Forget Fallout 4: this is what Bethesda’s E3 show really means

By Matt Martin, Friday, 13 February 2015 10:57 GMT

Bethesda takes on Sony, Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft by going first at E3 this year. But what can we expect besides the obvious?

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“Make the right announcement at E3 and you suck the air out of the room, turning the heads of the world’s media, not just the games press.”

Elder Scrolls publisher Bethesda announced it would be hosting its own event at E3 this year. For a brief second everyone paused… and then immediately lost their minds over a Fallout 4 announcement.

While that’s likely, there’s a lot more to Bethesda going big at E3 than a new take on 50s sci-fi. It’s worth looking at what this says about the publisher, the two main consoles and E3 itself, as much as the games we can expect to be on show.

Big boy pants

This is Bethesda pulling on its big boy pants. It wants to be seen as being on the same level as Ubisoft and EA, both of which squeeze their showcases in between Microsoft and Sony. Bethesda is saying “our games are as good as FIFA, Assassin’s Creed, Battlefield and Far Cry”.

I’m sure Bethesda already considers itself on a par with those two companies, as does most of the industry, but E3 is a world stage. E3 isn’t just a celebration of the games business, it’s watched by the entire entertainment industry and the financial markets. Make the right announcement at E3 and you suck the air out of the room, turning the heads of the world’s media, not just the games press.

If you’re not first, you’re last

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Ricky Bobby was kind of right. Bethesda’s showcase will happen on the Sunday before E3. That’s two days before the show officially opens its doors. Traditionally Microsoft has gone first with a two hour showcase on Monday morning, but Bethesda’s Sunday night shindig pisses on those chips. It’s a confident company that goes first ahead of any Xbox One announcements.

With Bethesda joining the ranks of EA and Ubisoft, it means another third-party publisher won’t feature prominently in either Microsoft or Sony’s big reveals. I’m sure they’ll get a look-in to some degree, but all the exclusive videos and news will be out on Sunday night. This tells us Bethesda has a lot more to show than just Fallout 4.

It also weakens the E3 show itself. Between the five showcases (all streamed to the internet, remember) that’s a lot of games and technology revealed. What’s the point of traipsing around a massive convention center later in the week?

It’s also worth noting that Bethesda is entering a space that both Nintendo and Activision has abandoned in recent years. Nintendo shows at the Nokia Theatre on the morning of E3 are no more. Activision didn’t have a showcase as such, but it did throw its money around with massive gigs featuring Jay-Z, Eminem, Pharrell, Usher, and, erm, the world’s best pole dancer. That ain’t cheap. Even a company like Activision has to tighten the purse strings.

Going it alone

Bethesda is telling Sony and Microsoft it can go it alone without their showcases. That’s not a diss, because it will always need the Xbox One and PS4. But it is making it clear that just featuring as part of a bigger show – one that’s ultimately about Sony and Microsoft – isn’t good enough. Activision traditionally opens the Microsoft showcase with the latest Call of Duty, but that’s not the game we all come away talking about. Fallout 4 (or whatever else Bethesda’s big reveal is going to be) isn’t sharing the stage. It’s getting its own stage.

The show

Above all else, a showcase is there to highlight the games. A lot of games. You can’t fill an hour (at least) with a couple of titles and a teaser trailer. This is E3, and it can never have enough fireworks. Bethesda is owned by Zenimax Media, which has plenty of Hollywood connections, so there’s no doubt it will pull in a few famous faces to present or add glamour to the unsexy world of games development. But what about the games? Let’s get to speculatin’!

Fallout 4

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This is the big one. All Bethesda needs to do to get everyone buzzing is show a short teaser. Anything more than that will increase the hype, but we have no idea how far along the next Fallout game is in development. Will it keep it single-player and try to emulate the massive success of Skyrim, or is it time to add multiplayer or co-op to the formula? Also, can we have Abraham Lincoln’s Repeater back please? Best gun in a video game EVER.

Another thing to consider: Zenimax Online spent years and lots of money on The Elder Scrolls Online, but pick-up of that isn’t going exactly as planned. Could it reuse the engine for a Fallout MMO? It’s not outside the realms of possibility. That’s not exactly what the fans want to hear, but Bethesda isn’t likely to leave that technology on the shelf or just tweak it for more TESO.

Dishonored 2

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This is just as likely as Fallout 4. There has been rumblings about it already, and the first game was a big hit with fans. The last chatter we heard was suggesting a new hero, new location and access to the Doom beta with pre-orders (something that actually happened for Wolfenstein pre-orders). Legit or not, Bethesda can do what it likes with this game and it’s going to be well-received.

Battlecry

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This was one of only two games that Bethesda had on show at E3 last year. The free-to-play first-person brawler was interesting but needs a lot more tweaking and work to make it bubble with excitement. But that’s what another year of development is for so I imagine we’ll see this played live. A beta is expected this year – could Bethesda pull a Hardline and release it during E3 week to get the players on board?

Doom

Doom was shown at Quakecon last year, but very few media were allowed to report on what they saw, let alone print any screens. E3 will be the perfect setting to show the game to the world’s press, and it sounds like all the original elements that made Doom so iconic will return. Expect Doom to be Bethesda’s biggest push – it wouldn’t surprise us if there was a release date set before the end of the year.

Rage

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Is Rage something that Bethesda will have another crack at, or is it shelved for good? This is a company that had a massive showing of Prey 2 at E3 just recently – including positive press – but decided to can the game and start again. Rage seems to have split the players 50/50. It sold okay, I enjoyed it for around 10 hours or so, but then fell back. With the right attention it could be a contender. In the year of Mad Max, Rage’s post-apocalypse shooting might grab some attention.

The Elder Scrolls franchise

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The console versions of The Elder Scrolls Online are set for release on June 9, the week before E3, so expect it to figure in the show somewhere. There might even be mention of some sort of DLC too, although I don’t think many are excited by the prospect.

As for an announcement of The Elder Scrolls VI, I think it’s probably wishful thinking. If Bethesda goes all out with Fallout 4, it might be shooting its bolt with The Elder Scrolls VI as well. But then if it wants to *really* turn heads, a simple teaser or acknowledgement that it’s in development would be enough.

And considering the massive success of Skyrim there might even be scope for a spin-off from that. Remakes have been hot this year, so could we expect a Skyrim HD collection on PS4 and Xbox One? Or just an excuse to use the same locations, tarted up visually, as something to tide us over until the real TES VI announcement.

Prey 2

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Another title that could go either way. Arkane has been rumoured to be working on it, but Bethesda says it’s officially canned.

Wolfenstein and The Evil Within

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Both of these were Bethesda’s big hits last year. While it’s too early for sequels, there’s sure to be some acknowledgement of their success and maybe even a nod to future projects. The Evil Within’s promised DLC hasn’t dropped yet – there’s a chance it might be delayed and thus feature as part of the E3 show.

Quake

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Quake? Quake is for Quakecon.

A big new IP

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Bethesda is brave enough to try out new IP and has had hits and misses. The Evil Within and Dishonored scored well, but Wet, Brink and Rogue Warrior aren’t likely to come back anytime soon. What’s exciting about the publisher is that it’s not afraid to try something new while others stick to a given formula, so I would expect at least one, maybe more, new projects to be revealed.

That’s as good a reason as a Fallout 4 reveal to get hyped for E3 2015.

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