#127: Floor fillers

Sony shuts up and plays the hits as not-E3 2022 kicks off.

Any DJ worth their salt will tell you that you can’t just roll out the bangers. After all, any old duffer can get up there and play a bunch of classics. The strongest weapons in your arsenal must be carefully spaced out, ensuring there’s a sense of flow to the proceedings; rinse out the big ones back-to-back and you can only watch as the energy drains out of the room. My most treasured memories of my time in clubland — whether on the dancefloor or looking out over it — were not when a well-known banger filled the floor; rather it was when something completely unexpected, or entirely unknown, suddenly raised the roof. Magic.

I found myself thinking about all this, fond as I am of endlessly pining for my wasted youth, while watching last week’s State Of Play, which I thought made for a rather artless kickoff for not-E3 2022. (A brief aside: notice how everyone’s calling it not-E3 now? Last year that was a Hit Points thing. Lovely to see the gospel spread, of course, but I’m afraid I must now insist you all refer to me as a ‘thought leader’.) Anyway! There was plenty in Sony’s broadcast to like, and to get excited about. Resi 4’s RE Engine tart-up is wonderful news. Street Fighter VI looks brilliant, and even manages to allay some of the concerns I had about the game when it was announced. And while I doubt I’ll play Final Fantasy XVI it is absolutely stacked with development talent, headed by FFXIV rescue-job talisman Naoki Yoshida. So, yes. Bangers aplenty. I still found it all a little deflating.

It reminded me of E3 2012, one of the first I ever covered, sat in my spare room until the small hours writing news bits for the Edge website. Microsoft’s show had a new Tomb Raider, a South Park game, a live performance from Usher and the announcement of Internet Explorer for Xbox. I remember thinking wow, Microsoft, congrats. You just won E3 1998. This State Of Play was largely the same. Resident Evil, Street Fighter and Final Fantasy? Pick a year, any year. It fits.

Sure, I’m being selective here to make a point. But even a look beyond the headliners suggests that Sony is perhaps going through the motions a bit. PSVR2’s coming-out party yielded us more Resi, more No Man’s Sky, and Horizon: Brand Extension. An announcement of “a fan favourite coming to PC” was followed by just enough dead air for those watching to scream ‘Bloodborne’ at the top of their lungs before it turned out to be Marvel’s Spider-Man. Even the thirdparty support acts felt a bit conservative. Glen Schofield’s spiritual successor to Dead Space, The Callisto Protocol, looked like, well, a spiritual successor to Dead Space. A handful of indie games — Stray, Season, an anime RPG I just alt-tabbed to check the name of but have already forgotten again — filled in the gaps. Most of it just washed over me. Roll7’s Rollerdrome looks terrific, I must admit, but on the whole this was an evening of things I either already knew about or could reasonably have predicted, and none of them quickened the pulse any more or less than I would have expected. How thoroughly not-E3.

Now look, obviously the videogame business has always thrived on sequels, and I realise it is churlish to bemoan Sony focusing its not-E3 efforts on a suite of great-looking games that will sell in the millions. But I suspect this may be a bit of a theme of the next week or two. Sony has kicked off proceedings by playing things safe, we’ve already had some new Pokémon games announced, and I’m not expecting much in the way of surprises over the coming days. Microsoft is highly unlikely to shock us, having shown its hand so willingly over the last couple of years. Most ominously of all, Everywhere’s Geoff Keighley has taken the highly unusual step of trying to lower expectations for Summer Game Fest, saying it will be “primarily focused” on games we already know about. When even Geoff’s trying to cool down the room a bit, it’s probably time to think about heading home for the night.

Perhaps this is an unexpected consequence of the pandemic — that companies, struggling to keep development pipelines flowing amid the disruption, have thought it best to stick to what they know, rather than try to experiment too much. Maybe we’re just at that point in a new generation when the industry’s traditional big hitters begin to rear their heads. And as Hit Points chum Chris Dring points out, in an era where games are increasingly being announced early to help with recruitment, and leaks are more common than ever, surprises are naturally thinner on the ground than we might like. Maybe, as Chris suggests, the days of the megaton are over. Bah.

My favourite E3s, like my best-ever nights out, were built on the power of surprise; the worst ones were when the major players decided to play things a little too safely. Dearly as I’d love to be proven wrong, I do not think we are about to embark upon an E3 for the ages. Perhaps a mountain of drugs would soften the pain? It always did the job back in the day. See you down the front. (Apologies in advance.)


Nothing, but then I suppose that’s what happens when I take a week off (I had a lovely time, thank you for asking). Hit reply or leave a comment below and let’s get this thing back on the proverbial dancefloor.


  • I am seeing lots of fuss around monetisation in Diablo Immortal, though the tone of most of the coverage I’ve seen has been along the lines of “hey, this free-to-play mobile game bears some uncomfortable hallmarks of free-to-play mobile games!” and, well, you know. I’ve only played an hour or so and might Do Some Journalism on it at some point, but for now I’ll just say this: monetisation in mobile games does get slightly less grubby over time. Early on, most players will be happy working through the typically generous amount of free content without spending, and only the most committed whales will get their wallets out. Over time, formerly precious resources and currencies are made much more easily available to the f2p playerbase, while the big spenders are given something new and shiny to chase. We won’t really know how avaricious Immortal really is for another few months, is what I suppose I’m saying. And in the meantime, hey, it seems like it plays a pretty good game of Diablo, and it’s free.
  • Then again… Immortal’s use of lootboxes means it hasn’t been able to launch in Belgium and the Netherlands, since both have outlawed the mobile app stores’ preferred, though widely reviled, monetisation method. More may soon follow: consumer groups in 18 countries have backed a Norwegian report that calls lootboxes “exploitative” and suggests they be outlawed unless the industry takes action to make them more consumer-friendly.
  • EA has expressed support for LGBTQ+ members of its staff and game communities after employees threatened a walkout over the publisher’s silence on the issue.
  • This week’s essential resource — apart from a Hit Points subscription, of course — is a not-E3 stream schedule. Fill your boots.

There you go! Nice to be back in the hot seat, albeit with a bit of rust to shake off. Looks like there’ll be plenty for us to talk about this week, at least. Have yourselves a grand couple of days, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.