Reaction: Summer Game Fest 2024 Showcases AAA's Endless Winter 1
Image: Push Square

Geoff Keighley clearly cares deeply about games, and we won’t hear otherwise. This is a man who started out as a journalist with a surging passion for the medium, and has fast-tracked his career in such a way that he’s almost become the unelected voice of enthusiast gamers. While that’s a title he’d likely shy away from, there’s no denying he’s made himself a face of the industry, and that’s through sheer determination and hard-earned connections.

The problem with Summer Game Fest, like all of Keighley’s shows, is that they live and die based on the content shown – and this was a particularly weak one. While we’re fully expecting Microsoft to pick up the slack later this weekend, with its trio of publishers all squashed into a single showcase, it’s becoming increasingly clear that AAA gaming is stuck in an endless winter. With development cycles longer than they’ve ever been, and the impact of the pandemic still very much looming, it feels like the medium is light on the heaviest of hitters right now.

Reaction: Summer Game Fest 2024 Showcases AAA's Endless Winter 2

That’s not to say there’s nothing to play, there obviously is: LEGO Horizon Adventures exceeded all our expectations, and looks like a genuinely entertaining alternative take on Aloy’s escapades; Metaphor: ReFantazio looks locked in as another must-play RPG from Atlus, the team behind the Persona titles; Slitterhead has all the jank and unbridled creativity of a Japan Studio cult classic, and; Black Myth: Wukong is actually coming out, after years of anticipation.

But, if we look at the reaction to the show, it’s clear most fans felt it didn’t sizzle – if anything, it barely even fizzled. And that’s because, respectfully, as with Sony’s State of Play recently, gamers don’t stay up until past midnight in Europe to find out Amazon’s MMO New World is getting ported to PS5; they don’t get up early in Asia to learn a console port of Valorant is getting a closed console beta. They want to see Naughty Dog; they want to see Sucker Punch. Heck, they want to see Keighley staring lustfully at Hideo Kojima, as he chatters away for tens of minutes at a time.

Reaction: Summer Game Fest 2024 Showcases AAA's Endless Winter 4
Image: Push Square

Summer Game Fest has other issues, outside of dramatically extended development cycles, of course. As an independent show, it has to justify its own existence, and so its overly long two-hour running time seems to exist purely so Keighley can squeeze enough ads in. As previously reported, these cost an exorbitant sum of money to run, but outside of physical ticket sales, they’re the only source of income that exists to fund the whole thing in the first place.

Keighley is also up against expectations, and E3 is still recent enough for fans to remember the glory years. As we noted recently, it’s been less than a decade since Sony showed The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Shenmue 3 back-to-back-to-back; it’s been even less since the epic press conference which featured God of War’s reboot, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and much more. The industry is quite simply in a different place these days, but still the comparisons remain. It’s not fair, but Geoff is the one who’s attempted to fill the hole left by the convention, and so he was always going to attract the criticism that comes with that.

Reaction: Summer Game Fest 2024 Showcases AAA's Endless Winter 3

Undoubtedly, this was the weakest Summer Game Fest to date, and a lot of that comes down to the fact there’s not enough major, noteworthy content to show. For our money, the show peaked with LEGO Horizon Adventures, and that was the first title on display. It’s not really Keighley’s fault that he couldn’t lock down any blockbuster games this year, but at the same time, it perhaps raises the question: do we even need an independent summer showcase at all?

Media is now in Los Angeles actually playing a number of different games as part of the Summer Game Fest adjacent Play Days. And there will still be showcases from Xbox and Ubisoft in the coming days, which means plenty more games. There’s still some value in this seasonal offering of gaming announcements, then, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the expectations of gamers are no longer aligned with what the industry can actually deliver. And that means something, at some point, will have to give.

How would you gauge the temperature on this year’s Summer Game Fest? Do you think it was hot, or did it leave you feeling cold? As always, let us know in the comments section below.

How would you rate Summer Game Fest 2024?