[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he E3 2015 convention sparked a new flame in the hearts of gamers. Clearly, the coming year in gaming will be one of change and expansion. Consumer desires are not only being considered but exceeded within the following areas:

  • A shift in the cultural view of women in gaming and the prevalence of original female icons.
  • Timed console exclusive content and content tied to physical promotions.
  • The use of nostalgia and crowdfunding.
  • Deeply developed creation and exploration mechanics.

This year’s convention raised the bar with more titles that have playable female characters than ever before. After years of both female and male players hoping for more balance in games in regards to gender, this represents a real breakthrough. The mere presence of more female characters is not the whole story, however; it is also important to note how these characters are presented within their games:

  • Titles such as “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” “Horizon,” and “ReCore” are introducing completely original stories, all with independent female lead characters. The importance of these titles lies in the fact that you can only play as one character, and titles like the ones mentioned place women at the forefront of the story, allowing those characters to grow and develop just as their male counterparts have before in games like “Uncharted” or “The Last of Us.”
  • Many games, whether their series has continued or just begun, introduced a gender choice mechanic. Examples include “Splatoon,” “Fallout 4,” and “Fire Emblem.” The option to choose between female and male within the game allows players more control over their playable characters and also opens the potential for varying gameplay options and styles.
  • Other releases, including “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate” and “Dishonored 2,” offer the option of switching between playable female and male characters. Players do not have to restrict themselves to a single character and can see stories and missions from different points of view while playing in new ways.

Downloadable and exclusive content are far from new concepts in the gaming world, but this year’s convention saw an explosion of additive content and timed exclusive titles:

  • Sony’s heavy use of timed exclusivity to promote titles such as “Hitman,” “No Man’s Sky,” “Street Fighter,” “Call of Duty” and the “Destiny” expansion allows everyone a chance to play the games, while offering fans earlier access and more content, depending on their system preference.
  • Bungie has offered exclusive content to “Destiny” players through physical Red Bull cans. Tying promotions to physical items allows players not only to extend their gameplay, but also to receive benefits in the real world, whether through usable products, collectible items or community involvement.

Nostalgia was a driving force at the convention, specifically in Sony’s conference, as some of the most talked-about titles released were either remakes or continuations of projects long believed to be cancelled. Sony knocked it out of the park by tugging at players’ heartstrings, going as far as adding a crowdfunding variable that allowed players to directly contribute to the completion of a presumed-dead title:

  • “Final Fantasy 7,” arguably the most dominant title in the series, is receiving a full remake to run on current generation systems; this comes after years of consumer demand to reinstitute the popular title.
  • The announcement of a crowdfunding project for “Shenmue III” was met with enthusiasm and joy that can only be compared to that of excited children. Using Kickstarter to fund the game development, players can give directly to a project they have long cared about, as well as receive extra benefits for their contributions when the game launches.

A notable similarity among almost all the games released this year is the extensiveness of their development periods. Years of development have yielded numerous titles, all boasting massive open worlds, non-linear-but-in-depth stories and a growing freedom for players within the game world:

  • With the most expansive environment in any game to date, “No Man’s Sky” offers a literal universe for players to explore. Besides detailing the game’s tremendous size, the developers offered only the vaguest idea of the overall point of the game, leaving it up to the players to find understanding while they play.
  • Aside from the massive map that players will explore, “Fallout 4” offers completely customizable armor suits and over 700 modifications for its 50 base weapons; players will have control over the minutest details in their characters, weapons, dialogue, story direction and more.
  • “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands” will be the first in the series to feature open-world, sandbox style gameplay. In the game, players will have complete control over what missions to play, when to play them and how to execute the objectives. Dynamic A.I., weather systems and time cycles all offer new experiences within the game and create the possibility that no mission will ever play the same twice.

Now it can certainly be said that not every company held its weight in the eyes of gamers. Nintendo unfortunately missed the mark with its focus laid so heavily on small-scale cooperative titles like “Metroid Prime Federation Force” and “The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes.” One may wonder why the industry giant seemed so disconnected after it dominated the convention in 2014. It should be noted that during the days of the convention, as well as the few weeks that followed, much of Nintendo’s attention laid with the unfortunate events surrounding Satoru Iwata. On a product-based level, the company is likely focusing on its move away from “big gaming” as it looks toward breaking into the app-gaming industry. The conference was not a complete miss, however, as many gamers expressed their excitement for the Nintendo World Championships and its featured game of the convention, Super Mario Maker.

This year’s convention has laid out a solid foundation of new titles that will surely keep players exploring, creating, discovering and more until next year’s announcements. So what will make us excited next time? Will games get bigger? Will players get even more control? How will virtual reality affect AAA titles? Whatever those answers are, I think am content with all that was offered to keep me busy well past next year’s convention.

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