A week from today, the Giant Bomb staff, alongside pretty much the entirety of the greater video game industry, will descend upon Los Angeles, CA for the 17th annual Electronic Entertainment Expo. This will be my 13th trip to the show in 14 years. Granted, for the early chunk of that time, I wasn't really "covering" the show so much as I was "sneaking into the show with fake credentials," but even without a real need or purpose for being there, I still had the opportunity to witness numerous consoles, publishers, and franchises parade themselves in front of the gaming audience in the hopes of capturing just a bit more of the industry's collective attention.
This year's E3 promises to be an especially intriguing one. It's been eight years since the Xbox 360 first ushered in the last console generation, and seven since the PlayStation 3 and Wii essentially solidified it. For the first time in a long while, we are on the cusp of a "next-gen," and suddenly there is an electricity in the air that's been all but absent the last several years. While I feel bad sort of dismissing the Wii U's debut last year, it seems to me that most people are far more intrigued with the possibilities of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 right now, since those systems represent the kind of technological leap one associates with a proper console generation evolution.
New console E3s are totally different beasts from the rest. There is a palpable sense of heated competition prevalent in those years, one that generally cools off when there isn't new hardware to huck. Moments like the Kinect and Move bumping up against one another pale in comparison to the kind of heated rhetoric that tends to arrive once companies have to try to prove that their shiny new box is the most important of all shiny new boxes.
While all new console E3s are generally pretty exciting, there is an overwhelming sense of grave importance that seems to be hanging over this year's show in particular. All anyone seems to want to talk about lately is how dire the console market situation is right now, and while some of that is hyperbole, generally, there is cause for concern. Microsoft and Sony are butting heads directly with two boxes that may prove expensive and potentially alienating, depending on how each of their various services shake out. Meanwhile, Nintendo stands in the corner, politely smiling and pointing to its several-months-old system and all the new games it plans to have for it, simply hoping that anyone will pay attention to them.
In anticipation of the show, I thought it might be fun to dig through what we know about each of the major companies' E3 lineups, make a few predictions, and generally just discuss what we'd like to see at the show. So, without further ado...
Hey, everybody who freaked out that Microsoft hardly showed any games at its May 21 unveiling event, guess what? Microsoft's gonna have some games at E3.
Now, whether or not they're games you'll want to play, that's another situation entirely. We, in fact, know very little about Microsoft's E3 game lineup. Because of the delay in getting the Xbox One out there, developers were forced to keep their XBONE (nope, not dropping that abbreviation any time soon) games out of E3 judges week. What we do know is that there will be several games, and they won't all just be EA Sports titles and Call of Duty.
Remedy's Quantum Break will most likely be one of them, though given the studio's penchant for "extended" development cycles, they may not have a ton to show just yet. Forza Motorsport 5 will definitely be there, probably in playable capacity; but again, this is a known quantity. Crytek's Ryse will also be there, though I haven't seen a great deal of cause to get excited about that one, yet.
While I expect the remainder of the XBONE lineup will be peppered with various action games and Kinect-friendly family fare, I expect at least one or two loops to be thrown. We still have no idea what Rare is up to, except that it is working on a new version of a "historic" property. Depending on who you ask, that sounds like it could be a reboot of its Killer Instinct fighting franchise, or maybe even some new Perfect Dark thing. It's probably not a Viva Pinata or Banjo-Kazooie game, as much as the latter would delight me.
Just don't expect to see anything about TV or sports league partnerships. Microsoft is back on the offensive now trying to win over the people they inadvertently pissed off with their first conference. Now Don Mattrick is talking about investing "$1 billion" into new games for the system, and basically everyone over there is trying to Wayne's World ending their way into a totally different narrative for the system. We'll see if it pays off or not when we actually see the games.
We actually know a lot about Sony and its forthcoming lineup. Sure, we haven't seen the PS4 box yet, but if there's a more overrated piece of information out there when it comes to new consoles, I've yet to see it. Otherwise, we know of several games that will likely be shown in greater detail. Stuff like Knack, The Witness, Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and DriveClub seems all but assured to put in some kind of appearance on the show floor, either in theater-demo, or possibly even playable form. Hell, it even sounds like we may get to see more of whatever Squeenix has cooked up for Final Fantasy on the PS4, and maybe if we're lucky, Capcom will even have more of Deep Down to show.
That, of course, doesn't leave a lot of room for surprises. There seems a likelihood that Sony will treat things like the box unveiling, tech involving the new and improved Eye, and other miscellaneous details left out of the first briefing with some importance. That might mean we're in for a bunch of games we've seen already in some capacity, which would be a minor bummer. Still, there's plenty of room for third-parties to swoop in and show off a few more projects. I'm not necessarily holding out any hope for a Last Guardian PS4 demo, though. Sorry.
This does, sadly, leave us with the gaping wound that is the current state of the Vita. We'll definitely get to see more of Media Molecule's Tearaway, and probably one or two other things we don't know about. Still, the total lack of chatter around that system right now is deafening. I'm not trying to discount the totally decent selection of indie games currently available for it, but in terms of the major publishers and developers, Vita versions of games recently sound like total afterthoughts, if they even exist at all.
I do not want this. I like the Vita a great deal. Technologically, it's the best handheld system I've ever owned. It just doesn't have enough games to justify spending much time playing with it. I'm all for these PS3/Vita split games, and while the "mandatory" PS4 remote-play support thing is a nice, if slightly beside-the-point kind of gesture, that isn't necessarily what I had in mind for the system when I bought it. If I really wanted a system with remote play, I'd have invested in a Wii U by now (I haven't).
And then there's Nintendo. With no new console hardware to show, and no press conference to tout, Nintendo is perhaps in the strangest position of any company this year. The Wii U continues to flounder, though on the horizon there are several major games headed for stores this year. Unfortunately, many of them are hitting this fall, during a time when they will be forced to vie for limited holiday dollars against two new mammoth pieces of hardware.
Granted, at least several of those games look good-to-great. Pikmin 3 has never looked anything but delightful, though it's not the sort of game that will likely move units on its own. The same goes for other familiar games like The Wonderful 101 and Game & Wario. More likely, it's going to be the stuff we sort-of-know-about-but-haven't-really-seen-yet that's going to have to make the case for the Wii U. Whatever's next from the Mario Galaxy team, the new Mario Kart, and Sonic Lost World will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. Other big games, like Smash Bros. and whatever the new Zelda ends up being, will undoubtedly churn some excitement out of the audience as well, but there seems to be little expectation that we'd be seeing either of those until 2014 at the earliest, which doesn't really help Nintendo's immediate problems.
Nothing from that list depresses or worries me. Those are all known quantities in one way or another, and all those games should be expected to do well (or, at least, as well as a Wii U game is capable of doing). My worry is the total, utter lack of surprise in any of it. We all know Nintendo is primarily a nostalgia marketer, but that isn't really enough anymore. If people still bought Nintendo consoles just because they were Nintendo consoles, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. The expected no longer translates to automatic interest, and while I expect that Mario, Zelda and Smash Bros. will all do very well, short of insane overhauls that I don't think will happen, we'll still be experiencing some version of that which we already have.
My hope is that Retro's new game, which is purported by some to be an all-new IP, will be a solid kick in Nintendo's creative junk. New IPs are always risky and don't always engender huge sales relative to the initial interest they tend to draw, but Retro's a damn good studio, and there's reason to hope that whatever they have cooked up will be of interest. This, of course, assumes that what they're working on will even be ready for E3, which is anything but confirmed at this point.
As for the 3DS? It's fine, and Nintendo doesn't seem terribly panicked about it. While I'd love to see some diversity in lineup there as well, I expect we'll be getting a lot more of the expected stuff for the system from both Nintendo and third party publishers. Again, with no reason to worry about that system's health at the moment, there's not much reason to diverge from the current path.
With the consoles taking center stage, third-party publishers are a bit more in the background this year. Some, like Take Two, have chosen to skip the show entirely. Most everyone else is on-hand, albeit with perhaps fewer games to show overall, as we make the transition into a new console generation.
EA is maybe the most interesting of the bunch. Not necessarily because of their lineup, which will assuredly be heavy on both sports titles and Battlefield 4, but more because they're in the most unique position. Having just announced the acquisition of the Star Wars license, EA won't have anything to show for those games except for perhaps a bit of explaining about what directions each studio assigned to the games (DICE, Visceral, and BioWare) will be heading. Need for Speed: Rivals will almost assuredly be there, as apparently will Dragon Age 3, and perhaps even the still-rumored Mirror's Edge 2, which apparently EA inadvertently put up a help page for last week. Hey, stranger things have happened.
There is also the matter of that Respawn game, which EA is publishing. Most recent rumors have that title, reportedly codenamed "Titan," appearing potentially as a Microsoft exclusive, though little has been learned since those rumors first popped up. It seems likely that the game would appear at one of the major conferences, but whose, and in what context, we most definitely do not know yet.
Ubisoft will come with its expected lot, showing off more of Rayman Legends, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Assassin's Creed IV, and Watch_Dogs. Presumably they will also have more of South Park: The Stick of Truth to show, which hopefully will also come with a release date (finally). There is also reportedly a new game from the studio behind Driver: San Francisco, rumored to be called The Crew. That could be cool.
Beyond them, it seems like it'll be a lot of one-and-two-game showings from other publishers. Warner will have Batman: Arkham Origins and Techland's new zombie parkour thing, Dying Light; Activision will have Call of Duty: Ghosts; XSEED will have Killer Is Dead; Square Enix could have Thief on-hand in addition to its Final Fantasy stuff; Konami will have the one-two punch of Metal Gear Solid V and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2; Deep Silver will have more Saints Row IV to show; and Capcom will have a few different things, though it's highly unlikely that any of them will be Resident Evil 7. Maybe that's for the best right now.
Beyond all of that, there will most certainly be a few surprises, a few disappointments, and a few curious no-shows. Everything we do and do not know roughly adds up to a show that should be very exciting. I have hope for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to impress, and even some hope that Nintendo's fortunes could be turned around with a strong showing. It's going to be hectic, brutal, and, with any luck, a whole lot fun. Even after all these years of attending E3, I still can't wait to get there and get going. I expect this year's show to be the good, the bad, and the weird all wrapped up into one, and I wouldn't miss it for the world.
As always, you'll be able to follow along with us at home through our live coverage, video interviews, and yes, even written coverage (*gasp!*) from the press conferences and show floor. Hopefully you're looking as forward to our coverage of the show as we are to actually covering it.
Note: There will be no Guns of Navarro next week as the staff prepares for E3. However, if you would like to participate in the following week's edition, send your post-E3 questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will amass them for a big ol' after-E3 blowout.