E3 2012 – My Predictions and Hopes

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With E3 a week away, it’s that time of year that any self-respecting gaming nerd blog inflates its own self-important ego and makes some predictions about what the event will offer, as well as some off-the-cuff hopes and remarks about what we’d LIKE to see. KOG, unfortunately, is not immune to this I’m afraid…

For me, E3 is my favourite time of the year. Yes, even more so than Christmas. That said, I’ve said previously that E3 is so often more about Nintendo stealing the show, and this year I don’t really expect that to change this year either. But what do I predict we’ll see, and what do I want to see? Well, the train is rolling – let’s watch me drive it off the rails!

Nintendo

Nintendo usually is all about style and content and, with the Wii-U coming to the market later this year, E3 should effectively be the start of the promotion and hype of this interesting new machine. Expect Nintendo to announce its official release dates for each territory (Japan, US and Europe/Australia in that order) as well as offer a glimpse into the official launch games lineup – with some of the games previously touted as release games having slipped into 2013,  this may be smaller than previously predicted. It’s very likely we’ll at least see teasers for a new Zelda and Metroid for the Wii-U. My hope is also following a trademark lodged by Nintendo in November 2011, we’ll also see something on Eternal Darkness 2 – a firm cult favourite that would definitely aim the machine at the traditional old-school Nintendo crowd.

On the 3DS, I don’t expect anything near the line-up of games we say in the March 2011-2012 period, but that isn’t to say there won’t be surprises. I fully expect there to be more details about the e-Store, and downloadable games, something Nintendo has professed a keen interest in pushing of late. Also expect a lot of talk and self-congratulatory posturing about the volume of 3DS sales, as well as their predictions for sales in the next year or two. Don’t expect a price cut however – its current point appears to be quite popular, and from August it is likely Nintendo will once again be making a profit on each machine sold.

I also expect a little Wii news – although the Wii is dying out now, the last eight months has seen a glut of JRPGs and firm fan favourites hit the shelves and Nintendo will likely want to give their market behemoth, with 95 million sales (probably closer to 100 million now), a proper sendoff. This would serve to draw a line under what to many (including me!) saw as a console that missed a lot of opportunities, with many third parties starting to use it right and then instead using it as a cheap cop-out.

Nintendo always close with a bombshell. This will be a crowd-pleaser game, and it may be a new Zelda, a new Metroid or something else entirely, but expect a big reveal at the end of the conference for a game we’re all going to immediately want more than our next breath.

SONY

Sony have already stated that the PS4 won’t be unveiled this year, so my advice is to not pin any hopes on seeing hardware. But I would expect Sony to somewhat allude to it, perhaps detailing a date or event when we will see more information on this product. Instead, I fully expect there to be a few more PS3 announcements, and for there to be a lot of details about how Sony plan to push the Vita.

You see, the PS Vita has been a bit of a disappointment so far for Sony in terms of sales, and a bit of a disappointment for early adopters who are complaining there are no decent games for the machine yet. If Sony are smart (and I’d expect them to play this year smart!), then we’ll see a raft of game announcements for the machine, as well as more PSN options for the link between the PS3 and the Vita (with the intention one would hope of it linking up to the PS4 at a later date!).

Other than that, I doubt we’ll see any other huge surprises. Sony haven’t had much to shout about this generation and, with it coming to a close, it would be incredibly vulgar for them to claim it has been a success for them, because with all the mistakes they have made – the PR fails on release, the initial disappointing sales, the PSN Network hacking and the Playstation Move – all coupled with their disastrous and damning recent financial reports, there really isn’t much to be proud of if you were a Sony exec, and it cannot at this late stage when it is trying to repair the fragile and damaged relationship between itself and its consumers be seen to be reverting back to their bad old ways, where they believed they were far too big to fail. But fail they did. So expect the conference to not be so much low-key as a more humble one, with an emphasis on the future rather than the past.

Of course, with Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale (a bit of a copy of Super Smash Bros.), I anticipate at least one more “borrowed” idea from Nintendo.

MICROSOFT

Microsoft have it a little easier, as they have exceeded expectations this generation. The Live service is now reportedly profitable, rather than the earlier years where it was run at an operational loss, and with Gears of War, Halo and more under their belt, Microsoft have plenty to be smug about – regardless of whether you like those games or not (count me in the latter group!).

Again, Microsoft have already stated that there will be no real unveiling of its own next-generation machine at E3, which essentially – along with Sony – leaves the next-gen party to kick off with Nintendo (not an easy phrase to use without a wry smile creeping onto your face!). But Microsoft will want to continue pushing the Kinect – despite the fact it is one of those things that its core fans seem to loathe more than anything else, it’s a core component to what Microsoft is trying to do, and by golly, expect a LOT more attempts at making the device house and interact with more “core” games. I am calling it now – Halo 4 will utilise it heavily.

What interests me more, however, isn’t the next-gen possibilities, but the rumours that current X-Box Live accounts and purchases may not be successfully transferred over to a next-gen machine. Of course, this would render the entire point of the Live service – a centralised, localised games and cloud network – totally pointless and would do it real harm, so I expect if we don’t hear much about the new console, for Microsoft to do some damage limitation and stress this is under control.

As for games, well, Halo 4 will be there in force, and despite the departure of Peter Molyneux from Lionhead Studios, I suspect we’ll also see a new Fable game turn up – not The Journey, a proper new installment in the main series. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Epic Games reveal a new Gears of War game – perhaps a spin off of the main franchise, much like we saw with Halo in the last few years. Otherwise, I don’t see any real surprises in this conference either, although I suspect it will be a lot more upbeat about itself than the Sony conference.

THE REST

As for the rest, well, Capcom have Resident Evil 6 on the way this year so expect to see a lot more detail about that one. FROM Software, on the back of the excellent Dark Souls, should – and I would hope – announce a continuation of the impossibly hard but unbelievably addictive masochistic RPG series, and UbiSoft with any luck might also show us something more on Beyond Good and Evil 2.

I don’t expect an announcement of GTA V being released this year – although I do suspect we’ll see actual footage of it. Other games this year we’ll see something about are Bioshock Infinite, despite it’s delay into 2013, Aliens: Colonial Marines – same deal, and Final Fantasy XIII Vs. – although I would hope Square-Enix drops the plans for a XIII-3, it’s just not necessary and besides which, Final Fantasy XIII is a tarnished name which will inevitably arouse suspicion. One would hope to see the new Castlevania games return to their more traditional roots – but I am resigned to the fact the series may now simply be too far gone.

On MMO news, I expect there will be some new console variations announced – quite likely for the Wii-U at this time, as the controller already looks perfectly valid to make quick and swift interactions with the in-game world possible. I don’t expect Nintendo to have any plans for a first-party one however, so that will likely be up to someone else to attempt.

I also suspect this will be a difficult year for EA and BioWare, with so much trouble in the past twelve months it’s not looking particularly promising for either of them. The Old Republic is hemorrhaging users, Dragon Age 2 was critically mauled by reviewers and consumers, Mass Effect 3 had those problems with the ending… I don’t expect to see anything more dramatic – or unpredictable – as the new Battlefield game.

Overall

It’s fairly clear from the off that this is another big and inescapable year for Nintendo, with Sony and Microsoft in its shadow. The problem this year has is that the Wii-U is the beginnings of the next-generation, but it won’t see Microsoft or Sony jump in until quite likely E3 next year, where the two will battle it out despite Nintendo already eating into the potential market share. With many developers having financial issues, and the increased costs for a next gen as well as them actually still in the process of making games for the next generation, Nintendo has pretty much the floor to itself and will make an unavoidably loud noise.

It will still be worth watching, and despite all of this and the usual glut of leaks in the run-up to the event, E3 generally does have one or two surprises in store.

But I doubt it will be enough to compete against the Nintendo conference. That is this years big moment. And Nintendo, like us, revel in it.

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