Ubisoft’s E3 2019 press conference featured some anticipated announcements and a few surprise ones. With the odd hidden gem lost in a sea of generic announcements, the conference by Ubisoft felt like a commercial that one is forced to view between episodes of their favorite TV show. The unfortunate leaks that surfaced mere days ago left a notable stain on Ubisoft’s presentation and overall appeal. The decision to open with Watch Dogs: Legion was a smart one since everyone knew it was coming though the homeruns became few and far between after that.
With both the announcement and extensive gameplay footage of Watch Dogs: Legion, Ubisoft seemed as though it was gearing up for a “headbanger” of a conference. The way the game was being presented for the first time would lead players to believe that Ubisoft had a stellar showcase to follow. After Microsoft’s slower and less hyped conference and Bethesda’s adequate attendance, I genuinely believed that Ubisoft would show them all up. Instead of a “headbanger” performance, audiences were treated to a rollercoaster of announcements.
Shortly after the conference commenced, audiences had the brakes instantly pumped on their excitement as Ubisoft took the time to advertise a new television show it is creating along with the producers of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. For the next few minutes, actor Rob McElhenney took the stage to describe the producers’ vision for a show that explores a comedic take on the politics surrounding a development studio and its egotistical creative director. Following this announcement, Ubisoft proceeded to show a trailer for the new Apple TV exclusive series. No game was announced for that duration.
Eventually, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint featured, with a surprise visitation by Jon Bernthal, who portrays the game’s villain. To promote Breakpoint, Bernthal briefly described how his past roles in the entertainment industry have influenced his character and how, as the villain, he encourages the players/Ghosts to hunt him down or die trying. Instead of following up with gameplay footage, Ubisoft announced a new addition to the Ghost Recon family, Delta Company. Not much was said about the new initiative, but it seems to be a collective forum for Breakpoint fans.
As odd as a forum announcement can be on an E3 stage, even more unsettling was the exaggerated hype from its developer, a sentiment that would sadly carry on throughout the remaining conference. Before concluding the Breakpoint showings, the developers were psyched to announce the beta on September 5. Unfortunately, since the beta is less than a month from the game’s launch, Ubisoft may be confusing the term with demo.
As a time-honored tradition at every Ubisoft E3 conference, Just Dance 2020 had an explosive presentation emphasizing the importance of Just Dance in people’s lives. With on-screen actors over-intensifying the joy of dance to everyday individuals, translating to the on-stage actors performing a symphony of limbs for everyone’s amusement, Just Dance 2020 is a reminder of how to oversell a product. Ubisoft continues to take a household party game and hype it into a hardcore intense experience year after year.
The hype-train continued on as viewers were introduced to Ubisoft’s premium PC subscription service, unsurprisingly titled Ubisoft+. A sizzle reel followed, showcasing some of the titles that will be featured on the proprietary service. The success of Ubisoft’s subscription service remains to be seen in an age where all the cool kids are doing one. However Ubisoft’s turn at bat might strike out when considering its lineup. Almost all the titles shown in the subscription trailer are playable in another form of subscription such as Xbox Game Pass or have been free with a PlayStation Plus membership. Considering this subscription service is PC-only right now, it has the possibility of finding a foothold in the market, but Xbox Game Pass PC Games is another new contender with an established fanbase behind it.
Outside of the forced enthusiasm for new titles existed a trailer that had many considering the possibility of a Zombi sequel. Instead, audiences were treated to a surprise announcement from the Rainbow Six team with its new game: Rainbow Six Quarantine. Continuing the concept of 2018’s short-lived ‘Outbreak’ content drop for Rainbow Six Siege, Quarantine is a full-fledged title built on the foundation of that mode.
Finally, CEO Yves Guillemot insinuated a classic “one more thing” moment as a developer from Ubisoft Quebec came on stage to show a project that has been in development for four years: Gods & Monsters. This title will take advantage of player’s historical fantasies, with an emphasis on mythology being the primary storyteller. Potential aside, the announcement proved to be a poor way to abruptly end Ubisoft’s press conference as it contributed to a bait and switch for current Assassin’s Creed Odyssey fans. With the developer being from Ubisoft Quebec and mentioning historical storytelling and mythology in reference to Odyssey, many audience members would have been anticipating an Assassin’s Creed announcement. The misguided excitement and anticipation only contribute to the continuing narrative this year that E3 2019 is lacking in content from previous years.
Ubisoft is trying to position itself as being the publisher known for fun and variety in gaming. This mission statement is reaffirmed year after year by Guillemot, with this year being no different. Despite its desire, though, Ubisoft’s 2019 press conference contained an excessive amount of artificial hype. Instead of allowing the games to impress the audience, Ubisoft developers took upon themselves to do it instead. Before and after every trailer shown was a developer explaining to the audience how hyped they should be, rather than allowing the footage to do its job. An obvious takeaway from Ubisoft’s 2019 conference is its reinforcement of fun with others. Almost every project shown featured co-op in some way, further emphasizing Guillemot’s expression of inclusivity. Just a shame that his encouragement towards gamer empowerment and expression was contrast to extensive cringe-worthy corporate hype.