I love E3. Every year I get excited to see what all the companies will bring to the show floor, but mostly, I look forward to the press conferences of the big three. While Nintendo has kind of been off doing their own thing in recent years, Microsoft and Sony have been slugging it out; each vying for the hardcore crowd while also attempting to cash in on the casual market that has risen in recent years.
This year, I'm expecting the conferences to be huge. The current generation consoles have reached a crucial point in the life cycle. The Xbox 360 will be pushing six years soon and the PS3 five. Historically, we'd be seeing the next generation of hardware soon. However, Nintendo aside, MS and Sony both seem confident in their current machines. Recently we've all been hearing whispers that both the next Xbox and PS4 are in the beginning stages of development, but I wouldn't expect to see those any time soon. Instead, the companies will be focused on the here and now. What follows are nothing more than my opinions and speculations about what we'll see at this year's E3 show. Enjoy!
Nintendo: A Return to Form It's no secret; the Wii hasn't exactly been a console for the hardcore, but it has enjoyed tremendous success. Nintendo took a risk and it paid off. They were able to reach a previously untapped market for consoles in the casual gamer. However, things haven't been all rosy for Nintendo. As mentioned, the Wii may have gained a new market, but it all but lost the traditional gaming audience. Add to that the mediocre reception of the 3DS and it becomes clear that Nintendo has some explaining to do.
The answer? Project Cafe. Many in the industry are calling it Nintendo's attempt to recapture the hardcore market. It isn't under-powered like the Wii, and in true Nintendo fashion, it may bring something new to the table with a touch screen embedded in the controller. This is a move that could help Nintendo keep their casual fan-base (everyone knows how to use an iPhone) and the added power may grab the attention of the traditional gamer.
Nintendo: Not afraid to take a risk
In order for Nintendo to be successful, they're going to need some new games. Mario and Zelda are two great franchises, and I would love to see a new Mario title on the new system, but the typical Nintendo franchises just won't be enough to sway PS3 or Xbox 360 gamers. Nintendo needs something new. They will also need proper 3rd party support. Nintendo's games are almost always good. The problem is that those games are usually the only ones worth playing; give or take a few gems.
In addition to new games for Project Cafe, Nintendo needs to show some software for the 3DS. The lineup so far has been a bit underwhelming; sure we've got an Ocarina of Time remake on the way, but I've already played that game - show me something different.
The Verdict: While I am interested in seeing what Nintendo's new console is all about, I can't say that I'm expecting much. Given the company's recent track record, I feel like they've lost touch with the traditional gamer. I'm not big on portable gaming so the 3DS isn't of much interest. That said, I'd love to be proven wrong.
Sony: Gaining Ground I don't think its too big of a stretch to call the PS3 a disaster for Sony. I'm not saying the console doesn't have great games; it does, but the console is succeeding in spite of Sony's efforts - not because of them. It feels like Sony just can't catch a break as of late. They botched the console's launch with a ridiculous price tag, are constantly pushing out firmware updates, failed to properly market the PS Move and are currently the number one target of hackers around the globe.
Still, all is not lost. What Sony does have is the best exclusive lineup coming into this show. These are big franchises that gamers actually care about including inFamous, Resistance, Final Fantasy, Uncharted, The Last Guardian, Dark Souls, Twisted Metal and more. That's a whole lot of gaming goodness; much more than the competition has shown thus far.
Game of the Year; you heard it here first.
Despite their troubles, Sony's "Welcome Back" program on the PSN is solid. It is a great way to gain back the respect of their customers which is something they're going to need if they want the NGP to be a success. The next generation portable from Sony already has an impressive library of titles going for it with Uncharted leading the way. Add to that unique titles such as Sound Shapes and the NGP could do very well, but only if gamers are willing to overlook some of its shortcomings. For one, the five inch screen may be beautiful, but it's also big. This next generation portable may not be so portable after all.
Another potential problem for the NGP is price; how much is this thing going to set you back? So far Sony hasn't said a word about price. Hopefully they'll be giving us all the details at their E3 press conference. The answer will vary from person to person, but how much is too much? Would you be willing to spend $300 on the NGP?
The Verdict: Sony's lineup this year is killer; if you asked me which console had the most games I want to play on it for the year, my answer would be the PS3. There is simply too much to love coming up here. What could Sony do to lose me? Focus too much on the NGP. In my opinion, cell phones have made dedicated portable gaming devices obsolete. I love Uncharted, but its a game I want to sit and play for hours at a time; not something I want to play for five minutes in the checkout line at the grocery store. I think if Sony wants the PS3 to overtake the 360 then that's what they should focus on. We've already got a great roster of games coming, Sony could sweeten the pot with a few surprise announcements. Oh, and don't name the NGP PlayStation Vita.
Microsoft: Up to the Challenge This year, Microsoft is in a bit of a strange situation going into E3. The Xbox 360 has been a huge success and solidified Microsoft's spot in the industry. Yes, I fully admit it: the Xbox 360 is my current favorite of all the consoles. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it is my favorite system of all time. MS forever changed the landscape of gaming with the Xbox and Xbox LIVE. XBL has been a huge boost to this industry and new business models have risen around it. Microsoft is currently ahead of Sony, but the gap has been narrowed significantly; what does MS need to do to in order stay ahead?
It's simple: The Xbox 360 needs more exclusive titles; good ones. We can see how strong Sony's forecast is, but Microsoft is a bit of a mystery. Halo, Gears and Forza are all great games, but MS will need more if they plan to counter Sony's stacked deck. Crytek's 360 exclusive, codenamed Kingdoms, could be a good start, but we need to see more of it to be sure. MS needs to have some big surprises lined up or they'll risk losing the crown they've worked so hard to get.
More of this, please.
MS also needs to show some more support for Kinect. The $150 peripheral has been on life support since launch nearly eight months ago. Has anything of note been released since launch? Nothing comes to mind. I was glad to see it finally integrated with more XBL services such as Netflix, but come on, we need some good games to play with it.
Lastly, XBL has been Microsoft's saving grace. The service is phenomenal and with Sony stumbling recently, this would be the perfect time for MS to show gamers why XBL is the place for online gaming. New features and services would be great, but might we also see a pricing structure change? What if MS took a hint from Sony and modeled the XBL memberships more like PSN and PS Plus? Online gaming could be free for all members and gold memberships would become more of a bonus like PlayStation Plus. Do I think this is likely? No, but it is certainly possible.
The Verdict: MS needs to take note of Sony's gaming lineup and counter it with more exclusives of their own. I'm hoping to see some surprise game announcements from MS at their conference and I want to see some good Kinect titles come forth. I fully expect MS to have more DLC deals with big 3rd party games such as Call of Duty, but I'd also like to see some new services and features added onto XBL; maybe something with Skype now that MS officially owns it.
Well there it is; that's what I think about E3 this year. I'd be interested in hearing what you all think as well, so feel free to comment and let me know!