Not-E3 2023 Day 2: Rating the Summer Game Fest, Day of the Devs, and Devolver Digital showcases
Every year that we cover this Summer Games Mess, we try to vary our content throughout the week. Since there's no way we'd be able to give a spotlight to every single of the actual hundreds of games that will be showcased this week, we try to present each day of notes a little bit differently.
We started our coverage this year with a proper showcase of eight games that truly caught our eye during the Guerrilla Collective Showcase. Today, with three presentations chock full of reveals and exciting things to chat about, we'll be assigning each of the presentations a unique rating. A 100% infallible, perfect review scale unique to this post and this post only.
Did Keighley's Summer Game Fest put him back in Gamer Jail? Did Day of the Devs feature Tim Schafer doing something incredibly charming that made us want to shake his hand? And what did Volvy's big hand do?
Find out below, gamers.
SUMMER GAME FEST 2023
Geoff Keighley is a very important figure in the games industry. As the host and creator of Summer Game Fest (SGF), Gamescom Opening Night Live, and The Game Awards, Keighley carries some of gaming's flagship events on his back and is trying to serve up regular doses of hype to a global industry desperate for it after the death, revival, and subsequent second death of E3.
And his shows continue to be big and bombastic, with this year's edition serving up an appearance from Nicolas Cage, a shockingly killer revival of Prince of Persia, a reveal for a new 2D Sonic platformer called Sonic Superstars, and the first extended look at the highly anticipated Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth. But amidst those big reveals, SGF also offered up way too many ads that cratered momentum and apparently forgot to invite a single woman on stage for what is supposed to be an event representative of gamers everywhere. So ya know. It definitely leaves a little to be desired.
I think what shocked me the most about this year's Summer Game Fest was how emblematic it was of the shifting gaming landscape. Call of Duty appeared on stage at one point and was basically met with crickets, while cutesy farming sim Fae Farm's biggest trailer since it was revealed was cheered like Keighley had just promised to let Josef Fares host the next Game Awards. It's clear that gamers are changing, but it isn't clear if Summer Game Fest or shows like it are also changing.
SGF still had tons of stuff we were incredibly excited about and Keighley remains a consummate professional and charismatic host passionate about the industry and its future, but it may be time to figure out what this show's identity really is. After the up-and-down COVID-era and death of E3, SGF has the chance to redefine what this week looks like for gamers. Let's see if they do it.
Summer Game Fest 2023 is . . . 3 PACING ISSUES OUT OF 5.
DAY OF THE DEVS SUMMER GAME FEST EDITION 2023
We're all about seeing as many games as possible during a week like this. The idea of consuming trailer after trailer, rushing to the Steam store pages for dozens of games to wishlist them all, and then to do it all again the next day? Pure bliss.
But if Day of the Devs shows us anything... less can sometimes be so much more.
Double Fine and iam8bit have, year in and year out, consistently found some of the most special indie games within a mountain of submissions from folks across the industry and showcase them in one of our favorite shows of the whole week. This year was no exception.
Starting with Beastieball, the newest game from the team that developed VGG's inaugural Game of the Year, and ending with Saltsea Chronicles, a game whose art style took our breath away... it's clear that the thoughtful curation for Day of the Devs is a recipe for success.
Especially right after a Summer Game Fest with a handful of games that sold same-y medieval-fantasy settings, Day of the Devs gave us a look at pure artistry across its 13 entries. (Not to say artistry WASN'T present in SGF.)
A few particular standouts include: Helskater, a Tony Hawk Pro Skater-meets-Hades action sports roguelike that's got a Tony Hawk Underground dev on the team. Henry Halfhead, a hilarious puzzler where you play as half of a head that can possess any object in their world. And Cocoon, a new game from one of the designers behind Limbo and Inside that has a nesting world mechanic where you dive deeper and deeper into orbs.
The real reason I didn't break out games one-by-one for this Day 2 recap is simply that I'd just be regurgitating everything from Day of the Devs, with a few cameos from games in SGF and Devolver's offering. That's the best way for me to put it. As such, Day of the Devs "wins the day" and deserves a full watch if/when you're able to spare the time.
Day of the Devs is . . . 13 INCREDIBLE INDIES ALL WORTH WATCHING OUT OF 5.
DEVOLVER DIRECT: THE RETURN OF VOLVY
Devolver Digital is not just an incredible publishing house that's earned a unique level of trust in the games industry for their consistent quality... they're also a madhouse of creative filmmakers and marketers who, once a year, put out a zany short film that delivers equal parts parody of concerning industry trends and actual video game showcase.
This year's focused on AI, nostalgia bait, and Devolver's very real mascot Volvy the Vole. While this showcase only really had 10 games, six of which were shown during the pre-show countdown, it's the experience of watching a Devolver show that really counts.
And again, games under the Devolver publishing label regularly reach a certain level of quality, and so many of the games shown here really got us excited. The legendary teams behind games like Red Strings Club, Human Fall Flat, and Getting Over It all showcased their upcoming releases, and Wizard With a Gun continues to stand out as a game with unmatched style, presentation, and a killer concept to boot.
We'll be writing about Devolver's wild (and effective) approach to video game showcases later in the week, but needless to say, it's unlike anything you've ever seen. And even if most of what was shown was familiar, it may stand out as the most memorable show of the week simply for their chaotic... narrative choices. It's very strange that we're saying that about a video game showcase, but that's just how Devolver does it.
The only downside is the simple fact that this is the first Devolver Direct without Nina Struthers. Bring back Nina or Volvy gets it.
Watch this strange, beautiful thing and check out all of these games.
Devolver Direct: The Return of Volvy is . . . 4 MEATY GIANT VOLE FINGERS WRAPPED AROUND OUR WALLETS OUT OF 5.
If you'd like a deeper dive into some of the best games we saw on Thursday, catch our Day 2 recap video! Our three hosts picked out their Top 3 across the whole day of showcases and tried to pull out some juicy nuggets about each game for discussion.
DAY 2. DONE. MANY MORE DAYS TO GO.
Thanks for reading our Day 2 Not-E3 2023 coverage! If you're reading this during the month of June, stop by our Twitch and we're probably streaming another one of this month's incredible showcases. Keep up with all of our Not-E3 coverage right here and let us know which showcase caught your eye the most in the comments below!