This Week in Games
TOTALLY CANCELLED

by Heidi Kemps,

Heya folks! We've got a lot of news to cover this week. Well, actually, it's more like a single very, very big story that'll eat up most of the column space and a couple small bits of interest. But before we talk about all that, there's some other things I'd like to address, such as my Granblue Fantasy Versus review! The PS4 version's out already and the PC version hits later this week, so if you're on the fence, read the review and see if it's up your alley!

Alright, so, we have BIG NEWS this week that there's no way to avoid talking about, but I've also got something I'd like to shamelessly plug.

My Japanese pal Pin has been making some really impressive doujinshi publications about games for several years now. He's a big Sega fan, and 2020 is actually Sega's 60th anniversary, so he wanted to put out something really special to commemorate the occasion. The result is a book called Sega 60: Creation is Life, which contains a collection of fan-made material from 61 devout Sega fans from across the globe, including contributions from yours truly!

Folks like gaming historian Ray Barnholt, Jonathan Kim of Lab Zero Games, and even notorious eromanga artist LINDA have all contributed drawings, photos, essays, and other Sega-related content. What's especially great, however, is that the book will be available in both Japanese and English! The English version is digital-only, but plans are for it to have a couple of bonuses the physical edition doesn't.

I've seen previews of the book, and there's some really good stuff in there – I particularly love reading essays about people's memorable experiences with Sega because it's always drastically different depending on where you lived and what time period it was. Many folks fondly remember the Genesis/MegaDrive, but other people came into Sega fandom through arcade games, some through Japanese-only Sega consoles like the SG-1000, and some through the Sega Master System, and you'll see that all here.

The book launches April 5th! But.... it's due to debut at the Game Legend doujinshi event taking place on that date… and, uh, a lot of doujin events have been cancelled in Japan, so that might not happen. Even so, the digital edition won't affected, so I'll be sure to let you all know when you can snag it!

Okay, NOW we're on to the BIG NEWS:

OOPS, E3 ISN'T HAPPENING

Does anyone here besides me remember the Space Olympics skit and song by Lonely Island? It's one of their more forgotten bits next to stuff like I'm On A Boat, but it's definitely one of my favorites from their ouevre. Here's a vid link if you need your memory jogged.

So yeah, due to our current circumstances, I've been thinking about this song for the past week, and it's only become funnier to me as more and more news breaks.

GDC is totally cancelled!

SXSW Gaming is totally cancelled!

E3 is also cancelled!

And all other events are pending!

Yes, the wave of COVID-19 related cancellations has claimed this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo, and the general reaction is… kind of a shrug, I guess? The most negative reaction I'm seeing is “Well, that's disappointing,” but there's just a general mood that this was inevitable.

I mean, let's be honest: A lot of us suspect deep down that COVID-19 was a very, very convenient excuse to cancel a show that was not looking particularly strong. I've noted the general decline of E3 many times before in this column: publishers and developers pulling out or limiting presence coinciding an increased focus on livestreaming announcements already had a lot of folks thinking E3's days as a Big Huge Mega-Event were numbered.

It's fascinating how quickly this all blew up. A cryptic tweet by Devolver Digital (who are known for their bizarre fever-dream E3 “press conferences”) early Tuesday evening was the canary in the coal mine, and not long after, numerous sources were backing up what was implied: that E3 was cancelled. It was all true, of course, and the official announcement was Wednesday morning. But actually, the news leaked even earlier than that! We just didn't pay attention because the source was… well, you can read it here. This industry's pretty bonkers sometimes.

Anyway, with no GDC and no E3, where will we be getting our hot new game announcements? Probably online – Microsoft and Ubisoft are already said to be preparing some streaming presentations to make up for the lack of IRL press conferences, and Nintendo is rumored to have two Direct online broadcasts this month: one focused on indie games (that would have coincided with GDC, were that actually still happening) and another with more general Switch announcements. I think we'd all like a Nintendo Direct to get us psyched while we're cooped up at home all month, right?

Here's the big question, though: Will there ever be another E3? I feel like the stakes were particularly high this year because E3 needed to prove that its existence was still valid in a world where online announcement streams and live online gaming events are seen as less expensive and more effective. Cancelling E3 means more companies will be able to see firsthand that not having to crunch to make playable game demos and spend stupid amounts of money on a big booth is pretty good, actually. If E3 does come back, I sincerely doubt it'll be the gigantic, flashy event it once was, and that's probably not a bad thing.

However, it is worth noting that indie and smaller developers are going to take a serious hit from both GDC and E3 being cancelled. We rarely see it ourselves, but there's a lot of business stuff going on at these shows: meetings, publisher deals, closed-door demos, investor pitches. For an indie developer, showing off an early build of a game to potentially interested parties can make or break one's development dreams, while getting an already-signed game into a big indie booth or publisher showcase increases its awareness and profile by magnitudes. The AAA publishers will be fine if events don't happen, but the little guys might not, and I hope some dedicated folks can set something up to soften the blow these cancellations have on our industry's up-and-comers.

… Oh yeah, I just read that the Japanese government is still holding firm on the Tokyo Olympics. God, that makes Space Olympics even funnier.

PANZER DRAGOON GETS THE VR TREATMENT

VR's been a tough sell for a lot of folks. When you have games designed carefully to really take advantage of what VR offers, it's a pretty awesome experience, but a lot of the time, it just… doesn't work out very well. The technology is still being pushed pretty heavily, with more of the big players in VR trying to find new ways to entice folks into taking the plunge, but so far VR remains primarily a niche thing.

One company that's been having a bit of a renaissance in VR, however, is Sega… though not directly. Former Sega developer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Enhance Games brought Rez to VR in spectacular form, while Grounding (another developer with some ex-Sega folks) recently delivered Space Channel 5 VR. Now there's yet another classic Sega series set for a VR debut, as Panzer Dragoon Voyage Record was announced earlier this week.

Just to clear up any confusion: no, this isn't the same as the upcoming Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Zwei remakes for Switch and PC, which are being developed by MegaPixel Studio and Forever Entertainment. This game, Panzer Dragoon VR, is a labor of love from longtime series fan WILDMAN, who developed a heavily Panzer Dragoon-inspired indie VR title called The Gunner of Dragoon a while back. It seems like his efforts there were impressive enough to allow Sega to give him the keys to the series.

Panzer Dragoon VR isn't a new game or a remake, but sort of a “digest” version of key scenes from PD1, Zwei, and Azel/Saga. There's not too much info to go on yet, but WILDMAN is just the kind of person I trust to be in charge of a new Panzer Dragoon game. It's really cool to see Sega allowing its most devoted fans to work on their franchises like this, and I'm really looking forward to trying PDVR out when I get a chance. I still don't know if I want to buy a VR setup just for it, though…

HAVE A ZOOEY IN GRANBLUE VERSUS

Yeah, not much more to say here. Zooey's cute and good, and both Soriz and Djeeta look like fun. Bring on the Season 2 announcements.

Well! Things sure seem weird right now, huh? Do you all have any opinions on E3's cancellation? Would you like to see it come back, or are you happy with livestream announcements? Spill all your thoughts in our discussion forums below. See you again next week!


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