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What the 352 video games presented at E3 say about the state of the industry

It was an "E3 transition", as the connoisseurs like to remind. Implied, a video game show with less spectacle, waiting for a year 2020 promised to release a new generation of consoles. However, the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3), held June 11-14 in Los Angeles, California, is far from insignificant.

Beyond the unprecedented presence of actors like Google, Netflix and Tesla, who marked the show, the games were at the rendezvous. From a qualitative point of view, first of all, with the always very impressive futuristic role-play of the creators of The Witcher 3 : Cyberpunk 2077 ; the flashy remake and inevitably expected Final Fantasy VII ; or the clever ones Twelve Minutes or Spiritfarer. And from a quantitative point of view, especially, with 352 titles cited at the show or in the events and speeches annexes, according to our count.

The game of the middle E3 2019 was released in 2016

The number is high. For comparison, in 2008, E3 did not exceed 200 projects presented, according to a calculation of the time by Video Games Magazine. The reason is the announcement of two new services, Stadia and its thirty titles planned at launch, and the new Xbox Game Pass for PC, and its catalog of 115 games, mostly released in the last five years. Exceptional case of an edition of E3 where the average month of release of games presented is August … 2016.

Breakdown of games covered by initial or planned launch year

The E3 2019 was marked by the important place of the reissues, integrations of recent games in new offers, and by the presentation of games or extensions brought to be marketed in the short or medium term.

Source: compiled data

To these two effects of announcement we must add a more structural phenomenon, that of the fashion of the now famous "game as a service", titles designed for a long-term commercial exploitation, with the backing of e-sports events, additional content and extensions of all kinds. At the image of Fornite, Fallout 76, Apex Legends or Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, 27 titles of this kind, often among the most media, were put in the spotlight of the E3, several months or years after their initial launch.

Finally, unlike the 2018 vintage, where long-run blockbusters like The Elder Scrolls VI or Beyond Good & Evil 2 referred to a distant future – and a likely exit to the next decade – this time, not a single title was explicitly associated with an exit in 2021 or beyond. Conversely, 127 games, extensions or additional content, or 35% of the show's production, are set in … June 2019, the month of the event itself.

Formerly a great show for staging desirable futures, E3 is getting closer and closer to an advertising festival for video games just put on the market.

The suites, many but not the majority

However, we should not reduce the video game show to the handle of conferences of its largest players. These return a distorted view of the industry, in which the majors of the industry are no longer in the majority.

In recent years, the independent scene has exploded, is structured, and today represents almost half of the games that make the news of the E3. These games play an important role in renewing the videogame landscape: 124 of the 165 new franchises come from the indie world and 69 games out of 97, if we exclude the pre-2019 titles included in the Stadia and Xbox Game Pass offers. A figure to oppose the production of major publishers, composed more than 50% of suites, reissues and new content for existing titles.

Breakdown of ads by project type

The direction of production is radically different among the major publishers, who are in a logic of amortization of risks and exploitation of their intellectual properties; and in the nons, or risk taking and demarcation strategies predominate.

Source: compiled data

However, there are exceptions on both sides: successful indie games The Messenger and Chivalry will benefit from downloadable content, Picnic, and a suite; while giants Bethesda and Ubisoft have introduced new licenses, Deathloop and Gods & Monsters.

Sony absent, but the ubiquitous PlayStation 4

Another phenomenon in trompe l'oeil: the absence of Sony from the show, for the first time in its history, did not materialize in the absence of PlayStation 4 games, on the contrary. Nearly one game out of two turned on his console.

The lead machine of this generation of consoles seemed ubiquitous, an impression reinforced by the activity of its accounts on social networks, and the sharing on YouTube of a hundred E3 trailers in one week, including those of Minecraft Dungeons, FIFA 20 or Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Number of games presented by game support (excluding PC)

Despite the absence of Sony from the show, the PlayStation 4 is the console on which the most games of the E3 were running. There have also been as many announcements of games on Tesla car than on … the Wii.

Source: compiled data

In general, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch shared the vast majority of projects. On the computer, Epic was surprisingly unobtrusive, while Steam remains the default platform. Mobile games have shone by their discretion, for essentially historical reasons: the E3 is a show organized by actors turned to conventional media.

As for the virtual reality, it went out of fashion after having ravaged the show in 2016 and 2017. Among the major publishers, only Bethesda has confirmed the release in summer of its Wolfenstein: CyberPilot. The others have completely deserted, like Ubisoft, yet very present on this market two years ago. Fortunately, specialized independent producers continue to believe it. At E3, there were 27 titles in virtual reality, including about twenty new features. Special mention to Pistol Whip, psychedelic blend of shooting game and musical experience.

Adventure games lead the train

What are the fashionable genres? The role plays will have been particularly at the party this year, with five Final Fantasy, Cyberpunk 2077, a port of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on Switch and the announcement of the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Above all, a large part of indie production is oriented towards narrative and immersive experiences, sometimes minimalist or sophisticated, whose success is undeniable. This year they are called Way to the Woods, Hollow Knight: Silksong or The Good Life.

Distribution of E3 2019 games by genre

Shooting and action games, predominant 10 years ago, are now competing with the return of role-playing games and the rise of adventure games, especially on the indie scene.

Source: compiled data

In addition, the trigger remains the tool of choice for a large part of the production, especially led by the many shooting games, often not recommended for under 18, presented by Bethesda (Wolfenstein Youngblood, Eternal Doom), Microsoft (Gears 5, Halo Infinite) and Ubisoft (the entire Tom Clancy range).

In the escheated genres, let us mention that of motor racing, which never regained its popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and that of sport, for opposite reasons. The commercial hegemony of FIFA in football and NBA 2K in basketball seems to have deterred many potential contenders from venturing into this near-monopolistic market. Maybe that's the same reason why the royal battle to the Fortnite have been so rare.

France, sixth producer in number of games

At the global level, the E3, California show, shows the clear US domination of production in number of projects, in front of his historical rival, Japan, and the United Kingdom and Canada, almost neck-to-neck .

Breakdown of games discussed at E3 2019 by country

The United States (101), Japan (52), the United Kingdom (39) and Canada (38) are the four largest producers. Sweden, France and Poland complete the "G7" of national industries with more than ten projects presented.

Source: compiled data

French industry ranks sixth. In Los Angeles, sixteen projects mainly designed in France have been presented or cited in one form or another, some of which have made their mark, such as the return of the license Microsoft Flight Simulator by the Bordelais d'Asobo, the intriguing new project of Arkane's Lyonnais, Death Loop, or the still very popular dance game from Ubisoft Montreuil, Just Dance 2020.

France is third in Europe behind the United Kingdom and Sweden and just ahead of Poland, which confirms its rank of new major power of video games. Note that the E3 returns a distorted image of the industry: indiscriminate games, mobile and Asian production, abundant, are under-represented.

Distribution of game types by country

Each country has its specialties, such as Japan role playing, Poland horror games, Sweden and the United States shooting games, or even France, racing games and narrative adventures.

Source: compiled data

In detail, France stands out above all for its various racing games produced between Paris and Lyon by the Lille publisher Bigben Interactive, and its narrative games based on the psychology of characters, such as Life is Strange 2 or Nightcall.

A specialty like any other: Poland, rather, connects horror games, like Carrion, Blair Witch or Dying Light 2. Japan, it remains the largest producer of role plays: E3 transition or not, there are fundamentals that do not change.

  • The data we compiled

The complete interactive list of games is below. The total in the infographics is not always 352, because of the games sometimes classified in two different categories or of which information like the date of exit is not informed. You can report any errors or omissions to the addresses audureau@lemonde.fr or breteau@lemonde.fr.

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