E3 2017 | EA PLAY Press Conference Predictions and Expectations
To begin the E3 season this year we have EA Play, an outside event held by EA at their own venue a few days earlier than E3 itself. In the past, EA have always seemed to have quite underwhelming and predictable press conferences, with a huge emphasis on their upcoming sports titles, to little of a focus on their big upcoming games, not many surprise announcements with nothing but dev diaries from studios absent from the show in it's place. However, with this being their second year doing EA Play, I want to hope they've learnt from their previous press conference mistakes and get the E3 ball rolling with a bang.
It's Payback Time...
Teased earlier in May and officially revealed last week was Need for Speed Payback, the next installment of the popular racing franchise and third title under the helm of Swedish developer Ghost Games. Need for Speed Payback is going into a more gritty, action packed and narrative-driven direction compared to Need for Speed (2015) while still keeping and further adding on to the customization that made it great. The reveal trailer showed off a crew of three characters; Tyler Morgan - the main protagonist and street racer character, Mac - a showman of the crew and Jess - the wheelman of the crew, pulling off a Fast & Furious-esque heist trying to steal a Koenigsegg Regera from rival antagonist cartel known as The House. With gameplay already confirmed to be shown at EA Play and playable on the show floor (With BlackPanthaa being one of the first to capture/stream gameplay), this gameplay sequence from the trailer will most certainly be what is shown live at the conference. Capture sessions after I imagine will consist of that heist mission, customization and racing gameplay, which would showcase new cars, new customization parts, improved cop AI with Rhinos, dynamic day and night cycle gameplay and much more.
A Galaxy Not So Far, Far Away
Star Wars: Battlefront II will without a doubt be the biggest game EA has to show at EA Play. EA has already confirmed that after the conference will be a 40-player gameplay livestream of the assault of Theed which occurred during the prequel trilogy in The Phantom Menace, with popular YouTubers and Twitch Streamers such as JackFrags, Westie and StoneMountain64 a part of the stream (Hell yeah hopefully we get celebrity appearances from Snoop Dogg and Terry Crews like last year's Battlefield 1 stream). In terms of a demo being shown at the conference, I think we'll either get a scripted MP demo on either Naboo or Theed similar to Battlefront in 2015 featuring characters like Rey and Darth Maul (which are confirmed for the livestream as well as Clone Troopers), or a short look at a mission from Battlefront II's campaign which I'm very excited to see. A hot topic for Battlefront II is how DLCs will be done and the idea of a season pass, which has had a huge negative impact on the player bases for both the previous Battlefront and the current Battlefield 1. When Battlefront II was announced, several interviews came out about a developer on the game stating the game won't have a season pass and all maps and modes will be free, which at this time is still unconfirmed. With other games out there adopting this style of content rollout by releasing all content for free and profiting from cosmetic microtransactions and loot crates, I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of the things announced on stage or afterwards in regards to DLC plans.
Star Wars meets Uncharted, Prepare for AT-ATfall
EA has a major partnership with Lucasfilm on making licensed Star Wars games, and that's shown by how many of EA's studios are currently working on Star Wars games. DICE, Motive and Criterion are working on Battlefront II, Visceral are working on a third person action Star Wars game led by Amy Hennig (Creator of Naughty Dog's Uncharted franchise), as well as Respawn who are working on an "action-adventure game set in the Star Wars universe". While I think it's way to early for Respawn to show off their game, they may show off a dev diary which may contain a brief glimpse at the game in full development stage now that Respawn has released Titanfall 2 and have a team supporting it with DLCs. However, I think it's finally time Visceral's Star Wars game gets officially revealed, which if it was would be a showing ending reveal. Amy Hennig has been leading the project at Visceral Games with help from Jade Raymond's (Assassin's Creed)team at EA Motive for the past three years, and with it currently slated for a 2018 release, EA Play is the time to show it. Hennig has gone on record to state their game will be spiritually similar to Uncharted, but not "Star Wars Uncharted.", which as a huge fan of Uncharted has me very interested to see what her and her team at Visceral Games have been up to. In terms of release, the Battlefront games release around the time of the new trilogy movies, and with the Han Solo film set for May 2018 it's a possibility Visceral's game might release around that time next year if not the end of 2018.
Sports, Sports and even more Sports
As with every year, EA will have a long and extended section dedicated to showing off this year's new lineup of upcoming sports games including FIFA, Madden and NHL. An earlier prediction I had made in regard to FIFA 18 stemmed from an image online of a FIFA YouTuber attending a FIFA 18 preview event showing off PlayStation branded promotional material, alluring at the idea that the marketing deal for FIFA had been axed between Microsoft and EA, and handed over to Sony. This has since been confirmed, with Xbox-exclusive 'FIFA Legends' now scrapped and replaced with 'FIFA Icons' that are available on all platforms. We also don't know if this marketing deal between Sony and EA on FIFA extends to other EA Sports games such as Madden and NHL, which would make for an interesting announcement.
War on the Battlefield rages on
Battlefield 1 will also have a big presence at EA Play, with it's second of four DLC packs, In The Name of The Tsar, set to be released during the summer time. A In The Name of The Tsar gameplay trailer will most definitely be shown and playable on the show floor, with a release date of Mid July for Premium pass holders and late July/Early August for non-Premium pass holders. DICE are also currently developing night maps for Battlefield 1, two of which have been available for testing in the Battlefield 1 CTE on PC; Nivelle Nights and Prise de Tahure. As they don't seem to be listed under the four packs for Premium owners, I imagine they will get released in late June in their June monthly update available for everyone. Another thing that may be included in their June update is the Frontlines game mode (introduced in the They Shall Not Pass DLC) in base game maps, which has also been currently tested in the CTE on PC on maps such as Argonne Forest and Amiens, along with the possible announcement of CTE making it's way over to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as DICE have repeatedly said a console release is almost ready for release.
Indie Love and Surprise Announcements
During the last two EA conferences, EA had a section dedicated to showing off a project from indie developers that they had partnered with, with Unravel back in 2015 and Fe in 2016. If history is to repeat itself, EA will most likely announce another indie game they've picked up and are helping development with, along with a possible release date for Fe which has still yet to be released and maybe even a sequel to Unravel.
Finally, we're due for some secret announcements and while Visceral's Star Wars game may be one of them, I hope we get to see the announcement of a new Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare game from Popcap. The first was an absolute blast to play and what I've played of Garden Warfare 2 on Origin Access was extremely fun. If Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare 3 were to be announced, expect a release date similar to the second game, Q1 of next year. EA and Sony have a strong partnership this generation, with the marketing rights to both Battlefront games and now the FIFA games going forward, I think it's finally time we get the announcement of EA Access making it's way to PlayStation 4. EA/Origin Access is an amazing service for the price you pay, and would make sense to bring it over to PlayStation so that the trials of games they're marketing as well as new games like Need for Speed Payback, are also playable first on their platform along with Xbox One and Origin. Bioware also could take the stage and finally unveil their new game codenamed Project Dylan and the new Dragon Age game, which are both games made by other Bioware studios and not related to the studio who released Mass Effect Andromeda earlier this year. And to round it all off, as much as all the fans in the world out there want it based on literally every possible EA comment section, we probably won't get a Skate 4. However, I would love to be proven wrong, EA!