This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo was bonkers, but if you’re not already pretty deep in gaming culture, you might not know exactly why.
On Monday, each of the major publishers piled everything they have coming up into their keynote press conferences. Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, EA, Bethesda, Nintendo, and Square Enix dropped huge announcements with speed and fury, from The Last Guardian’s return to Oculus Rift support on Xbox.
If you’re asking yourself, “What the hell does any of it mean?” then I have good news for you: you’re reading a crash course on the biggest announcements of E3 2015, complete with why you should be as excited as the rest of the Internet.
XBOX ONE LOOKS TO ITS ROOTS
What happened: Two years after its new-generation console was first announced, Microsoft has given players something they’ve wanted all along: backward compatibility, the ability to play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One.
Why it’s a big deal: This represents a huge about-face in Microsoft’s attitude since it first announced the Xbox One, which originally included consumer-unfriendly features like an always-online requirement and game discs that were locked to your account so you couldn’t trade them in or swap among friends. They scrapped those plans, and backward compatibility is the latest goodwill offering for Xbox fans. With a relatively thin library of games on the Xbox One and a huge install base for the 360, this is a boon for people who’ve been on the fence over Microsoft’s new console.
’SHENMUE 3’ BREAKS RECORDS
What happened: Sony brought Shenmue series creator Yu Suzuki out on stage during its press conference, not to announce a new Shenmue title, but to announce a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for one. It was…weird.
Why it’s a big deal: Non-linear gameplay that simulates real life and a huge and diverse open world are just some of the qualities that made the original two Shenmue games cult hits. The Kickstarter raised $1 million faster than any other game ever on the crowdfunding platform. It’s a bit shady that Sony is essentially using Kickstarter to collect early pre-orders, but hey, at least this long-awaited game is being made.
VR’S PATH TO YOUR LIVING ROOM
What happened: Microsoft announced it’s teaming with Oculus VR and Valve VR to bring virtual reality to the Xbox console and your living room.
Why it’s a big deal: Aside from a high-powered gaming PC, it’s looking like the Xbox One might be the best place for players to experience the resurgence of virtual reality that’ll be taking place in 2016 when these headsets start getting released to consumers. If you’re into VR, the involvement of massive companies like Microsoft and Sony (which is working on its own offering, Project Morpheus, for PS4) should excite you. They’re helping to improve and legitimize the tech, get actual VR games made, and make VR affordable and accessible.
’FALLOUT 4’ GETS MOD SUPPORT
What happened: Bethesda Softworks Game Director Todd Howard announced at Microsoft’s presser that Xbox One players will be able to install and use player-made mods for Fallout 4—a feature normally available only in the PC versions of most games.
Why it’s a big deal: Modding can be a huge boon for games in general. Skyrim, Bethesda’s last big RPG, has a huge modding community on PC that’s added everything from new campaigns to Macho Man Randy Savage dragons. Especially if you’re an Xbox One player and unfamiliar with the PC gaming world, expect to get a ton more value out of Fallout 4 thanks to these player-made mods. Improvements to the game, new features, crazy adjustments and even whole new games built on top of Bethesda’s original are possible, and success here could mean more mods coming to console games.
’THE LAST GUARDIAN’ LIVES
What happened: After years of radio silence, The Last Guardian resurfaced as a Playstation 4 game at the beginning of Sony’s press conference.
Why it’s a big deal: The Last Guardian was originally slated to come out on PS3 several years ago, but there was so little news about it that many assumed it was dead or trapped in development purgatory, never to emerge. It’s the pedigree of the developer that matters here—Team ICO is responsible for both its namesake, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus, two PS2 games often considered a pretty solid argument for games being works of artistic expression, rather than just elaborate digital toys. Everything we’ve seen so far from The Last Guardian suggests it’ll be similar, and that’s enough to get lots of players excited.
HOLY SHIT IT’S ‘FINAL FANTASY VII’
What happened: One of the most popular role-playing games of all time, the original Playstation’s Final Fantasy VII, is getting what appears to be a full-on remake for the PS4.
Why it’s a big deal: We’re talking about what is probably the best-loved RPG ever. FFVII was huge on its release in 1997, showcasing revolutionary graphical power for console games and telling a story that still ranks as powerful and lasting among fans. It’s the game that brought Final Fantasy into the mainstream and one of the titles that began to mark video games as a major cultural force. Players have been asking for a remake for years—basically since graphics stopped looking like crap. A full remake requires rebuilding the game from scratch with new graphics and who knows what else, but it might be worth it if Square Enix can get it right.