The annual E3 convention is the heartbeat of a progressively more explosive industry. During its best moments, E3 is packed with spectacle and surprise. The momentum that platform holders, publishers, and developers generate here can be sustained all the way through the holiday season and into the following year. And every year an onslaught of E3 predictions are made by the gaming press, which understandably comes with a level of risk to the journalist (“none of this stuff happened!”) and potential disappointment to their readers (“none of this stuff happened!”).
With that said, I wanted to pen an E3 article focusing less on predictions and anticipation, and more on a wishlist through the eyes of a writer straddling the fence between gaming and tech. The list below is informed by my personal interests, and in no way should be interpreted as things I sincerely believe will see reality. But I hope they do.
Rare Returns To Its Former Glory
It’s been an eternity since Rare released Donkey Kong Country, and turned the tide of the war between the Genesis and SNES back to Nintendo's favor. The Rare I remember fondly was also the creative force behind fantastic original IPs like Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Banjo Kazooie. Aside from development studios like Black Tusk, (Gears of War), 343 Industries (Halo), and maybe LionHead (Fable), Microsoft doesn’t have many heavy-hitters in their stable. And the Xbox One desperately needs compelling, exclusive software.
Assuming Rare still has the chops to churn out timeless hits –and considering Microsoft has backed off from evangelizing Kinect as the cornerstone of Xbox One — it’s my hope that Microsoft gives Rare the freedom and resources to do so.
Sony Surprises With A PS4 Price Cut
Microsoft is still atoning for their missteps at E3 2013, and just recently equalized the price war with Sony by shedding the Kinect and offering Xbox One for $399 beginning this month. You may remember Sony practically bullying Microsoft this time last year with its price advantage, and that Sony emerged the clear victor as we headed into the launch of a new generation of consoles.
Rest assured, Sony wants to keep that momentum, especially since other sections of Sony are struggling. It’s a foregone conclusion that both sides will introduce exciting exclusives and tease us with game trailers, but I want to see Sony issue a minor price cut — even $20 — to stay ahead of Microsoft. That’s not a personal vendetta, it’s more of a consumer win. The more consoles that sell, the higher the install base, and the more reason game publishers have to greenlight content for our next-gen consoles. If both sides of the PS4/Xbox One price war stay aggressive, that gets accomplished even faster.
Nintendo Refines Their Wii U Messaging
Sure, Nintendo won’t be presenting a traditional press conference at E3, but they do have several Nintendo Direct events planned, and will even have livestreams of new titles being demonstrated on the show floor. But Nintendo’s biggest hurdle remains making the Wii U relevant.
The fact is that the Wii U has a larger, quality lineup of exclusive titles than both the PS4 and Xbox One combined. And Nintendo will only propel that forward this year. But that fact alone isn’t selling consoles for Nintendo.
As I said in my article on Nintendo using their own history as a roadmap to success, I’m still not convinced that mainstream consumers (read: people not following the daily video game news cycle) understand what the Wii U is. Is that GamePad an accessory for the Wii U? What makes it better than the Wii? Can I still use my Wiimotes? Can I still play my Wii games on it? These are questions I guarantee a majority of Wii owners are stumped on, and I want Nintendo to find the perfect way of addressing them, while making the world understand that it’s a truly great system full of truly great games.
Precisely how they accomplish that is beyond me, but here’s to hoping they nail it.
Oculus Rift Owns The Show Floor, Gets Major Exclusives
It’s no secret that I’m sold on the promise of Oculus Rift (I went so far as to say its brand of virtual reality will result in genuine withdrawal symptoms). While Facebook’s recent high-profile acquisition of Oculus probably won’t result in a more dominant presence at this year’s E3 (planning for this event takes months), I’d still love to see some influential developers announce exclusives for the Oculus Rift. Not just support — as we have in games like Star Citizen or the new Unreal Tournament — but games designed expressly for virtual reality.
CCP’s Eve: Valkyrie demo was the perfect vehicle for showcasing the kind of immersion possible when using an Oculus Rift. Now we need a flood of publisher support. A Battlefield 4 dogfighting sim for Oculus, an underwater exploration game (think Ecco The Dolphin but modernized). Hell, I’m not a fan of the genre but imagine how spectacular an Oculus Rift remake of MYST could be.
Seeing is believing for Oculus Rift, but that’s a big hurdle, and I’d love to see the company come out guns blazing with an overload of VR-flavored software. And, while we’re wishing, how about a solid price tag and release date?
Small Form Factor Gaming PCs Get Cheaper And Sexier
This may seem misplaced outside of CES, but I’m hearing a lot of chatter from industry sources that E3 will play host to several PC-based hardware reveals, especially since the hardware spotlights focused on the console side last year. And while it’s a totally anecdotal argument, I’ve heard stories from many readers who are underwhelmed by the PS4 and Xbox One and have started wading into PC gaming waters. The companies making those PCs want to be invited into your living room.
Steam Machines won’t have much of a presence at E3 (both SteamOS and Valve’s controller aren’t ready for primetime), but compact PC gaming boxes will. Remember the Alienware Steam Machine that Dell unveiled at CES this year? I’d like to see a focus on design aesthetics, not just powerful and discrete internals. They’ll offer graphics performance comparable to the PS4 and Xbox One for a marginally higher price. They’ll ship with Steam pre-installed, a guide to Steam in-home streaming, a bundled controller, and possibly a free game or two in conjunction with Nvidia or AMD. Bottom line: Sexy new hardware will be shown that will give console purists a reason to believe in the PC again.
Bonus wish: Microsoft will announce a version of Windows 8.1 built solely for gaming, and the announcement will be augmented by the aforementioned hardware reveals. Maybe that’s more of a dream than a wish…