The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), takes place in Los Angeles Convention Center every June. Developers, publishers and manufacturers attend to advertise their upcoming projects to over 15,000 attendees over three days – and many more thousands of people view their presentations from the comfort of their own homes through the magic of the internet.
I must confess that I don’t watch the event regularly myself, and the last time I did so was before the release of the current generation of consoles. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that the hype before and after tends to kill any excitement I could have; similar to the overkill surrounding Fallout 76 and Red Dead Redemption in late 2018, the month of rumours leading up to E3 along with the number of news articles about the ‘shocking announcements’ for weeks afterwards really grinds my gears.
The second is that I find most of the presentations by the big names don’t cater for where I fall in their audience. I’m not what they’d call a ‘hardcore’ gamer before I don’t care about the specifications of upcoming hardware – I just want my consoles to run the games I’d like to play. But I don’t necessarily come under their ‘casual’ classification either, because I play video games four or five times a week and they’re my main form of entertainment. As I’ve written previously, I actually prefer them to movies.
But this year was different. This year even I’d not been able to avoid all E3 news and I’d seen a couple of articles about those recent Fable 4 leaks. On 04 June 2019, Twitter user Nibel spotted a Reddit post which allegedly detailed information on the unconfirmed game including the demise of Albion and time-travel. Although such things should always be taken with a pinch of salt, if any of the details contained are true then we’re looking at an instalment which is going to be a lot different from what we’ve come to know from the fantasy series.
Fable has held a special place in my heart since its original release in 2004. It was the title that managed to get me back into gaming after the point in my teenage years where I suddenly realised that others didn’t view my hobby in the same way I did. After trying to change to fit in and becoming very unhappy as a result, getting the chance to play it made me see I still wanted to go on adventures, believe in fairy-tales and become the hero – and there was absolutely nothing wrong with me because of that.
I booked time off of work when Fable II was released in 2008 so I could buy it as soon as possible and spend the entire day playing it. It turned out to be everything the first game was and way more: here was sequel which surpassed the original and remains on my list of favourites even today. But sadly, the same couldn’t be said of Fable III in 2010. It went downhill not too long after the opening credits and I came away from the experience disappointed, wondering whether my beloved series would ever get back on track.
That’s why I found myself putting down the controller and firing up Twitch last Sunday evening, ready for Microsoft’s E3 presentation stream. Surely there had to be some details about Fable 4 after those leaks and last year’s news that Playground Games were working on something? I settled on the sofa full of anticipation as the clock slowly counted down towards the start time, before the screen filled with a cheering audience in front of a huge stage and far too many spotlights.
There were some highlights during the next 90 minutes. Although the majority of games revealed seemed to be standard Microsoft fare of shooter sequels and remakes, there were a couple of titles that caught my eye. 12 Minutes, an interactive thriller about a man caught in a time loop by Luis Antonio, has an interesting top-down style and looks as though it would be right up my street. And although I won’t be brave enough to play it myself, I can see me making my other-half play Blair Witch by Bloober Team so I can watch from behind my hands.
But there were also some lowlights too. Double Fine Productions is the latest Xbox Game Studios acquisition (which may turn out well for them because they’ve struggled to secure funding in the past, but we’ve seen bad things happen to small teams who get bought out). Microsoft are pushing the Xbox Game Pass at every opportunity to the point where I’m sick of hearing about it. Few details about Project Scarlett were shared. And everybody forgot about the games when Keanu Reeves made an unexpected appearance on stage (a ‘totally bogus’ publicity stunt).
And the biggest frustration: no news about Fable 4 at all in that hour-and-a-half. Not even a hint. Maybe the news of a series resurrection was a little premature; or perhaps there were so many other games to unveil during the presentation, that Microsoft decided to hold onto the next Fable instalment until there’s more progress to show off. I’m guessing that we’re going to have to wait until this time next year for any real information, when the company might reveal it as a Project Scarlett launch title at the next expo.
My disappointment is my own fault for listening to hype leading up to the event. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of hearing about a title you’ve been waiting for, then only to be let down. Next year I think I’ll go back to my previous tactic of staying away from all news, and play video games on those E3 days while other people watch presentations about them.