With December 2023’s official death of E3, the world’s most hyped gaming conference, Geoff Keighley‘s Summer Game Fest has by default become the only game in town, with a schedule of showcases running from June 7 to 10 spotlighting major companies and intriguing indies filling the vacuum with a heap of new announcements and demos.

Three of The Beat’s contributing writers weigh in their thoughts and takeaways from Summer Game Fest 2024…

So our readers can get to know you – what are your personal gaming preferences?

Beau Q.: I’m an inactive FGC [fighting game community] member, a jrpg and cozy game enjoyer, and annual esports head! I have fully committed to never playing an intentionally difficult game [outside of PvP competition], so consider me easy mode pilled! Atop that, I enjoy games of all production sizes, budgets, consoles/PC. Lately, it’s been mostly indie horror, PS1 jrpgs, and deckbuilders around here!

Adam W.: I love old-school RPGs, visual novels and freeware games. Chrono Trigger, Sona-Nyl of the Violet Shadows, Ruina: Fairy Tale of the Forgotten Ruins, etc. I’ll play whatever else looks cool though.

Dean Simons: I am likewise a fan of RPGs, especially JRPGs – though sadly don’t have nearly enough time in which to play them. I tend to be rather omnivorous with my preferences so I often try out whatever genre comes my way, from battle puzzler, to adventure, and more. Rule of thumb these days is: “if it’s an indie with a weird concept or interesting art style, I am down”. I should also mention that I am a passionate handheld console gamer – and own multiple devices to game on the go.

Summer Game Fest
Unanimous excitement on the indie side of this year’s events
What showcase impressed you the most overall?

BQ: I was hootin’ AND hollerin’ through the Wholesome Direct and Latin American Games Showcase. I wishlisted about 90% of those two showcases and scrawled itch for anything with a live demo! HOOTIN’ AND HOLLERIN’ !!

AW: I thought Day of the Devs did a great job not just advertising upcoming games, but giving us little snippets of each developer’s process. It’s a reminder that games are made by people rather than machines! I sought out the Latin American Games Showcase based on Beau Q.’s rec above and thought it was quite good as well.

DS: Have to admit Day of the Devs held my attention far more than most of the other showcases I was able to see. Lots of upcoming titles with actual gameplay footage to grab my eye. I had to keep the Steam app open on my phone so I could chase up and wishlist nearly everything that was being featured. 

What are your three highlights (games and moments) from this year’s Summer Game Fest season?

BQ: In short, between the Latin American Games Showcase and Women-led Games Showcase, I didn’t know how many games I’ve mentally bookmarked from a gif/tweet were produced by Latin American or women-led studios [and sometimes both], so it was illuminating to find out! Top 7 anticipated games this E3 [no order]:

  • Crush House (Nerial; published by Devolver Digital) — “Film and produce 1999’s hottest reality TV show: The Crush House!” 

  • Fear the Spotlight (Cozy Game Pals; published by Blumhouse Games) — “Sneak into school after hours with Vivian and Amy, survive a séance gone wrong, solve tactile puzzles, and, whatever you do, stay out of the spotlight…”

  • Petal Runner  (Nano Park Studios; published by iam8bit Presents) 

  • Arranger (Developed & Published by Furniture & Mattress LLC) — “Find your way in a world of breezy, thoughtful puzzles, along a charming journey of self-discovery.”

  • Zet Zillions (OTA IMON Studios; published by Raw Fury) — “Zet Zillions is a single-player roguelike deckbuilder where you use your cards to make freakish combinations and explode entire planets. BIG-BADDA-BOOM!”

  • On Your Tail (Memorable Games; published by Humble Games) — ” a sleuthy story-driven 3D life sim of relaxation, investigation, and knowing how to play your cards right.”

  • Demonschool (Necrosoft Games; published by Ysbryd Games)— “a new-style tactics RPG where motion equals action. Defeat big weirdos in between the human and demon worlds as Faye and her misfit companions, while navigating university life on a mysterious island.”

AW: I’m very excited for the September release of UFO 50, a project featuring Derek Yu (Spelunky) and many other talented indie developers. It’s been in development for at least seven years! As a fan of Retro Game Challenge who also grew up playing sketchy “250 games in 1!” bootleg carts for the Game Boy, this game was made for me.

Also notable is Outersloth, a new initiative from Victoria Tran and Forest Willard at Innersloth (Among Us). At a time when big players like Microsoft and Sony are taking money and jobs away from people that badly need them, Innersloth is digging into their Among Us treasury to actually get cool stuff made. Here’s hoping that it works for them! Folks badly need help out there.

Finally: Brandon Cronenberg is making a game together with Sam Barlow (Immortality), Michael Lutz (The Uncle Who Works for Nintendo, smiledog.jpg) and “joyous gamer” Natalie Watson under the Blumhouse banner. Gonna be wild.

Other neat trailers: Abyss x Zero, Unbeatable, Cairn, Wanderstop, Zoochosis, Citizen Sleeper 2: Starward Vector (also, Demonschool!)

DS: While not a “new reveal” my top highlight was the gameplay footage for Screenbound, from Crescent Moon Games and Those Dang Games. The concept of a simultaneous 2D/3D platform game sounded interesting but seeing it in action got me really excited.

Zoochosis, a first person 3D horror-survival game set after hours in a zoo. I didn’t spot any use of guns so it is down to wits and puzzle-solving to survive the night.

Ubisoft Forward showed off gameplay of the upcoming Star Wars Outlaws and it looks extremely promising. I grew up on Star Wars and scifi so wandering the Galaxy Far, Far Away with your pet – on foot, speeder, or spaceship – has me keen. I’m tentatively hopeful for this open world Star Wars game.

What disappointed you about this year’s event(s)?

BQ: There was a cop simulator on the Future Games Showcase where you can issue a parking violation! This year’s Devolver Digital tied their trailers to a pedo-coded drama I couldn’t stomach. I just know those devs were less than pleased to be advertised in this manner! Less disappointed: Tenjutsu bait and switched me with its animated trailer– if you know which studio animated that Tenjutsu cinematic, please let me know! I want to support their work!

AW: It’s tough to know what to think of any of these trailers when we’ve seen this year that any studio, no matter how successful, might be closed at any time. How many of these games will actually come out? If they do come out, how many will actually resemble their marketing? The trailers at the Microsoft panel especially are scheduled for nebulous dates like “2025” or even “2026.” It’s a reminder that making big budget games these days is as much about predicting the future as spreadsheet management.

Otherwise, taking stock of upcoming games reveals (as usual) multiple studios chasing trends. For every original idea–and there are a few, especially in the independent scene–there are five other Frankenstein’s monsters stitching popular games together. Slay the Spire, Into the Breach, Dark Souls, endlessly mixed and remixed across 2D and 3D. If folks are busy excavating the classics, they could at least steal from something cool and obscure like Linda³, you know?

DS: I was surprised how bored I was (more than usual) by the big tentpole showcases. Summer Games Fest was so dominated by paid slots of cinematic trailers that looked the same. Likewise Xbox Games Showcase – which many have hailed as the best in years.

While it is cool to know that Xbox Games Studios – after news of layoffs and studio closures – still has things on the boil, having glimpses of Fable and Perfect Dark didn’t really make me enthusiastic for the future of the platform. Especially when they talk about “games preservation” while simultaneously hard pushing Game Pass (where games come and go from the service) and a digital only Series X console so you can’t play your physical media from their legacy consoles. Hard no from me.

Thankfully watching Day of the Devs, Wholesome Direct and others renewed my enthusiasm.

What did you think of Summer Games Fest 2024? Be sure and let The Beat know, either here in the comment section or over on our Bluesky page.