Ah, it’s that time of year again. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and those long barmy summer nights fill with the sounds of laughter and the aroma of someone else’s barbecue. And for three days at the beginning of June, you’ll be able to hide away from all of it. Secluded from the dangers of pollen or killer bees, gamers around the world will find forums, blogs and live streams beaming the latest industry news direct to their eyeballs faster than they can say “Who needs Vitamin D, anyway?”
Well, for gamers around the world apart from me, that is. I’ll be missing this years E3 due to going away on honeymoon, so it’s all sunburn and killer bees for me.
To say I’d rather be glued to my computer for three days instead of being sat on a beach supping cocktails with my wife would be an outrageous flat out lie, so I won’t, but I can’t say there won’t be a part of me that misses the fun and frolics of another bodged Konami conference or a huge explosive announcement or three. Despite enduring some testing times recently, the Electronic Entertainment Expo remains the premiere event in the gaming industry calendar, creating an irresistible buzz and serving as the platform from which so much of what we play is launched. Although there’s usually too much content on show to keep up with everything, it’s always good fun to try. Live streams and monitoring fellow gamers reactions online as the hottest news breaks gives the event a personal feel even for those of us who aren’t able to attend, occasionally providing some classic moments for our industry.
Who could forget Sony’s hysterical 2006 conference (Five hundred and ninety nine US dollars!) or the fallout from Square Enix taking Final Fantasy XIII to the Xbox 360? The darn traitors.
This year, the stakes could be even higher. After several disappointing showings and false dawns over new first party software, all eyes will undoubtedly be placed on Nintendo. With the 3DS ticking along after a solid if unspectacular start, Miyamoto and friends will be under pressure from both prospective buyers and existing owners to deliver news on further first party projects and the future of the handheld in general. Expect plenty of fresh details on the already teased new Mario project (just what is that tail?) along with further news and hopefully a release window for the likes of Mario Kart and Starfox 64 3D. As announced previously though, the next Pokemon project – which logic suggests is Grey for the 3DS – just misses out on the fun. We’ll keep an eye on the long grass for the Tokyo Game Show.
There’s also the ever so small matter of Project Cafe, which presents the salivating prospect of our first home console launch at E3 in half a decade. Will it trump the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for raw power? Will Nintendo reclaim the hardcore? Are we going to get an even partly functional online infrastructure? Will the controller be massive? Answers to these questions and many more may or may not be settled on June 7th.
Anyone wanting first party Wii software or fresh juicy gossip on the vitality sensor might as well be in the middle of the Indian Ocean with me and Mrs Mat C. The best you can probably hope for is that The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword remains a Wii title and doesn’t get held back for the Project Cafe launch, but don’t hold your breath.
Those who enjoy watching grown men grovel for the forgiveness of millions will certainly want to tune in to Sony’s conference on June 6th. The Japanese firm will likely wish to use E3 as the stage from which to move on from a difficult few months, but the continuing PlayStation Network farce threatens to overshadow proceedings. Although Sony have already detailed their “Welcome Back” program, I would be surprised if this was the last we heard of it. After showing strong momentum prior to the latest ApocolyPS3 and reportedly even overtaking the Xbox 360’s worldwide sales, now would be a great time to announce a price cut and give the system another shot in the arm. Also, security. Now would be a great time to update your security. *COUGH COUGH AHEM*
Like Nintendo however, it will be hardware that dominates Sony’s showing. The inevitable NGP blowout should be the last time we have to use that terrible acronym (to the delight of the Neo Geo Pocket – there’s only room for one NGP in the land of dead on arrival handhelds) and hopefully we’ll also see a more accurate launch window. That said, the big issue remains the price. Sony have previous with terrible price announcements at E3 and may be feeling the pressure this time to deliver a sensible marketing strategy. If Sony can miraculously undercut the 3DS then Kaz Hirai will probably leave the stage accompanied by his P45 and a couple of men in white coats, but a $250 price point at least maintains touching distance with Nintendo. $300 does however seem more likely, although even this could be a conservative estimate. Any higher and heads will explode. If system selling software is what Sony want – and judging by consumer reaction to the 3DS launch, they should – then playable Uncharted code and the announcement of an online enabled, portable Call of Duty in the west would be good places to start. If Sony haven’t at least approached Activision about this, then give me the number for those white coats again.
Things currently seem unusually quiet across at Microsoft, who take to the stage on June 6th. History dictates timed exclusive Modern Warfare 3 DLC is a cert and Microsoft will continue to beat the “Hey core gamers, Kinect really is for you!” drum by announcing a number of new titles; all of which will presumably feature sex, drugs and chainsaws. That’s some hardcore shit right there, folks. On the subject of chainsaws and following a successful multiplayer beta, expect more Gears of War 3 exposure and the presence of the ever excitable Cliffy B. Turn 5 should also be on hand to give us a list of reasons why Forza Motorsport 4 is better than Gran Turismo 5, and a new Halo announcement from 343 Industries would surprise nobody.
It might just be me, but everything seems a little too routine here. After all, this is Microsoft. Are core Kinect games and already announced exclusives going to cut it for a firm who take particular pride in “winning” E3 ahead of the competition? Reports that Redmond were hiring for next generation projects surfaced earlier this year, but even more recent rumours have suggested the company could be prepared to spill the beans at this years show. The issue has been rubbished by Microsoft and a NextBox announcement within the next fortnight would appear out of left field, but even a sniff of new tech or an unplayable prototype would prove a devastating shot across the bows of both Nintendo and Sony. As unlikely as it seems at this point, an earth shattering hardware announcement just a day before the competition shows their hand certainly sounds right up Microsoft’s street. Highly audacious and admittedly unlikely, but coming from Microsoft I’m not sure I’d bet against it.
Away from the major platform holders, playable versions of previously announced wares will result in an influx of previews and hands on reports from bloggers while unannounced titles will give us a pretty strong idea of what we’ll be playing in the next 12 months. Konami will fumble their way through another terrible show, although at least this year Hideo Kojima could be on hand to save their blushes. We already know he’s got two projects in the pipeline, so expect any two from Metal Gear Solid 5, an MGS HD collection for PlayStation 3 or a Subsistence style redux of MGS4 with NGP cross compatibility. A none MGS project would be fabulous, but Zone of the Enders 3 isn’t happening. Let it go, guys. By my reckoning, we’re also just about ready for a new Grand Theft Auto, but whether Rockstar see E3 as the place to drop that particular bomb remains unclear. Valve are no shows, so the wait for Episode 3 continues.
Regardless of what happens, who says what or who really steals the show, I’m sure our beloved industry will be in for a terrific three days of hot news, gossip and unveilings. Even as a twenty-something I can’t help but get excited about such a huge extravaganza of gaming goodness. As a spectacle, E3 continually captures the imagination, leaving gamers such as myself wide eyed like a child in a sweet shop. While I bask under the suns glare and bemoan the excess sand trailed into my hotel room, I can’t honestly say I’ll miss E3, but I’ll be sure to catch up with all the goings on as soon as I land back in the UK, ready to play E3 bingo against my own predictions. As always, feel free to contribute your own thoughts on this years show in the comments below.
As a sign off and to remember one of the more amusing E3 moments of recent years, here is Sony’s cringeworthy performance from 2006. They’ve come a long way since. Massive network attack and personal detail theft notwithstanding, obviously.
“The stages of the game will also be based on famous battles which actually took place in Ancient Japan. So here’s this giant enemy crab..”
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