Not-E3 2023 Day 5: Xbox is so back, PC gamers are thriving, and the one game dominating our thoughts
As we approach the end of one of the most exciting Not-E3 weeks maybe of all time, feeling nostalgic and like we're about to write H.A.G.S in all of our gaming friends' yearbooks, we got a day that both blew us away with tight efficiency and overwhelmed us with games. It was a nice blending of everything we'd been treated to all week long.
Not to be outdone by the week's other games showcases, Day 5 gave us 89 more games to think about during the highly anticipated and incredibly important Xbox Games Showcase; our first big look at one of Xbox's biggest game releases in this generation, Starfield; and the goofy, genre-varied PC Gaming Show.
We'll wrap up today as straightforward as we possibly can. No gimmicks. No specific breakouts. Just a guided walkthrough of the day and some key insights on it all.
So, did Xbox deliver?
Microsoft and Xbox had a lot of work to do to convince their user base and the internet on the whole that the company has a clear vision for its future. That Xbox players have something to look forward to. After stumbles with Redfall — that Xbox President Phil Spencer apologized for — and ongoing acquisition troubles with Activision-Blizzard, Xbox has never needed a win more than they did here.
And win they did.
Coming out of the gates swinging, Xbox made it clear they weren't playing around with this show. We got a new Fable reveal, starring Richard Ayoade as a farming giant. A Southern Gothic bayou magic monster experience in South of Midnight. And Star Wars Outlaws, an open-world adventure where we deeply hope we'll be able to "be gay, do crime" within the Star Wars universe. All featuring in-engine footage, decently lengthy trailers, and diverse styles of games. There was a commitment early on from Xbox's VP of Marketing Aaron Greenberg that everything shown by their first-party development teams would be in-engine, nothing showing purely CGI trailers — a clear response to gamers' frustrations after the PlayStation Showcase on May 24.
And the strong opening was just a sign of things to come. Across the next fifty minutes, Xbox showcased 27 games: 13 first-party offerings with scattered release dates from late 2023 into 2024, and 14 games from third-party partners that'll either be coming to Xbox first or be given the boost of launching on Game Pass. They did exactly what they needed to do to stabilize their present and set up an exciting future. And beyond all that, beyond the business needs and brand image rehab Xbox had to do, they did what we care about most. Just showed us a lot of sick ass games.
These included the rock-climbing focused adventure, Jusant, from Don't Nod; a brand-new RPG from the team that made Persona 3, 4, and 5 called Metaphor Re Fantazio; and two brand-new looks at the RPGs from the teams at Obsidian and inXile, called Avowed and Clockwork Revolution. It all looks so good, and Xbox wasted no time presenting all these games, delivering hit after hit with no breaks.
It's up to them to hit the mark from here, to follow through on all the promises sold to us in this hour-long show. Because we all remember how exciting Redfall looked versus what was delivered, but there's genuine excitement about the Xbox brand in a way that we haven't seen in years.
What's new with Starfield?
After the Xbox Games Showcase, old friend and legend Todd "it just works" Howard hijacked the stream for an extended look and breakdown of all things Starfield. With looks at character creation, skill trees, spaceship customization, the scope and breadth of its universe, a peek at the game's core story and character factions (both criminal and otherwise), and extended discussions about things like its lighting system and flora and fauna design, Bethesda went all out to provide the deeper look we've all been waiting for.
We won't spend too much time recounting it, because it's coming soon (dropping this September) and it's genuinely just a show you should watch for yourself, but if you had any hesitations about the game or worry if it'll be consistent with what you love about Bethesda RPGs... this showcase put all those to rest.
If we had to summarize, it's looking and feeling like No Man's Sky in scope and style of exploration but with an entire Bethesda RPG and narrative tacked on top of it. Don't fool yourself into thinking that means you can go to millions of galaxies and find a whole new Skyrim waiting for you on planets at each, but it's more like you've got procedurally generated worlds all around you that allow for some fun exploration and simple quest work with the handcrafted stuff scattered throughout for you to stumble onto.
Man... the outpost stuff is really interesting. And recruits can have special skill boosts in botany and gastronomy? That's cool. ANYWAY, I can't get too lost in thought. We've got to move on. Day9's got a beautiful piece of anti-AI satire that we've got to talk about.
PC Gaming swings at AI
The PC Gaming Show has always been one to watch, even if it is the definition of a show that's not for everyone. Leaning heavily into the things that define PC gamers, hosts Sean "Day9" Plott and Frankie Ward had tons of RTS, sim games, intense shooters, and management games. What we can always guarantee from the show is a dedicated theming and skit-based presentation that bridges the gap between the full-on short film chaos of a Devolver Direct and the cheesy goofs of the Future Games Show.
This year, PC Gamer set its sights on AI. And before you gather up your pitchforks to storm their offices, it's clear pretty quickly that this show is meant to mock the trendy practice of poorly-handled generation systems replacing the hard work of actual, talented artists. Across the entire show, there are fun jabs taken at Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and their silly space travel shenanigans, the horrendous quality of both text and image generation performed by AI generative tools, and the overall soullessness of the entire thing.
We found it particularly awkward, then, that halfway through the show we were treated to an extended look at a game that promised to deliver a "generative storytelling AI" meant to essentially replace the tabletop experience. I want to know the story of how they got into this show, because either they knew and chose to disregard the showcase's constant mocking of the core ideals of their game or they found themselves caught with their pants down as the show rolled on. Either way... it was the one misstep in an otherwise well-presented showcase of interesting games.
Some highlights include another look at the world of Nivalis, the cyberpunk city life sim. Saleblazers, an open-world multiplayer game where you and your pals build and run a shop from the ground up. And Diesel Legacy: The Brazen Age, an interesting 2v2 fighting game with all the nitty gritty that fighting game fans can ask for, like solid rollback to make it as playable as possible across the world.
Day9 and Frankie Ward are incredibly charismatic and the jokes are so genuinely well-written that the PC Gaming Show continues to hit year after year. We might sound like a broken record, but this might be the best showing they've had since they started in 2015, simply due to the breadth of its coverage.
Not-E3 is hitting hard, y'all. But... even after this wrap-up... there's something scratching at the back of my head. Something's calling me back.
But wait... one more thing
Oddly enough, even after eight hours of streaming and another 89 games served up on a platter between the Xbox Showcase and PC Gaming Show, there's just one thing that my mind is circling back to again and again.
And that's Starfield.
I may have held back in writing my summary up above, because what Bethesda showcased here with Starfield was so exciting. It sold us on many of the concepts the team has been talking about since the beginning, gave a solid sense of the scope of its gameplay systems and world (or rather, worlds), and most importantly for me, showed that bit of Bethesda charm and world-building that I'd otherwise been missing from its previous limited showings.
I think some folks may still freak out about this game, either because they are expecting the world out of it — thinking that those thousands of planets are full of Bethesda-quality adventures — or because they're otherwise unprepared for the levels of jank or goofiness that are always present in Bethesda games. But we're just so ready to sink ourselves into a new RPG from Todd and friends, and Bethesda appears to be hitting all the marks and saying all the right things on the road to launch later this year.
Are you excited for Starfield? Did you laugh at Day9's AI jokes? And are you infinitely curious how that AI game ended up in the showcase? We love talking about everything happening this year with the gaming community and we would love to hear from you in our Discord!
If you missed it, you can also catch our livestreamed shoutouts to nine other games showcased during the day's presentations below. Hear about games like:
Macabre, a stealth horror co-op extraction game
Miasma Chronicles, a turn-based tactical XCOM-like with interesting powers
Critter Cove, an Animal Crossing-like that's all about scrapping things
Fortune's Run, a stylish immersive sim that pulls from Souls games
Shadow Gambit, an isometric pirate stealth adventure
Parcel Corps, a gig economy satirizing bike delivery game
Ebeneezer and the Invisible World, a Christmas Carol Metroidvania
Bloomtown: A Different Story, a horror Stranger Things-like JRPG
South of Midnight, the new game from Compulsion Games
Watch that below, and if you're still wanting more, check out all of our Not-E3 coverage! We're working hard to compile all this for you, gang. Video games are so good, and we're happy to share it with you.