I Can’t Believe It’s Not E3: The Weirdest Things at Summer Games Fest
Jun 19, 2023   •   Matthew Arcilla
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Jun 19, 2023   •   Matthew Arcilla
This many years into a pandemic, and video game marketing has been transformed. No longer will developers and publishers march to the Los Angeles Convention Center for E3, not when exhibition prices are so high and the rewards are so low (oh yeah and there was that time the organizers left private data unsecured.)
Instead, the usual suspects descended upon the YouTube Theater at Inglewood for Summer Games Fest, the new home of annual games marketing. Thousands of people watched video game press man Geoff Keighley present dozens of advertisements and marketing segments in what we call Keigh-3.
But not everything has been a banger. With dozens of game reveals, hype reels, and special promotional announcements, it was inevitable that things got weird, cringe, and confusing. Here are eight of those moments.
A long-time ago ‘walking simulator’ was a term of insult for games that were all exploration, no puzzles, no combat, and implicitly, no ‘gameplay.’ Now in a post-Death Stranding, post-Stanley Parable and post-Gone Home landscape, walking simulators can be anything, including this weird game about a ‘failson’ who has been isekai’d to a sleepy mountain region. Baby Steps asks you to bravely put one foot in front of another.
One of the benefits of works like The Christmas Carol being in the public domain is that literally anyone can make their own spin on it. Remake it with Muppets, retell it with Batman, or write an entire opera around it. Well, you’ve never seen an adaptation like this one.
Ebenezer and the Invisible World casts the reformed miser as a Christmas superhero, fighting his way across London against the forces of a wealthy industrialist. By his side are various Ghosts in this side-scrolling action and adventure and save the city from unrepentant dark spirits.
You can always count on a certain amount of cringe during any weekend of games marketing, and Summer Games Fest was no different with its exclusive footage of the Peacock adaptation of Twisted Metal, based on the vehicular combat series from Sony studios.
The clip featured Anthony Mackie as John Doe, squaring off in a grimy casino with Sweet Tooth, a murderous clown embodied by Samoa Joe (and voiced by Will Arnett). They trade quips, trade blows, and then uh, sing along to “Thong Song”. There are inexplicably no cars — metal, twisted, or otherwise.
Katsura Hashino, the director of Persona 3, 4 and 5, is working with his usual co-conspirators such as composer Shoji Meguro and artist Shigenori Soejima on one of the craziest looking new IPs at Atlus Studio Zero. It’s called Metaphor Re Fantazio and I have no idea what it’s about — only that it looks wild.
In typical Japanese fashion, the official description clarifies nothing: “Write your destiny and rise above fear as you step into a fantasy world unlike anything you’ve seen before. Fraught with unsettling mystery, the kingdom stands on a precipice. Now, you must embark on a journey, overcoming obstacles and forging bonds with friends.” Thanks, Atlus!
Multinational games conglomerate Ubisoft has been taking some Ls lately, with ongoing workplace problems, delayed projects, and failed ventures into blockchain technology. Don’t hold your breath for Beyond Good & Evil 2 or Skull & Bones, and instead get ready for xDefiant.
Originally called “Tom Clancy’s XDefiant,” this co-op shooter brings multiple Ubisoft IPs together for… reasons. You can play as the Phantoms from Ghost Recon, the members of Echelon from Splinter Cell, the Cleaners of The Division, and the hacktivists of Watch Dogs. We never asked for this.
The venerable aviation immersion experience on PC and Xbox lets you fly rescue choppers, crop dusters, passenger jets, hot air balloons, and even the F/A-18E Hornet from Top Gun Maverick. If it takes to the skies, it’s fair game for Microsoft Flight Simulator.
So naturally, the upcoming Dune expansion makes total sense, right? Arriving alongside Dune Part 2 in November this year, you’ll be able to fly around Arrakis in an ornithopter because of course that’s what you do when you flight simulate in the planet of spice melange.
2. Exoprimal is a crisis of infinite dinosaurs
Capcom has been knocking out home run after home run with their most recent installments of Monster Hunter, Resident Evil, and Street Fighter, so now is the time to launch their weirdest game: Exoprimal. In it, you play as an Exofighter, who has been tasked to complete experiments for a sinister AI.
The twist? They’re all combat challenges against dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaurs. Swarms of raptors, triceratops, tyrannosaurs, and even mutant variants known as “NeoSaurs.” It’s like what if Capcom returns to Dino Crisis, except they spend the entire marketing trail saying “It’s not Dino Crisis.”
1. Nicolas Cage appears on stage to promote Dead by Daylight
The gaming world is no stranger to celebrity collaborations. Conan O’Brien took your packages in Death Stranding. People made tacos with Danny Trejo in Far Cry 6. Even the late David Bowie played a mystical computer god in Quantic Dream’s first game. So it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that Nicolas Cage showed up on stage to promote a video game.
But what’s wild is that the game was Dead by Daylight, in which Cage would be making his debut as ‘Nic Cage,’ an actor who gets sucked into the nightmarish realm where lost souls must fight to escape a killer on the loose. Cage fully understood his marketing homework, bringing his off-kilter energy, his love of the horror genre, and the insistence that he and the player will be “fused as one.”
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