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From dancing tomatoes to cyberpunks, E3 show reveals wilder side of gaming

Gaming fans play Fortnite at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3, in Los Angeles on June 11, 2019. Copyright Frederic J. Brown AFP - Getty Images file
Copyright Frederic J. Brown AFP - Getty Images file
By Brittany Vincent with NBC News Tech and Science News
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E3 2019, the gaming industry's biggest and wildest show, included flashy booths, sizzling trailers, a surprise appearance by Keanu Reeves, and the ejection of one of gaming's biggest stars.


E3 2019, the year's biggest week in gaming, has come and gone. Sprinkled before, throughout, and after the industry's biggest and wildest week in Los Angeles were huge reveals, flashy booths, press conferences, and sizzling trailers. As usual, it was all in a bid to offer attendees and those at home a glimpse at what the landscape of video games might look like in the next year or so.

During Microsoft's pre-E3 Xbox press briefing, thousands of members of the gaming media and brand enthusiasts piled in to get an early look at all things Xbox. Attendees were privy to a look at the next Xbox console, which is being referred to as Project Scarlett. Purportedly set to be "four times" as powerful as the Xbox One, it's set to touch down in time for holiday 2019, alongside the return of the Halo series with Halo Infinite.

The reveal included new footage and an April 2020 release date for the action-RPG Cyberpunk 2077, which includes Keanu Reeves as one of the newest characters. While that news almost blew the roof off the theater, it was nothing compared to what came next: The John Wick star himself made his way to the stage. As a clearly excited Keanu did his best to discuss his role within the Cyberpunk universe, appreciation and excitement for the fervor in the room (all for him) rolled off him in waves.

During a brief lull, one of 2019's biggest moments in gaming was then born as someone in the crowd screamed "You're breathtaking!" at the humble actor. Keanu's response? Returning the compliment, with gusto: "You'rebreathtaking!" he exclaimed at the audience, pointing out into the crowd. And with that, one of 2019's most wholesome memes was born.

Actor, musician, funnyman, and YouTube gaming blogger Jack Black was also among the celebrities in attendance at the show, along with actress Janina Gavankar, who most recently appeared in Star Wars Battlefront II as the character Iden Versio. Outside the show floor, rappers Lil Yachty and T-Pain were on hand to take each other down as members of opposing teams in an on-stage Rainbow Six Siege tournament. Even Tesla founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk made a brief appearance to discuss his possible next moves in the video game space.

The show floor included ornate booth areas dedicated to replicas of a Mako reactor from the classic Final Fantasy VII in celebration of the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake, and a special Avengers bunker for fans to retreat into so they could have their first look at Marvel's Avengers, by way of Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix.

Not to be outdone, 2K Games' booth had massive, life-size statues of the playable characters set to star in Borderlands 3 when it arrives later this November, as well as enormous, Warhol-esque artwork blaring from oversized screens welcoming visitors to the check-in area.

Ubisoft's Watch Dogs: Legion was on full display as well, with a London telephone box parked in front of a wall of protest imagery, completely vandalized the name of the in-game "resistance" that famously lets players control an army of "hacker grannies," if they so choose.

Also occupying a massive corner of the South Hall was a decadent, comically large Fortnite booth. Forget booth babes — passersby were greeted with a flossing Tomatohead character who was more than happy to work it to some of the game's most recognizable emotes and moves while curious onlookers filmed away.

The Fortnite booth also included a built-to-scale Battle Bus, llama pinatas, a banana-suited mascot, and neon lights. For a brief moment, fans could be transported to the world of their favorite battle royale game and live out their fantasies of pursuing a coveted Victory Royale in real life.

Nintendo welcomed players to try out a cavalcade of titles including Luigi's Mansion 3, the cartoony remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and Pokemon Sword and Shield. Eager fans were lined up for the booth for even the briefest chance at getting some time with these upcoming games, which goes to show how ridiculously popular Nintendo titles continue to be.

As exciting and wholesome as some of the experiences were, it wouldn't be E3 unless someone got themselves kicked out of the show — on the first day, no less. Streaming platform Twitch suspended one of its top performers, Dr DisRespect (Guy Beahm), for broadcasting from a public bathroom. Unfortunately for Beahm, he ended up capturing other unsuspecting participants during his, um, stream. Given Twitch's strict anti-harassment policy, which does not allow its talent to record others without their knowledge or consent, Beahm was in violation of several different rules. Combined with Twitch's zero-tolerance policy for sharing "content that violates another's reasonable expectation of privacy," he committed a double whammy of acts that simply weren't acceptable by the streaming platform's measure, nor the Los Angeles Convention Center.

As a result, he was summarily ejected from E3 2019, his pass revoked, and suspended from Twitch for an indeterminate amount of time. This put Beahm and Twitch in an interesting predicament. Beahm is a high-profile streamer with name recognition like that of Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, the streamer who's become synonymous with Epic Games' Fortnite. With 3.2 million followers, Beahm and Twitch both take a cut from his 20,000 paid subscribers, according to analytics firm SocialBlade, which generates quite the hefty sum for both of them.

Whether you play the occasional match of Fortnite after work or you're putting in hours of valuable training in your favorite online shooter, E3 2019 had something to showcase for just about everyone. With massive, flashy booths, exciting reveals, and the star power to bring it all together, E3 2019 proved the trade show is far from "dying," despite what some industry analysts would have us believe. In fact, it's already been confirmed for 2020, when we'll all descend upon Los Angeles (for the time being) and do it all again. How much bigger will Fortnite's booth be then? We'll have to wait and see.

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