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The Challenge of Showing Off A Mobile Game At E3

This weekend saw E3 2018 presentations from Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Bethesda, it also gave a good primer on how to announce a mobile game at an event that is focused on console & PC titles.

While EA’s announcement of Command & Conquer: Rivals managed to elicit a combination of anger and apathy, Bethesda’s reveal of The Elder Scrolls: Blades generated real interest and little backlash. The contrast between the two could not be any more stark if it had an arc reactor.


Part of balanced lineup

When bringing up a new mobile game at a show focused on console games, it’s important to know that most of the people watching the presentation are not there for mobile. That means showing off the game as one of many other new releases rather than having it be a focal point that with the potential to be a wedge issue.

In the case of Command & Conquer, EA’s upcoming mobile strategy game was one of the few new titles announced at the event. At best, the game became a bullet point on the list of disappointments viewers had with EA’s offerings.

On the other hand Bethesda presented The Elder Scroll: Blades as one of a number of new titles they are working on. That leaves people with an aversion to mobile with other games to focus on, from a new Wolfenstein to more Fallout 76 footage. Even an amazing showing from Blades would not have propped up the presentation if that was the only positive takeaway for gamers.

Storied franchises

Both Command & Conquer and The Elder Scrolls are well established franchises with histories that span decades and fans that will be excited at the promise of a new entry. But when fans think of a new game in their favorite franchise, they oftentimes think of a new bigger and better version of what they already know. Bringing up the promise of a new game in the series, only to reveal that it will be a fundamentally different experience and on a different platform will always result in critics.

Command & Conquer: Rivals was announced as a Command & Conquer game, but the reality is that the game is C&C in name alone. It is the use of a familiar brand to bring legitimacy to a new game. While not necessarily a bad thing, it’s something gamers will quickly latch on to and object to, a concept EA should already be familiar after the controversy surrounding Dungeon Keeper.

Blades on the other hand has mostly avoided the backlash of Rivals thanks to, in part, better brand management. While Rivals was the only C&C game discussed by EA, Bethesda presented Blades as one of a number of Elder Scrolls games the company is working on. Most importantly, the company released a teaser for The Elder Scrolls VI, helping push back against potential complaints that it was focusing on a mobile game instead of a new core Elder Scrolls game.

The game itself

When presenting a new game, everything matters. That includes the game being shown. Bethesda showed gamers a new Elder Scrolls game that was unlike anything they have played before, but still maintained elements like character customization and the series’ aesthetic direction. It focused on what the game had to offer, from the option to use tap controls or a virtual joystick, to the ability to play in portrait or landscape.

Electronic Arts showed off a Command & Conquer game that will instantly bring comparisons to the still popular Clash Royale, a game that has already served as the basis for many other mobile releases.


Success?

A good showing at E3 does not a good game make. It’s hard to predict how successful Command & Conquer: Rivals and The Elder Scrolls: Blades will ultimately be. Blades could very well be a disappointment that looks great on high end devices but lacks any sort of depth or long term staying power. Rivals could be the next Clash Royale.

The chances of the latter happening are of course not very high. Although Clash Royale has inspired many other mobile games, from Mighty Battles and Mini Guns to South Park: Phone Destroyer and RIVAL: Crimson x Chaos, few of those games have found much success. In the United States, Clash Royale is the only game of its kind on Google’s top 200 grossing games list. Even Supercell’s own head to head strategy game has been sliding down the list, now appearing in the 20s, well below the top spots it occupied in the past.

That being said, mobile success is often difficult to predict and can have as much to do with a company’s marketing push as it does with the game itself. More The Elder Scrolls: Blades information and to pre-register can be found on Android Sloth. For more information about Command & Conquer: Rivals check out the game on Google Play.