 role-playing game. The Outer Worlds drew positive comparisons to the Fallout franchise; Oblivion having made Fallout: New Vegas a few years earlier. With Fallout 76 floundering, The Outer Worlds was talked up as a kind of spiritual successor. I think that description sells it short – The Outer Worlds is its own thing. And now a sequel is on the way which will hopefully be just as much fun and expand the world that the first game created.

As with a number of big, hyped-up titles this year, The Outer Worlds 2 isn’t coming any time soon. However, knowledge of its existence might be enough to tide fans over until its eventual release.

Number 7: Battlefield 2042

So many games nowadays are ditching their single-player campaigns to focus entirely on multiplayer, and Battlefield 2042 is the latest to do so. Sometimes it feels as though games companies are deliberately making shorter and less interesting campaigns, so that when fewer people play them they can say “see, no one wants a single-player mode! That’s why we didn’t make one!”

Battlefield 2042 was shown off with a very slick cinematic trailer, before showing off proper gameplay during Microsoft’s presentation a couple of days later. The gameplay looks… fine. If you like the Battlefield series, I daresay you’ll find this game familiar and enjoyable when it releases later in the year. Following on from 2006’s Battlefield 2142, as well as the likes of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and even Arma III, Battlefield 2042 is taking a near-future setting that will likely allow for a degree of creativity on the part of developers Dice.

In that regard I have to say I like the diversity of settings on offer from modern shooters. Long gone are the days when everything was either sci-fi or World War II, and after the most recent entries in the series looked at World War I and World War II it makes sense to change things up and give fans a different experience. This won’t be one I dive into, but it looks like a solid shooter for folks into that kind of thing.

Number 8: Age of Empires IV

We’ve known for a while that Age of Empires IV has been in the works, but E3 finally gave us a release date: the 28th of October. I’ve had a great time with the remastered Age of Empires games over the last few years, but the initial teaser for Age of Empires IV a few months ago left me distinctly underwhelmed. The game just looked incredibly outdated, and I was genuinely worried for its prospects.

The E3 trailer, however, looked a heck of a lot better. Though Age of Empires IV will be taking a different approach to past games, and will feature fewer factions at launch, it has potential, and I shall certainly give it a try when it arrives on Game Pass this autumn. The original Age of Empires and its Rise of Rome expansion were two of my most-played games of the late 1990s/early 2000s and cemented my love of the real-time strategy genre. After successful remakes of those classic games, it’ll be great to welcome the Age of Empires series to the modern day!

Number 9: Mario Party Superstars

The Nintendo Direct broadcast began with a far-too-long look at a single new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate character that really dragged. After that weak start, however, there were a couple of interesting announcements. Mario Party Superstars is probably the one that seemed most exciting to me, as it will be bringing back boards and mini-games from the Mario Party games of the Nintendo 64 era. I have fond memories of playing the original Mario Party with friends on the N64, so this new game seems like it has the potential to be a wonderful blast of nostalgia.

There is already a Mario Party game on the Nintendo Switch, of course, and at first it seemed as though Superstars was simply going to be an expansion for that title. However, it’s a standalone game instead, and is going to be retailing for full price (£50 in the UK). That seems a bit steep to me, and it might end up putting people off. But the idea is interesting, and I’ll be curious to see how Mario Party Superstars does.

Number 10: Chivalry II

Chivalry II is already out – it launched last week. But E3 provided developers Torn Banner Studios another opportunity to plug the game, and they seized it! The game is a medieval combat multiplayer title, with players jumping into large-scale battles with dozens of others. There are a variety of different game modes, including sieges, pitched battles, and others, and despite the fact that I’m not much of a multiplayer gamer, I have to say that the fast-paced hacking and slashing looks like fun!

In a multiplayer scene dominated by first-person shooters, Chivalry II is something different. Stepping back in time to the medieval era, and arming players with swords, shields, bows, and battle-axes instead of guns and rocket launchers really does feel like a breath of fresh air. It’s likely going to remain a fairly niche game by multiplayer standards, but that’s okay. It looks like fun, and maybe I’ll be convinced to check it out some time soon.

Number 11: Shredders

I like winter time and winter-themed titles – especially when it’s summer and there’s a heatwave going on! Shredders will be an Xbox/PC exclusive snowboarding game, and it’s due for release in time for Christmas. The game looked stunning, with great visuals and a snow effect that looked incredibly realistic. The trailer was very cinematic, though, so I’ll wait to see how good the finished product looks in comparison!

There have been some great snowboarding and winter sports games over the years, and I remember games like 1080° Snowboarding on the Nintendo 64 and SSX Tricky in the Xbox days with fondness. Shredders looks to be cut from the same cloth as those older titles, so perhaps it’ll be just as much fun when it’s released this winter.

Number 12: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild II

Regular readers may recall that I haven’t played Breath of the Wild – nor indeed any Zelda game. But fans have been clamouring for a sequel to the 2017 Switch launch title ever since it was released, and Nintendo has been hard at work on Breath of the Wild II (real title unknown!) for some time now. We finally got a look at the game at E3.

It looks like… Breath of the Wild. If you liked the first game, what we saw at E3 should be encouraging because it looks very much like more of the same. Link may have new abilities or new weapons, and of course there’ll be new monsters to fight and a new story. But in terms of visuals and the way the game seems to be played, there’s nothing earth-shattering or radically different from the last game.

Number 13: Redfall

I like Redfall’s visual style. The cartoon-inspired art style takes what could’ve been a horror title, featuring a vampire apocalypse, and turns it into something more fun and casual. Billing itself as a team or co-op shooter, Redfall stars a unique cast of characters tasked with fighting off vampires. It’s a game made by Arkane, the studio best-known for the Dishonored duology, as well as a personal favourite of mine from the Xbox era, Arx Fatalis.

Redfall looks to build on the studio’s work with the Dishonored games, but at the same time will take a different approach. It’s definitely one to watch, and I like the idea of using vampires in this way. Vampires in entertainment often follow the Dracula model: one or two very powerful enemies to outsmart and defeat. Television series The Strain stepped away from that and gave us a vampire apocalypse – and it looks like Redfall will try to do something similar in its own unique way.

Number 14: Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania

Super Monkey Ball has always been a niche product, even by Nintendo’s cartoony standards! But there’s no denying that the original game was a lot of fun, and with the series hitting its 20th anniversary this year, Nintendo evidently felt that the time was right for a remaster. That’s what Banana Mania is, in case the trailer wasn’t clear – a remaster of the first three Super Monkey Ball games.

I don’t really have a lot more to say about this one. If you like Monkey Ball games, you’ll probably like Banana Mania when it launches on Switch.

Number 15: Bear & Breakfast

One of the few indie games to really shine at E3 this year was Bear & Breakfast. In short, you run a bed and breakfast (i.e. a small-scale hotel) in a forest. But you’re a bear. That’s the gimmick. The art style looks cute, the premise sounds like fun, and I liked the trailer that new developer Gummy Cat put together. I got kind of a Stardew Valley vibe from Bear & Breakfast, which is certainly no bad thing.

All I can really say is that I like this kind of management/tycoon game, and the uniqueness of the premise, combined with the neat visual style, makes Bear & Breakfast appealing to me. There’s currently no release date, but the developer hopes to have the game ready before the end of this year.

Number 16: Grounded

Grounded is currently out in early access (or a “game preview” as Microsoft calls it). For that reason I haven’t checked it out; early access games are hit-and-miss, with far more misses than hits in my experience. But developers Obsidian have been working hard on this Honey, I Shrunk The Kids-inspired title, and a new update to the game looks to add a lot more content.

Though I’m probably still going to wait until Grounded is ready for prime-time, I love the premise of being shrunk down and playing in the grass. There used to be a Disney World attraction based on the 1989 film in which you could walk through an area of the park where grass and everyday items were scaled-up to huge sizes. Grounded reminds me of that!

Number 17: Halo Infinite

We already knew Halo Infinite was in development, but after a disappointing trailer left fans upset last year, the game didn’t launch alongside the Xbox Series X in November. We got to see a little more of the game at E3, and Microsoft dropped the big news that the game’s multiplayer mode will be free-to-play. This is definitely an interesting development, but the only thing I could think was that most Xbox Series X players will already be interested in the Halo series… so I’m not sure that making the multiplayer free will see Halo Infinite pick up a lot more players! But free things are always nice.

The game has definitely been polished since last year’s controversy, and the graphics look decent. The Master Chief’s return after a long absence will definitely be attractive to fans of the series, and with a Halo television show also in production, it seems like the Halo brand is about to undergo a renaissance after a decade in which it arguably underperformed.

Though the Halo series has been a flagship for Xbox, the sheer number of other games on offer as Microsoft snaps up studios and pushes Game Pass hard makes it feel a little less relevant in 2021. Halo Infinite is shaping up to be a good game – but Xbox’s success is no longer as closely-tied to the series as it once was.

Number 18: Dying Light 2: Stay Human

Zombies have been overdone in the last few years, with so many open-world zombie horror games that the industry is more or less burned out on the concept. Dying Light 2, which fans of the original game have been anticipating since 2015, has a mountain to climb, then – but there are positive signs.

There will be no guns in Dying Light 2, with players having to make use of crafted melee weapons in the post-apocalyptic city they find themselves in. There will likewise be no vehicles – the in-universe explanation being that there is no fuel any more, since the zombie virus devastated the world. Both of those semi-realistic concepts feel like they add value to a genre that’s otherwise played out, and Dying Light 2, with its interesting parkour-based movement system carried over from the first game, may have found a niche that will bring players back.

Number 19: Rainbow Six Extraction

I enjoyed Rainbow Six in the early 2000s, and I had the first couple of games in the series on Dreamcast. Rainbow Six Siege was never my thing; a multiplayer live service just held no appeal. And though Extraction brings back characters from Siege, it does so in a very different way. With a focus on cooperative play as opposed to competitive, and with an interesting-sounding premise involving an alien parasite, Extraction has all the elements in place for a fun experience.

Some have criticised the decision to take the previously straight-laced action series in a different direction, but I think there’s a lot of potential in a series like Rainbow Six trying something new. Siege was something new itself when it launched in 2015; the series had previously been a story-centric game with a main campaign, not a multiplayer one. So let’s see what Extraction brings to the table when it launches in September.

Number 20: Slime Rancher 2

One of the most colourful and vibrant games shown off at E3, Slime Rancher 2 is the sequel to 2016’s Slime Rancher, a first-person farming/life simulator. Though we didn’t see much in the way of gameplay – nor even get any significant details – I assume at this stage that the game will take the same premise as the original title and build on it.

Expect to see more of the same, but with new varieties of slimes and perhaps some new crafting or character abilities as well. It looks like fun, and will be released in 2022.

Notable absences:

Before we wrap things up I wanted to mention a few games that were notable by their absence at E3. Though there were plenty of titles we did get to see – the list above is nowhere near comprehensive – there were some titles I was hoping or expecting to hear news of that didn’t appear for one reason or another.

Anything from the Star Wars franchise:

There had been rumours earlier in the year of a Knights of the Old Republic sequel. There’s also Jedi: Fallen Order II (though that’s an EA game, and EA didn’t have a presentation at E3 this year) and Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which has been delayed multiple times. With so much new content to come from Star Wars, and with the brand ditching its exclusive arrangement with EA, I’m sure there must be more video games in the works. I genuinely expected to hear something about at least one of them!

Grand Theft Auto 6:

Still radio-silence on this from Rockstar, despite Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive having a slot at this year’s E3. We don’t even know for certain that Grand Theft Auto 6 will be Rockstar’s next big game, and with the recent announcement of a port of Grand Theft Auto V to new consoles, it seems like they’re planning to continue to milk that 2013 title for as long as possible. Disappointing.

Mario Kart 9:

As soon as Nintendo said, in the first minute of their broadcast, that they would be focusing on games releasing this year I was sure we wouldn’t see Mario Kart 9! The series’ 30th anniversary is next year, and in my opinion 2022 remains the most likely release date for the next entry in the Mario Kart series. Despite that, however, before E3 I felt there was the potential for the game to be announced in order to begin to get fans hyped up.

Hogwarts Legacy:

Originally announced for 2021 before being delayed to next year, Hogwarts Legacy still sounds like it’ll be good fun. Actual information about the game has been hard to come by, though, with no new information since last year’s reveal. The time seemed right for an update on the game’s progress, but alas!

So that’s it.

With Sony and PlayStation being absent, Microsoft and Xbox dominated proceedings. Nintendo showed off a collection of smaller games that will be of note to their existing fans, but their biggest releases – like Breath of the Wild II and the next Metroid Prime title – are still a long way off. There were plenty of interesting games, though – far more than I’ll ever be able to play!

E3 worked well in this stripped-down, audience-free format. I hope they decide to stick with it going forward, even when the pandemic settles and in-person events are okay again. I just found the whole thing much simpler and more enjoyable, with less of a focus on presenters and staging and more of a focus on the thing we all care about: games.

The games I found most interesting are listed above, but there were many more shown off as well. Practically all of the trailers are now online on YouTube and similar websites, so take a look. I’m sure there’s something for everyone!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional art courtesy of Xbox, IGDB and/or E3. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

E3 2021 – predictions and/or wishes

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers present for the following games: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Knights of the Old Republic I & II, Mass Effect 3, and Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.

After taking a year off in 2020, the Electronic Entertainment Expo – better known as E3 – is returning later this month. In fact, many large games companies have events or announcements scheduled for June, meaning we could be in for practically an entire month of previews, trailers, teasers, and demos for a number of great upcoming titles. This time I thought it could be fun to look ahead to E3 – and other June events – and maybe make a few predictions about what we might see! There might also be a few wishes or fantasies thrown in as well!

From Microsoft and Electronic Arts to Nintendo and Ubisoft, practically all of the big names in the games industry will have something to say over the next few weeks. Much of the attention will be focused on this year’s digital E3 event, which officially takes place from the 12th to the 15th of June, but I think we can expect other big announcements outside of those dates as well.

My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” Today’s list is nothing more than guesswork and speculation, with a fair amount of hoping and fantasising thrown in for good measure! With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of my predictions (and wishes) for what we might see at this year’s E3!

Number 1: Starfield

Teaser logo for Starfield.

Bethesda’s next game has been common knowledge for years, and even while they’ve been working on Fallout 76 and porting Skyrim to smart fridges, development on this sci-fi role-playing game has continued. Rumour has it that Starfield is now edging closer to being complete, and it’s possible we could even see a release date announced at E3 – maybe even for later this year or the first half of next year.

Other than a sci-fi setting that may include some degree of space travel, actual information about Starfield has been hard to come by. The disappointment of Fallout 76, and Bethesda’s refusal to consider developing or licensing a new game engine to replace the outdated Gamebryo/Creation Engine that they’ve used for more than two decades, leaves me at least a little anxious about Starfield’s prospects, with any hype or excitement I might’ve felt at the latest big Bethesda release replaced by cautious interest. However, there’s potential in Starfield, and I hope that we’ll get a fantastic game.

Microsoft now owns Bethesda and all its current and upcoming games.

If Bethesda hadn’t learned their lesson following the calamitous launch of Fallout 76, December’s Cyberpunk 2077 catastrophe should serve as another reminder that players simply will not tolerate a broken, unfinished, “release now, fix later” mess. So as interested as I am to see Starfield, I’d very much rather that it was delayed if needs be. It would be great to see it at E3 and begin to get excited for its release, but only if it’s ready!

Bethesda has recently been acquired by Microsoft in a multi-billion dollar deal, so Starfield will almost certainly be announced as an Xbox and PC exclusive. Sorry PlayStation fans!

Number 2: Mario Kart 9

Is a new Mario Kart game coming soon?

I’ve talked about the possibility of a new Mario Kart game several times over the past few months here on the website, and the reason is simple: next year will be the Mario Kart series’ 30th anniversary. Nintendo loves to make a big deal of anniversaries, as we saw just a few months ago with the 35th anniversary of Super Mario. Although nothing is confirmed and I should point out that we don’t even know for sure that Mario Kart 9 is in development, putting the pieces together makes this one seem at least plausible!

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has been the best-selling game on Nintendo Switch since it arrived on the platform, but it’s only a port of a Wii U game from 2014. After more than seven years, this is the longest dry spell the Mario Kart series has ever endured, and it seems like the perfect time to give the Switch its own original Mario Kart title.

2022 will be the series’ 30th anniversary.

As a celebration of all things Mario Kart, it would be great to see racetracks from past iterations return, as well as drivers from across Nintendo titles and even from other games altogether. If Mario Kart 9 is to be released in time for the anniversary next year, announcing it at E3 makes a lot of sense – building up the hype and giving fans plenty of time to get excited!

I’m not sure whether to classify this one as a wish or a prediction, because I feel certain that Nintendo will be doing something to mark the Mario Kart series’ anniversary – but will they announce it this month? We’ll have to see!

Number 3: Anything Star Trek

Could a new Star Trek game be on the horizon?

The Star Trek franchise has not done well in the gaming realm. In recent years, Star Trek Online has been the only game in town – literally – and as someone who isn’t big on massively multiplayer online games, it just isn’t “my thing.” I’d love to see ViacomCBS take advantage of Star Trek’s return to the small screen and commission a video game adaptation. Whether that would be something connected to a classic show or something based on modern Star Trek wouldn’t matter to me – though I could see the advantages of a game based on Discovery or Picard from the company’s perspective.

This is definitely a pure wish, because I’ve heard no rumours nor seen any indication that ViacomCBS has any plans to license out Star Trek in a big way. There are mobile games, the online game, and there was even a browser game earlier this year, but when it comes to putting together the kind of single-player title that I’d really love to see, the Star Trek franchise hasn’t shown any interest since the disastrous 2013 Kelvin timeline game.

2013’s Star Trek was not a good game, unfortunately.

It’s possible that that buggy, poorly-received title has harmed Star Trek’s brand from a gaming point of view, which is such a shame. There should be a pretty big overlap between Trekkies and gamers, but the franchise has consistently failed to capitalise on that, with Star Trek games going all the way back to the ’80s being of little interest to most folks.

If ViacomCBS could contract a big studio to put out the equivalent of a Jedi: Fallen Order or Mass Effect I’d be beyond thrilled. Will it happen at E3 – or ever? I have no idea. Probably not, but there’s always hope!

Number 4: Fall Guys coming to Switch and Xbox

Fall Guys is coming to Switch… eventually.

Though Fall Guys promised earlier in the year that a release on both Switch and Xbox is on the cards, there’s currently no release date on the schedule. Announcing one at E3 would be a big boost for the fun little obstacle course-battle royale game, and as I’ve said on a few occasions now, Nintendo Switch in particular feels like a perfect fit for Fall Guys.

There have been some improvements made to Fall Guys recently, like the addition of cross-platform play, the introduction of new rounds and round variants, and additional challenges that make logging in and playing more frequently feel rewarding. But there’s still a ways to go for Fall Guys if new owners Epic Games hope to break into the upper echelons of multiplayer gaming.

Hopefully Fall Guys will continue to improve – as well as finally be released on other platforms.

Fall Guys had “a moment” in August last year, in the days immediately following its release. But issues with cheating soured a lot of players on the game, and there’s work to do to rebuild both its reputation and playerbase. The announcement of Switch and Xbox versions of the game would bring renewed attention to Fall Guys, perhaps convincing lapsed players to pick it up again.

Though developers Mediatonic have stated that there are no current plans to make Fall Guys free-to-play, the delay in getting the Switch and Xbox versions ready makes me wonder if a bigger overhaul is on the cards. Announcing it at E3, with the eyes of players around the world on the games industry, would make a lot of sense and drum up plenty of hype.

Number 5: Knights of the Old Republic III/Knights of the High Republic

A new Knights of the Old Republic would make a lot of fans very happy indeed!

Rumours swirled earlier in the year of a new entry in the Knights of the Old Republic series of Star Wars role-playing games. Originally developed by BioWare, with a sequel created by Oblivion, the Knights of the Old Republic games are among my favourite games of all-time, and a sequel just sounds fantastic!

The Star Wars franchise is seemingly stepping away from its exclusive deal with Electronic Arts, so perhaps a studio like Oblivion could come back to pick up the mantle. Or we could learn that BioWare is coming back to the series that laid the groundwork for titles like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.

These two games were just fantastic.

It’s been 17 years since Knights of the Old Republic II was released, so that could mean a new entry in the series won’t be a direct sequel and will instead focus on new characters. The so-called “High Republic” era is currently a big deal in Star Wars spin-off media, focusing on a time period about 300 years prior to the film series – and several millennia after Knights of the Old Republic. I can’t help but wonder if a new game could be Knights of the High Republic instead!

However, Knights of the Old Republic II definitely teased a sequel, and the stories of both Revan and the Jedi Exile are arguably incomplete (despite some mentions or appearances in the online multiplayer game The Old Republic). The Star Wars franchise has recently been in the habit of announcing games shortly before their launch – like last year’s Squadrons. If that happens again, maybe we’ll get a new Star Wars game later this year!

Number 6: Jedi: Fallen Order II

Jedi: Fallen Order was amazing.

Sticking with Star Wars, we know that Respawn Entertainment is currently working on a sequel to 2019’s Jedi: Fallen Order. Though development may have only begun in earnest when the success of the first game became apparent, it’s not inconceivable that there’ll be something concrete to show off at this year’s E3, even if the game isn’t coming any time soon.

Cal Kestis’ story could take a different direction in the sequel, as the end of the first game left things open-ended and with no clear destination. Jedi: Fallen Order introduced us to some amazing characters, and it’s going to be wonderful to find out what comes next for all of them. I doubt Jedi: Fallen Order II will be released this year – it may not even be released next year – but a little tease to keep fans interested is no bad thing at an event like this!

It would be great to see Cal and the gang return.

Jedi: Fallen Order definitively proved to companies that have been moving away from single-player titles that there’s still a lot of room for success and profit in the medium. That’s an incredibly positive legacy for any game, and after fans had been vocal about wanting a single-player, story-focused Star Wars game, the fact that it succeeded and sold millions of copies showed Electronic Arts and other big companies that it’s worth investing in this kind of title.

I’m happy to wait for Jedi: Fallen Order II. The original game was released without major bugs or glitches, something which should be expected but which won it a lot of praise in an industry where “release now, fix later” has almost become the norm. Rather than rush the sequel, I hope Respawn and EA take their time to give it the polish it deserves.

Number 7: Mass Effect 4

Promo art for Mass Effect 2.

It would make a lot of sense for BioWare and Electronic Arts to capitalise on the successful release of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition to at least tease or hint at what’s coming next for the franchise. We know, thanks to an earlier announcement, that Mass Effect 4 is in early development, but aside from a cinematic teaser we know nothing about the next entry in the series.

One of the reasons Mass Effect: Andromeda didn’t succeed (aside from its bugs and launch issues) was that it ignored the ending of the third game and tried to do its own thing off to one side. The end of the Reaper War was a significant moment for the Mass Effect galaxy and its races, and piecing together what happens next is something many fans are interested in, despite the disappointment many felt at the three ending options for Mass Effect 3.

With the Reaper War over, where will the drama and action come from in Mass Effect 4?

Mass Effect 4 has a difficult task. It has to follow on from an epic “war to end all wars” type of story in a way that doesn’t feel anticlimactic and small. That’s not going to be easy, and I can understand why BioWare instead chose to tell a side-story in Andromeda instead of trying to confront this challenge head-on. With the game in development, though, I assume they’ve figured something out!

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition can be seen as a test or a dry run for a new game, and judging by the success it’s seen over the last couple of weeks, I have no doubt that a new entry in the series will be highly anticipated by fans.

Number 8: Grand Theft Auto 6

After almost a decade, surely a new Grand Theft Auto game can’t be too far away?

For too long Rockstar have been milking Grand Theft Auto V’s online mode, and it’s time for a change. After the longest gap between games in the history of the franchise, a new title in the open-world crime saga is long overdue, and it would be great to get some kind of news – even just the tiniest tease – at E3.

Rockstar has already committed to porting Grand Theft Auto V to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X, diverting time, money, and development resources away from making a new game. I’ve said before that Grand Theft Auto V has run its course by now, and the disappointed reaction from fans to news of a port to new consoles backs that up. It’s high time for a new title.

Grand Theft Auto V’s port to new hardware left many players upset.

Will it happen, though? I mean it will eventually happen, of course; there’s too much money in the brand to let it end with Grand Theft Auto V. But despite the fact that some players have been vocal about wanting a new title, Rockstar has thus far shown no signs of working on a sequel. In some ways, perhaps the success of Grand Theft Auto V has become a problem for the franchise; the more time passes, the harder it will be for any sequel to live up to its illustrious predecessor.

Finding a way for Grand Theft Auto 6 to differentiate itself from the current iteration of the series is also a challenge. Another sunlit coastal city in the present day probably won’t cut it – so where should Rockstar take the series? Maybe we’ll see the first indications soon!

Number 9: Civilization VII

Promo screenshot of Civilization VI.

It’s been almost five years since the release of Civilization VI, so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a new entry in the series is in development. The most recent expansion pack for Civilization VI – titled the New Frontier pass – may be the game’s last, with no further announcements of DLC coming since last year. Perhaps Firaxis has already begun to shift development to a new game?

I was pleasantly surprised by Civilization VI when I picked it up in 2016. Having not been a big fan of previous turn-based strategy games I was initially sceptical, but I’m glad I took the plunge! I ended up sinking hundreds of hours into Civilization VI as the last decade drew to a close, and there’s a lot to be said for the series.

The Civilization series has come a long way since its inception in the early 1990s!

A new game would shake up the formula without reinventing the wheel, introducing different ways to play or bringing back successful features from past entries in the series. There would also be the potential to introduce brand-new factions and leaders – a subject I took a look at a few weeks ago.

Series like Civilization, which don’t see annual releases, can sometimes cause controversy if a new entry is regarded as being released “too soon” after the previous one. But the Civilization franchise has usually put out a new game roughly every four to five years on average, so the time could be coming for a new entry.

Number 10: Hogwarts Legacy

Promo image for Hogwarts Legacy.

Hogwarts Legacy – a single-player action/role-playing game set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – was announced last year with a short trailer. It’s since been delayed, with a release now scheduled for 2022 instead of later this year. But developers Avalanche Software and publisher Warner Bros. might take the opportunity provided by E3 to update fans on the game’s progress.

It’s been a long time since anything set in the Wizarding World was of much interest to me, but Hogwarts Legacy feels like it has potential. The trailer hinted at a morality system as well as different styles of magic and player choices having an impact on the game, all of which are things I find thoroughly enjoyable in a single-player title. I got a kind of Knights of the Old Republic vibe from the way the game was described!

The trailer we saw last year looked very exciting!

I’m a big supporter of games being delayed. I’d very much rather a developer take the necessary time to polish their title rather than releasing it too soon to meet an arbitrary deadline. In the wake of the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077 last year – as well as other titles that failed as a result of their “release now, fix later” model – I’m glad to see Warner Bros. and Avalanche are prepared to take their time. But it would still be nice to see some more of the game if there’s something ready to see!

One of the aspects of the game I’m most interested to learn more about is how it’ll handle school lessons within the overall storyline. Games set in schools have not always managed to strike the right balance, and mini-games supposedly mimicking “classwork” have often fallen rather flat. If the player character is a student, surely they will need to spend at least some of their time in class – and figuring out that aspect of the game could be key to its success!

Number 11: Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is a great and inexpensive way to get access to a large library of titles.

Game Pass has taken off over the last few months, and is one of the most compelling arguments in favour of buying an Xbox right now, as well as offering a relatively inexpensive way into gaming in general. Microsoft will be making a big appearance at E3, and I can’t help but wonder what news they’ll have regarding Game Pass.

Some have suggested that a deal might be on the table to bring Xbox Game Pass to Nintendo Switch or even PlayStation; I’m not sure that’s practical considering the divide between Microsoft and Sony in particular, but you never know! After Bethesda and EA Play have both brought significant libraries of games to the service in recent months, I’m beginning to wonder what’s left for Microsoft to possibly add!

EA, Bethesda, and more… Game Pass continues to grow!

Regardless, I’m sure that any titles Microsoft show off, including big Bethesda titles like Starfield or even The Elder Scrolls VI, will be coming to Game Pass, so that’s a good start. But using the opportunity of E3 to really push the service and show how it’s continuing to expand would be great from Microsoft’s perspective.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are still sold out everywhere, but there seem to be more Xbox Series S consoles available at the moment. Game Pass also makes picking up a pre-owned Xbox One a pretty good proposition in the short term, so Microsoft has a lot of scope this month to hook in and convert players to their platform – and Game Pass is the way to do it.

Number 12: Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite was delayed, but it’s still being worked on.

Speaking of Microsoft and Xbox, following a disappointing reveal last year, Halo Infinite was postponed. Originally the game was supposed to be the Xbox Series S/X’s flagship launch title, but as I predicted at the time, its absence ultimately didn’t prove a huge hurdle for the new console’s launch.

Since original developer Bungie abandoned the Halo series to pursue Destiny in 2010, the series has struggled to hit the highs of earlier titles. Halo 4 and Halo 5 were both well-received by some fans but disliked by others, and there’s a sense that the Halo series really needs a win with its next iteration. As above with Hogwarts Legacy I fully support developers 343 Industries delaying the project and taking the necessary time to bash it into shape. Maybe we’ll see what they’ve been working on at E3!

Promo art for the Halo series.

With a Halo television series also in the works, it should be a good time to be a fan of the sci-fi shooter series. Hopefully the issues with Infinite have been ironed out, and even if there’s still no definite word on when it’ll be released, there will be something to show off to tide fans over and restore hope in the series’ future.

I enjoyed playing Halo and Halo 2 back on the original Xbox, and I’ve recently had fun with The Master Chief Collection on PC, which included a couple of titles I hadn’t played. I’m interested to see what Infinite will bring to the table.

Number 13: Elden Ring

A figure from the Elden Ring teaser trailer.

I have to be honest: I’m not sure if Elden Ring is going to be “my kind of thing.” Don’t get me wrong, I like George R R Martin – who’s working with developer FromSoftware on the project – but the teaser trailer gave off a kind of horror vibe that just rubbed me the wrong way, I guess.

I’m also not a fan of FromSoftware’s “extreme difficulty for the sake of it” style of gameplay. There’s no indication that Elden Ring will be as horribly difficult as the likes of Dark Souls, but the developer’s reputation precedes them, and their unwillingness to add difficulty options in their games is not something I appreciate. For those reasons and more it may end up being a game I skip!

A rather creepy moment from the teaser trailer.

Despite that, I like the idea of a new dark fantasy role-playing game. The involvement of George R R Martin has a lot of fans understandably excited, as he’s one of the best authors working in the genre today. Other than that, and a short cinematic teaser, we don’t know very much at all about Elden Ring – so this could be the moment for Bandai Namco to finally show off some gameplay!

If I were being hopeful, I guess I’d say that I’d like to see a darker, more polished looking version of The Elder Scrolls, with plenty of side-missions, lots of factions to join or fight against, and a main story that can be played through right away or sidelined in favour of doing other things. Whether Elden Ring will be anything like that, or whether it’ll be closer to Dark Souls is anyone’s guess at the moment!

Number 14: Super Mario 64 remake

Battling Bowser in HD? Yes please!

This is a game that I truly felt was a possibility last year, when Nintendo was marking the 35th anniversary of the Super Mario series. Ultimately the company opted to include a pretty crappy version of Super Mario 64 – with a weird screen resolution that left black bars on all four sides of the screen – as part of the underwhelming Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.

But maybe the rumours of a reimagining of this classic 3D platformer from 1996 weren’t just made up! Maybe Super Mario 64 is being remade using the engine from Super Mario Odyssey, and maybe it’ll be announced this month! Maybe.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars did not do justice to this game. A full remake would be amazing, though!

There are relatively few games that I’d be really excited to see remade, because in a lot of cases – especially when dealing with relatively recent games – the original versions still hold up pretty well. But after 25 years, there’s definitely scope to remake Super Mario 64, bringing it up-to-date for a new generation of players.

With the game’s 25th anniversary happening this year, perhaps Nintendo’s love of anniversary events will have convinced them it’s worth putting together a remake! Either way, if you can find a copy the original game is well worth playing if you missed it first time around.

Number 15: Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Teaser art for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.

The third Star Wars title on this list is a fun one! Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was originally due for release last year, before being delayed. The game will be a follow-up to the very successful 2007 game Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which if you haven’t played I can’t recommend highly enough!

The chance to revisit the Star Wars world with a fun Lego twist – in high definition, this time – has been appealing since The Skywalker Saga was announced a couple of years ago, and this is one game I’m definitely looking forward to. When it was delayed there was mention of a 2021 release, but no date or even release window has yet been elaborated on. Maybe E3 could be the right moment!

Rey and Kylo Ren clash in another promo screenshot for the game.

Though they arguably overdid it and burned out somewhere in the late 2000s or early 2010s, Lego adaptations of popular franchises have been a lot of fun. Lego Star Wars was one of the first to really go mainstream and see big success, but other titles which adapted properties like Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean were good fun as well.

It would be great to get a solid release date and see a little more of the game. Adapting all nine films in the Star Wars series into a single game is no mean feat, but it’s a challenge that developer Traveller’s Tales has never shied away from. I’m sure that The Skywalker Saga will prove to be a worthy successor to previous Lego Star Wars titles.

So that’s it! A few of my predictions – and wishes – for this month’s E3.

The official E3 2021 logo.

Could you tell which were predictions and which were wishes? I’m not sure I could tell you which were which in every case, so don’t worry! After a rough year, which hasn’t been helped by myriad delays and shortages, it’ll be nice to see players getting genuinely excited about upcoming titles once again. Whatever is ultimately announced or revealed, I’m sure there’ll be something of interest to me, something I can put on my wishlist for later in the year!

Though I’ve never been to E3, I did attend two iterations of GamesCom – Europe’s biggest games fair – in the past when I used to work for a large games company. As I said last year, these digital events are arguably the future of games marketing. Not only are they substantially cheaper than paying to rent a convention centre in California, but it gives the companies greater control over their own messaging. Though the headline this year is “E3 is back!” I would argue that it isn’t – not really. E3 was an in-person event, an overblown trade fair that started allowing members of the public to attend. What we’re going to see this month will be all-digital and quite different.

I hope this was a bit of fun as we look ahead to E3. There are plenty of upcoming games to get excited about, and I shall be watching the various presentations with interest!

All titles mentioned above are the trademark or copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. E3 2021 takes place digitally from the 12th to the 15th of June, with additional events taking place throughout the month of June. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Why is everybody so surprised that future Bethesda titles will be Xbox/PC exclusive?

A few months ago I briefly touched on the Microsoft buyout of ZeniMax – parent company to Skyrim developer Bethesda. The deal, which was announced back in September last year, has finally gone through after months of behind-the-scenes legal wrangling, meaning that Microsoft now officially owns Bethesda Softworks, its subsidiaries, and all of the games they’ve developed and produced. This is a significant acquisition for Microsoft, and looks sure to shake up the games market – at least the single-player games market! It will also certainly provide a big boost for Xbox Game Pass, which has already been touting the arrival of Bethesda’s back catalogue to the service.

Almost all Bethesda titles for at least a decade have been multiplatform, with releases on Sony’s PlayStation consoles and some select releases on Nintendo hardware too, and those games aren’t going to be taken away. Microsoft has also pledged to honour existing contracts for upcoming titles, meaning that both Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo will still have timed exclusivity on PlayStation 5. After that, however, we can expect to see future titles arrive exclusively on Xbox Series S/X and PC.

Ghostwire: Tokyo will still be a timed PlayStation 5 exclusive.

Some games industry commentators seem taken aback at this notion, asking with mouths agape if Microsoft will seriously make upcoming Bethesda projects like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI Xbox/PC exclusive. To those folks I ask a simple question: really? This seems like a surprise to you?

Microsoft paid $7.5 billion for Bethesda, and for that huge investment they’re going to want a lot more than a few new titles in the Game Pass library. Exclusive games sell systems, and in 2021 exclusive games drive subscriptions too. Microsoft fell way behind in the last generation as the Xbox One was massively outsold by the PlayStation 4, and a lack of decent exclusive games was a huge factor in explaining why that was the case. Microsoft has tried to rectify the situation by acquiring Obsidian Entertainment, Compulsion Games, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and other studios, and guess what? Those studios now make games for PC and Xbox only. Some of these investments will take time to pay off, but as the new console generation rolls into its second and third years, I think we’ll see a big push from Microsoft with some of these new exclusive games.

Expect to see future Bethesda titles be Xbox/PC exclusive.

Titles from Microsoft-owned franchises like Halo, Gears of War, State of Decay, and standalone games like Sea of Thieves aren’t going to be released on PlayStation (or Nintendo) so I’m afraid that people are getting their hopes up if they expect to see future Bethesda titles on any other platform. Microsoft wouldn’t have spent such a huge sum of money not to capitalise on their acquisition, and while in the immediate term nothing is going to change, give it a couple of years when Starfield is ready, The Elder Scrolls VI is preparing for launch, and Bethesda are working on new entries in the Fallout or Doom series and you can guarantee they will be Xbox/PC exclusive.

Sometimes I sit down to read through opinion and commentary by other games industry writers – including some pretty big names – and I’m surprised how they can get it so wrong. It seems naïve in the extreme to be banking on any future Bethesda title – including huge ones like The Elder Scrolls VI and a potential future Fallout title – to be anything other than exclusive to Microsoft’s platforms. That’s how these things work, and it’s why Microsoft was willing to get out their wallet in the first place.

I wouldn’t bet on being able to play Starfield on your PlayStation 5.

Though it may seem “unfair” to lock games to a single platform (or pair of platforms, in this case) it’s how the industry has operated since day one. Nobody got upset about Marvel’s Spider-Man being a PlayStation 4 exclusive, even though that game wasn’t made by Sony, but rather one of their subsidiaries. It was just expected – Insomniac Games make PlayStation titles, just like 343 Industries make Xbox titles. Bethesda’s acquisition means they join Team Xbox. It may not be great fun for PlayStation gamers who had been looking forward to a future Bethesda title, but that’s the reality of the industry.

Be very careful if you hear an analyst or commentator saying that they believe Bethesda titles will still come to PlayStation. Rather than getting your hopes up or setting up false expectations, it may be better to plan ahead. If Starfield or The Elder Scrolls VI are games you’re dead set on playing, consider investing in Xbox. The Xbox Series S is a relatively affordable machine at £249/$299, and if you only need it for a couple of exclusives that you can’t get elsewhere it could be a solid investment – certainly a lot cheaper than a gaming PC.

The Xbox Series S might be worth picking up.

Despite all of this, I still feel Sony has the upper hand in the exclusives department, at least for now. It will be a couple of years or more before Microsoft can fully take advantage of their new acquisition, and other titles from developers like Obsidian – who are working on a game that looks superficially similar to The Elder Scrolls series – are also several years away. Sony, on the other hand, has games out now like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and the Demon’s Souls remake, as well as upcoming titles like God of War: Ragnarok and Returnal to draw players in. Microsoft is still pursuing a frankly bizarre policy of making all Xbox Series S/X games available on Xbox One for the next year or so, so for exclusive next-gen gaming in the short term, Sony is still the way to go.

I remember when Microsoft entered the home console market for the first time in 2001. A lot of commentators at the time were suggesting that Microsoft were buying their way in, that they would throw their wallet around and other companies would find it hard to compete. It never really happened, though, at least not to the extent some folks feared. The acquisition of Bethesda is a big deal, but Bethesda and all its subsidiaries have published only around 20 games in the whole of the last decade, so in terms of the wider gaming market, and considering how many games there will be on PC, Xbox Series S/X, and PlayStation 5 in the next few years, it’s a drop in the ocean.

That doesn’t mean it won’t sting for PlayStation fans who want to play Starfield or The Elder Scrolls VI, though. Better start saving up for an Xbox!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

That Microsoft-Bethesda deal came out of nowhere!

I’m a couple of days late on this one, but if you didn’t know already, Microsoft surprised and upended the games industry by announcing a deal to buy ZeniMax Media. ZeniMax is the owner of Bethesda – the company behind such titles as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fallout 76. The deal also includes id Software, developers of Doom and Doom Eternal, as well as several other associated companies, including the developers of The Evil Within, The Elder Scrolls Online, and the Wolfenstein series. Wow.

I’ve seen a lot of… interesting commentary to have come out of this acquisition, including people who seem to think this means there can be no more console-exclusive titles ever, and some overly-optimistic PlayStation fans still expecting their favourite Bethesda/ZeniMax titles to come out on that platform. A lot of the details of the deal and its fallout (pun intended) are still under wraps, but I think we can make some reasonable assumptions – and cut through some of the nonsense.

Buying ZeniMax Media gives Microsoft control over all of these game series – and many more.

First off, let’s clear something up. Microsoft wouldn’t spend $7.5 billion on this company and its subsidiaries for no reason. There are unquestionably going to be changes as a result of this deal. There are several ways it could manifest, but if we look to recent history we can pick out a couple of examples. The Outer Worlds was late into its development when Microsoft purchased developer Obsidian. With the game already scheduled for release on PlayStation, Microsoft honoured that commitment and didn’t make any changes. Likewise when they bought Mojang, Minecraft didn’t become an Xbox/PC exclusive. Those games were either already released or releasing imminently, likely with deals and agreements already signed, so Microsoft kept to those agreements.

The titles people seem most concerned about are The Elder Scrolls VI, which was announced a couple of years ago but is still several years away, and the next game in the Fallout series. No announcement has been made of a new Fallout title, but the assumption is that there may be one in pre-production. As someone who worked in the games industry for a time, I really feel that no company in Microsoft’s position spends this much money not to have exclusive titles. Unless this is part of some longer-term strategy to force Sony to bring their exclusive titles to Microsoft’s Xbox and PC platforms – which it almost certainly isn’t – we can say goodbye to the idea of any upcoming games being multiplatform. Despite Microsoft’s statements that they don’t care what platform someone plays on, they obviously do or they wouldn’t be investing so heavily in the Xbox brand and in PC gaming.

When The Elder Scrolls VI is finally ready, it may not come to PlayStation 5.

The Elder Scrolls VI is far enough in the future that I’d argue it won’t affect the purchasing decisions of 99% of gamers in 2020/21. Even hardcore Elder Scrolls fans should feel confident buying a PlayStation 5 if they want to this Christmas, because the next game in the series is years away and there will be time to get a cheaper Xbox Series S later if necessary. But thinking strategically and thinking long-term, the reality is that if players want to guarantee access to upcoming titles in any of these franchises, they’ll need to look at Xbox. That could be in the form of a console or it could mean getting a PC capable of running newer games. Either way, right now there’s no guarantee any of these titles will come to PlayStation – and if I were advising Microsoft, I’d say they’re in a rock solid position to demand compromises from Sony if Sony want to make any of those games and franchises available on their new system.

As we gear up for the launch of the two new systems, it’s hard to see that many people who had been planning to get a PlayStation will be swayed by this move – at least not in the short-term. All titles which have already been released – including the likes of Doom Eternal, Fallout 4, etc. – will still be available on Sony’s systems. On PlayStation 5 specifically, upgraded and/or re-released versions of some games are coming, and backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 will mean all current-gen titles will run on the new system. Also the upcoming Ghostwire: Tokyo and Deathloop, which have already been announced for PlayStation 5, seem certain to keep their console releases. So anyone looking ahead to the next year or two need not be too concerned. It’s the longer-term prospects that may worry some PlayStation gamers.

Future ZeniMax/Bethesda titles may not come to PlayStation 5.

With this acquisition, Microsoft will be bringing all of Bethesda’s titles – including upcoming releases – to their Game Pass service. I wrote recently that Game Pass is already a pretty great deal, not to mention the cheapest way to get into current- and next-gen gaming. Add Bethesda’s titles into the mix and the value of the service goes up even more.

This is the real genius of the move. Exclusivity will certainly pull in some players, as those unwilling to miss out will have no choice but to buy into the Xbox ecosystem in some form. But Game Pass is Microsoft’s killer app right now; a subscription service offering players hundreds of games for a monthly fee instead of shelling out $70/£65 per title is not only in line with the way people consume other forms of entertainment (like music and television) but also feels like a good value proposition as we enter what could be a long-term spell of economic uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

I’m a subscriber to Game Pass for PC – and it just became a much better deal!

Game Pass is already available on Xbox and PC, and has been steadily growing its subscriber base. It doesn’t have the library that a service like Steam has, but I can absolutely foresee a time in the future – the near future – where Game Pass will be the platform of choice for many players, perhaps with Steam as a backup to buy occasional titles that aren’t available elsewhere. And once someone has signed up for Game Pass, Xbox Live, and started racking up achievements and making friends, they’re hooked into the ecosystem. It isn’t impossible to switch or leave, of course, but Microsoft will make staying as appealing as possible.

As far back as 2000/01 when Microsoft decided to jump head-first into the home console market, commentators were wondering when they’d start throwing their wallet around. A company with the resources of Microsoft is in a unique position to spend, and we’ve seen them do so several times. On the whole, for players mostly interested in single-player titles I can understand why this feels huge. It is. But at the same time, the deal to buy Mojang a few years back was probably more significant!

In summary, this is good news for PC and Xbox players, and anyone who’s a Game Pass subscriber or on the fence about the service. PlayStation players shouldn’t notice any major short-term ramifications, but if you desperately want to play an upcoming game like the sequel to Doom Eternal, Starfield, or The Elder Scrolls VI, I think you’re going to need a PC or an Xbox.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. The Xbox brand is the copyright of Microsoft. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.