There were no heartfelt tears or huge crowd-pleasing surprises during the Ubisoft Forward stream today (nor was there a crowd, but that’s to be expected). E3 seems to have hit at an awkward time for the publisher, catching it mostly looking backwards at games we’ve known about for a long time (Rainbow Six Extraction, Far Cry 6), games that have been out for years already (Rainbow Six Siege, Ghost Recon, Brawlhalla), and inevitable sequels (Just Dance, Mario + Rabbids).
There just wasn’t much to say “wow” about, and the one thing that was supposed to blow our socks off left my socks on—Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. If you didn’t see the show yourself, here’s a quick rundown of what happened in a nutshell:
It looks like a lot in list format, but I had already forgotten about half of these before I put it together. The lack of Big New Things is hardly surprising considering the year we just had with Covid-19. The games industry has been feeling the effects of 2020’s slowdown since the start of 2021. Two of the biggest games at today’s show, R6 Extraction and Far Cry 6, were originally supposed to be out already. Considering the challenging year, it’s impressive that games like Rocksmith+ and Rider’s Republic look as good as they do.
Leaks also played a small factor in the show. We all expected a sequel to Mario + Rabbids someday (still a shame it never came to PC), but I’m sure Ubi would’ve preferred we learned about it during the show and not via a Twitter leak. Ubi is a notoriously leaky company, so I’m amazed Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora didn’t suffer the same fate. That was a genuine surprise, but I can’t muster a single damn to give about an Avatar videogame until I see it in action. Wes and Rich aren’t convinced yet either, though they’re ready for the possibility that it’s pretty good.
What spoke the loudest were the Ubi games we know exist that weren’t at the show. Some of the games in question are probably too early to say much about, like The Division: Heartland or that rumored Tom Clancy mashup FPS. But what about Skull & Bones or Roller Champions? And did Ubisoft forget that it released Hyper Scape last year, or is the company preparing to retire it? Dare I even bring up Beyond Good and Evil 2, or have we all agreed to stop getting our hopes up that it’ll ever come out? Covid-19 has made all of these questions harder to answer.
Of course, Ubisoft has had other problems: Right before last year’s Ubisoft Forward, the company was facing new allegations of sexual misconduct and toxic work environments across its studios. CEO Yves Guillemot made a statement in May defending the measures the company has taken to improve worker conditions, but the topic was completely avoided during today’s show.
If Ubisoft’s show is any indication of how the rest of the industry is getting on right now, the year ahead could be a little quiet for big publisher games. That said, we’re expecting quite a big showing from Microsoft and Bethesda tomorrow. Here’s the full E3 2021 schedule to keep track of what’s still ahead.