Hello, and welcome to the tenth issue of thisweek.gg. Thank you so much for subscribing.
I think it’s a nice coincidence that the tenth issue coincided with E3, which if you don’t know, is when 68,000 people descend on Downtown LA each year for the biggest convention in interactive entertainment. As such, I decided to make this week an E3 recap. I hope you enjoy this special edition, and I hope you don’t mind it’s coming to you on Sunday; I needed some extra time to write up all the information coming out of the show. While the regular format will be back next week, I will be traveling and thus next week's issue may arrive over the weekend as well.
The reason I'm traveling is that I'll be at VidCon, and I'm really excited to say that I'll be speaking on a panel there entitled Esports, Brands, and the Next Billion Gamers. If work (or play) is taking you to Anaheim this week, let me know! Details here.
As always, if you’d like clarification, detail, or wish to speak further about something you read here, my inbox is open: email@example.com. You can also find me on Twitter retweeting Overwatch League memes @lgflanagan.
And now...on to E3! Buckle up, because this issue is a long one.
Epic's Fortnite footprint is, well, Epic; Microsoft announces a new streaming service, aka a games subscription from the cloud for all devices; EA's Battlefield V will have a Battle Royale mode (and will include women); esports is front and center with a Fortnite ProAm, an ESL stage, and more; Spider-Man has a huge presence at PlayStation, releases new trailers; Fortnite comes to Switch; Nintendo shows off Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, new Pokémon games; Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Odyssey will be set in ancient Greece; Bethesda gives details on Fallout: 76, announces that it'll be online multiplayer, has an awesome Reclamation Day experience within their footprint; CD Projekt Red releases a trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 and wow; and everyone is talking about the trailer for Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding.
COMPETITION x CULTURE
Fortnite's major moments @ E3
First things first...
Fortnite had a huge footprint on the show floor, and it was one of the most creative (and expensive) fan experiences I've ever seen at a convention. They recreated some of the most iconic aspects of the game (the Battle Bus, forts, Loot Llamas, pickaxes, gliders, disco balls) and built something truly awesome. On Wednesday, the first thing I did was get some popcorn and take a stroll through the buildout. A testament to the game's popularity, it was full of long lines. There were long lines for the glider photobooth, long lines to get on stage, long lines to play the game, and long lines to buy merch. But even if you didn't want to wait in long lines, there was plenty to take in.
Here's the overall view.
Here's the Battle Bus IRL.
They had a bush camper and I had to take a selfie because honestly, this is me in 100% of games.
As you can see, the booth had much to offer, but the most exciting part of Fortnite at E3 was...the Fortnite ProAm!
The first day of E3 marked the first-ever Fortnite Celebrity ProAm, which as I mentioned last week featured duos of celebrities and streamers playing together to raise money for charity. As an aside, I heard many conversations at E3 about how Epic’s plans for Fortnite esports will center on their Duo mode, which is quite interesting as I can’t think of many (any?) major esports that see folks compete in groups of two.
Disclaimer: While I was down the street, I did not actually attend the ProAm.
The event took place at Banc of California Stadium, which is where the LAFC plays and is about a five minute walk from the LA Convention Center. Folks of all ages (well, maybe not quite all ages) waited in a two-mile-long line for hours in the heat just to get a good seat.
Here’s a photo, courtesy of Polygon, of what the inside of the stadium looked like:
The mood inside the stadium apparently rivaled a major sporting event, except they weren’t cheering for the NBA players, NFL players, WWE wrestlers, or UFC fighters playing in the tournament. Nor were they cheering for the musicians and rappers – folks who normally sell out this size venue – and it wasn’t the actors, dancers, or YouTubers either.
Fans were here for their favorite streamers.
As for results, Ninja and EDM DJ Marshmello took home the ultimate victory royale, splitting the million dollar charity prize. Celebrities who made it to the top ten included Pete Wentz, Russell Horning aka the kid who went viral after dancing with a backpack on SNL, and the coolest 14-year-old girl ever, actress Kyla Drew.
It’s been reported that the ProAm managed to reach just under two million live viewers at peak across platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Mixer. This makes it the most viewed competitive gaming event ever across western (meaning without Chinese viewership) platforms.
All of this is a true indication of two things: one, the kind of attention Fortnite esports is capable of garnering, and two, the level of support (and spend) Epic is willing to put behind the game. Kudos to them for understanding the gravity of the moment and making sure they capitalized on their first E3. As I mentioned last week, I think more people knew E3 was going on than in any previous year, largely because of the fanfare around this title; it's introducing a huge new audience to games and benefiting the industry across the board.
INVESTMENTS & STARTUPS
New ventures coming out of E3
ICM Partners x Evolved Talent
On the last day of E3, ICM and Evolved announced a JV partnership to provide strategy and full-service ancillary opportunities for Evolved clients. This is a brilliant move by ICM as Evolved will be a really good partner to help them meaningfully participate in esports; I’ve been friendly with Evolved for some time, and they are some of the most dedicated agents imaginable. From the ICM side, execution of this partnership will be overseen by International & Independent Film Group managing director Peter Trinh and Digital Ventures agent Bennett Sherman, both of whom are guiding the agency’s efforts in esports.
Having come from CAA, I’ve paid close attention to what Evolved has been up to as they have really been the only dedicated esports representation firm in town – and I’m thrilled to see the big agencies paying attention.
Facebook's First E3
As I mentioned last week, this was Facebook’s first E3 – and they were eager to show off. Their footprint, prominently located in the front of the South Hall, was sizeable and laser-focused on showcasing their features and pushing their creators program. Throngs of Facebook employees were on-hand, ready to answer questions or demo the platform. Oh, and I don't have a photo but there was an Oculus VR gaming area as well.
Here’s the Creator Corner, with booths for livestreaming.
There was also a stage, which featured creators playing games or doing interviews.
Of course, no E3 booth is complete without an Instagrammable moment (in this case, literally brought to you by Instagram).
Overall, I left thinking it’s just too early to form an opinion on Facebook Gaming. What I will say is that instead of looking at how to replicate the Twitch experience on Facebook (it feels like they’ve reskinned the Twitch interface), I’d like to see FB innovate around what features can be added to give it a distinct purpose that adds value for fans and creators alike. I also think they should curate their initial batch of creators as opposed to opening it up to everyone, because I’m certain they could find noteworthy creators to produce the kind of content Twitch has historically struggled with and, in turn, carve out their own space.
Brands @ E3
Hilariously enough, the non-endemic brand at E3 that really stuck with me was Drake’s. As in, Drake’s Cakes, the baked goods brand behind sweets like Devil Dogs and Ring Dings.
I first saw Webster, the iconic Drake Duck, wandering about, getting people to follow him to the Drake’s area in the concourse hall. The placement was really smart – everyone going from one hall to another passes through, and there’s not much going on aside from some banners. Once there, they passed out free cakes and hosted a raffle where you and a friend could win tickets to PAX West. While it wasn’t huge or splashy, their presence made an impression as it was a genuine merry-maker for all who passed by.
They had jumbo-sized boxes/8-bit Devil Dogs on display, which made for a great photo backdrop.
Upon further exploration, I discovered they also created some silly short videos about Webster learning proper gaming etiquette. Gaming is such an interesting avenue for Drake’s as the company has been around since 1896, and I love that they’re connecting with a younger audience in this way.
Games I'm excited about coming out of E3
I didn’t want to spend a ton of time waiting in lines, so I really only hit Nintendo, my top priority. While Nintendo had announced most of its biggest titles before E3, they still held onto some surprises – but not as much as I think most expected. An interesting note – Nintendo’s share price went down nearly 7% after the E3 Nintendo Direct showcase, with people citing factors like Switch sales missing projections and competition from other console/mobile/PC titles. Regardless, I was excited by what I saw.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!/Let’s Go, Eevee!
If you played Pokémon Yellow and you’ve been away from the franchise since (you, like me, are what my friend Jordan Fragen lovingly calls a “first gen-er”) this is the perfect way back into the series. It’s being positioned by Nintendo as the game that falls somewhere between the original Pokémon and the mobile phenomenon Pokémon Go, and while I never played Pokémon Go, it’s very reminiscent of what I loved about Pokémon Yellow. This game utilizes the Joy-Con controller system pretty creatively and allows players to throw the Pokéball in many different ways, but it’s best when played with a brand new peripheral: the Pokéball Plus. It includes light effects, sound effects, and HD rumble – so when you catch a Pokémon in-game, it feels like it’s actually inside. Having played Pokémon for the first time on a Game Boy in the late 90s, there’s something kind of poetic about revisiting the franchise 20 years later in a new way.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The new Super Smash Bros., Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, was probably the most buzzy announcement coming out of Nintendo Direct at E3. Every Smash fighter ever is in the game, and it’s the biggest crossover in gaming history as it features 66 characters from games dating all the way back to Game Boy. I didn’t try either of the new characters (Inkling from Splatoon, Ridley from Metroid) because I wanted to try some old favorites from Melee, but Ridley (a dragon, if you don't know) especially looks quite cool. While I haven’t played enough Smash in recent years to feel material differences in balance, etc. many are saying the game is faster and has addressed some changes long awaited by the competitive set.
Fortnite on Switch
When so much at E3 is months (or even years) away from hitting the market, the fact that Fortnite on Switch was available immediately following the announcement was awesome. Personally, I'm ready to retire on all other consoles because upon playing it, I think it might be the answer to my second place woes. The portability makes it far easier to practice, and I play so much on Switch as-is that I think my mechanics are better there than on any other platform.
Otherwise, games I’m especially looking forward to include Cyberpunk 2077 (TBD), Kingdom Hearts III (January 2019), Fallout: 76 (November 2018), The Last of Us II (TBD), and Sable (late 2019).
Highlights of my E3 haul
My E3 merch strategy is really to find my favorite games and secure a limited run piece that was made for the convention. I don't frankly care if it's even the right size or if it's something I'll even use (who could possibly need two Pop Sockets?), the perception of scarcity is enough for me.
And with that...
First off, Fortnite. In the same way people pass down their concert tees from Woodstock, I wanted to get something I could one day give my kids and say I was at Fortnite's first E3. Hope they like videogames! Anyway, I was able to get a sweatshirt, t-shirt, and (not limited edition but still cool) pop socket.
Next, I stopped by Funko and got a vinyl toy and a made-for-E3 t-shirt from Cuphead.
Lastly, Champion, an athletic apparel brand whose sweats have made a resurgence in fashion of late, made a limited run of merch for E3. A+, Champion. I loved the entire collaboration (think: play like a Champion tees in their iconic red and blue) but specifically had my eye on this sweatshirt and thanks to the kindness of strangers, was able to grab the last one.
As you can see, it's basically the embodiment of my brand.
And with that, have a great week.