With E3 just a little over a month away you should just now be able to make out the din of the industry hype machines ramping up. Over the next month you can expect to be deafened by the cacophony of PR machinations as they tout the latest games that you will just have to play when they come out. Over the next four week’s we’ll be bombarded screenshots, trailers, and enough hype to strangle a bantha.
In advance of that I've decided to take a somewhat tongue in cheek look at what could be the biggest E3 in years. Gaming press and gamers posing as press will finally get their hands on the PS3 and the Nintendo Revolution (or whatever Nintendo decides to call their system). I would expect to see something big from Microsoft to help keep the Xbox 360 in the foreground but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Without any further ado here's my list of my top 10 expectations from E3 this year
1. Sony to have the PS3 playable and on the floor. The graphics will be awesome but not nearly the level of what was presented at the show last year.
The PS3 is going to be the big story of the show this year with the Revolution coming in a close second. I'm not basing this on quality of games but rather the sheer size of the installed Playstation base.
We've already seen some comparisons on the net between what was shown last year and the footage that was shown at the GDC and it there was a noticeable fall off. That's not to say they aren't good looking but they aren't nearly as sharp as what Sony was showing off last year. That said I full expect to be blown away by what Sony is showing off and I think we’re going to see a lot of integration between the PSP and the PS3…maybe even an iTunes competitor.
2. Nintendo will have one of the most popular booths at the show this year. People will spend the entire time waiting in line to see the new Zelda game/chance to play the Revolution
Never underestimate the will and devotion of the Nintendo faithful. Given the near religious zealotry that Nintendo engenders in their congregation the term fanboy doesn’t seem to really cover it. At last year's show the line to get in and play the new Zelda game stretched well over the length of Nintendo's booth with signs indicating a wait of over four hours just to ge a little QT with the game. If you consider that E3 is only open to the public for around 26 hours or so that's people allocating nearly 1/8th of their time to play the game for a few minutes. Only amusement parks have higher wait/amusement ratios
This year is going to be different because people will be able to actually get their hands on the new Nintendo controller and will finally be able to see if all the hype was real. We should also get some ideas on what games will be taking advantage of the system and if the shell that Nintendo promised that will allow gamers to play "standard" console games will actually work. I'm actually really looking forward to getting my mits on the system and see what wonders Miyamoto and company have forged for us.
3. Alan Wake will be the surprise sleeper game of the show
Alan Wake and Oblivion the two games that left the biggest impression on my last year. With the successful release of Oblivion release last month to critical reviews I think this is the year that people start realizing that the folks at Remedy have been working on something very special. Between the excellent graphics and the spooky storyline this is one game that should pick up a big following this year.
4. One company will intentionally flaunt the limits on booth babes this year. They will be fined and issue a press release on it.
With the ban on booth babes this year it's going to be harder to spot the crappy games at the show this year. The ban nullifies the usual gauge that there's an inverse relationship between the quality of a game and the # of inches of cleavage on display at a particular booth. That said there will be one company that will flaunt this rule to draw attention to themselves. It won't be one of the major players at the show but somebody is going to have a couple of "models" running around in floss. They will be cited by the folks at the ESA (who have to act on this in order to keep things under control for next year) and then will issue a press release as a way to draw attention to their product.
5. ...It won't be Rockstar or anyone from Take-two who will have instituted a burka's only policy for everyone at the show
6. Idiot journalists will once again proclaim PC gaming dead despite strong showings for Spore, Battlefield 2142, Enemy Territories: Quake Wars, Supreme Commander, Tabula Rosa, the new World of Warcraft expansion and several other new PC only titles
With the E3 headlines are going to be dominated by the PS3, Revolution, and Xbox 360 there may be people who are going to talk about how Microsoft’s other gaming platform is going the way of the dodo. Of course these people will not be checking out the absolutely ass kicking games that are due out only on the PC this year. Will Wright’s revolutionary Spore and Gas Powered Games Supreme Commander will hopefully be making their first public showing this year and both will require a mouse and keyboard to enjoy them fully. Next generation FPS games like Battlefield 2142 and Enemy Territories: Quake Wars will show FPS gamers where the real innovation in the field is coming from.
7. We'll see something from Duke Nukem Forever
Stop laughing…seriously. I say this for a couple of reasons. The first is that Duke Nukem Forever is the gift that keeps on giving. You can not read those three simple words without the corners of your mouth heading upward at least a little bit. The game is our industry's Chinese Democracy (I'm still waiting for 3DRealms to hire Buckethead to do some of the music in the game). The real reason I think we’ll see the game is that 3D Realms surprised everybody last year with the announcement of Prey last year and it's not to far of a leap to think that maybe they finally made an engine decision, stuck with it, and have been cranking on the game behind the scenes. The final reason is that every year John puts this on his E3 list and since he's not going this year it only seems right that the game finally appears out of the development mists.
8. G4 will cover the event proving but will send Brent Spiner, Adam Corolla, and Tiffany Thiesen instead of Adam Sesler, Morgan Webb, and Kevin Perrera
Does G4 even cover video games anymore? I flip over occasionally and even game focused shows like X-play seem more focused on creating crappy skits than actually covering the gaming industry. Given that the network is now dominated by repeats of shows from other networks it only makes sense to have those actors cover the event as most people have forgotten what the "stars" of the network look like.
9. The two big trends will be in-game advertising and in-game physics...but not at the same time
In game physics are going to continue to be the big story this year. With consoles and PC's having so much more processing power designers are finally learning how to use in game physics as a critical part of games. Rather than just having it be a particular focus of a game (like the gravity gun in Half Life 2) they physics are now integrated into the game without being overt about it. I also think this is the year where we finally see some killer apps for the AGEIA dedicated PPU device as well as some cool new features from Havok's new engine.
The second big trend is going to drive a lot of gamers nuts. With the cost of game development growing, developers are looking for new revenue streams for their games. With in-game advertising becoming more prevalent you should expect to see a lot of deals getting signed at the show this year and it is going to piss off a lot of gamers. We’ll see some good examples where the advertising adds a little realism to the games there will be other cases where it absolutely kills the mood and environment of the game. The bad news is that in game advertising is here to stay. The worse news is that it’s going to be really bad for a while as the development houses find the right balance between making some extra bucks and making good games.
10. Halo 3 will be unveiled, release date will be "When does the PS3 launch again?"
Without a doubt Microsoft will officially unveil Halo 3 at the show this year. Besides needing something to keep them on the front page of the gaming sites they have been very tight-lipped about the next iteration of their consoles biggest franchise. I doubt we'll get a solid release date but I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that I'll be earning Xbox achievements with Master Chief by the end of the year, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a release date with an 07 at the end of it. That said I think we’ll get some cool new information about the new camera for the Xbox 360 and the HD DVD unit that was announced earlier this year.
That’s all the prognosticating I’m up for now, check back during the week of E3 for our daily coverage of the show