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From Fortnite to VR: 5 Things Parents Need to Know About Gaming Trends

Our games editor reports back from E3 on what's hot at the biggest gaming expo of the year.

Wondering what the young gamers in your house will be eagerly anticipating for the rest of 2018 and beyond? Look no further than E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Every year, the largest game conference in the world (which takes place in Los Angeles) showcases the titles players will be talking about for months. For a sneak peek at what will be on kids' minds, we've gathered the five biggest trends from the 2018 show floor.

Games Go All In on Fortnite-Style Gameplay

Fortnite took the gaming world by storm in 2018. So it's no surprise that its popular battle royale-style gameplay (in which players compete to be the last one standing) has struck a chord with developers; several are trying to capitalize on this extremely popular trend. Here are a few who are following in Fortnite's footsteps:

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops IV announced earlier this year that, for the first time in franchise history, it would skip a single-player campaign to focus on multiplayer, particularly a battle royale mode called "Blackout" that will feature land, sea, and air vehicles, characters from the entire Black Ops franchise, and a massive game map.
  • Battlefield V quickly announced that it was going to include a battle royale in its game, too, in a mode called (creatively) "Royale." Tanks, planes, and other vehicles will be available, along with the ability to deploy and reposition weapons around the battlefield to destroy rival teams.
  • In the postapocalyptic wasteland of Fractured Lands, players use both souped-up vehicles and weapons to see which car -- or Mad Max-like warrior -- remains standing at the end of each round.
  • Mavericks: Proving Ground went big, announcing it would feature 1,000 players -- instead of the established 100 -- fighting to prove who's the best.
  • And Fortnite itself was released on Nintendo Switch, meaning players can take their games with them on the go as well as play it at home.

eSports Goes Mainstream

Buoyed by the popularity of Fortnite and other similar games, eSports -- where players compete in multiplayer video game tournaments -- made a significant impact at this year's event:

  • The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) partnered with the Electronic Sports League (ESL) to host multiple eSports events throughout E3 2018.
  • Epic held a Fortnite Celebrity Pro Am tournament, with stars like YouTube's Markiplier and digital music artist Marshmello competing to win major bucks for charity.
  • Nintendo hosted the Splatoon 2 World Championships with teams from around the globe, plus the first Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Invitational.
  • Mobile game tournaments showed up, too, with Tencent hosting the Arena of Valor playoffs for a chance to qualify for the Arena of Valor World Cup tournament in July 2018 -- which has a $550,000 grand prize.

Virtual Reality Games and Gear Blow Up

Consumer VR has taken baby steps over the last couple of years as companies spent time figuring out both how to take advantage of the hardware needed to produce really realistic VR gaming and how to make the games look good. It's been a bit bumpy along the way, but now VR games aren't only getting better, they're also becoming more immersive, with larger cinematic game experiences and well-known franchises leading the way.

  • The wildly popular Prey and Wolfenstein first-person-shooter franchises (from developer Bethesda) will be coming to VR. Prey's game will be called Typhon Hunter and will be a separate mode that can be played in or outside of VR. It will let players take on the role of shape-shifting aliens as they hunt down their competition. Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, on the other hand, is a VR-exclusive game that casts the player as a hacker using the Nazis' robotic creatures against the Reich in occupied Paris.
  • Oculus showed off Defector, a game that feels like a mix of Mission: Impossible and The Bourne Identity. Players will engage in gunfights, hand-to-hand combat, and skydiving without a parachute (or you can opt to drive sports cars from one jet to another).
  • Survios' Creed: Rise to Glory puts players in the trunks of Adonis Creed as he pursues his boxing dreams. Based on the movie, the game has players training and taking on challengers as they strive to make their legacy in the ring. Players will have to jab, weave, uppercut, and block incoming punches from opponents to succeed.
  • Sony brought 14 VR games and a redesigned PSVR headset to E3. Players checked out games like Blood and Truth, a gritty crime drama set in London; fast-paced shooters like Space Pirate Trainer, in which you shoot at incoming hazards after being transported into an arcade game; and even Tetris Effect, which puts a clever spin on the classic game with a new Zone feature that lets you clear more than four lines at a time (hello, high scores!).

New Titles Surprise and Delight

Hundreds of games are shown at E3, but a few really took attendees' breath away with well-made trailers, surprise announcements, or unexpected gameplay. Here are only a few of the big titles people will be talking about for the rest of 2018 and into 2019:

  • Cyberpunk 2077 (currently scheduled for June 2019) will cast players as V, a mercenary on the mean streets of Night City. This open-world role-playing game will let gamers explore the massive, violent metropolis, fighting against criminals, security forces, and gangs. Players' decisions will change the story significantly, potentially making the harsh conditions even worse than before.
  • Assassin's Creed Odyssey (out on Oct. 5) is the latest installment in the wildly popular franchise. This one is set in ancient Greece, letting players take on the role of a descendent of the Spartan King Leonidas, who's prophesied to bring destruction to Greece. Players will explore Greek city states and fight in large-scale wars both on land and at sea.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate makes its debut on the Nintendo Switch on Dec. 7 and will be the largest game in the series to date. It combines more than 60 characters from previous Smash Bros. games and tosses in a bunch of new arenas and amiibo support. Expect plenty of fast-paced single- and multiplayer matches.
  • Fallout 76 (out on Nov. 16) promises to be the most ambitious game in the Fallout universe. Set in West Virginia, the online-based role-playing game has gamers explore radiated lands as they try to rebuild civilization. Unlike previous games, which were single-player only, Fallout 76 will include multiplayer for the first time.

There's Always Room for More

While there were plenty of big games at E3 that people knew about before the event started, there were also some surprises. Here's what made everyone laugh, scratch their heads, or say, "Wow, who would've thought about this ... !":

  • Nintendo showed off the Poké Ball™ Plus controller for Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee (releasing on Switch on Nov. 16). It's shaped exactly like a Poké Ball from the cartoon and can be used to navigate the game world as well as capture Pokémon by making a throwing motion toward the screen. Players can also go for a walk with the controller and gain experience for their creatures or transfer Pokémon Go creatures to the game.
  • At Bethesda's press conference, actor Keegan Michael-Key introduced Skyrim: Very Special Edition. He "played" Skyrim using his Alexa device at home. The trailer made everyone laugh thanks to Key's comedic timing (and the situations presented by Alexa), and people agreed they'd love to play the game if it existed. So imagine their surprise when it turned out the "joke" game does exist as a skill on Alexa -- and is currently available.
  • Both EA and Microsoft vaguely mentioned the ability to play games on all kinds of devices thanks to the cloud, potentially having access wherever you are. Microsoft went so far as to say it was investing in ways of playing Xbox games on your phone with the same visual quality you'd find on the console. No dates or time frames were provided, but these ideas are being pitched as possible future directions for both companies.
Jeff Haynes
As Common Sense's senior editor of video games and websites, Jeff Haynes spends his time doing things like blasting aliens, winning sports championships, and creating digital worlds to tell kids and parents about the best gaming and website experiences available. Having covered the gaming and technology industries for more than 15 years, Jeff previously worked at Entertainment Tonight, Game-Over Online, Inside Kung-Fu, MXB and other magazines, as well as IGN and TechBargains. His technology expertise has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, MSN and many other websites, newspapers, and magazines. When he's not playing games, he fights ninja and pirates (on alternating Thursdays); debates the methods, merits, and madness of shows like Top Gear, Chopped, and MythBusters, tinkers with technology of all shapes and sizes, embraces his inner audiophile, and absorbs horror writing and movies of all kinds when his child is tucked safely in bed at night.