As a publisher, Bethesda's E3 presentation could be seen as a moderate success. The much-wanted reveal of more Doom Eternal gameplay went down a treat, while some of the publisher's other developers were on hand to showcase new titles such as the time-bending Deathloop and the supernatural GhostWire: Tokyo. As a game creator in its own right, though, Bethesda was found wanting.
There's a reason why Bethesda's press conference is seen by some as a disappointment, and that's because Bethesda's most popular game franchises did not appear in the way that fans would have expected. When gamers think of Bethesda, they think of expansive, open RPGs. Instead, as a developer the focus seemed to be on fixing major mistakes and - perhaps more strangely - amping up the focus on free-to-play mobile games.
A prime example of this was the focus on The Elder Scrolls: Blades at E3 2019. The announcement of a port to the Switch took up a fair amount of time during the presentation, with Bethesda excitedly sharing news such as its continued free entry point - as if the audience had expected the publisher to suddenly chuck a price tag on it for a new platform. Even the most awkward of moments in the presentation received a little cheering from the audience, but it felt particularly muted during this section.
Even stranger was the decision to bring back one of the grandaddies of video games in the mobile form. Bethesda revealed a Commander Keen mobile game at the expo, taking one of the revered early id Software properties out of retirement and into a free-to-play cash cow. One look at the dislike ratio on YouTube for the trailer shows what the community thinks of it.
Bethesda does make an awful lot of money out of its mobile games, with Fallout Shelter being a prime example, but it's not what its fans are there for. It doesn't help that Bethesda has strayed into pay-to-win territory many times, with The Elder Scrolls: Blades having ridiculous wait times for players to sit through in order to progress. The good faith that Bethesda earned with the better-balanced Fallout Shelter has all but been eradicated.
Given the disastrous year that Bethesda has had, it needed to come out swinging at E3 to show that its priorities were still in the right place. Fallout 76 does urgently need fixing, but a side comment about working hard on Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield isn't going to cut it when trying to reassure fans that things are back on track. All in all, it felt a little too close to Blizzard's notorious Diablo mobile reveal for comfort.