Summer Game Fest makes a surprisingly light splash (again)
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Summer Game Fest makes a surprisingly light splash (again)

May 02, 2023

With E3 lying in ruins, Geoff Keighley's Summer Game Fest now stands tall as the event that kicks off a major summer of video game marketing. And yet for the second year in a row, the show that introduced itself with the announcement of Elden Ring once again put show-stopping game reveals in the back seat.

Just as in 2022, the event organizers took a more gameplay-focused approach to the event. The show revealed some eye-catching mid-budget games like Saber Interactive's John Carpenter's Toxic Commando, Sega's Sonic Superstars, and Ubisoft's Prince of Persia The Last Crown.

Ubisoft's choice to unveil a new game in the Prince of Persia series at Summer Game Fest is notable since Ubisoft has its own showcase coming up in a couple of weeks, and it seems the publisher wants to keep the long-running series in the public eye.

But studios like NetherRealm Games and Remedy took time to show off more in-depth looks at their previously announced games than unveil any new major titles. NetherRealm had previously teased Mortal Kombat 1 before the showcase, and Remedy is sticking to promoting Alan Wake 2 for the moment, with no word of any of its other games in development.

The biggest unveiling at the event was Square Enix's Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth, a sequel to 2020's Final Fantasy VII: Remake, a remake of Final Fantasy VII that doubles as a pseudo-sequel to the original game. (It's complicated. Even calling Rebirth a sequel to Remake is complicated.)

For a moment it almost seemed like Sony was going to throw its weight around with more footage of Marvel's Spider-Man 2—but that didn't happen. Creative director Bryan Intihar showed up with some new art and a release date a release date for Sony's blockbuster game, but was tight-lipped on any other details.

What were the major trends of the show then? The most obvious one was a surprising focus of online games from East Asian developers. Nexon unveiled Warhaven. NCSoft showed off Throne of Liberty, which is being published in the West by Amazon. Pocket Pair's Palworld was given screen time, and already-launched games like Black Desert Online and Honkai Star Rail took extensive time to show off new content.

There was one publisher that swung its weight around the showcase: Focus Entertainment. The publisher showed off new footage for two announced games: Warhammer Space Marine 2 and Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, and revealed it's making the aforementioned John Carpenter's Toxic Commando with acclaimed horror director (and unabashed video game fan) John Carpenter. You have to wonder if at some point, Focus will grow big enough to do its own mid-sized showcase away from Keighley's events.

And if you were listening closely, you caught repeated references to Keighley referring to games running on Unreal Engine 5. Epic Games did have a presence at the event between Fortnite and advertisements for Unreal Engine, but it's probably just more notable that the arrival of Unreal Engine 5 games will become a major marketing point in the months ahead.

We'll drop all of the games shown off during the event in a list down below, but there's something else worth discussing first.

Developers eagerly await the arrival of Summer Game Fest as a moment to either show off what they've been toiling away on for several months, or congratulate their peers on what they've had to keep secret for months or years. But there were some choices made in this presentation that cast a pall over that excitement.

First and foremost, no women made any onstage appearances during the show. After years of improved onscreen diversity at these industry showcase events, it was surprising to see only men take the stage.

Second, Keighley's ad-libbed comments have been a hallmark of his style as a presenter, but some of them came off surprisingly...mean? At the very least overly sarcastic? It was hard to divine intent, but he practically ground the show to a halt to get self-referential about the lineup. A spotlight on Phoenix Labs' Fae Farm came with the host yelling "we all love cozy games!" at the top of his lungs, and there was a weird line about indie games and the "variety" of the show's lineup after revealing Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior.

Why does this matter? We already mentioned that Keighley is sitting tall atop the rubble of what was once E3, which means his event is now one of the biggest marketing platforms for developers. The absence of women and off-putting comments about smaller games set a tone for the audience.

In any case, here are all of the games shown off at Summer Game Fest 2023.

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