As is stated, the exciting part of E3 this year will be three brand new machines being shown off at exactly the same time, in the same show, for the industry and media to experience.
Now, there’s unlikely to be any actual timeline for a release on the PS4 or the new X-Box, but if they are shown at E3, you can expect the machines within the space of two years; this is not unheard of, to announce at one E3, detail at the next E3 with games and launch titles, and then release it somewhere before the third E3.
What is interesting for me; or what I find interesting about this, in any case, is the technology that will be in these units.
The industry has been for a few years now kind of busying itself with motion-control technology to expand its core audience; to attract new people to buy their machines, with titles that aren’t violent or shooty or have much adventure. The success and re-invigoration of the dance genre is a testament to that really. I must admit, I’m not that against dance games either. I quite like them. We’ve always had to buy extra peripherals for dance games – does anyone remember those old DDR Dance-mats?
But, going into a new console generation will require a bit more than an emphasis on motion control.
I would be interested to see the visuals for some of these release games; I don’t believe that the industry is going to make the gigantic graphical leap that perhaps we have seen in the past. More, I would expect – with what is available on the market – to see visuals polished and refined. Extra memory and cheaper hard drive storage will see games run faster, load faster and more importantly, more consistently achieve the holy grail of HD gaming – 1080p resolution at 60 frames per second.
Will there be 3D? Quite possibly. This is a gimmick that, as much as I don’t like it, I have to accept isn’t going to go away. Done right, 3D isn’t an issue – it still requires investment to allow some to see it (up to 10% of people can’t see 3D visuals on a screen, which is a large margin for error), but who knows? I suspect Sony will definitely want to push 3D. They have a lot more invested in it, as a company, than its rivals.
Will there be any surprises in controllers? Possibly. Nintendo revealed the Wii-U controller last year prior to the hardware specs being finalised. This will have given Sony and Microsoft a year to re-examine their own controllers; to maybe make their own changes and their own unique and interesting additions. It will be fascinating to see what they come up with; as the traditional controllers for the Playstation and the X-Box may end up with a whole redesign if they try to follow Nintendo’s lead.
Will there be any surprises in terms of games, which is why we buy games consoles, right? I’d be surprised if there weren’t any. Microsoft have things like Halo and Gears of War; I would not be surprised to see one or the other surface as a promotional for the new X-Box. Sony have Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank and Genji; again, one of these will likely be featured as a technical demonstration. And Nintendo, well, if Mario isn’t flying the flag, I will eat my own socks.
But from these obvious games, I’d be interested to see what else comes in. All three companies sit on a wealth of franchises that they could also wheel out; Nintendo have things like Eternal Darkness and Golden Sun. Sony have the much under-appreciated Primal and the glorious Siren series (seeing as 2012 is seeing a revival of the Survival Horror genre, my money is on Siren). And Microsoft have Viva Pinata, and of course, the whole stable from Rare with Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and Conker. Favourites from the past; will we see them resurface, if only for technical demonstrations?
But most interesting for me is going to be the cost of all this technology.
New generation consoles are rarely priced to get mass-market appeal; they are often expensive, and for good reason too. There is often an emphasis on future-proofing, to preempt the tides of change so their machines aren’t as dated in five years as they could be. This often means getting the very latest tech; the very latest gadgets and graphics cards and memory. This never comes cheap, even when you buy in bulk batches for the million or so units you often try to get out in the first few months.
That said, Nintendo didn’t with the Wii – and with an alleged billion dollars in hardware profits alone on the Wii, this might have run some bells in Sony and Microsoft that they may not need to go all-out this time; they may just have to provide something different to the competition.
And it is here I pin my real hopes on. If all three companies go down the same road, I will feel a faint pang of disappointment. I expect – no, we should ALL expect new tech. But perhaps clever tech. Perhaps exciting tech. New tech doesn’t have to be about power, it can often be about just changing how things work. Clever tech can trump powerful tech.
That said however, E3 will be interesting. All three companies will be trying, in the same show, to show off their brand new machines and possibly games as well in an attempt to win our custom. This is a pretty major battle; no-one wants to end up being the weakest showing, as that would be a PR disaster.
No sides should be taken though. As gamers, as consumers, I invite you all to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
And let Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo do all the hard work for you.