Even with the rise of PAX Prime, PAX East, the San Diego Comic-Con, and Gamescom, the annual E3 Expo is still the game industry’s premiere showcase for “what’s next.” And every year, half the fun of the festivities is picking apart the press conferences from Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony and declaring a winner.
I admit, picking press conference winners is more than a little silly. But the three companies are locked in a vicious three-way battle for your video game dollar. Even as the total market has expanded, the opportunities for any individual company have shrunk. So anytime one can wrest control of the headlines away from the other two is a victory. But what can each consolemaker do to ensure a win? Read on and follow our E3 Roadmaps for Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony to find out.
Games. Games. Games. Microsoft showcased two exclusive titles during their Xbox One reveal and then they trotted out Call of Duty: Ghosts and their buddies at EA Sports to talk about games that every platform is getting (apologies to any Wii U owners out there). Their presentation was heavy on theory and very light on what kinds of content the Xbox One will launch with. And no, I don’t count NFL football or the Halo television series (though Spielberg’s appearance was awesome). Especially considering the fact that the Xbox 360 already includes a slightly less slick version of most of the Xbox One’s media center features; including voice control and online video applications.
So Microsoft has to unveil a ton of content for the Xbox One, especially all those exclusive games that are supposedly in development (we know there will 15 of them, but that’s about all we know). Big Redmond also has to be more upfront about the used games situation. As of right now, we know that used games will be supported in some way and that lending/renting games is not allowed. Understandably, the gaming public is a bit angry at this revelation. How Microsoft attempts to placate them will be very important to their E3 Roadmap. Ideally, an Xbox executive (or Major Nelson) should provide some kind of official solution well before E3.
One of the things Microsoft’s Don Mattrick said at the start of the Xbox One reveal was that the publisher has a ton of Xbox 360 news to share with gamers at E3. With the focus surely on the company’s next-generation, these announcements may get shuffled off to the darkest recesses of a press release. It’s not an ideal place for them (especially with Xbox 360 backwards compatibility a no-go on the Xbox One), but it might be required if Microsoft wants to make any kind of splash with the Xbox One.
After cruising to the top spot this generation, Microsoft will start the first E3 of the next-generation behind the eight ball. Their Roadmap requires them to go big. And after getting their time in the spotlight at the Xbox One reveal, Microsoft needs to tell EA Sports and ESPN to stay home. A release date and a price (preferably in the $300 range) would go a long way towards ensuring a Microsoft victory as well.
You can’t talk about Nintendo’s E3 Roadmap without talking about their decision to not host a traditional E3 Press Conference; but first, let me drop this right here…
Sonic: Lost World, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Mario Kart Wii U, the first 3D Mario game for the Wii U, and Super Smash Bros. 4.
That is a list of games Nintendo has already confirmed we’ll see more of at E3. Look at that list; it’s a murderer’s row of great Nintendo franchises, and if even half of them strike a chord with the gaming public, we won’t be asking, “Is a Nintendo Direct video enough for E3?” but “How many times can I justify watching a Nintendo Direct video that is stuffed with that much awesome?” It might have to run four hours to cram all of the games Nintendo wants to talk about into it.
And those are just the confirmed titles. We know Nintendo has at least a dozen other major new titles in the works, all of which would have struggled to find space at a traditional E3 Press Conference, including New Super Luigi U (the New Super Mario Bros. U standalone expansion), X (Monolith Soft’s next game), the next game from Retro Studios, Platinum Games’ The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2, new entries in the Wii Fit and Wii Party franchises, Yarn Yoshi, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, and Mario & Sonic Winter Olympics 2014. Whew.
The biggest obstacle for the Wii U (and Nintendo in general) at this point in the year is the perception that the system is a failure, even if the reality is that the Wii U is doing very well and is currently selling at a better clip than the PS3 and Xbox 360 did during their respective launches. So in addition to showcasing at least a dozen games during their E3 Nintendo Direct presentation, Nintendo needs to announce release dates for this Fall’s “second wave” of Wii U releases. If the company were to announce a Wii U price cut to go along with it, even the most dedicated Nintendo hater might have to start penning an obituary for the PS4 and/or Xbox One.
Aside from all the Wii U talk, Nintendo will also get a chance to present the future of the only successful handheld currently available. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 2 will anchor a strong lineup of Fall 2013 games that also includes Pokemon X/Y.
This one-two punch has worked for Nintendo in the past, and it just may work again next month
Sony has already taken the first step in winning gaming’s biggest showcase by confirming that the actual PlayStation 4 console will make its public debut during their E3 Press Conference. This is key as they have to show the world what the PlayStation 4 console actually looks like. Continuing to hide the console would lead to rumors and innuendo about some problem with the PS4 and it would pull the focus away from the rest of Sony’s show. Even if it’s not the “real” PS4, as long as they show us some black molded piece of plastic and just say it’s the PS4, they’ll be alright. And I’m glad that Sony recognizes this shortfall from their previous PS4 presentation.
Their next step in ensuring an E3 victory is to build on the announcements made during February’s PlayStation Meeting. Sony played the PS4′s reveal pretty safe and stuck to sequels from established franchises (Killzone: Shadow Fall, InFamous: Second Son, Diablo III) and new titles that stayed within Sony’s wheelhouse (DriveClub, Knack, Destiny). But Capcom was also around with the intriguing Deep Down and Square Enix blew everyone away with a promise to reveal “the next Final Fantasy game” at E3.
So let’s start with “the next Final Fantasy game.” If Sony wants to win, their E3 Roadmap requires them to come out swinging with an impressive Final Fantasy trailer and possibly even an exclusivity announcement. After that, they need to show us new games. Lots of them. And preferably stuff that’s a little unexpected. New Killzone… new InFamous… new driving game from Evolution… this is good stuff. But Sony also needs to surprise the audience, like they did when Jonathan Blow stepped on stage at the PlayStation Meeting and gave everybody their first look at The Witness. Sony built up the PS3 as the home for innovative and unique titles this generation and they need those same kinds of titles to during the PS4′s first E3 showing.
Speaking of the PS3, the system is clearly on its last legs. Gamers will want to learn more about Gran Turismo 6, but Sony’s corporate mindset has clearly moved on to the PS4. Don’t get me wrong, learning more about Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls is always welcome, but unless Sony announces that each copy will be hand delivered by Ellen Page and/or Willem Dafoe, it’ll just be background noise. We know what to expect from both titles. However, confirmation that The Last Guardian is still alive wouldn’t be background noise and would go a long way towards showing everyone that the Sony’s “10 Year Plan” for the PS3 was more than just a marketing buzzword.
But even if Sony doesn’t do any of this, they can still pull out an E3 victory by pricing the PS4 in the $300 range.
I Know This Road…
As the three consolemakers position themselves for E3 2013, I’m reminded of this Penny Arcade strip from E3 2010. Then, Microsoft was pushing the services side of the Xbox platform, Nintendo was introducing the crowd to a bevy of new (and highly anticipated) games, and Sony was doing something slightly different from what they (or in this case, others) did before and acted as if they had reinvented the wheel. The similarities to the run-up to E3 2013 have not gone unnoticed.