Arguably the biggest annual gaming event, the Electronics Entertainment Expo, ended last week with several new games having been announced, while many more were showcased. Held in Los Angeles as per tradition, the show ran from the 14th to the 16th of June. Many large publishers like EA and Ubisoft showed off footage from upcoming, highly anticipated games. Pre-order bonuses were revealed. The Last Guardian was finally confirmed for release.
However, something was missing. In spite of quite a bit of hype leading up to the event, Rockstar Games was a no-show. Take Two Interactive's CEO, Strauss Zelnick had fired fans up after some of his comments in phone calls to investors were published.
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These comments indicated that Take Two would have a major presence at E3 and later, additional comments that indicated it would be Rockstar showing off the main attractions. True enough, 2K, the other developer under Take Two's umbrella ,didn't drop any real hits at E3 - we just got some more trailers for Mafia 3, which was announced a good long while ago. They also had a pretty big booth that many were impressed with.
However, despite this, Rockstar Games didn't turn up. After the pre-E3 conferences lacked any word from them, players assumed the developers were trolling the community by keeping their show for the end of the event. Unfortunately, this never occurred.
Prior to the event, speculation about what Rockstar might show off ran rampant. However it was pretty clear that no new IP would be revealed after some earlier comments.
The two prime suspects that everyone was expecting would be announced at E3 2016 were therefore Red Dead 3 and Agent. It is unlikely that Rockstar would jump into another GTA project this soon after V (and with it still doing so well) and none of the other franchises under the developer's control were quite successful enough to warrant revival (yes, we haven't forgotten Bully, Midnight Club, etc - but let's be honest - everyone was focused on Red Dead and Agent!).
Of the two, Agent was the less likely candidate. Recently leaked work in progress screenshots indicate that the project was either entirely rebooted or simply canned. Even if the former occurred rather than the latter, the development would be too early on to show off anything.
Then the case for Red Dead 3 was strengthened further by a leaked map of a new game as well as another screenshot. Players were almost sure that was the big project that Rockstar will show off - reliable sources were responsible for the leaks and they said the same.
Then after E3 was over and no Red Dead was found anywhere, players started questioning what happened. Why did they pull back? Did something go wrong? Were they not ready yet? Unfortunately, the real reason is much more tragic.
Two days before E3 a tragedy shook not only the USA, but the entire world. A domestic terrorist attacked a nightclub in Orlando. During the initial attack and the ensuing hostage standoff, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured until the attacker was killed by the police.
It was the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil since the attack on September 11, 2001. Globally, countless public figures have openly condemned the attack and expressed their condolences.
But what does this tragedy have to do with Rockstar's absence from E3? Well, it comes down to decency and Rockstar's sense of respect. The same sources who leaked the two images from Red Dead 3 have also discussed the matter.
If rumors are to be believed, Rockstar was slated to show off a Red Dead 3 announcement trailer at E3. The issue was that in light of the Orlando shooting, the subject of the trailer might have seemed to be in poor taste. The sources claim to have seen the trailer, or at least to know its subject.
In the trailer, the presumable protagonist of Red Dead 3 gets into a scrap with some enemies, which results in a shoot-out. Problem is, that shootout happens to go down in a brothel-slash-bar. Understandably, this might have been more than a little controversial at the time.
Rockstar has never been one to shy away from controversy. After all, their flagship franchise glorifies petty crime, features heavy violence and sexual content with a healthy dose of political satire added. They've drawn the ire of various groups over the years, with many trying to have their games banned.
However, those cases of controversy occurred of Rockstar's own volition and backfired on the opponents. Within the gaming community, these cases just made the people going against the game developers look silly.
This, however, is a much more delicate case, one which it seems Rockstar did not want to disturb (assuming the rumors they were going to show something were true of course). Tasking players with stealing cars is one thing - doing something potentially disrespectful against an actual case involving loss of life is entirely different.
Rockstar may have thrived on publicity borne of controversy in the past and will no doubt continue to do so in the future - not this kind of controversy, though. The myth of all publicity being good publicity is just that. A myth.