I have a theory.
The Game Awards is no longer about the awards – they’re utterly inconsequential, with more than half of those awards not even being presented on stage. From eSports Coaches to Global Citizen Awards, the vast majority aren’t even really categories that the majority of gamers even really give a damn about and you could have shaved off almost an hour of this protracted snooze-fest by just sticking most of these awards in the nearest airlock and flushing them into the cold, dark expanses of space.
Rather, The Game Awards has been built on the quantity and, indeed, the quality of the World Premieres and Exclusive Reveals. In previous years we had Sekiro, Smash Ultimate characters and other assorted big-name reveals. Games people really wanted to know more about and cared about.
This isn’t to say there weren’t actual reveals – we got to see the XBox Series X, formerly XBox Scarlett, which… is a big black box with an X on the top corner. We got to see some early footage of Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga, which was confusing and didn’t really reveal much apart from the fact its a sequel. We got a tiny bit of the first major PlayStation 5 launch title, Godfall, which is a… *checks notes* third-person fantasy ARPG with swords and stuff. Again, nothing that immediately leaps out and strangles you with how revolutionary or different it is, and it’s also likely a cross-gen release to boot, meaning that it really can be done on modern hardware just fine.
On the overall though – The Game Awards was lacking in major game reveals. It was a more muted affair and the Indie Content had the starring role – which I’m not averse to, but for a big industry Game Awards show, the lack of more pronounced big industry heavy-hitters being wheeled out for the final year of Gen-8’s time in the limelight does not speak well of what we’ll be enjoying in 2020.
By the time we got to a proper big Fast and Furious game (by Slightly Mad Studios, which is a curious choice beyond the racing), most people had long since given up caring and just wanted the whole thing to be done with.
There was less volume of the more blatant shilling, but when it cropped up – like the Samsung TV thing – it was so obviously cringe that we all tuned out. It’s honestly not unfair to say that a show like The Game Awards is one long advertisement anyway, but the clunky transitions to clear and unashamed product placement just made it stand out all the more and irritated perhaps even more so.
And Death Stranding got a lot of attention too. Four awards I counted (missing GOTY, as that went bizarrely to Sekiro – a curious choice!), it had Chvrches open the main bulk of the show with the Death Stranding theme song and a few of its stars were there and present, with the camera regularly cutting to Kojima in the front row of the audience looking like he was utterly bored to tears, like most of us.
So it wasn’t the total annihilation that we expected of the show by the Kojima and Keighley love-in, but it was destructive in its own unique way. It proved, categorically, that this isn’t really an Awards Show but an E3 2.0 – and the success and/or failure of a given Game Awards show is at its core founded in what it’s going to show off, and how much of a damn people give those reveals.
With Nintendo holding back, presumably for its own Direct sometime soon, and Resident Evil 3 being revealed days in advance… The Game Awards is already facing the same issue E3 has. If the big reveals are being done outside the game, and if companies like Valve are pulling reveals and gameplay footage for games before the show begins, then The Game Awards is just two and a half hours of back-slapping self-congratulatory nonsense littered with advertisements.
The only reason these shows have grown the way that they have is because people come to see big, brand-new stuff that they couldn’t see anywhere else. And when that stuff is removed, people just tune out and… well… then tune out.
Maybe in 2020, with a new console generation landing slap-bang in the middle of The Game Awards 2020, there’ll be more big new stuff.
But last night was a bit of a dud.