After dozens of stories, we’re just about wrapped with our coverage of Summer Game Fest 2023. Following the cancellation of E3 back in March, we had a smaller, stripped-back experience at SGF. It began... before it all began, with Sony holding its own PlayStation Showcase livestream on May 24th. It was a pretty packed show, featuring Bungie's Marathon, Haven's Fairgame$, a Metal Gear Solid 3 remake, more info on Final Fantasy XVI and Spider-Man 2, and a release date for Alan Wake II. There was also the Project Q handheld streaming device.
Then came Summer Game Fest with an opening night event on Thursday, June 8th. We got a gameplay reveal for Mortal Kombat 1, a new (delayed to 2024) release date for Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, and a handful of smaller reveals like Sand Land and Sonic Superstars. There were a lot of sequels and free-to-play MMO trailers, but it was a generally low-key affair, with fewer big names than we've come to expect from the team behind The Game Awards.
The Day of the Devs and Devolver streams immediately following Summer Game Fest's live show were a little more successful, with interesting games from smaller studios, including Baby Steps, Beastieball, Cocoon, Hauntii, Helskate, Simpler Times and Viewfinder.
It wasn't until Sunday's Xbox event that we got an event filled with the AAA announcements you'd expect out of E3. Microsoft had a customarily dense show that featured new announcements and some release dates (or windows) for known games. Among the games featured were Avowed, Fable, South of Midnight, Persona 3 Reload, Forza Motorsport, Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Metaphor: ReFantazio and Clockwork Revolution. We also finally got an Xbox Series S that has 1TB of built-in storage.
On Monday, we saw a pair of smaller shows. First up was Ubisoft, which featured Star Wars Outlaws and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, a trio of Assassin's Creed games, a new Crew game and a fresh Prince of Persia title. Later that day it was Capcom's turn, and they showed off Exoprimal, again, and offered an intriguing look at Kunitsu-Gami: Path of the Goddess, which looks like a unique third-person action game. Finally, because it's 2023, there was also an indefinite delay to the company's almost-forgotten AAA sci-fi game, Pragmata. That's a game that was announced for PlayStation 5 way back in June 2020 — before we even knew what the PS5 looked like — and this is its second delay after initially being expected in 2022.
We’ll have more coverage in the coming weeks, and will update this post with links when they go live. For now, enjoy our analysis, previews and all the other big announcements from SGF 2023.
I published this story about the state of AAA gaming on the eve of Summer Game Fest. After a week stuffed full of gaming announcements, I feel exactly the same way. — Jessica Conditt, Senior Reporter
This story from senior reporter (and Engadget's AI expert) Andrew Tarantola looks at the history of NPCs from if-then programming through to finite-state-machines, decision and behavior trees, GOAPs, and modern AIs in games like The Last of Us, and then looks to the future to see how generative AI might impact the future of gaming.
At some point in the last console generation, Ubisoft lost its soul. It was a piecemeal erosion process that started in 2015, and it finally resulted in a complete identity collapse somewhere between the studio’s unironic rollout of in-game NFTs and its sixth delay of Skull & Bones. Ubisoft has 40 years of AAA hits and weird licensing deals to its name, and it used to be a pillar of European innovation — but in 2023, it’s selling live-service blandness, mobile ports with microtransactions and unreliable release dates. What even is Ubisoft anymore? — Jessica Conditt
Senior video producer Brandon Quintana shot this video immediately after Microsoft's Starfield Direct on Sunday, outlining why, after a fuller look at the game, he's more excited than ever for Bethesda's new ambitious RPG.
In early 2021, Night School was in the market for a partnership. It ended up being acquired by Netflix, becoming the company's first game studio. Now, Night School is gearing up to launch its first game for the streaming giant. But that's not the end of Netflix's ambitions.
I’m nervous about Saga’s fate in Alan Wake II — and that only makes me more excited for the full game. This is first-and-foremost a linear, narrative-driven experience, and it looks spooky as hell. – Jessica Conditt
Armored Core, one of the longest-running mech battle series ever, hasn’t been seen in over a decade. Now, developer FromSoftware, flying high from Elden Ring and Dark Souls glory, is returning to mechs, with what it says is a remastered, reimagined take on robot combat. It’s time for a mech gaming boom. – Mat Smith, UK Bureau Chief
Cocoon is a game that makes perfect sense while you're playing it. That would be an unremarkable achievement if it wasn't also a game that forces you to use its levels to solve themselves. It’s the debut title from Geometric Interactive, a studio from folks that previously worked on the award-winning puzzle platformers Limbo and Inside. At Summer Game Fest 2023 I had around half an hour to play through the game’s opening, and it has stuck with me more than anything else I saw at the show. In my mind it’s the game of the show. – Aaron Souppouris, Executive Editor
The long-overdue next title in the Motorsport series (it’s been over five years since the last!) has a bunch of new features, improved physics, better AI and looks absolutely fantastic at 4K/60. The most interesting thing about it to me is that it could well be the last distinct Motorsport game, as Microsoft is moving the series to a game-as-a-service model. In the age of Game Pass, that makes perfect sense to me, and I can’t wait to start driving this October. – Aaron Souppouris
When I saw the announcement trailer for Immortals of Aveum in the winter of 2022, I was surprised by my own interest in the game. Today, I remain interested in Immortals of Aveum and I think I’ve figured out why. There aren’t a ton of first-person action games that rely on mechanics other than guns — Dishonored, Ghostwire: Tokyo and Hexen come to mind, but it’s a small field overall. That might be one reason Immortals stands out as something fresh, but it’s also nice to see a new, AAA-level game that’s single-player and narrative-driven with a contained campaign, rather than an open world of live-service features. – Jessica Conditt
Lysfanga’s isometric views may conjure up memories of Hades, but this is a different kind of game. While you’ll still be slicing and dicing monsters and enemies, protagonist Imë combines her spells and weapon combos with the ability to revert time and do it all over again, differently. The second time around, her shadow from the previous timeline will continue to rush into the enemies. While some action-game prowess helps, you’ll only beat most levels by thinking them through before you act. The controls and play style aren’t remotely similar, but Lysfanga reminded me of old Fire Emblem games, where careful planning decided a fight before it even begins. Even in this early demo, the game offers some incredibly satisfying moments when all your attacking clones come together to wipe out all the enemies in mere seconds. – Mat Smith
Ed Boon's on-stage gameplay reveal of Mortal Kombat 1, the latest entry in the storied fighting game franchise, was one of the stand-out moments of an otherwise subdued opening event. At a private event after the show, Brandon Quintana and Mat Smith sat down to play some MK1 and came away impressed.
After a small reveal at Summer Game Fest’s opening night event, Ubisoft did a deeper dive into the game during Monday’s “Forward” stream. After that, senior video producer Brandon Quintana got his hands on an early build of the game and had a blast.
Can you imagine assembling 33 players for a 25-minute raid? 33 Immortals plans to do exactly that. Channeling the animation style of retro cartoons (and a little Banner Saga), 33 Immortals is a multiplayer roguelike top-down action game from the creators of Spiritfarer. In this early build of the game I played with five others and had a lot of fun, even if some technical issues spoiled the party a little. I’m excited to play a roguelike as part of a mob, and I'm curious to see what the other character types will be. – Mat Smith
Parallel Studio’s Under the Waves is a calming game. Between the cheers and jeers from Crash Team Rumble players (possibly employees) nearby, I was diving. Diving deeper and deeper into the inky blue, chasing a jettisoned shipping container as it bounced off rocks, spilling soft toys and revealing a mysteriously abandoned submarine hidden deeper still. While I might have been relaxed, I also felt a little unsettled. In a lot of ways, whether it’s the story yet to be revealed or the uneasy tension that is touched on regularly, it reminds me of Firewatch, even if it’s all set undersea. – Mat Smith
All the other big announcements at Summer Game Fest 2023
You can find all of our coverage from Summer Game Fest right here, but here’s a chronological list of the announcements we think really moved the needle.