Friday, 1 June 2012

E3 2012 Conference Predictions (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo)

It's that time of year again, with the gaming industry lining up its biggest and brightest upcoming releases for their debut showing on the packed floor of the Los Angeles Convention Centre. The buzz ahead of this year's set of conferences is around Nintendo, who are readying to show off the 'hardcore' credentials of their new console, the Wii U, ahead of its launch later in the year. While both have new hardware on the horizon, Sony and Microsoft have said they won't be showing it off this year, although will want to have something special to pull out of the hat to reign in Nintendo's thunder.

After the jump is the E3 2012 press conference schedule, plus my predictions for what surprises could be in store from the big three...
First off, here are the times of the pre-show press conferences:

- Microsoft 9.30am PST (5.30pm GMT)
- Electronic Arts 1.00pm PST (9.00pm GMT)
- Ubisoft 3.00pm PST (11.00pm GMT)
- Sony 6.00pm PST (June 5th 2.00am GMT)

- Nintendo 9.00am PST (5.00pm GMT)


Since Microsoft will once again be the first to hold their conference, I'll start with them. The company has had a rough ride at E3 in recent years thanks to their overwhelming focus on the Kinect, which has brought them impressive sales figures but damaged their reputation as the go-to console for the old-school gamer. Last year's attempt at proving how the device could work with traditional games didn't go well, with its implementation in titles such as Mass Effect 3 looking more like hamfisted additions than vital control evolutions. Nevertheless, I'm expecting Microsoft to push on with their Kinect-centric habit, with most of the new titles announced to be compatible with the device at the very least. While the 360 is coming to the end of its life, the Kinect is likely to stick around, possibly into Microsoft's next console, so it's in their best interest to keep the device well supported with first-party titles, and leaving third-parties (with Black Ops 2 likely to feature on the Microsoft stage again, probably with more timed exclusive DLC) to cover the interests of gamers preferring more old-school controllers.

We haven't seen a new game from Rare in a while, and with them having creating the XBox Live Miis... sorry, avatars... and developed the Kinect Sports games, which have proven among the most popular and well-received Kinect releases. Interestingly, Rare were recently revealed as advertising for staff with experience developing FPS': with the company having not released a traditional, adult-audience game since Perfect Dark Zero, could they have a more hardcore, Kinect-focused game waiting to be unveiled? It's unlikely to be the game they've been recruiting for, but if any team have the credentials to convince traditional gamers of the device's potential, it's probably them. An unofficial Skyrim mod showed the game being controlled with Kinect, and my long shot this year is that Rare might have an ace up their sleeves. If not, it will be up to Halo 4 to provide the 'wow' factor as Microsoft's big reveal. Further details on their 360 subscription buying scheme, and maybe an overall price drop, is also likely, along with more corporate partnerships aimed at furthering the console's transition from dedicated gaming hardware to media hub. Sigh. A mention of their new console isn't out of the question, possibly thrown in as part of an Unreal 4 reveal, but an actual sighting is extremely unlikely.


Where Microsoft will continue to push their motion controller, Sony's Move has for the most part disappeared without trace. I'd certainly be astonished if it was given much attention at this year's conference, although a handful of the presented games are likely to be compatible with it to avoid completely alienating those few who made the investment. With Eurocom's GoldenEye Reloaded having been a relatively high-profile Move title, their next Bond game, 007 Legends, could also be one of those compatible. It's unlikely that any of the major titles will take notice, though, with The Last Of Us, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and God Of War: Ascension (both exclusives likely to get serious time at the presentations) certain to bypass it in favour of the reliable DualShock.

The PS3's time in the spotlight is likely to be tightly controlled, though, in favour of giving the ailing PlayStation Vita a chance to recuperate its dismal start at retail. Expect focus on the ability to share information between the handheld and the console, counteracting the novelty value of Nintendo's Wii U, and a serious glut of games in all the major franchises. With Grand Theft Auto V likely to be presented under Sony's roof, my long shot would be a Vita entry for the franchise with some sort of communication link with the PS3 game. Otherwise, it'll be Vita entries for Killzone and Gran Turismo, with a nod to Sly Raccoon: Thieves In Time for diversity. Sony have already denied the chance of the PS4 making an appearance, and even a mention seems less likely than Microsoft. The PS3 still has some sales momentum, and Sony are likely to wait and see what Nintendo have to offer before showing their hand. As mentioned, the Vita - PS3 cross-play abilities are the company's best chance of casting a shadow over Nintendo's moment in the sun, so there's no need for them to hurry into the next generation just yet.


Ah, Nintendo. Always the gaming industry's beloved but slightly batty aunt, sitting in the corner and telling ridiculously weird stories to anyone who will listen. The Wii U has everything to prove this year, and my honest feeling is that it will make it. Nintendo took a serious slap in the face with having to cut the 3DS' price cut so soon after launch and they've been making sensible decisions ever since. The 3DS is building a nice head of steam now, so expect it to have a decent showing, with New Super Mario Bros 2, Paper Mario, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance (already released in Japan), Luigi's Mansion 2, Ninja Gaiden 3D and Animal Crossing doing most of the heavy lifting. A new handheld Zelda is unlikely, not least as they tend to be revealed at smaller events, but not impossible.

The Wii U will be the centre of attention, though, correcting the issues from last year's conference with an official unveiling of the redesigned controller (with analogue sticks instead of circle pads) and a formidable roster of third-party games including Rayman Legends (to show off the NFC, as per the leaked trailer), Aliens: Colonial Marines (Randy Pitchford may take to the stage, since he's already said the Wii U version will have enhancements), an EA Sports demonstration, announcements for Resident Evil 6 and Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2 ports, plus Killer Freaks From Outer Space and Assassin's Creed 3, the latter another possible demo. Nintendo have three first-party games in development, one of them already announced as a Mario game likely based on New Super Mario Bros Mii (to work alongside NSMB2 on 3DS), and the second almost certainly the long, long awaited Pikmin 3*.

(*Incidentally, I'll have a review of the Wii port of Pikmin 2 going up in time for its US release on June 10th)

The third game is probably a new game from Retro Studios, and while fans are hollering for a new entry in the Metroid Prime saga, I'm not convinced. The franchise is a good fit for 'hardcore' gameplay and as a graphical showcase, but Retro have previously stated being finished with Metroid for the foreseeable future. A Donkey Kong Country Returns sequel is off the table to avoid clashing with the NSMB games, so my long shot will be for an original title. Nintendo have said they want to start building up some new IPs, and Retro represent a strong choice of studio to produce one with strong Western appeal. The longest, maddest, but oh-god-I-hope-so shot would be for an Eternal Darkness returns, what with Silicon Knights needing some cash to pay their legal bills. Don't expect specs, as that's not Nintendo's style (although the first party games should be appropriately stunning for a rough evalution of how much more powerful the console is than those already on the market), and price and date have already been denied. Regardless, it would take a miracle for 2012 to be anyone but Nintendo's year. My jaw will drop if the original Wii gets so much as a mention.

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Those are my E3 2012 predictions, and as is the case with such things, they're likely to look entirely ridiculous by the time Wednesday rolls around. If you've any hopes, expectations or wild ideas for what to expect from this year's round of conferences, drop them in the comments below. Whatever happens, it looks set to be a great show!


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