It is that time of year again. That is right, E3 2012 is, literally, right around the corner. In just a few short weeks we will all get a chance to see all what all of our favorite game companies have been working on and have planned for us in the near future. This year’s show is going to be huge, and I mean that both literally and figuratively.
There is no doubt that the biggest companies are going to pull out all of the stops to put on a spectacle at the event, but the magnitude of this year’s show is also being inflated by the fact that the current generation of video games it at a crossroads. We are undoubtedly on the cusp of a new generation, with new consoles both announced and rumored by each of the Big Three.
Each of the major console manufacturers, as well as every development studio and publisher, has their work cut out for them at this year’s show. Are Microsoft and Sony prepared for the inevitable Wii-U onslaught? Will THQ even be a presence at the event? How much DLC can Capcom fit into their sales plans? All of these questions and many, many more will be answered in the next month.
Recently, I asked the Gaming Nexus staff who has the most riding on this year’s show and who they expected to step up to the plate the most at E3, and figuratively “win” the show. Here are our thoughts:
This year, Nintendo needs a good showing. Nintendo finally failed to turn a profit after an incredible run, so they are in a new role that they aren't used to. Looking back at their past showings, they have hinged their releases on questionable devices that have still sold. Everyone looked at the Wii and said it didn't stand a chance, but it exploded. The 3DS was much of the same thing. I think Nintendo's luck may finally run out on them this time around, but only time will tell.
E3 is going to be different this year, at least to me. The gaming world has changed a lot in the past couple of years and, as Nathaniel said, you have to wonder if the reports are true about just how much the industry has taken a downturn. I'm not sure if I really believe that, given that sales are still doing incredibly well for blockbusters and standard releases alike. I expect to see some changes, though. I'm not entirely sure just what we'll see, but I would love for it to be a big announcement from someone who isn't considered a big dog.
Everyone needs to win E3. Everyone from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to all the publishers and developers showcasing games. Video game sales seem to be dropping like a stone in a pond, if the reports are to be entirely believed. It seems to me that maybe we're approaching a tipping point and a revelatory E3 might help turn the ship around.
On the heels of EA's "worst company in the world" title, the Mass Effect 3 ending fiasco, and companies laying off employees or closing every five minutes, a super-strong E3 be a very good thing. I hope every single company there and product displayed knocks it out of the park. Gamers need to see a future that's exciting, and not another future where clueless executives try to convince people that their marginal idea is next big thing.
While most of the eyes will be focused squarely on Nintendo’s new console and the expected new Xbox announcement (despite denials that it is planned), I think that Sony is the member of the Big Three that needs to step it up this year. Sony has promised gamers a 10 year lifespan for the PS3, and we are just over the half way point. With both of their console competitors taking the footsteps toward the next generation of consoles, Sony needs to step up with a stellar software lineup to show that the PS3 still has life in it.
At the same time, Sony also needs to take a stand in the portable market and show the world they mean business with the Vita. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my Vita, but there needs to be a clear vision of the future for the device. We need to see the Sony staples lining up to hit the road on the portable. We need to see new installments of inFAMOUS, Killzone, and perhaps some new adventures for Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter taking shape for the Vita.
On a smaller scale, I will be curious to see how THQ handles this year’s show. It has been a tumultuous year for the company and they need to step up and show that they are rooting their feet in a solid manner to make some sort of a comeback. They have already announced they aren’t setting up a booth, but they still need to make their presence felt.
Nintendo will have to provide a reason why hardcore gamers should purchase the Wii-U upon release. The initial unveiling of the Wii-U was not the most impressive with a modest hardware improvement and a controller that isn't necessary for gameplay. The entire concept seems to have the same failed ambitions of the 3DS by favoring flashy technology over playability. As it stands now, the Wii-U can simply be considered a bridge product between an actual console refresh.
Nintendo will need to focus on providing more than simple rehashes of past series and take risk with original intellectual properties. The lineup of future games on Nintendo consoles are a stale array of franchise clones and uninspired movement-based titles. If the new hardware in the Wii U actually does supports games with intense high-resolution graphics, then Nintendo simply can't stand on the sidelines with useless controller gimmicks. They also Nintendo needs to urgently join the modern era of gaming with introductions of true online multiplayer and feature set for streaming media entertainment.
This year's E3 is going to be critical for Nintendo as they are launching a new console this year. There's always a bit of an expectation on Sony to have a big E3 as they are in last place this generation. Nintendo has to come out and really show what the Wii-U can do and why people need to buy it this Fall. With the Wii bubble popped and with the 3DS selling below expectations the pressure is on Nintendo do go big.
It's going to be tough to convince those outside the Nintendo faithful that they need a new console this Fall. Especially given that the graphics aren't going to be that much better than what Microsoft and Sony already have on the market. It will also be interesting to see how much the new system costs compared to current generation systems.
This E3 is also going to be critical for THQ. They've got some great upcoming tiles like Metro:Last Light and Darksiders II but they've got to show that they've got some staying power beyond those titles.
All three console companies and several publishers badly need to have good to great showings at E3. While most of the staff may be tempted to go with Nintendo, I personally think the previous Wii-U announcements, short of an eleventh hour complete redesign, has irreparably damaged public perception and E3 is unlikely to cause many changes. Sony, also is in dire need of a great show, has its own debacle on its hands with middling PS3 sales and having rewritten the “how to turn a handheld release into a train wreck manual” not once, but twice in the last three years.
Having said all that, the company I believe the company that needs to “win” E3 is Microsoft. Recently, they have been on a bit of a roll, with 15 straight months as the top selling console (per NPD), successful Kinect integration into some of the best and most popular games, and continuing their phased roll out of apps to the redesigned dashboard that is turning the Xbox 360 into the entertainment hub that all three console makers have stated they desire. However, there are some warning signs bubbling below the surface that really require MS to “win” E3 and keep their momentum as we get into the next generation of consoles.
The biggest example is that Microsoft has been slowly removing itself and its gaming division from the public eye outside of advertisements. Earlier this year, MS declared it was opting out of exhibiting at future Consumer Electronic Shows. Gaming conventions like E3 are basically it for Microsoft here in the U.S. unless they start rolling out Apple style events. Microsoft will have to hit home runs at E3 and PAX in order to keep the momentum rolling or they could lose everything they have built up.
Almost six years after the release of the Wii, Nintendo has little to show for in the minds of hardcore gamers. Sure, it was home to stunning installments in iconic video game series, but there isn't one that wouldn't have been just as good without the focus on motion controls. One can even argue that Skyward Sword, the title that finally proved motion controls can be implemented well, would be just as good on a classic controller.
With the Wii-U, Nintendo needs to prove that they can continue the legacy that started with the NES. Show gamers that Zelda titles can be just as entrancing without any technological gimmicks attached to the game. Show them how Mario and Samus would look in high-definition graphics. Show new generations of gamers why titles like these are the focus of so many conversations. In addition, create new franchises that stray from the aforementioned nostalgic titles. Give the world a new Nathan Drake, a new Master Chief... someone the new generation can latch onto. Create new icons that will rival the stuff of video game legend.
And of course, Nintendo needs to build a sense of community that Sony and Microsoft have. Use the brilliant minds at Nintendo to innovate online gaming, and give gamers a reason to return to their Wii-U's day after day. The company is sitting on an artistic gold mine, but just needs to acknowledge the millions of gamers hungry for the console they know Nintendo can make.
I really think Nintendo has to have a solid showing at E3. The reactions on Wii-U haven't been as overly positive and even many of the Nintendo fans I've talked to have been scratching their heads on how the console is. Excitement for the new console has died down a lot, it seems so Nintendo needs to show what the new system brings to the table to entice gamers.
Another company that needs a good show is THQ. They were spending money like crazy and they've gotten into a bit of financial trouble. A few of their IPs are solid sellers, but they need more to make up for the failed licensed products and some titles they thought would be hits, but fell short of their mark.
Finally, I think EA really needs to come out strong after how they've handled their issues. While I think winning Consumerists' Worst Company award isn't that big of a deal, they need to do a few things to try and brighten up their image in the industry.
Long story short: E3 is going to very interesting this year. We will found out just who will be stepping up to the plate in a few short weeks. E3 2012 kicks off on June 5, 2012.