From the initial Atari consoles and their varied controllers (there were TONS!) to the video game crash of the early 1980s to the rise of gaming’s savior (the Nintendo Entertainment System) to our current transition to the next generation of consoles (Wii U, PS4 and Xbox 720), we have born witness to a pastime and industry that is constantly changing and maturing.
Part of the maturation process for our pastime is a gathering of gaming publishers, developers and press that descends upon Los Angeles, California called E3. The Electronic Entertainment Expo began in 1995 in what could arguably be called gaming’s pre-teen years. It saw the addition of Sony’s PlayStation console, itself the product of a failed attempt to partner with Nintendo to provide CD-based gaming to it’s next console. E3 would become the home of some of the gaming industry’s biggest surprises and thus, a platform for new game announcements.
Does anyone remember the sneak launch of the Sega Saturn? I have fond memories of playing “Fighter’s Megamix” on that console as a young 20-something. Does anyone remember when the N64, formerly called “Project Reality” was revealed to be cart-based and then called, Square Soft dedicated all of their games to Sony’s PS? Or what about Microsoft’s entry into the console race with the original Xbox? Or Nintendo’s lackluster pre-E3 conference nearly 10 years ago? What about the Wii’s debut? What about the disaster of having moved a poorly planned and executed E3 to Atlanta?
There have been any number of great and not so great moments from the hallowed halls of E3. This year looks to be no different. We’ll finally get to see and some of us play, the second wave of Wii U games, see PlayStation 4’s physical console and further new games and Xbox 720’s games as well (apart from their May 21st debut). That’s not even counting 3DS, PS Vita, Ouya and PC. The Indie Game Development community and Mobile Phone games will also be there in full force!
Things to look forward to
The Wii U has been kind of lackluster in sales since late December and for that reason many gamers are not picking it up. While it has about 40 games out for it now (or will by this month), it hasn’t exactly lit up the sales charts because of its smaller install base compared to the current gen machines. This does not help with game companies like EA, DICE, and others not planning or pushing games to the new console. There is also a misconception that the Wii U is barely as powerful as the PS3/360 because it hasn’t shown in-game graphics improvements in most of its games. All is not lost, though. E3 is a make or break opportunity for Nintendo to show the gaming press and most importantly the gamers, that they mean business and are going to pick up more 3rd party support and bring out their own big guns. I think this is what is planned for E3, but I have no concrete details other than what Nintendo has publicly stated and the rumor mill.
But let’s face it: Nintendo doesn’t always give us the full picture of their plans. Through a combination of numerous Nintendo Connects and their Pre-E3 Media Briefing with select journalists, there may be more that they have yet to show than we know. E3 is for EXPERIENCING the games for yourself and to that, Nintendo does it better than most. Last year’s booth was gigantic with plenty of kiosks (and long lines) of the games they had for play for so many international gaming media. There were a few surprises via the two Nintendo Directs just before the show. There looks to be no change to this for this year. I fully expect surprise 3rd party game support, with a few exclusives and some surprise Nintendo IPs on display (whether those will be in a Nintendo Direct or playable on the show floor, I have no idea). The Indie Developer looks to also come strong with the Wii U and I think we’ll get to see some of that spotlighted.
You just never know with Nintendo and I’m expecting the unexpected and I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised!
The PlayStation 4 has already received near unanimous praise from nearly every developer and publisher (including many in the gaming press). It seems Sony has listened and learned from the mistakes of the last two generations (namely the Emotion Engine and Cell and not listening to what developers want). Instead of a hard to develop for console, it’s now more streamlined and in step with PC development to allow ease of development and removing many of the bottlenecks of their past systems. With 5GB of GDDR5 RAM, an Out-of-Order Execution GPU and a multi-core Jaguar-based CPU, among other things, makes this one powerful and streamlined PlayStation console. Early demos of the few announced games, shown at the February PlayStation Meeting, were very visually impressive, albeit only in the console realm and seem to show what is possible going forward.
Unlike the Wii U, Sony has already garnered more support in its pre-launch for PS4 and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, the support seems to be ratcheting up with expected announcements of full multi-platform announcements to be revealed at E3. What can we expect? Other than the usual multi-platform announcements, I think we’ll see the PS4 exclusive, Knack and at least 3 more Sony 1st party games announced… perhaps at least the majority of them playable on the show floor. Other than that, I can’t speculate (well, I can, but that just makes me look like a fanboy, which I am not. LOL!). But what I CAN say is that, aside from the obvious, we will be treated to a few surprises that might not turn out to be surprises in the long run. The PS4 looks to be well on its way to my doorstep when it’s released this Fall.
Microsoft’s next generation console is a bit of a dark horse in this race. While we’ll certainly find out more about it on May 21, according to rumors and supposed leaks, the 720 is roughly on par with the PS4 in terms of specs (by contrast, we don’t really know anything about the specs of the Wii U’s GPU or CPU). 8GB of GDDR3 RAM, Jaguar multi-core based CPU and a next gen AMD developed GPU (like the PS4 and Wii U) seem to be what are common among the many rumors and leaks. There are conflicting leaks of what the 720 can do, though. From needing an always-on broadband connection just to play games to it not needing it… from a subscription model to a model akin to the Wii U’s “Premium” and “Basic” scheme… there is no shortage of speculation about the 720.
However, we DO know that Microsoft Entertainment Studios is looking to set the 720 up as even more of a living room set top box for all your entertainment needs. From streaming content from your computer to acting as your cable box (the subscription rumor fits here), it seems that Microsoft is trying to further one-up its competitors. The PS4, with its social media aspect, and Wii U’s Nintendo TVii are both in direct competition to the 720 in this aspect.
Out of ALL the consoles, Ouya’s Android OS based console seems to be the true dark horse in this next gen race. Imagine playing Temple Run or Angry Birds: Star Wars on your HDTV with an actual gaming controller. Now imagine doing that on a machine that isn’t a phone or tablet– that’s basically what the Ouya is and what it brings: Indie and established mobile gaming to the living room. I think the Ouya is one to watch for, with its release now delayed to the end of June.
I think with these systems we’re going to see so much innovation and new game announcements, our heads will be spinning. There’s nothing to really comment about for these systems but I expect that there will be a couple bombs dropped for them both from their respective companies.
Last year, GREE was the behemoth in town with their Mobile game lineup, but I think EA will be fair competition with their own lineup of mobile games. As well, Square Enix will have their own lineup and as the market becomes more and more fractured and to avoid going out of business and creating another video game crash, more game publishers are going the route of creating and publishing games for the Mobile market. Smart.
This E3 will be like no other and yet, it will be like all of them up until now: full of surprises, drama, and mind numbing boredom (need I remind you of Sony’s sales figures or Usher dancing?). Loc Da’Borg, (me) hopes to see ZGO at E3 next month!
What do YOU think will be announced this E3? What are YOU looking forward to? Let me and ZGO know!