E3 2011: What We Expect

What's at risk? Who has the most to lose? Find out in our E3 preview.

The annual gathering of video game developers, publishers, and press known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo is just a little more than a week away, and like previous E3s, this year's show should have no shortage of new software and hardware announcements, as well as plenty of surprises. But E3 2011 is a little different from shows in recent years as one of the three console manufacturers, Nintendo, plans to take the wraps off of the successor to the Wii. These console announcements usually signify the beginning of a shift in the video game industry--the ushering in of a new cycle that will be inevitably peppered with even more new hardware and accompanied by changes in strategy in an attempt to maintain relevance with currently existing hardware. What else to do we expect to happen this year? Which company has the most at stake? Read on to find out.

Nintendo

The situation: The Wii is all but dead. The reality is that system sales are in sharp decline, third-party support is nearly nonexistent, and even Nintendo's own support comes in the form of one last hurrah: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This scenario was all too familiar to Nintendo fans when the GameCube neared the end of its life span and Twilight Princess was the last gasp until it suddenly became a Wii launch title. Fortunately, Nintendo has the DS and the 3DS to fall back on in the lull between the Wii and its successor, but sales figures would show that even the 3DS isn't quite living up to the lofty expectations set by its predecessor. Still, it's helpful to remember that the original Nintendo DS got off to an incredibly slow start, and it wasn't until key games were released that the system started to hit its stride.

What we expect: Wii HD. Wii 2. Stream. Cafe--whatever you want to call it, Nintendo's code-named successor to the Wii will be the star of the company's press conference, if not E3 entirely. Nintendo representatives have gone on record saying the system will be playable in some form at the show, so we at least expect demonstrations of actual working games as opposed to just a tech demo reel (we'll probably get that too). Then, we'll finally get to see if the rumors about a screen and front-facing camera-equipped controller are true, as well as whether or not the system is on par with or surpasses the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in performance. More important than all of that, we expect Nintendo to try to convince third-party publishers and consumers that this new system is worthwhile and that it's something to keep an eye on in the months and weeks leading up to the system's release next year.

Of course, Nintendo will also come out with some strong 3DS support, which will undoubtedly be tied to the then-recently-launched eShop. But of stronger concern is the lineup. Super Mario Bros. 3DS is an obvious choice as a flagship 3DS game coming down the pipe, but quite honestly, we need to see more high-quality games from third-party developers at the show too--stuff that makes us think that they're more than a stopgap in between the Nintendo releases.

And finally, there's that whole business about it being The Legend of Zelda's 25th anniversary this year. Nintendo already said it has something in store to celebrate this landmark, but we're guessing it will fall somewhere in line with what the company did to mark Mario's birthday.

Link will come out swinging at E3.

What it has to lose: Nintendo's in an odd position. It cracked into a new market with the Wii but failed to take a lot of the traditional market along with it for the duration of the Wii's life cycle. Its next system is rumored to cater more to the traditional market, but given how successful the Wii has been, Nintendo's not going to abandon those that became new fans. Ultimately, can lightning strike twice for a concept that falls outside of the traditional gaming console model? We'll have to wait and see, and we'll be interested to see how the battle between the NGP and the 3DS pans out throughout the course of the show.

How Nintendo could surprise us: It's never been easy to predict what direction Nintendo will take. It has a history of forming partnerships that initially seem implausible and revolutionizing hardware with unheard-of feature sets. There's a good chance Nintendo will announce something no one thought possible, but we have a few ideas about what it could show. First, with the Wii clearly in its dying stages, Nintendo could release the Cafe in the autumn of this year. Once it ports over Skyward Sword, that would ensure at least one huge game is available at launch to get people excited. Maybe it will announce partnerships with Western publishers who previously shied away from their consoles. Epic and Rockstar are great candidates for delivering a big-name game to the Cafe.

Or maybe we'll see a blast from the past. A sequel to Eternal Darkness would cause quite a stir, and creator Denis Dyack has been anxious to return to this franchise. Finally, the one area where Nintendo has struggled has been with its online integration. It could trot out Gabe Newell to announce Steam integration with the Cafe. Hey, it would be a surprise, wouldn't it?

Microsoft

The situation: Microsoft has the oldest console hardware out of the three platform holders, but the company successfully pumped an extra year or two into its life span with the addition of the Kinect camera. The only problem is that outside of the launch, Kinect support has been absolutely abysmal with nothing new or noteworthy hitting shelves for the past several months. Additionally, Microsoft has enjoyed tremendous third-party support, but its first-party schedule is seriously lacking outside of such key releases as Gears of War 3, Forza Motorsport 4, and the rumored Halo: Combat Evolved remake.

What we expect: There's no doubt that Microsoft recognizes the sizable gap between its first-party slate and its Kinect lineup. And it will promptly address these issues at its E3 press conference, particularly with the Star Wars Kinect game and Kinect Sports 2. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft tries to double-dip on the problem--release high-profile first-party games that also happen to have Kinect support--though we do know that Kinect-only games are a high priority and will be a large part of the strategy. Still, third-party support has always been an important aspect of Microsoft's E3 presentations, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and perhaps even the next Assassin's Creed be an integral part of the program as in years past.

Will the Kinect take center stage for a second year in a row?

What it has to lose: Microsoft has to prove that the Xbox 360 is still charging ahead into its sixth year of existence and that it will more than likely do so via the Kinect and Xbox Live, which usually gets new service announcements around E3 time (Skype seems like a natural choice). But it has to be mindful of the PlayStation 3's growing trend of getting the "ultimate" versions of games, which include more free content than their Xbox 360 counterparts. Its position in the industry is Microsoft's to lose, but if it's not careful, it'll lose it in quick fashion.

How Microsoft could surprise us: Between Nintendo's Wii 2 and Sony's NGP, Microsoft is facing a tall order if it hopes to avoid looking like an also-ran at this year's E3. So how will the Xbox maker get an E3-worthy "They did what?!" out of us? Yeah, it's going to take new hardware. We're thinking first word on the Xbox 720 should do the trick. But why stop there? We're also thinking 2012 release date. We're thinking Halo 4 confirmed for launch. And we're thinking…we're thinking…orange. Yes, it'll need to be orange.

Given the Xbox 360 and Kinect's momentum, new hardware may skew toward the improbable. However, the gaming company still has options. Exclusivity is always a favorite option at Microsoft, and wouldn't it be cool if Activision Blizzard hoped aboard Xbox Live, exclusively, for its upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game Titan? Exclusivity can also be gained through acquisitions, and independent developers Gearbox and Crytek create the kinds of core games that Xbox 360 gamers love. Or, hey, why not think big and officially bring Gears of War maker Epic Games into the fold?

Sony

The situation: Removing the PlayStation Network debacle from the equation for a moment--Sony is in a great spot. The PlayStation 3 unquestionably has some of the best and most robust first-party support right now, and Sony has secured some major exclusive content for the PlayStation 3 version of multiplatform games. Still, PSN is a big issue and its problems have taken quite a bit of attention away from some of Sony's more recent successes, if not some of the trust from its loyal users. It's definitely a problem it'll need to address at E3.

What we expect: Sony's strong first-party and smart third-party deals should remain an integral part of the company's strategy in the coming months, so don't be surprised to hear about more multiplatform games getting PlayStation 3-exclusive treatment on release day. But really, Sony should take the time to celebrate what amounts to a great first-party lineup, starting with games like The Last Guardian, Journey, Twisted Metal, and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. It's likely that there will be some previously unannounced projects involved as well, but Sony already has some great games in its lineup.

Of course, the NGP (or PlayStation Vita, as it's likely to be called) will also play a prominent role in Sony's E3 plans. We'll probably get the official name and a better idea of a release date, as well as launch and upcoming games that feature a healthy mix of most of the first-party stuff we've already seen (like Uncharted). We'll probably also find out about some previously unannounced third-party games that may include some remakes. But the big question is the price. Sony has an opportunity to position the Vita in a favorable way against Nintendo's 3DS, particularly if it keeps the price hovering around that of Nintendo's handheld. At any rate, there are certainly shades of the battle between the PSP and DS at this stage with the Vita and 3DS, but we're guessing Sony has learned much from that experience, as well as what it needs to do to have a handheld that successfully competes on a sales level.

And what of the Move? Sony's motion-control platform has seemingly lagged behind the competition despite the fact that a couple of high-profile games use the technology. We can't help but wonder if the company is ready to take a different approach and start making software specifically built for the controls as opposed to using it as an extra selling point on the front of the box.

Will the Vita be the life of Sony's E3 party?

What does it have to lose: In a word: momentum. Again, Sony has been doing great on a product level, but it took a massive stumble with the PSN security breach. E3 will give the company an opportunity to pick itself up and hopefully explain in no uncertain terms that the PSN is as secure as possible. If Sony manages to shake it all off, its long-term prospects look brighter than perhaps any other currently existing system.

How Sony could surprise us: With all the headlines surrounding the PlayStation Network outage these past few weeks, Sony could truly shock the world by simply…not acknowledging it. Or at the very least, waiting until the end of its press conference to address the issue. This is a huge weight around the company's neck, so for Sony to do anything else but take the bull by the horns at the very beginning of the show would be a huge shocker.

Then there's the NGP. Most of us are under the impression that this thing's going to cost an arm and a leg, so what if it doesn't? What if Sony copies the cell phone business model by offering the NGP at a heavily subsidized price (say, $150) in exchange for customers signing up for a two-year 3G data contract with a carrier?

Sony could also take a massive swing at Microsoft by locking up an exclusivity deal with that other big shooter on the horizon: Battlefield 3. Microsoft's deal with Activision to release Call of Duty map packs on the Xbox 360 well before the PlayStation 3 has, by the look of things, proved to be quite a boon for Microsoft. So what if Sony locked up the same deal with EA for Battlefield 3 DLC? It would make business sense, but the sheer boldness of such a move would certainly take us by surprise.

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Discussion

216 comments
perryg84
perryg84

They might as well port skyward sword to their new console.

chyng85
chyng85

Zelda is one of my expected game~

wiserat4
wiserat4

@Los9090 Be honest with me! You honestly liked the ridiculous backtracking in the underworld city under the mansion (you know the level where you had to do the same thing 9 times), and the even more ridiculous ending where a giant lobster (Chattur'gha) battles a giant jellyfish (Ulyaoth) in outer space!!! Tell me your joking!!! Silicon Knights disappoints, and continues to disappoints...

Los9090
Los9090

A sequel to Eternal Darkness?!?! That would be outstanding

Magrino
Magrino

@eiji1 Yeah, that one wasn't definitely a Staff Special.

HonorOfGod
HonorOfGod

MS E3 did suck and Ninty will win it again as usual.

ShadowofSonic
ShadowofSonic

As long as Zelda and Mario are around? Sony and Xbox will always be second fiddle.

the_punkface
the_punkface

We know nintendo will find a way to pull itself out of anything, they always have. im curious how microsoft will match sony sudden rise. this could be fun. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

shadowysea07
shadowysea07

@Double_Wide it'd be stupid to make a handheld. nintendo owns the handheld market and hasn't budged in years.

armandoisgreat
armandoisgreat

The italian plumber fellow and the kid with the pointy hat/ears will see Nintendo to comfortable success.

TroyTrojanGamer
TroyTrojanGamer

I can't even get excited about anything Nintendo does and I was born in 1990 when they were king. For goodness sake I remember constantly defending the epic fail that was the gamecube. After twilight princess I felt like it was time to call the curtain on Zelda. Now there is mess about a Wii 2 to get on track with the current systems? Does Nintendo know what the word new means aymore? Can they make anything besides Eternal Darkness, Punch out, Goldeneye, Zelda, Mario, I feel like I have been playing the same games from them for 20 years. And how about making games for actual gamers? That mess like Wii Sports was for mom and little sisters who have never played a game and guess who bought them? Mom's and little sisters. I own a Wii and I honestly tried to love it but I can even think of a handful of games I actually used that horrible remote for. It was like the gamecube with motion and internet capabilities. And really Nintendo a Wii 2? In 3-4 years blueray will probabably be standard and 3D graphics will become more playable.

widdowson91
widdowson91

@taddia: Oh yeah, I forgot about that :P

ecobacon
ecobacon

"We're thinking orange...yes, it'll need to be orange".

Bozanimal
Bozanimal

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Double_Wide
Double_Wide

I'm really surprised that Microsoft has yet to venture into the protable gaming realm.It would seem like the only natural thing to do to remain competitive with Sony and Nintendo.

Solidsnake13_2
Solidsnake13_2

What we all expect from Nintendo is more 3DS launch titles, Project Cafe and Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword for which system, current Wii or future Project Cafe. Sony, we will expect to see "PS Vita", Uncharted 3, Sly 4, and future PS Move titles like Socery. Mircosoft, we expect to see the first footage of MW3, and more stuff on Gears 3 and hopefully Alan Wake 2

NejiKusa
NejiKusa

I think what we all want isn't the wii 2 but the next Super Smash Brothers roster am I right?

patrickv
patrickv

It looks like they have no other choice but pull the 720 out of their bag this year. If they don't do something they will be left in the dust of Sony and Nintendo. I agree they need exclusives to compete as well. But the bad thing is they need strong exclusives. They do not have the likes of an Uncharted or Killzone. Gears of War 3 is there top title for the year and that is no where near as innovative as Sony's selections. Epic has not changed the look of there games in over 10 years. Microsoft is a company that loves surprises so I suspect a good show and a new console.

TomBrandon121
TomBrandon121

I think this year's E3 is going to be VERY exciting what with the Wii 2 and NGP etc. But to be totally honest, the main reason I'm going to be watching is for any more news on Elder Scrolls V and Metal Gear Solid Rising!!

magnumsworld
magnumsworld

Why is this article featured on the "PC HOME" section of this site? There is ZERO 'pc gaming' content in this article.

snake63
snake63

How about this for Microsoft? A shocker that they will enter the handheld market with a XBOX 360 graphics unit. Imagine Halo 2 and 3 and Gears Of War portable?

snake63
snake63

First for Nintendo must apologize for the horrible launch of the 3DS. Like the Wii Nintendo has to end the DS by early next year. Nintendo has to release a definite date for Kid Icarus and Super Mario 3DS and Super Mario Kart for the 3DS.

Lunastra78
Lunastra78

I hope to hear about plenty of new IP's, not just sequels! (although I have to admit there's a lot of sequels I'm looking forward to ;))

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

For Sony to brush aside the PSN attack Kaz will need to bring the hackers onstage in cuffs then announce "All yours!" Then walk off smoking a cigar and wearing aviators.. That would be damn epic :D

nicholaslo
nicholaslo

A big gamble for nintendo. Lets just wait and watch.

EbenOlemaun
EbenOlemaun

I'm just excited to see if a new Star Fox title might be coming sometime in the near future. Also, more info about Skyward Sword.

taddia
taddia

@widdowson: not totally true, gamecube introdocued console to portable console/home console connectivity, which is something small but still an innovation on it's own 8P

widdowson91
widdowson91

@burgo81: Nintendo won't go down the same road as Sega, there's more chance of Sony going down it. Nintendo have $24 Billion in the bank, more than Sony who are losing billions each year (they lost $3 billion last tax year).

widdowson91
widdowson91

@Zero5000X: The NES rebooted an industry and introduced us to the D-Pad as well as many franchises that still exist today. The SNES redifined what the NES was about, and all current control pad's follow the same controller layout that the SNES introduced. The N64 game us revolutionary games like Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time as well as the analogue stick for precise control in a 3D enviroment and the Wii gave us motion. Then you've got the GameBoy and DS ranges of portable consoles, which just bossed everything in their paths as well as craft a true portable market (a market that even Sony and Sega couldn't take away Nintendo's crown). The only Nintendo console that never introduced something revolutionary was the GameCube.

FallenOneX
FallenOneX

Nintendo has a lot to do this show.... Eternal Darkness sequel??? Not going to hold out hope for that one. Still hoping the BC rumors are true, but there haven't been many comments about that subject since it was first announced.

MiniSiets
MiniSiets

@Zero5000X You're lacking some perspective here. The Nintendo 64 was revolutionary because previously all game consoles were designed primarily with 2D graphics in mind; the N64 was the first specifically built for 3D graphics, and the N64's integration of a miniature thumb joystick was also unique for its time. Nowadays we take it for granted as not revolutionary, but back then it was a huge improvement over controls, particularly for 3D games. Same also goes with the NES. It was the first console to feature the D-pad controller design that became hugely popular in future generations.

coop36
coop36

I think we already know what to expect from Nintendo. But thats also why so many are excited..

eiji1
eiji1

Heh, "And we're thinking…we're thinking…orange. Yes, it'll need to be orange. " Now I see why this is credited to "Staff". To quote @TomM_GScom, "'Staff' is an idiot." :)

chechak7
chechak7

i expect bf3 to be awesome than ever

CrystalFox
CrystalFox

Orange Xbox 720? Hmmm, let me think... HELL YES!!

Superzone
Superzone

I think Nintendo is about to rock this year's E3. I'm dying to see this new console and all of the upcoming 3DS software.

Zero5000X
Zero5000X

Its funny how people act like Nintendo always has revolutionary hardware that's different from the competition. Every console before the Wii was of the traditional sort, and same with handhelds before the DS.

flashyspeed
flashyspeed

The Ps3 and Xbox 360 have tons of life in their console cycle. The Wii is pretty much dead now. All Nintendo depends on is Mario and Zelda.

Puzzler_Aaron
Puzzler_Aaron

Zelda's 25th anniversary?! Remember that Gamecube disc with all the Zelda games on it? I'd LOVE another one of those :)

burgo81
burgo81

nintendo needs to look further than being better than ps3 and xbox 360, it needs to be on par with sony's and microsoft's next generation consoles, because if they don't they will find themselves in a similar situation and if that happens then we might see that the wii 2, will be the last console they make and go down the same path as sega

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

looks like Nintendo needs to do the most work to succeed of the 3 companies.

TheRobotChicken
TheRobotChicken

i just think that sony and microsoft are the you could say Kings of gaming at the moment and i think if nintendo dosent show something amazing or the new Wii Sucks nintendo might have a huge problem So what i am saying is that if this new Wii is not out of this world everyone going to wait for the new PlayStation or go and buy the new Xbox that we might see tommorow

sdron
sdron

bf3 dlc who care!!!

Wiz1974
Wiz1974

what of Windows? Do we think Microsoft will leave any space for PC? They have just started leaking out videos on Windows 8. I hope they have atleast some time in the conference for Windows based gaming.

dawnofhero
dawnofhero

If Nintendo announces a new character franchise, I hope it's Mach Rider from the NES era. A new Xbox would be sweet, and I hope the new Nintendo 'Cafe' (wtf?) isn't a GameCube with an Ipad for a controller.

persianlink
persianlink

"we're thinking... orange." That would definitely be cool. lol

Amz1217
Amz1217

I'm hoping this years E3 isn't dominated by Kinect, Move etc. New hardware, new IP's and great existing games should make this years E3 great, looking forward to all companies E3 press conferences.

Kaffikjelen
Kaffikjelen

Too bad Sony's press conference starts when, by the looks of it, I don't have Internet. *sob* Thankfully I'll catch Microsoft's and Nintendo's conferences, so I don't miss out on everything.

racing1750
racing1750

I'd love MS to announce new hardware. Truth be told the 360 has had a good run and it's now time for new hardware.