Massively Overthinking: The best MMOs and multiplayers of E3 2017

Shoot at me bro.

E3 is drawing to a close, with its reveals over and done with — all that’s left is processing our interviews and hands-on pieces. But in the meantime, we decided to take this week’s Overthinking to consider the field. MMORPGs haven’t shined brightly at E3 in a long time, so our expectations are usually low — the con is interesting to us more for what’s happening on the multiplayer front.

So that’s what we asked our staff: What’s the most interesting or grabby-hands MMO or MMO-ish thing from E3 this year? Which game would get your best in show and why? There’s also an extra bonus section on the con itself courtesy of our writer on the floor.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): This wasn’t a real big MMO year at E3, but certainly big for online multiplayer games. I don’t want to give Best in Show to any game that didn’t have a playable demo, so I’ll give Monster Hunter World Most Anticipated. It’s very existence came out of nowhere. The changes and additions I saw were revolutionary for the series, but also add things I’ve wanted to see more in combat oriented games.

For Best in Show, it’s a really tough call, but I’m going to say Sea of Thieves. While I think Dauntless had a strong demo and it provides an alternative Monster Hunter experience in ways the actual series may not go, Sea of Thieves provided something lighthearted, fun, and very deep. My demo experience was terrible but showed just how much power a social MMO player can have. At a different demo, someone asked me what kind of games I am I good at, and after a few moments, I said, “Anything that lets me talk people into not killing me or gets them to help me.” Sea of Thieves felt like a playground ripe for chaos, but also strong social play, and that was deeply satisfying.

And quick note: Mario Odyssey was probably my favorite singleplayer title, but Ooblets was a surprisingly close second. I admittedly will probably have to skip the former unless it’s got good multiplayer like I did Zelda: Breath of the Wild (it’s hard to get into big, single-player sandboxes while trying to build a social life), but the latter is so charming and accepting that… gah, really, you guys should just google it.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Anthem seems to be the thing everyone’s talking about, my own guildies included, but eh, it takes more than yet another multiplayer shooter hybrid to get me excited. I do, however, love me some pirates. Given how Ubisoft — once deservedly ridiculed for saying dumb thing after dumb thing in public at cons — totally dominated this E3, I’m happy to see it pushing out Skull and Bones. The only downside is that Sea of Thieves, now delayed, has a high-end challenger. I’m hoping the competition does them both good rather than sabotaging one or the other.

I suppose it doesn’t count as an E3 announcement, but kinda since it came close to it: The Cryptic Magic: the Gathering MMORPG probably has me more interested than anything from the con itself. But that’s because it’s actually an MMORPG.

Then of course there were the teasers, and I’m super excited to hear more about what The Elder Scrolls Online has planned post-Morrowind. It appears the DLC train is back on the tracks.

You can google this if you don't get the joke.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I can’t share Andrew’s in-depth analysis of E3, honestly, due in no small part to the fact that I wasn’t there; I will say, though, that the most on-point analysis I saw was that this year’s E3 was very much a case of doing one because one happens every year. There weren’t as many big announcements, and most of the big things we did see announced were things we’ll have to wait for until 2018 or later. Not horrible, but nothing compelling. My general dislike of these sorts of events in general has thus been largely compounded, just because… well, it’s a set of events marketed more on ideas than actual substance.

Of course, the big release I was excited for this year is open for me to play today, so take my cynicism with a grain of salt.

I’d argue the big multiplayer winner this year was Monster Hunter World; it didn’t have a demo, but the announcement alone had some really cool energy behind it, and I’m actually excited for it on a small level despite my usual lack of care about the franchise. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Anthem works out, since that’s definitely going to have multiplayer in some capacity, although I’m reluctant to really call it even an outright Destiny clone when we’re still so far out from release. But I can get behind a team-based third-person shooter.

Aside from that… well, the Stormblood presentation held my attention? But that’s not really a surprise, is it. Oh, and I guess Sea of Thieves was there; it’s never really pinged much on my radar, but the fans seem to be happy about it, if bracingly unprepared to eat a banana based on the game interface.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): The buzz is certainly strong for BioWare’s Anthem, and I would even dare to say that it completely overshadowed Bungie’s Destiny 2. There was a lot of anticipation around Anthem’s reveal, and even if it does end up being a over-the-shoulder version of Destiny, it could do quite well for itself with BioWare behind it.

Honorable mention goes to Sea of Thieves. I’m disappointed (but not surprised) about the delay, but the game itself got a lot of very positive coverage and impressions at the expo, and I think it’s starting to turn some heads in regard to the fun and possibilities of that title.

I do wish there had been more pure MMORPG news, but such is the state of the industry right now!

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): I have two things to admit that I really don’t want to, but because of the coverage at E3. The first thing is that the games for Switch look like a lot of fun. And the second thing is that I own a Switch. So topping my list of most anticipated MMO-like games from E3 is Splatoon 2.

Obviously, I don’t think that Splatoon is a hugely innovative game. But it does look like a lot of fun, and since the Switch is technically a mobile platform, I’m glad to see good titles coming to it that aren’t Mario or Link.

That’s why the Skyrim coming to Switch and I hope to seem more multiplayer games hit that console.

Unfortunately, That’s the only multiplayer game that stands out to me. There are many single-player games that have me interested the Last of Us 2, Metroid Prime 4, and Far Cry 5. But from a multiplayer standpoint, I have been very underwhelmed.

It's barbaric, but hey, it's home.

Andrew on the con experience itself: People have been questioning the value of E3 for a few years now, and this year the convention really proved people wrong. With Nintendo and EA figuring out different ways to interact with fans (and press to an extent), they opened up opportunities for other companies to hold press conferences. That’s made E3 into nearly a week long event, with conferences even overlapping now.

Opening to the expo to consumers also exposed some things about the industry. At its worse, E3 is about swag. I love a free tshirt about a game I’m excited about as much as anyone else, but consumers noticed that press were green with envy, as they were receiving swag we weren’t being offered, constantly. For many press, games blogging is a side job or hobby, and going to the convention may actually cost us more than we’re able to monetarily make from the event.

That being said, either due to experience or change in practices, I was able to secure more demo time and interviews from big name companies than at any other previous E3. Doors opening 15 minutes early (something unheard of before) also rewarded those of us who come early every day because, like non-press, we’re not simply allowed into the exhibition halls even if we have an appointment. However, things would have been smoother if E3 had used physical maps instead of their unreliable app.

The length of lines really surprised the consumers, and a lot complained about the price of entrance: $250. That’s to wait 4 hours in line to play 20 minutes of Mario Odyssey if you don’t know how the convention works (Thursdays are the best!). One of the biggest problems is that these lines are tied to the swag. When rumors were going around that the Mario swag was out, the queue shot down dramatically, from the normal hour and a half of Thursdays to 20 minutes in the middle of the day.

Consumerism was apparent. While E3 tends to have their own shop, Square-Enix and others also brought vendors with good discounts. For the consumers, this was nice, but for me, it distracted from the nature of the convention: an industry trade show.

E3’s problem has always been that the companies treat press more as potential marketing than, well, press. The increase of influencers makes this more apparent, and even more so with consumers. I noticed several of my demo people didn’t even ask for feedback on their games, as did the consumers I spoke with. As E3 is usually the only time I am physically able to meet fellow games press, it was a bit of a letdown to stay guarded about topics we’re not supposed to share with the general public, but it was great to interact with fellow fans of various genres.

Sports games (and many racing games) get little to no fanfare from press at the various conferences, but several consumers mentioned how excited they were about those and made me realize that I don’t know any gaming sites that specialize in that genre. While people may talk about the MMO genre’s slow demise, Final Fantasy XIV’s line had to be closed due to popularity. A consumer friend experiencing the expo for the first time shocked one of Square Enix’s booth people by replying that her favorite game in the series is for consoles. Apparently most people had been telling her their favorite was FFXIV, something I never would have expected as press.

TLDR version: E3 this year felt less like an industry trade show and more like a general gaming convention. Maybe this was why I felt like I had better access to game companies, as I stood out more by comparison. If consumerism is what’s needed for me to do my job as a press, I’ll welcome the change. Just one request to ESA who runs the event: Please bring back the physical program map and guide!

Your turn!

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