E3 is just a week away and I thought now would be a good time to list out a few things that may or may not be big stories next week, the things that we expect to happen, and a few things that might happen if the planets align correctly. With the change in format comes a host of new unknowns and it's hard to tell how things are going to work out.
Large decrease in coverage due to fewer outlets being let in
This is the biggest "No duh" of the list but it's probably the most important because not only are there fewer outlets going but there are fewer people from those outlets going. GamingNexus will be going to E3 this year but we were only able to send two people instead of the usual five or six people. This means that John and I have packed schedules and will not be able to meet with every company that we normally meet with. There's the added factor that the companies are spread out across Santa Monica which means even less time to spend with companies this year. This sucks because this means that we had to make choices between which companies wanted to meet with and those we didn't have time for. This is incredibly frustrating because it's usually the smaller companies who have some of the more innovative games.
It's also important to remember that this isn't just a press event as the game companies are trying to impress wall street analysts and retailers which puts yet another squeeze on both the companies showing products and those covering the events. Even if an outlet was to get invited to E3 there's no guarantee that they are going to get an appointment with a company.
Also expect to see nearly the same coverage from site to site as everyone is going to be seeing the same canned demonstrations. Sure there will be a few sites that get some exclusive views or notice something out of the background but you're going to see a lot of the same thing over and over again, it will just matter of who meets with who first.
Lots of complaints from journalists about the setup
This dove tails with my last point a bit but it still bears talking about. Journalists love to complain about stuff and this year's E3 should give us plenty to complain about. The biggest item is that we are going to have to do a lot of driving and planning to get to appointments. While most of the press conferences and companies are operating out of one hotel the rest are at different hotels that may be 10-15 minutes away. You'll be hearing a lot about missed appointments, lack of parking, and a lack of organization from the ESA.
There will also be a lot of ire for any company that tries to hold an event outside of the Santa Monica area. It looks like Sony is the only one right now as they are holding their press conference in Culver City but there are some rumblings that EA and NC Soft are both having press conferences in the LA area. I'm guessing a lack of space is driving this but we'll see how it shakes out.
Keep in mind that this is the first "new E3" so there are going to be a lot of bugs to work out. E3's haven't exactly been the smoothest running operations in the past and given that this is the first time with a new format there are going to be more than the usual number of issues. Hopefully they won't be too bad but with this being the first edition of the "new" E3 there will be a lot of quirks to work out.
Does Sony get it right this year?
Sony had one of the worst E3's ever last year. Between the pricing nightmare and the Riiiidge Racer incident and I think that they are going to be gunning to come out swinging this year. With the new regime in charge at Sony they have a chance to make a strong impression this year.
I think the first thing Sony will announce is that they are bringing rumble to the SIXAXIS controller. There probably won't be any backwards compatibility for games that have already been released but you never know, they could win a lot of support if they announce that select games (Resistance and MotorStorm) will be patched to incorporate rumble.
The real key with the PS3 is how many exclusive games they announce at the show this year and if they manage to get any third party developers to commit a game to the PS3 and only to the PS3. There are some rumblings in this months EGM (hey, it's going bathroom reading) that they are working with Epic on a Gears of War type exclusive for the PS3 so that might be one candidate but don't rule out any kind of exclusive from EA or Ubisoft.
I'm guessing we'll get a newly re-designed PSP, hopefully one with dual analog sticks, better battery life, and maybe a few new high profile games to go with it. For some reason people don't realize that the PSP has been getting a lot of quality titles for the last six months or so. Games like Puzzle Quest and Crush have actually been pretty good and it's about time for Sony to find a new way to take the platform to the next level. I would also hope that Sony shows off some cool new useful connections between the PSP and the PS3.
We could also see some major news about the PlayStation store as I think Sony is starting to realize that the current online service is a minor league experience compared to what Microsoft is offering. What will be interesting will be to see if the service stays free or if Sony charges for it or not.
Speaking of price, I think the last bit of business with the show will be Sony officially lopping $100 off the price of the PS3. The rumors hit late today that they were going to be cutting the price and I think they'll tease us a bit with the cut before making it official. I wouldn't be surprised if Sony introduces a new model PS3 with a larger hard drive but I hope that they don't as I think we're all sick of the dual SKU strategy.
With a retail store confirming Sony's imminent price drop the onus is now on Microsoft to drop the price of the Xbox 360 and the question is really not if they cut the price but by how much. Do they match Sony by dropping the price $100 or do they trim off $150? Hopefully when they cut the price they kill off the Core edition. I'm can't see how having three SKU's on the market makes any sense any more and cutting the Core edition puts them in a good place as all of their systems have a hard drive and it puts them in a good position for the holiday rush. I could see Microsoft announcing a Halo 3 edition Xbox 360 with some kind of limited edition content but that's a really remote chance.
There is one near certainty and that is that Nintendo isn't even going to talk about price for either the DS or the Wii. Both systems are selling well and there's absolutely no pressure on them to cut their prices.
Alan Wake will have a strong showing and blow people away
With a Gears of War 2 debut being debunked a few weeks ago (although don't be surprised if GOW2 does show up) I think the real crowd pleaser is going to be Alan Wake if only because the folks at Remedy have been pretty quiet about the game for so long. John and I sat through the trailer for the game at the 2005 E3 and still talk about it in reverent tones. With Microsoft agreeing to publish the game last year I think that the game is going to get a big push from the folks from Redmond and could potentially steal the show from other Xbox 360 titles like Mass Effect and Halo 3. I still can't put my finger on how the game got it's hooks into me, it's either the spooky narrative, the jaw dropping graphics, or the horror/adventure feeling the game exudes in spades. Either way it's one of the games that I'm really looking forward to seeing next week.
Games For Windows
Last year Microsoft got a lot of press for their new Games for Windows campaign and I for one bought it hook line and sinker. A year and an OS upgrade later and all we've got is two games and a laundry list of half-fulfilled promises. Sure we've got LIVE integration on the PC but it's still a bit limited and there's no sign of the promised cell phone integration that Microsoft was showing off last year.
I'm taking the recent promotion of Chris Early to General Manager of Games for Windows as a sign that Microsoft is still serious about the Games for Windows initiative and I'm guessing we'll get a few more announcements next week at Microsoft's press conference. Maybe we'll get another MechAssault game (MS hasn't killed FASA yet) but more than likely it will be something from another Microsoft studio. I'm hoping for something big here but I'm expecting to be let down a bit.
Nintendo's discovers the internet?
This might be the year that Nintendo discovers this magical thing called "The Internet" and figures out that people like to do more with it than send short messages and trade cute figures back and forth. Of course it now looks like we won't be getting any multiplayer with Metroid 3 or the new Super Smash Brothers game. I'd like to say that I expect them to announce some kind of unified online service but we all know that's a pipe dream. Hopefully we'll get dates on the new Super Smash brothers game and Mario Galaxy and a few new titles to keep the faithful happy.
I would bet money that Nintendo is going to be announcing two tons of third party support this year. With all of the buzz around the Wii every publisher has made major shifts to support Nintendo's platform. I'd like to say that the support is going to be more than collections of mini-games but I'm not overly positive that game publishers can see past the popularity of Wii sports (EA Playground I'm looking at you).
GameCock is going to get a lot of press will have some cool things but not enough to makeup for the lack of Kentia
I really have to give credit to the folks at Gamecock for creating a good amount of buzz about their alternative E3 plans. The viking burial pyre on Friday sounds like it could be the event of E3, I just wish we could attend (stupid early flight back to Columbus). These guys always throw the best parties and this one looks to be off the charts.
Unfortunately due to time and logistical constraints GameCock is one of the few independent companies vendor showing off their own wares. There were some efforts to get an indie showcase setup but none of those went nowhere for any number of reasons. This means that there won't be anyplace for very small companies to show off their goods. That's a real shame as there won't be any cool discoveries like you would normally find in past E3's. If there is another E3 next year I'm hoping they can pull something even bigger off but that's a pretty big "if".
Casual games are every where
I wish I could get a penny for every time the phrase "casual games" is mentioned at E3 because I'm sure that by the end of the conference I would have more than enough money to buy the complete Rock Band setup, a new Xbox 360 Elite, a 62" Plasma HDTV to play it on, and guitar and vocal lessons from Sammy Haggar. Expect to see a cavalcade of simple, cheap games that companies are cobbling together under the casual games guise. I almost wonder how many Geometry War clones they can expect us to play before we move on to something new.
I know it's still cool to hate on E3 but I think this year is going to be interesting because it's really going to be about the games as Microsoft will start unveiling the third generation games for the 360 and we're going to start to see the second generation games for the PS3 and the Wii. I'm also hoping we'll find that one cool game that catches fire at E3 like Katamary Damaci, that one game that everyone starts buzzing about and is dying to see. I guess we'll find out what happens in a week.