When I was a kid, E3 always seemed monumentally magical. Reading about and seeing photos of the show floor in the now defunct Nintendo Magazine System (before the Internet was a thing) painted a picture of what felt like gaming mecca, a world where video games are truly larger than life. It was the event to base a complete gaming calendar around, a conglomerate of Christmas and New Year’s Eve that foretold the next 12 months of releases and brought with it the joyous marvel of spectacle and desire.
I find myself now in a position where I could quite easily visit Los Angeles and actually attend E3, and fulfil the childhood fantasy of a kid stuck 12,000km away in Australia. In fact, the thrill of the spectacle of something like E3 was filled substantially (and probably more-so) with my visit to Comic-Con a couple of years back. Yet, the allure of E3 has greatly diminished, replaced by the pointed realisation that it has become a show that has outstayed it’s usefulness and relevance to a medium that can survive perfectly well without it.
We usually take this time to channel our inner analyst to try and predict what the three big companies will bring to their respective keynotes (and I’m sure my colleague will probably do so). Yet, we enter an E3 this year where the main keynote presentations have been downplayed, even to the point of extinction in the case of Nintendo. Both Sony and Microsoft have unveiled their new consoles at separate, hosted events, something that would have traditionally occurred directly at E3.
The problem with E3 is that it is a relic of the past. Before the prominence of the Internet, developers, publishers and manufacturers chose E3 to disseminate their information, providing an easy solution for journalists to schedule their time around and ensure the right information went to the right audience. Nowadays, the Internet facilitates an incredibly quick turnaround from PR to press, and it also allows for items to stand on their own merits, rather than be directly compared and contrast with their immediate competition. There is no need to ‘win’ E3 when you can choose not to play at all and have a greater chance of being seen.
E3 has always been a bizarre event for a medium that considers itself an art form. It feels like a cross between the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Cannes; an event where product and specification announcements pollinate with the introduction and display of new ideas and art. No other creative industry has anything like it, and the awkwardness of the event as a whole demonstrates it: the show consistently devolves into an absurd and bemusing mess of theatrics and infotainment, the dominion of the shyster desperately peddling the merits of their product. It is a complete farce, and does nothing but cheapen the image of a medium that does not need any more reasons for proponents of the condemnation of video games to accentuate and provoke.
E3 needs to be retired, or at the very least structurally reconsidered. Nintendo has realised the folly of directly contending with their competition, and has essentially taken E3 into its own hands. It now directly controls its presentations, and removes itself from direct comparison to Sony and Microsoft. Amusingly, this has been Nintendo’s approach for its hardware and game design in general since the Wii and it seemed to work just fine for them. I don’t doubt that E3 will return again in 2014, but should it attempt to continue in the same manner then its future is uncertain.
All three console manufacturers have done fairly well for themselves in the lead up to the show this year. Instead of revealing the existence of a new console at E3, both Sony and Microsoft have done so in a pre-E3 show. This allows them to focus on the games for these two new consoles, instead of needing to fit both hardware and software reveals into one presentation.
Nintendo have taken it one step further, and have decided not to do any keynote at all. This might seem strange, but it does make sense. E3 is, first and foremost, an event for journalists. The only way the mainstream audience can experience E3 is via online streaming. So why not pre-record it and deliver your whole keynote online?
So what can we expect from the presentations this year? Well, here’s how I think this year’s keynotes will go down:
Microsoft will continue the trend of "sports" and "Call of Duty" that they established in the XB1 reveal presentation. They’ll emphasise the new Kinect hardware, the TV integration, and the Xbox Live service. Yet again, people on stage will make idiots of themselves while demonstrating a Kinect game. There will be a Halo title at launch for the XB1, probably Halo 5. Microsoft will resurrect at least one series they’ve been holding onto (most people suspect it’ll be a Rare title). In all, Microsoft will focus too much on hardware and their offering won’t appeal very much outside of the COD-and-Madden crowd of gamers.
Sony will display several indie (or sort-of-indie) games. Possibly something from Thatgamecompany, and some noteworthy indie developers might make an appearance. They’ll also show some boring looking shooters: some more Killzone, maybe one other. There should be some details on their plans for online game streaming and Vita/PS4 cross-play. There might be a bit about PS4 accessories like the Move or the Eye. Some racing games, maybe a Square-Enix RPG, and a new announcement from one of Sony’s western studios would round it out quite nicely.
If launch dates and pricing are mentioned, I would expect both new consoles to have basic models starting at about US$500, with a release date sometime late this year.
Nintendo might not have a live presentation this year, but they will be doing a Nintendo Direct video instead. I would expect them to go pretty mad with Wii U game announcements. We’re expecting Wii U versions of Mario Kart, 3D Mario, and Smash Bros – I wouldn’t be surprised if Zelda made an appearance, too. Metroid Prime and other western-appealing titles aren’t out of the question. They’ll have at least one other surprise in store, I think. If I’m really, really lucky, they might show a new Advance Wars – however, I seriously doubt it!
Ubisoft will be busy showing off their existing titles – Assassin’s Creed 4, Watch Dogs, Rayman and a few others. But, after the excellent job they did revealing Watch Dogs last year, I would expect them to do something similar with a new title this year. Could we finally see Beyond Good & Evil 2? Probably not. But they’ll have something new to show.
EA will be pushing Battlefield 4 and sports games (at least one sportsman will be on stage) for the most part, as well as their standard library of upcoming titles. After the slip-up on EA’s support website, most people are expecting Mirror’s Edge 2. Some think it might be exclusive to XB1, but it probably won’t be. Bioware could have something new. Respawn (the ex-Infinity Ward guys) will show their new game.
And finally: Valve won’t make an appearance and there will definitely be no new Half-Life game announcements. (The day this prediction is wrong is the day I celebrate!)
The Big Three are on a mostly level playing field going into E3 2013: the two new consoles have just been announced, and the Wii U doesn’t have many noteworthy games at the moment. Who’s going to come out on top this year? We’ll find out next week! (My prediction: Nintendo. But I might be a bit biased!)