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E3 2021 Recap: Day One Sets the Stage for a Sci-Fi Expo


The biggest gaming event of the year is in full swing. E3 is back after taking 2020 off due to the COVID-10 pandemic. This year, it’s an all-digital event featuring several of gaming’s biggest publishers. Things are much more confusing this time around, though. Events like Summer Game Fest have splintered the gaming landscape, turning the entire month of June into a vague, mega expo.

In fact, some of the biggest announcements of the month came before the event even started. EA chose to reveal Battlefield 2042 on its own time, while Summer Game Fest snagged the coveted Elden Ring trailer reveal. Still, there’s plenty of news left in the tank for E3 proper. Here’s our recap of the event, which we will update every day with new information.

Day 1: Ubisoft, Devolver, and a useless app

Let’s get something out of the way up front: the E3 app is functionally useless. As part of the reimagined expo, the ESA created an E3 web portal where users can browse digital booths. It features half-baked social features and organization tools that publishers are largely ignoring altogether. Moreover, the app was down when the show’s kickoff stream went live. It’s safe to say that this isn’t the future of digital events.

Ubisoft was the star of the first day with its Forward stream. Due to several leaks, many of the company’s biggest surprises came out beforehand. Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope was an especially big talking point of the day after Nintendo accidentally leaked it early via a website. The Switch game looks particularly delightful with a new outer space theme.

Mario, Rabbid Peach, and Rabbid Luigi explore a beach in Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope.

Sci-fi was a running theme throughout Ubisoft’s show. Rainbow Six: Extraction is ditching the military shooter format for a co-op alien shooter. And then there’s Saturday’s biggest shocker, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. The open world game was one heck of a “one more thing,” giving a gorgeous look at an open world game based on the James Cameron film franchise. With Halo Infinite and Starfield (likely) coming tomorrow, it looks like AAA publishers are going all in on big budget sci-fi.

Things were more down to Earth outside of E3. Wholesome Direct delivered a delightful hour-long presentation full of cozy games (and a lot of birds). Then there was Devolver Digital, who have become full-on E3 anti-heroes in recent years. The publisher delivered another loud, satirical stream filled with fascinating indies like Trek To Yomi.

Gearbox held its own showcase, too, though it was easily the dud of the day. Cringe-worthy humor and a lack of new details on Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands made this little more than a lunch break.

Overall, it wasn’t a bad way to open the day aside from the failure of the format itself. Ubisoft offered a good range of blockbusters and left-field oddities that set the stage for a fun fall and stacked 2022. The E3-adjacent streams from publishers make the entire event feel a little confusing, but it’s hard to complain about having too many games to look forward to.

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