By now, you’ve probably read about E3 2019’s highlights. Keanu Reeves’ breathtaking cameo at Microsoft’s press conference. Jon Bernthal’s adorable dog. Watch Dogs Legion‘s murder grandma. Ikumi Nakamura’s star-making appearance. Oh, and there were some games too, like an extended look at the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake and a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
On the whole, reception to E3 2019 has been mixed. Aside from Nintendo’s, none of the press conferences delivered major surprises, even though they were full of great-looking games. Many on-stage demos fell flat, and hands-on reports indicate that games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order deserved better.
But, believe it or not, some major news broke at E3 2019, too — and nobody’s talking about it. For my money, these are all major stories, and they should be getting more attention. Oh well. There’s always next year.
Xbox Game Pass is suddenly the best deal in gaming
If there was a trend at this year’s E3, it was tech-driven capitalist dystopias (gee, I wonder why?). If there were two, the second was the rise of gaming subscription services. At E3 2019, Ubisoft revealed Uplay+, which arrives in September. Square Enix might launch its own service — if it can track down all of its source code. EA Origin Access continues chugging along with the confirmation that games like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order arriving for Premiere subscribers at launch.
All of those services pale in comparison to the Xbox Game Pass, which was all over Microsoft’s press conference. Not only did Microsoft announce a new subscription that combines Xbox Live Gold with an Xbox Game Pass subscription, but the service is also launching for PCs.
The initial PC line-up is limited, but it’s already filled with games from a variety of publishers. Even better, the service costs $10 a month (and only $5 while it’s in beta). That’s $5 less than the competition. I don’t know why everyone hasn’t already signed up.
CrossFire is coming west
CrossFire Xdidn’t get much applause when it dropped at Microsoft’s E3 press conference, and it’s not hard to imagine why: Most likely, very few people in the audience knew what it was.
They should. CrossFire, a free-to-play tactical shooter in which players fight for dueling groups of mercenaries, has 660 million players. That’s over twice as many people as the entire population of the United States. That’s almost 10% of the entire human race.
Basically, CrossFire is one of the most popular games of all time, and it makes over a billion dollars a year. It’s bigger than Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2, Candy Crush, and Overwatch, and it’s finally coming to America — on a console, no less. Seriously, where’s the love?
The Wii is alive and kicking
Guess what? The Wii, i.e. 2006’s hottest console, isn’t exactly thriving, but it isn’t dead. Nintendo moved on from the Wii a while back — the company stopped selling its motion-controlled game platform in most markets half a decade ago — but Ubisoft, the biggest European game publisher out there, hasn’t cut ties just yet. At E3 2019, the company revealed that Just Dance 2020will arrive on the Wii this November.
In other words, the Wii has been receiving new, officially licensed games for 13 years. Only the Atari 2600, which received new games for 14 years, tops it — and that record looks like it’s in serious danger.
And you know what? That makes sense. Hardcore fans might’ve moved on, but a number of older couples who still have their Wiis hooked up (hi, mom!). Anecdotally, my cousin, who’s a senior in college, just picked up a Wii for his dorm room. He says it’s surprisingly popular, especially with people who don’t normally play games. The Wii is still accessible, it’s still fun, and I hope that it lives forever.
Nintendo and Microsoft, sittin’ in a tree
For me, E3 2019’s biggest bummer was that Ubisoft didn’t announce another collaboration with Nintendo. Mario x Rabbids Kingdom Battle and Starlink: Battle for Atlas were both great. That disappointment was assuaged a little bit by seeing Nintendo and Microsoft continue to get cozy, though. Microsoft titles like Minecraft and Cuphead are already on the Switch, but having Banjo-Kazooie pop up in Super Smash Bros. Ultimatetakes their relationship to a whole new level.
I am here for it. Recently, we’ve seen what happens when Nintendo lets other people play with its toys — the aforementioned Ubisoft games, the Mario characters who popped up in Activision’s Skylanders, the just-released (and thoroughly excellent) Cadence of Hyrule — and Nintendo embracing its rivals can only lead to good things. \
It goes the other way, too: Nintendo has historically had trouble courting third parties, and Microsoft is a great partner for them to have. It’s not clear what the future holds — I doubt that Halo is going to pop up on the Switch, for example — but if we’re really moving towards a console-less future, there’s no reason for Microsoft and Nintendo to remain enemies. When big developers work together, we all win.
The TurboGrafx-16 Mini is on its way
Yes, the console with the most hilarious name ever is jumping on the bandwagon. Just like the Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super NES, the Sega Genesis, and the original PlayStation, a mini TurboGrafx-16 console is on its way.
Like those consoles, the TurboGrafx-16 was a ’90s mainstay, and the upcoming retro collection/novelty hardware device will be packed with a collection of old titles. Unlike those consoles, the TurboGrafx-16 never took off in the American marketplace. Even during its heyday, it was a curiosity. You might’ve known someone who had one, but chances are that the closest that you got to playing one was reading about it in the pages of GamePro.
The TurboGrafx-16 had a bunch of great games, though, which makes this mini console a neat proposition: It’s a legitimate retro console, but it’s also full of games that you probably haven’t tried. For anyone who likes the games of the 16-bit era (or at least appreciates that style), it’s going to be hard to pass up the opportunity to discover a bunch of new old favorites.
If the TurboGrafx-16 mini had been announced during an E3 press conference, people would’ve gone crazy. Instead, it was shunted off onto a late-evening reveal on Twitch’s official E3 stream, making it far and away the most exciting announcement of E3 2019 that’s been absolutely buried. Oh well.