Can you feel it folks? E3’s almost here. Christmas for gamers, showtime for the industry. The advent of a new generation doesn’t happen that often, and this year we’ve got two new consoles’ worth of excitement to deal with. This week, I’ll be looking into the big three’s plans and detailing what I’d love to see and of course, what I’d hate to see.
First off, there’s been surprisingly little in the way of genuine leaks this year. On Thursday, Game Informer magazine accidentally let their July issue out early, revealing Respawn’s first title “Titanfall” to gamers all over the world, but that appears to be it. With the news that it’s console exclusive to Microsoft (at least for now), was this the big reveal they’d got planned for the end of their conference to blow everyone away? I’d probably say yes. Other than this one, though, the only “leaks” we’ve got so far are retailer listings for the likes of Mirror’s Edge 2 and Dragon Age 3 (The latter has since been confirmed to be at the show).
As ever, first out of the gate is Microsoft. With the lukewarm (at best) reaction to the revealing of the Xbox One, they need to pull off something special to win back the majority of the vocal detractors during their press conference. For me, I think this boils down to three key factors.
The first is to show off as many games as they possibly can. Folks don’t want to see any more TV or Media box stuff, and Microsoft themselves have said that the Xbox One reveal was “The part of E3 that nobody likes”. As things currently stand, I’m 90% sure that I don’t want an Xbox One. That could possibly change at E3 depending on the amount of games that Microsoft show off, but if it’s a collection of “Here’s a new Gears, here’s a new Halo”, then I’d stick another couple of points on that total as well.
Secondly, they need to clear up this bloody always-online/online once a day/used games won’t work debacle. Because it is a debacle. Nobody appears to be giving a straight answer, and the mixed messages coming from Microsoft’s own executives have hindered their cause more than anything else. Whilst Sony have been relatively quiet on the subject as well (and I’ll come on to them shortly), it’s Microsoft’s silence that appears to be the most damning. According to a number of sources, the Xbox One was set to be an online-only device, but in the wake of the controversy stirred up to a head with the Adam Orth incident, they backed down on this. Additionally, these same sources point to there being a serious issue with the development of the silicon for the console, and development in general being around 6 months behind schedule.
(Edit: Microsoft did in fact clear up a lot of this just before this article went live. Please find the details HERE)
Third, and finally, I seriously hope that they remember the rest of the world exists. I get that Microsoft is an American company, but come on guys, don’t turn your back on important markets, or Sony will pounce faster than you can say “Xbox, go home”. If a release date is set, it needs to be worldwide. If you have to cut a market (and chances are that they will do because of the latest rumours about the production problems), then I don’t think anyone would be surprised if it was Japan. Microsoft don’t care about Japan, and Japan don’t really care about Microsoft. The last few years of the 360’s life and the Xbox One event really couldn’t have made that any clearer if they’d tried.
Having said all that though, I do feel that a lot of naysayers (myself included) could be extremely surprised with Microsoft’s conference. They’re the ones with nothing to lose, and they’re the ones who have the most money to spend. I think we could see a shock or two coming from their conference, and if an affordable console launch is achieved, then it will certainly set out an interesting few hours waiting for Sony’s conference to start up, that’s for sure.
Sony have been riding a wave of positive press since the PS4 was announced back in February. A huge section of the gaming press, as well as forum dwellers and general fans, have found themselves warming to the news coming from developers that Sony are becoming much more relaxed with the rules and regs for their new box, whilst making it much easier to develop for. It’s not going to be a walk in the park for Kaz Hirai’s crew though, especially if Microsoft bring their A-game as much as they need to. Will Sony drop the ball? I don’t think they will, provided they do the following.
First and foremost, open the show and reveal the console within 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops. Sony have three machines to show off at the conference (PS3, Vita and PS4), whereas Microsoft only have the home consoles to announce things for. Sony came in for some stick back in February when they showed what their console would do without actually showing the physical box, and with the teaser the day before the Xbox One event, I think it’s a dead cert that this is going to be the front and centre of the early part of their conference.
Secondly, they can’t afford to be complacent with their game announcements. We already know of five or six games that are exclusive to the PS4 right now, but they can’t rest on the laurels placed on them from the February event. Whilst it’s clear that Microsoft have reached out and opened their wallets to the likes of EA, Sony have spent time courting the indie developers and smaller companies to hopefully amass a substantial library on their next-gen console. They also need to address the used games issue on the PS4, although from what’s been said so far, there is no Sony-mandated DRM solution, and it will be entirely down to publishers to include with their titles. Even so, there is a fear that the used market will be diminished substantially, if not totally obliterated with the onset of the new generation.
Finally, they need to stay humble and succinct. Their messaging so far has been spot on in my opinion, and if they keep doing what they are doing, they’ll have a successful E3 and launch. Answer the questions that need answering, show off the games they need to, and they’ll be fine. It’s Sony’s to lose in the eyes of most, at the moment.
With Nintendo not having a press conference, and instead offering up an hour-long Nintendo Direct, you can almost guarantee that the focus will be on their big franchises. With a new Smash Brothers, Mario Kart and 3D Mario confirmed to be included, as well as a slew of other titles being heavily rumoured, it should be a good show. Ultimately though, Nintendo need to do one thing. Convince people that the Wii U is a console worth picking up. I don’t think a price drop would hurt things either.
THIRD PARTY PUBLISHERS
It’s always difficult to guess what third parties are going to put out at E3. Will one of them come out of nowhere and blindside us all with a stunning title, or will we witness a bunch of typical FPS’s and shovelware?
The problem with E3 is that you can’t really say “I’d love to see…” because you don’t necessarily know what you want until it’s unveiled. We’re getting a number of high profile sequels this year, some new IPs that’ve already been announced, and two sparkly new consoles. I’d love to see some prices and launch dates for the new machines, and I suspect we might get them. If there’s any more of Call of Duty shown at the MS/Sony press conference, however, I might just cry. We know it’s coming, Don Mattrick made it pretty clear when he announced it like a man trying to convince a five year old to eat their greens. We don’t need to see any more of it, it’s going to be the same game. Just throw something new up for the 5 minutes or so that they’d normally take up. This year’s expo promises to be the best in years. Here’s hoping we get some more memorable moments and GIF-able embarrassments to keep us amused until the next-gen officially starts.
It should be a wild ride for those following the industry over the next few days, so let’s buckle up and stick with NGB as we bring you the highs, the lows, the laughs and the “wow” moments from the biggest gaming event of the year, E3 2013.