Well, E3 is about five weeks away and I always like to gaze into my crystal ball, as it were, to see what – if anything – I can glean from the event and how it relates to the current industry trends going around. Last year, I said – and was right – that the event was largely a holding pattern; unable or unwilling to rock the boat after a difficult few years for the market and with new hardware already pencilled in for the next year.
But two of the big three now have hardware out there – Sony’s PS4 ‘Pro’ seems to be having some problems, and the Nintendo Switch seems to currently be doing alright. The third arm of that is the XBox Scorpio, and I’d wager we’ll see a bit more of that this year at E3.
So let me circle the wagon and look closely at the big-three.
NINTENDO – SWITCH, THIRD PARTIES AND VIRTUAL CONSOLE
Most Likely Big Reveal: Smash Bros. For Nintendo Switch
Most Unlikely Reveal: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem HD
The Nintendo Switch is on the market and doing fine, and with the New 2DS XL on the market to pace out the last few years of the 2/3DS, focus should now be fixing back on selling the Nintendo Switch to an audience that seems rabidly fixated on games (which is no real surprise).
My guess is that Nintendo will be wanting to reaffirm to the world that third party developers and publishers are committed to the console – so I’ll expect more focus on FIFA Switch and a bit more on Skyrim on Switch (hopefully with a little added Nintendo-themed content, because that’d be fun!). Capcom is likely also to point out something else – maybe Resident Evil 7, even though I think that’d be a dumb move, or perhaps a Monster Hunter Switch. The latter is more likely as the Switch is dominating the Japanese sales charts, and Monster Hunter is a big deal for our friends to the Far East.
With that done and dusted, I don’t think Nintendo will have much of its own new stuff that we don’t already know about. I will say that the most likely Nintendo reveal will be Smash Bros. for Nintendo Switch, with a few new characters added for a little extra spice. I wouldn’t even want to begin hazarding guesses as to what or whom would be added to a Switch Smash, because Sakurai-san cared little for boundaries – Ryu, Cloud and Bayonetta all in the same game? Yeah, I’m… I’m not even going to try predicting what new characters would turn up. Particularly with more third parties interested in the platform.
The other thing I think Nintendo will drop is the return of the Virtual Console; whilst the Neo-Geo Classics have been good to the Switch, the platform really does need a few more retro games for that market and the lovely 720p screen on the Switch itself lends itself more to N64, Gamecube and Wii titles, plenty of which are already on the Wii U anyway. Then, they could start with SNES and NES classics and annoy us all but eh, I’d like to think positive in this regard.
Hopefully the focus will be on nailing down support and giving off a better impression that third parties are committed to the Switch as a platform. There may be some interesting ports, or a few interesting revivals – we might even hear more of this much-touted Beyond Good and Evil 2 – but on the whole, I think Nintendo will save bigger hitters like Pokémon for the 2018 show, when they know whether or not their third-party partners are likely to stick around.
SONY – PRO, GAMES AND A LITTLE VR
Most Likely Big Reveal: Bloodborne 2
Most Unlikely Reveal: PlayStation 5
This is likely the time Sony, facing the prospect of the Switch outselling it in multiple markets, feels a little more heat on its pert bum cheeks than it has become accustomed to during the last few years – and that’s no bad thing, I assure you.
I could go on about the PS4 ‘Pro’ and PSVR, but I suspect that both will be used sparingly for a variety of reasons – the Pro doesn’t seem to be shifting in huge volume compared to the much cheaper base PS4, echoing the same thing that happened with the New 3DS, so I don’t think Sony will spend any time on 4K teasers. As for PSVR; Sony is still committed enough to the idea that it’ll have something for it, a last roll of the dice, but I suspect Sony will spend little time on it. The VR market is currently over-saturated with devices and underpopulated with users, and as Sony has had to consistently revise down its predicted sales targets, Sony may already be aware that interest isn’t quite there.
It will be games which will keep Sony’s head above water; and I wouldn’t be shocked, surprised or even offended to see Bloodborne 2 announced. It’s the most likely new reveal; Dark Souls is over and Sony will want to keep the sizeable Soulsborne crowd on its own platform, and Bloodborne 2 presents them with the most likely means of doing that. We’ll probably also see a bit more on The Last Of Us: Part 2, which I do want to see more of, a little more of the new God Of War and perhaps Days Gone, that zombie game that gives me horrible Ride to Hell flashbacks (which is probably a good reason to run a mile from it…).
Now, as for talk of a PlayStation 5 – it -might- happen, but I think that would be more likely for a 2018 reveal. Sony may not be striving to beat PS2 sales figures right now, or hit 100 million units, but it is the top of the pile at this point and I can’t say I see them throwing that position away just yet. If they push big PS4 games onto the PC PS Now! service, then yes, a PS5 is a likely proposition, but I can’t see it happening. Sony may feel a little competition brewing from the Nintendo Switch, particularly in Japan, but I can’t see them doing it just yet. They’ll want at least one more year and another 10+ million unit sales to get as close as possible to PS3 sales figures before they push a new hardware cycle.
As ever, the lions share of third-party revels will be at the Sony showcase and there’ll be the usual Call of Duty stuff and probably something from EA. It’ll have plenty of content, lots of games and we’ll come away satisfied and content, but I don’t think anything earth-shattering will be dropped.
MICROSOFT – SCORPIO, ROLL OF THE DICE
Most Likely Big Reveal: Crackdown 3
Most Unlikely Reveal: Fable (though I want it)
Microsoft is in the bad position this year; they’ve already had a bit of a hammering on the market. Where Sony has the PS4 and Nintendo has the 3DS, Microsoft hasn’t had much of anything and has paled in comparison to its competition this time around.
The Scorpio has sounded for a while as a final roll of the dice – an attempt to carve out a niche in this market. And I approve of that, obviously, because whilst it may not be for everyone right now – it could/should age better. Hardware is all well and good of course, but Microsoft’s problem is that when it has come to games and notable technological USP, it’s spent the last few years in a hazy daze. I couldn’t tell you what the last few E3 were like for Microsoft, because they’ve just faded somewhat into the background.
With the inevitable first-look at the Scorpio, which will be interesting, what Microsoft needs from there is games. Games. GAMES! It’s getting repetitive to the point of complete redundancy, I know, but what does Microsoft have to shift the Scorpio right now? My guess is Crackdown 3 will be a key point; people still love Crackdown and they teased it a while back, if memory serves me right, so its resurfacing would be good to see. More Halo? Probably, though I think that’s one particular cash-cow in need of a little R&R. Fable is the least likely, but I’ll say it again – would arguably be their biggest hitter for a new console.
This is the point Microsoft needs something big, loud and notable; something that people cannot ignore, because it’s been very easy to ignore it the last few years. I don’t know what, if any, third parties Microsoft has left to bolster its ranks, particularly with the whole no longer paying for exclusivity thing.
And in a sense, that makes the Microsoft conference – for me at least – the most intriguing. Sony and Nintendo at least have successes and right now could be forgiven for playing a little on the safe side. Microsoft cannot claim that and cannot be afforded that luxury; it’s go big or go away for them this year, and the risk and danger around that is quite exciting. Whatever they reveal is going to have to be pretty earth-shattering, particularly if early costings of $500+ are to be believed. They need games which are utterly impossible to ignore.
Good luck Microsoft. I think you’re going to need it.