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Did We Really Need Summer Game Fest This Year?

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Summer Game Fest 2024
Summer Game Fest 2024 – did we need it?

Here we are again. Despite E3 being dead and buried, the gaming calendar has remained largely unchanged when it comes to the big showcase season, although participants have fluctuated over the years, even when E3 was still going. It’s true that the shift to online during the pandemic certainly caused the gaming giants to pause and think: Could we do this differently? 

Of course, there’s a significant cost saving when it comes to a live stream versus an in person showcase to be considered too. This year the Summer Game Fest kicked off with a good judgement call, to acknowledge the torrid time the game industry has been through of late. 

There had also been some expectation management before the show from the man himself, explaining that after last year’s deluge of huge games this year was not going to be the same. Instead Summer Game Fest was to focus on already known projects, providing updates, rather interestingly ruling out a “one more thing” moment at the end of the show.

This turned out to be true. After a new trailer for Phantom Blade Zero, the showcase did end rather abruptly compared to what viewers are used to. Still, throughout Summer Game Fest this year, despite the caveats, it did feel lacklustre. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge indie fan and review many for TheXboxHub. Interestingly enough, beforehand I didn’t get the impression the show was being framed as more of an indie showcase, but that is how it turned out. Still, we got to see some weird and wonderful games, but I had another thought which plagued me throughout the two hours.

Due to 2024 being a much slower year for big games, it felt like developers and publishers were quite rightly holding on to what they had for their own showcases. Granted, the show opened with LEGO Horizon Adventures which looked great and could have easily made an appearance at Sony’s recent State of Play, but otherwise there was an absence of the big hitters compared to years gone by.

Again, we were prepared for this, but Summer Game Fest has long been touted as the successor to E3 (by some anyway), with Geoff building the Summer Games Fest line-up around his main kick-off showcase. As a result the expectation is always going to be there for it to be a big show. Instead, we saw some very brief cameos from the likes of Star Wars Outlaws and Civilization VII, but were left wanting more with teases of further reveals later on in the showcase calendar.

Some moments really summed it up for me. For example, we got treated to a very flashy trailer for Batman: Arkham Shadow, only to be revealed it was a VR spinoff set in the Arkham universe which was met with an audible groan from the audience. 

Another game, Battle Aces, opened with an action packed anime trailer full of mecha battles, explosions and more. However, when the game director appeared on stage and announced it was an RTS, I felt a little misled. Just like Concord that appeared at the recent State of play, flashy trailers are great but we need more gameplay too. There wasn’t nearly enough at this year’s Summer Game Fest.

In the interest of balance, it wasn’t all bad. Alan Wake II saved the day. As soon as Sam Lake started dancing to Herald of Darkness I felt a wave of relief wash over me. The confirmation of a long requested physical release, accompanied by a (near) shadow drop of DLC made for a very good moment indeed.

It was also brilliant to see those folks behind Among Us pop up and introduce us to Outersloth, an initiative designed to give indie developers a leg up in the industry. Oh, and Blumhouse Games introduced us to some very interesting looking projects, which I am very much looking forward to.

In the years gone by I have always been a defender of E3, and have written about it before – Where Does E3 Go From Here? | TheXboxHub. That event struggled to move with the times, and my spidey sense is telling me that cycle may well be starting again. This could just be me wearing rose tinted glasses (man I miss the glory days of those conferences), because the games industry has fundamentally changed, and is going through something of an identity crisis at the moment in my humble opinion.

So, to answer the question I originally proposed. No, we didn’t. Much like Glastonbury, I think Summer Game Fest would have benefitted from a rest this year, leaving it up to the devs themselves. I totally understand the argument for giving indie developers a platform, and I applaud it, but the Summer Game Fest showcase itself didn’t feel like the right place to do it. Due to the history and purpose of the event, it felt inevitable that fans would be left underwhelmed this year. In a really tough time for the industry, was it really realistic to expect those making games to fill the increasing amount of showcases and events in the gaming calendar? Sometimes less is more. Still, at least security seemed to do their job this time round…

Let us know your thoughts. The comments? They are below.

Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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