I rated this summer’s big gaming showcases. This was the best one

Over the past month, it’s been nice to see the game industry truly get back into the swing of things with its midyear showcase. While there was no E3 this year (and it doesn’t look like there will be ones in the future), the likes of Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, Ubisoft, and Geoff Keighley all still held exciting live streams of their own that were filled with surprising announcements and entertaining moments. With the season’s biggest gaming showcases seemingly over, I began to ask myself which one I enjoyed most. To figure out what makes an event like this work for me, I devised a rating system built on my own metrics and gave each one a grade.

I considered a variety of factors while looking at these showcases. The quality of the announcements is obviously very important, but so is the pacing of the stream and the relevancy of what’s shown. I assigned each showcase a letter grade based on that, with some notes on what worked and what didn’t. Here’s where each show landed for me.

PlayStation Showcase

Peter and Miles perched next to each other in Marvel's Spider-Man 2.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Rating: C

Sony was actually the company that kicked showcase season off this year, with a full-fledged PlayStation Showcase in May. Sadly, it wasn’t a great show. In terms of new announcements, third-party games like Phantom Blade 0 and Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater impressed, but the new first-party titles like Marathon, Fairgame$, and Concord had release date-free, cinematic-only announcements that didn’t elicit much in the way of excitement. The show’s pacing also felt off at the start, with Fairgame$ falling flat as far as eye-catching openers go.

Thankfully, the show was saved by enough high-profile announcements. We got release dates for Alan Wake 2 and Assassin’s Creed Mirage, as well as the gameplay reveals for Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and Helldivers 2. All of those helped ensure a PlayStation Showcase focused on cinematic trailers for live-service games wasn’t a complete bust.

Summer Game Fest

Cloud and Tifa stand back-to-back in a fight.
Square Enix

Rating: B

Summer Game Fest’s 2023 kickoff showcase was far from perfect. It didn’t have much in the way of diverse presenters or special guests, and some interview segments with people like Ed Boon, Sam Lake, and Darren Barnet really dragged on. It was also a bit too long of a showcase and probably could’ve trimmed some reveals in order to have tighter pacing.

Still, this is the strongest game lineup present in one of these Summer Game Fest livestreams yet. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, John Carpenter’s Toxic Commando, and Sonic Superstars were revealed, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 got a release date, and we got in-depth looks at gameplay for highly anticipated titles like Mortal Kombat 1, Alan Wake 2, and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. There was probably at least one game in this showcase that appealed to you; if not, just have fun watching Geoff Keighley interview Nicolas Cage for a few minutes.

Xbox Games Showcase and Starfield Direct

Starfield astronaut on moon
Bethesda Softworks

Rating: A

The best gaming showcases are usually all killer with no filler, and for once, Xbox actually gave that to us with one of its streams. This show was packed with strong announcements when it came to first-party, third-party, and indie titles. On the first-party side of things, new looks at Fable, Avowed, and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 impressed me, while the reveal of titles like South of Midnight and Clockwork Revolution gave hope for Xbox’s 2024 plans.

Meanwhile, Star Wars: Outlaws and Persona 3 Reload were unexpected third-party surprises, while Jusant and 33 Immortals represented indies well. The only real downside of the Xbox Game Showcase was that many of the games featured, outside of Forza Motorsport and Starfield, aren’t actually coming out this year. Thankfully, the deep dive into the September game Starfield in its exclusive Direct really helped make up for that. It was a critical stream for Xbox, one that it needed after a rough few years.

Ubisoft Forward

Kay Vass joined by her small alien companion called Nix in a futuristic city.

Rating: D

Well, they can’t all be winners. This Ubisoft Forward had the worse pacing out of the big showcases this summer as a lot of time was spent on things that didn’t really need it, like the Captain Laserhawk Netflix anime and racing game The Crew Motorfest. The fact that Assassin’s Creed Mirage’s release date, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, and Star Wars: Outlaws were all revealed in the previous three events, respectively, took some wind out of their appearances here.

Thankfully, Ubisoft Massive prevented this show from being a complete bust thanks to its extended looks at gameplay from Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora and Star Wars: Outlaws. Still, if there’s one showcase on this list you definitely don’t need to watch, it’s this one; just watch the gameplay videos for Frontiers of Pandora and Outlaws instead.

Nintendo Direct

Mario. Peach, Mallow, Bowser, and Geno find one of the Seven Stars in Super Mario RPG.

Rating: B+

We got another full-fledged Nintendo Direct this June, and it was full of surprise first-party announcements. We learned more about Detective Pikachu Returns and Pikmin 4, and experienced the reveals of a Super Mario RPG remake, a new game starring Princess Peach, WarioWare: Move It!, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

The Direct also had its fair share of meme-worthy moments, like Yoshiaki Koizumi continuing to dance after WarioWare’s reveal was over. However, it wasn’t a flawless show. The third-party announcements weren’t nearly as exciting as Nintendo’s first-party games, and the showcase was pretty boring up until the trailers for Detective Pikachu Returns and Super Mario RPG. Even so, the tight 40-minute presentation gave Switch owners five major titles to look forward to in the back half of 2023, as well as a few teases of what’s next.

The winner

Sarah Bond stands near an Xbox logo during the Xbox Games Showcase.

Winner: Xbox Games Showcase and Starfield Direct

It was somewhat of a close call between the Xbox and Nintendo shows, but in the end, I have to give the edge to Microsoft. Right from the start, its show had tight pacing and eye-popping reveals. The first-party showing was extremely strong, and even the third-party and indie titles that were featured really impressed me. It may have lacked the quirk of a Nintendo Direct or Ubisoft’s in-person event, but that doesn’t matter much when the lineup of games is good enough, and the pace of the show doesn’t really slow down.

Then, after all of that, a consistently engaging deep dive into Starfield finally gave the development team at Bethesda Games Studios a chance to give us a better understanding of what its sci-fi RPG really is. Xbox really needed a win this summer after the rocky release of Redfall and the tribulations the Activision Blizzard acquisition is facing, and this Xbox Games Showcase delivered on that. If you’re going to structure a video game live stream like this, Xbox’s show should be seen as a blueprint.

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