It has been a pretty interesting year since E3 2013, and now that we are a month away from the next one there are plenty of questions but few answers as to what to expect and what we could possibly see at this year’s event. What is to come at E3 this year? I’m just going to share with you guys my thoughts and expectations of E3, including individual expectations for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo:
The Big Three:
Microsoft – The guys from Redmond have had a pretty tumultuous year. After the disastrous reaction to the Xbox One reveal and the response to Microsoft’s DRM policies, E3 2013 was looked at as the place where Microsoft would completely bounce back. Well, things didn’t go too well, as a number of things occurred to put them further behind the eight ball with gamers and behind Sony. Between Sony announcing no DRM and a lower pricing point and the ridiculous statements that came out of Microsoft executives’ mouths, Microsoft pretty much spent the rest of their time leading up to the Xbox One launch date trying to make amends for their mistakes. That cost them as despite strong launch day sales, as the PlayStation 4 launched at a two to one advantage worldwide. Titanfall, billed as the game that would help Microsoft pull close if not even with Sony, failed to live up to expectations, and things such as lower resolutions and frame rates in comparison to their competition’s versions of third party games still plague the system, leaving many former 360 owners turning towards the PS4 as their next generation console of choice.
With newly promoted Phil Spencer now at the helm, Microsoft is looking to rebound and have a strong 2014. A games first guy, Phil Spencer has repeatedly pledged to beat Sony, stating that Microsoft is in it to win it. Is that necessarily the fight that Microsoft should be worried about however?
While Phil Spencer wants to put Microsoft back on top of the gaming scene, he has a conflict of direction to deal with within his own company. It is clear from the onset that the Xbox One was designed to be a multimedia device, not just a gaming console. Its many features were put in place to make it a device that would appeal to a multitude of demographics; while gaming was a part of the plan, when you look back at the original reveal and the different feature announcements that followed, it was all too evident that gaming was to be one of the many reason to buy the Xbox One in Microsoft’s mind, not the main reason. Of course once gamers balked at this notion Microsoft proceeded to push gaming to the forefront, but in order to get the most of the system they are going to have to continue to pay homage to things such as Xbox TV. This created an interesting problem for Microsoft. How much do they lean towards one end of the spectrum without causing harm to the other? While I expect to see a lot of gaming discussed during Microsoft’s E3 presentation, it wouldn’t surprise me if you see them dedicate some time to their other features. We’ve already begun to get some significant news about Xbox TV and their shows; it’s quite possible we will hear more concerning things like the Halo live series. Also the Kinect is heavily integrated into the Xbox One; will we see some substantial news about Kinect as well?
It’s going to be an interesting balancing act played by Microsoft this E3. They will have to show up with the games to please their main audience, but in order to progress with their intial plans for the Xbox One they will have to give lip service to all of the things that irritated their fans as well. Hopefully, as far as gaming is concerned, we’ll get to see more of the exclusives that they touted heavily at last year’s E3. So far, we’ve seen or heard little about any title that they’re publishing themselves. Phil Spencer definitely has his work cut out for him. Since he’s got the job he’s promised big things relating to gaming for the Xbox One, which he will have to deliver on, but more importantly, he has to sell the Xbox One as a whole, which these days seems to be somewhat of a challenge with all audiences.
Nintendo – With Nintendo bowing out of doing a large stage presentation at E3 for the second year in a row, many people are screaming bloody outrage and throwing jabs at Nintendo for not showing up again. Me personally, I commend Nintendo for deciding to once again skip having an extravagant show to try and steal some of Microsoft’s and Sony’s thunder.
Let’s be real about this people: as it stands now, the Wii U is not going to be able to compete with the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4. At the time of its launce, Nintendo had the floor all to themselves and could have got a jump on their competition had they played their cards right, but instead they relied on the popularity of the original Wii to carry them over with the Wii U. It didn’t exactly work out in their favor of course, as recent sales indicated that the PlayStation 4 has a substantial lead over the Wii U in sales in less than six months, which the Xbox One is nipping at the Wii U’s heels, threatening to surpass it within the next few months.
So why is it a good thing that Nintendo isn’t coming out at E3 with guns blazing? It’s clear that Nintendo is now in a transitional period. With the Wii U struggling and the current brass under heavy pressure, it’s best for Nintendo to sit back and reorganize. I honestly expect that the biggest news we will hear from Nintendo will come after E3. While I do expect that their Nintendo direct will yield a little news concerning gaming, I think the biggest news will come in the areas behind the scenes. Iwata is clearly not in good standing and his position will likely be addressed; he may not be fired but he may be asked to make changes to his approach or be reassigned to a lesser role. The same may be said of Nintendo’s Western face and talking head Reggie Fils-Aime. Nintendo also has to make a decision on the Wii U itself; is it time to bail and restart or work on a game plan that could possibly save it from being completely buried by the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Still, you can expect something significant gaming wise with Nintendo at their private event and special Nintendo Direct. They do have popular titles to discuss, such as Smash Bros., and there will probably be some news pertaining to other already and yet to have been announced titles. There is also a major third party title in Watch Dogs that, while it will already be well established on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, will have appeal to Nintendo’s fan base that they can show as well. My personal wish is that Nintendo will introduce new IPs, but I know not to hold my breath; sure it would be great to see the minds there coming up with something new, but they don’t seem to have any real motivation to do so. Part of me can’t blame them as they out of any of the major console developers have the strongest first party library, but it would be nice to see them bring new ideas to the table. One can only dream. There is also an outside shot that they may be ready to speak of their next console, but that is a serious long shot indeed.
With all the doom and gloom surrounding Nintendo it’s definitely in their best interests to sit back and watch the fists fly between Microsoft and Sony and avoid more criticism beyond what they already get by having the possibility of putting on a disappointing E3 show at a time where they have some serious issues to work out. June and the rest of the summer would be better spent by Nintendo by dealing with their troubles and coming out strong for the rest of the year once they’ve come up with a serious game plan. Of course, there’s always the risk that they will once again stand pat and rely on their name to carry them through, but hopefully for their fans and gamers all around, they won’t continue to make that mistake.
Sony – Sony seems to be in a pretty comfortable position right now out of all of the three major console manufacturers. Still you can’t be too sure that things will remain so high for them. Sony has done a phenomenal job of selling the PlayStation 4, bringing a message those appeals straight to the heart of gamers. But as well as they’re doing, there’s no reason believe that at any point they could trip up; after all, we saw them at their worst with the launch of the PlayStation 3. There’s nothing to say that they won’t make any mistakes ever again.
Still, it’s not bad to feel that going into this year’s E3 that Sony will continue to shine. After all, look at the success of the PlayStation 4; they have sold the console at a pace that has eclipsed the PlayStation 2 at this point without any truly compelling pieces of software to persuade gamers that this is the system that they need to purchase. Not even the hype of Titanfall could help their biggest competition, Microsoft, put a dent in their pretty healthy lead in console sales. Still with all of this glory Sony still needs to work hard and bring more games of substance to the table to continue shine. This year’s E3 for Sony won’t be about reminding people how well it’s doing and how good it’s product currently is; this year they will have to establish a strong plan for the future
So what will they need to do? First, they need to make sure to have a strong first party presence at E3. While games like The Order: 1886 and Uncharted have been teased, we really haven’t scraped the surface of what they will have coming to the PlayStation 4 from their in house studios. I expect to see at least three major projects coming from their first party studios announced this year, even though I want five or more personally. I also expect to see a lot more information given on Uncharted and The Order as well.
Oddly enough, however, I feel like the PlayStation Vita may be the major focus of Sony at E3. With the PlayStation 4 well established, Sony will definitely have to work out a strong game plan for their handheld device. This may be Sony’s last stand in that market; while the Vita is a quality product, it’s a product few people feel the need to purchase. Even though the Vita has some solid games, few people are interested in what’s out there and don’t feel compelled to buy it in the way that they do the PlayStation 4. It’ll be interesting to see if Sony will come with some new big named first party and third party games to try and pull the Vita up. While the integration with the PlayStation 4 gave it a bump around the console’s launch, it never gained enough heat to blow up to a point that it could be looked at as serious competition for Nintendo’s 3DS. If Sony wants the Vita to be prosperous, there will definitely have to bring to the table some seriously strong titles to rival those that are on their competition or concede that the Vita will never be worth the trouble in the long haul.
With all that said, Sony has seemed to have positioned themselves to have a fairly weak showing at this year’s E3 with their successful strategy with the PlayStation 4. It would be a shame however for them to rest on their laurels and become relaxed in their approach to E3 this year. If they want to continue to stay in the good graces of the gaming community, they need to double down and try to equal if not succeed what they did over the last year. Right now, Sony has a large part of the gaming community eating out of the palm of their hands; it would be a shame if they reverted to the PlayStation 3 launch era and proceed to try and coast off of their success.
Developers & The Games Expected:
Now that we have a new generation of consoles, game development has been thrown in usual position of trying to decide where to throw priority to. With the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 having over 150 million consoles in homes worldwide, many developers did little more than pay lip service to the new generation of console, mostly offering ports of major titles to grab next gen dollars from. Even now, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are still in a growing stage that may encourage developers to be cautious in putting any serious effort into the two in light of trying to gain maximum dollars from the older consoles. We’ve already seen two major titles – South Park: Stick Of Truth and Dark Souls 2 – drop on the older consoles to big suggest, leaving an example for other studios to possible decide to continue to stretch resources over both generations for years to come.
Still I suspect we will see quite a bit of next generation only titles appearing. Now that both new systems are comparably easier to develop on, and that they are also selling at a pretty good pace, we may see more companies make the shift to them. We already have a good looking new titles such as Evolve and a well-established hit series such as Batman: Arkham Knight going completely next gen; it wouldn’t surprise me if more major projects bank on the potential of the new consoles sales continuing to sell at a higher rate than their previous editions. Sure, there will be major studios such as Ubisoft continue to straddle the line, but I could see the potential for a faster transfer to the newest systems with studios this time around.
There will also be an extremely huge presence from the indie scene as well. Independent game development has established itself as a major player in gaming today and we should definitely expect them to not only play a major role in the news of E3 but in the news of the major console manufacturers as well. Sony has made a serious push in making indies a big part of their ecosystem and Microsoft has followed suit with Nintendo right behind. Expect to see a ton of indie games given a lot of attention this E3, even more than in previous years. Yes, I know a lot of gamers groan at this prospect, but things are changing; while big Triple A titles are still strong and most highly anticipated, you can’t deny the fact that independent games have built themselves into a major part of gaming.
The stage is definitely set for one of the more compelling E3s in recent years. You have the high tension and drama that could possibly come from Microsoft, the mystery and peculiarity of Nintendo, and the high expectations and anticipation to repeat success from Sony. I can’t wait.
So what do you expect to see and hear from E3? Please leave your comments. I appreciate you reading this. Peace.