E3 2009 Predictions

May 31st, 2009

e3-2008-psp-go

Yearly predictions, managed to scrape this one in on time. Phew!

I still don’t understand the pessimism leveled at last year’s E3. True, it was less of a spectacle and Nintendo had a rather lite showing and all, but if you cared enough, you’d realize that were plenty of interesting games on offer, as the past 12 months have proven. This year E3 is undergoing a glorious resurrection, returning from the ashes like a phoenix. Of course, I think people will still wage their cynicism over the show, and I’ll still probably love it. So onto my predictions;

Microsoft’s Conference

If I could watch only one of the three conferences, I’d probably choose this one. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, I guess. It’s no secret that I have a great distaste in the way Microsoft has co-ordinated themselves this generation with the Xbox 360 Even though I personally dislike the way they go about business, no one can deny that Microsoft have made many a smart move this generation to constantly undercut the competition. It’s not PS3 fanboy fury, I just don’t like cooperate Microsoft, but more importantly the exclusive games on the system are generically western orientated in a way that purely disinterest me.

This year I think Microsoft will gear the conference to the same tune as 2008; consolidating their key assets of services, internally produced games and a few key, bought exclusives to deliver a persuasive presentation. I think that they’ll roll out the next phase of the Xbox experience which will attempt to match the approachable aesthetic with a more workable environment, creating a more cohesive package and probably rolling out some surprise new features which accentuate the tweaks. I guess one of those will be to give avatars a purpose.

Their main line up of games will include Splinter Cell: Conviction, Mass Effect 2, the new Molyneux title, Alan Wake, one or two new internally developed games, possibly a shared release with next Valve game and Metal Gear Solid 5 . The latter of which will be another show stopper for Microsoft. As much as it pains me to say, all the evidence in the teaser site points to the 360 conference. I’m guessing that the new title will have some new twist such as being a series of downloadable episodes filling in the gaps of the series. I think it’s a stupid idea to drag the series on like this, but they’ll do it, I just hope they remove Hideo Kojima for good this time. He’ll be there to spruik the new game, so I doubt it. Microsoft will also use their timely advantage to premier videos and announcements for top-tier multiplatform releases like Assassin’s Creed II. The video has already been leaked supposedly.

mass-effect-2-xbox-360

I don’t think that there will be many new IPs in their casual gaming sector, resulting in less time with the daffy performances that degrade the very sector they’re trying to market towards. A large part of this year’s casual gaming effort will be iterative of previous attempts, including Lips 2, a repackaged 1 Vs 100 and anything else that got left on the cutting room floor from last time.

The big news will be Microsoft trumpeting their MGS5 victory (it’ll be multiplatform) as well as dropping a bomb on services and wooing fans with with video footage for the new games. Honestly, any video of Halo:ODST will grab headlines, no matter how uninteresting, but that’s their strategy; to steal the thunder from the competition by igniting the noise of their inflated fan community. Overall, it’ll be a well rounded success. Maybe they’ll mention Xbox Live Arcade or the neglected Community Game and Games for Windows.

I cant shake an itch that Final Fantasy XIII and MGS5 will eventually expose teething weaknesses in the Xbox 360 hardware. Kojima Productions last year finished producing a mammoth 4-year project for the Playstation 3, filling up a 50gb dual-layered Blu-ray disc and now they are producing a sequel to that game on a technically inferior system with discs that hold less than a 1/3 that size. The same with FF XIII, Square-Enix is producing the game ground up for the PS3 and then once its done, will port it across. I’d be cautious here.

Sony Conference

This year Sony’s conference will continue to ascend in quality after last year’s good presentation. The justification remaining the same; games. Last year Sony delivered a solid conference, sporting a series of top-tier 1st and 3rd party titles for all their systems and PSN. This year, the number of those titles is set to increase and with the PS2 out of the equation, they can now concentrate on the products which need it.

The PSP Go! which has already been legitimately leaked, will be announced. They’ll have to work around the leak somehow, I suspect they won’t do it very well. Everything else about the system is already known, go out and read about it! This is a huge announcement that will create only rather small impact since it was already a given, no real surprises there. What will surprise though are the number of big brand titles coming for the system. The following should all be due in before this time next year, no doubt they’ll feature in a montage;

Soul Calibur Broken Destiny
LittleBigPlanet
Assassin’s Creed PSP
Dissidia Final Fantasy
Rock Band Unplugged
MotorStorm Arctic Edge
Tekken 6
Metal Gear Solid
Final Fantasy Agito XIII
Gran Turismo
Jak and Daxter
Lunar remake
3rd Birthday
(Parasite Eve 3)

Video for all of these games will be shown, I suspect most will be playable. They’ll all be due in the next year or so, bolstered by a strong marketing campaign for Christmas time. These titles should also plunger another hole for the PSP Go! that is, with no UMD drive, how will players access games? Sony will combat this by announcing that all future PSP titles (including all of the games just listed) will arrive on the Playstation Network for download in time with UMD release or earlier. They’ll also likely reiterate their push to back-catalogue older PSP titles. This will then be coupled by announcing a slew of new PSone games for the service, including support by developers Capcom, Namco and Square-Enix. Capcom already began their push early this week with Resident Evil: Director’s Cut, I think the other games will be arriving shortly, starting June.

They will then talk about managing the two systems and prove their case by reiterating previously announced bundles for the second half of the year including the FF Dissidia and Hannah Montana packs. The latter represents a push towards the tween market, maybe they’ll mention that too.

From there they’ll probably discuss either the PS3 Slim or a price cut, hopefully both. It would be wiser for them to announce the price cut later, but doing it at E3 will only aid in Sony in their tussle for the headline with Microsoft. They’ll probably lose the attention seeking battle overall, but have more interesting content in greater quantity, as was the case last year.

They’ll then likely unveil new PSN games and DLC at the same time they discuss the PSone classics. The next Jenova Chen game and Fat Princess are to be expected. Some mild surprises here, hopefully no more Pain add-ons.

rockband-psp-unplugged

In the PS3 discussion Sony will focus on their key 1st and 2nd part titles including Uncharted 2, God of War III, Heavy Rain, MAG and the new Rachet and Clank. They’ll probably talk about this purposed LittleBigPlanet web portal and announce some new titles such as Sly Cooper and something else. Sony are meant to dropping bombs too this year, but I’m not so sure. I suspect that more PS3 games will be downloadable through PSN as they begin their push into that territory. In fact I think all of their game announcements regarding PSN will in combination cause quite a stir. This presentation will prove that the service is coming into it’s own, in an unique way with lots of original content.

As for the headlines? Everything I just mentioned can more or less be assumed.The big announcements really depend on which 3rd parties Sony reel into the conference. Microsoft are ace are pulling together developers from all over the place to legitimize their argument, in contrast Sony often boast the work of their internal studios. I think they need to open up if they want to take the show. They have drummed up plenty of great PSP support, if they can do the same for the PS3 and then get developers on stage for a song and dance then victory to them. PSN will be the defining point of their conference, prove why it matters with 3rd party friends. I suspect that their guests will link into their big announcement. I also hope that they discuss PS3-PSP compatibility with their newly acquired 3rd party PSP titles. Soul Calibur, Assasian’s Creed II, Tekken, Final Fantasy, GT…lots of potential.

Nintendo Conference

I’m out of predictions for Nintendo. Honestly. Iwata has mentioned key titles for the end of the year which he expects will see Wii sales spike again. I suspect that one of those is a previously existing franchise, I’d hedge my bets on Pikmin 3 as it makes sense with the recent Wii re-releases. The other will be a mass market title on the same scale as Wii Fit. They will again highlight 3rd parties on Wii. Ubisoft will be invited back in the conference to express their enthusiasm for the new Red Steel 2, Rabbids and hopefully show off the Assassin’s Creed II for the Wii. Yes, very odd that last one. EA Sports will be present as a supporting act for Wii Sports Resort and the Motion Plus, they’d be on for a winner if they invited Peter Moore on stage as he loves the device. Sega would be another good third party to invite.

Zelda: Spirit Trackers will spearhead the DS line up, followed by some curious new titles and the healthy combination of games from Square-Enix and other 3rd party regulars. The montages of video for new Wii, DS, WiiShop and DSiShop titles will feature plenty of neat games that’ll all brush by too quickly. They’d be wise to remind the audience about the Metroid Prime Trilogy and indie darlings such as Night Game, Bit Trip Beat Core, Meat Boy and Cave Story.

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Nintendo won’t announce a new blockbuster franchise. They’d be stupid to as whatever they have under wraps won’t see a release until Christmas next year. I say wait until early next year for a teaser and then next E3 for the unveiling.

Nintendo is the only safe bet here. I think they’ll have a solid showing, and the truth is, Nintendo’s selection of games is just as good as the competition. Their new titles for the end of the year will grab the headlines, although I think they’ll become too bogged down in speeches, product demonstrations and sales reports. I’m curious to why Mr Miyamoto will be absent from the conference and whatever Mr Iwata has to say about company culture. At this stage though, I’m more distracted with the Microsoft-Sony punch up.

Conclusion

Although I’ve just posted another super long post, I think that there will be a number of key surprises from out in left field from every company that no one would be able to predict. I’m not sure if I should continue posting next week as I’m sure you’ll all be busy with E3 news, me included. No worries, I’ll keep chugging and you can all touch base once the shows over.

  • Neelesh

    The only problem I see this E3 is that there may be too many blockbuster announcements, which is going to make choices for a consumer rather difficult, thereby hampering the hype factor for games that will end up as under appreciated classics…Case point Schafer’s Brutal Legend, also there is plenty of multiplatform offerings that are going to bring us to the edge of our seats…

  • I think that this is already the case for games at large. The downloadable services, virtual console and portable games are plenty of proof in this department. The ethusiast media only seem to care about the select handful of PS3/360 favourites. Sad really.