We’re just a couple of days away from the most important event of the multibillion dollar gaming industry: the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. Starting Monday, we’ll all be drowning in news and reveals.
And while most of us look forward to E3 for the surprises (which wouldn’t be all that surprising if we could guess them), we can use our brains to get a pretty decent idea of what to expect from the big three video game publishers — Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo — during their press conferences and broadcasts.
One thing is clear since last year’s E3: It’s all about the games. In 2013, Microsoft decided to focus on the multimedia features of its then-upcoming system, the Xbox One, while Sony promoted the PlayStation 4 by focusing on games. Since both systems launched last November, Sony’s approach has resulted in more sales.
Microsoft has already started to copy Sony’s approach, notably by creating a Xbox One package that doesn’t come with the motion and voice-sensitive Kinect (which goes on sale Monday). While Microsoft initially touted the Kinect as an essential part of the Xbox One experience, it’s now giving gamers the option to save $100 and skip out on voice commands and motion-tracking, all while Microsoft’s marketing begins to focus back on software.
Expect Microsoft to continue this trend at E3 by showing games and almost nothing else. No new hardware, no demos of menu exploration, and no graphics explaining restrictive policies (like Xbox One’s controversial DRM that Microsoft detailed at last year’s E3, a policy so unpopular that it was quickly scrapped).
As for what games we’ll see exactly, that’s a bit more up in the air. Obviously, we’ll see some more of Halo 5, but probably not too much since it’s not coming out until next year. However, rumors suggest that an HD remaster of Halo 2 is coming to the Xbox One this holiday season. We’ll probably get our first good look at it this week.
Other than Microsoft’s poster series, we know that it has plenty of third-party games coming soon, including Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Destiny. Even though those will all also see releases on the PlayStation 4, expect at least a few of them to receive screen time during Microsoft’s press conference.
Of course, Microsoft has some exclusives coming this year we’ll likely see in action, specifically the colorful, open-world Sunset Overdrive and racer Forza Horizon 2. Still, the success of Microsoft’s conference will likely hinge on the quality of the surprises. More than anything, the Xbox One needs a big game that can get owners excited.
Sony is leading the new-gen console war, so it can afford to play a little defense. Sure, its press conference will still focus on games, but it may contain less surprises than Microsoft’s, which has more to prove this year.
So, what will it show? Again, expect demos of notable third-party software, probably even more than Microsoft will. Sony will also likely focus on some Japanese-developed titles, specifically Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV.
As for exclusives, that’s a bit more murky. A week ago, we would have predicted a big presence for third-person shooter The Order: 1886, but it recently got delayed to next year. Sony will still likely show it, but probably nothing as substantial as a live demo. The racing game Driveclub, however, is coming out this year. We’ll likely get a good look at it during the press conference.
Sadly, we don’t really know how much of Uncharted 4 we’ll see. Originally teased during November’s launch of the PlayStation 4, the project has suffered a lot of departures. It recently got a new pair of directors, but who knows how far along Nathan Drake’s next adventure actually is. Still, Sony is likely to show at least another teaser, if for no other reason then to assure everyone that one of the PlayStation 4’s most anticipated exclusives is still coming.
Speaking of anticipation, what about The Last Guardian? The former PlayStation 3 exclusive has missed E3 for years now. People still hope that we’ll see it resurface as a PlayStation 4 title. If Sony wants to end its press conference on a high not, this would be the way to do it.
Outside of software, Sony has a big card to play this year: virtual reality. Project Morpheus is a VR headset for the PlayStation 4. We don’t know too much about the device yet, but E3 is a great stage to show the tech off. Besides, while the rest of Sony’s show will likely be safe, this is something exciting that Microsoft can’t duplicate, unless it surprises all of us with a virtual reality device of its own.
So, what about the Vita? Sony’s portable didn’t get a lot of attention last year. Really, with its limited success, we don’t expect to see much of it during this E3 either. Maybe we’ll get a montage of upcoming games.
Nintendo has the most to prove this year. It’s newest console, the Wii U, is lagging behind the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Unfortunately, the problem is largely about hardware. Nintendo tried to sell the Wii U by promoting the GamePad, a controller/tablet hybrid that comes with each system. Unfortunately, gamers seem little interested in the giant controller.
Nintendo will undoubtedly have great games at E3. It always does. We’ll see more of Hyrule Warriors, an action-oriented take on the Zelda series, and we’ll likely get our first real look at the next proper entry in the Zelda series as well. We’ll also likely see more of the next Super Smash Bros., and we’ll definitely get at least one new character reveal.
But, again, Nintendo’s problem with the Wii U isn’t really about the software. It already has great games, including the recently released Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World. Sure, more would help, but it won’t give Wii U the boost it needs to start competing with Microsoft and Sony.
Expect Nintendo to do something drastic with the Wii U. Maybe it’ll follow Microsoft’s lead and drop the game pad as a mandatory accessory. Maybe it’ll use its extensive catalog of retro classics to make a streaming service. Still, don’t expect to already see Nintendo write the whole thing off and introduce a new system. That move would garner a lot of ill will from those who already adopted a Wii U, and console development is expensive. Nintendo will stick with and try to fix its newest system.
However, we do know that Nintendo plans to introduce a health-based machine to the market. While such a device could be a hit with nontraditional gamers, it wouldn’t exactly get the E3 crowd excited. We could learn a bit more about this initiative this week, but we probably won’t see anything substantial.
Of course, the portable 3DS is still doing fine. However, since the Wii U needs so much attention, don’t expect Nintendo to touch much about the handheld during E3. We’ll likely see some more of Pokémon Alpha Ruby and Omega Sapphire and some other exclusives, but don’t expect anything earth-shattering.
That pretty much does it. Whatever we’re expecting or hoping for, we’ll all find out soon enough. Brace yourselves, the E3 madness is nearly upon us.