What will be the big story of E3 2012? In less than a month, we will find out when the annual video game convention returns to Los Angeles. Of course, new games for the holidays like Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Assassin's Creed III will be prominently displayed, but one of the biggest battles takes place between the three major console manufacturers: Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. This month, I'll take you inside some of the early predictions for what the so-called "Big Three" may showcase at this year's E3, when it kicks off on Monday, June 4.
This year's E3 press conference circuit begins with Microsoft on Monday morning, June 4. A few months ago, everyone would have predicted that Microsoft would use E3 as the venue to announce the next-generation Xbox, rumored to be code-named Durango. But, Microsoft went ahead and did something unusual: It confirmed that it wouldn't be talking about next-generation technology at E3 2012, instead focusing on the holiday lineup. So, while we won't likely see next-generation tech demonstrations, expect Microsoft to focus a lot on key games coming to Xbox 360. The biggest, by far, is Halo 4, which will mark the return of Master Chief. Due for release on Election Day, November 6, this is the first non-Bungie Halo game which is being developed by a new upstart studio called 343 Games.
Master Chief returns in Halo 4 this November for Xbox 360.
Nintendo's E3 focus will be on the Wii-U, scheduled for release this year.
While games will be a big focus for Microsoft at E3, something else is happening as well. You may have seen the news a few weeks ago that more time is now spent by users on Xbox 360 for non-gaming applications than actual gameplay. In other words, things like streaming movies, HBO GO, the UFC app, and watching YouTube videos are becoming popular entertainment activities on the Xbox 360. Look for Microsoft to focus more of its message at E3 around its lineup of apps for Xbox LIVE.
Could there be some surprises in store? Of course, it's E3! No doubt there will be a few new game announcements and perhaps other surprises as well, but Microsoft seems quite firm in saying E3 will not be used as a venue to preview the next Xbox.
Last year, Nintendo used E3 as a venue to announce and reveal the Wii-U, the successor to the Wii. And, in the past 12 months the company hasn't really said much else about the Wii-U, which is scheduled for release this holiday season. E3 2012 will serve as the "re-reveal" for Wii-U, with Nintendo hopefully detailing the first real games for the system; there are already rumors of a new Pikmin coming to the system from Shigeru Miyamoto. Will there be a new Zelda or Mario or something completely different? We will have to wait and see until June 5.
Still, there are a lot of open questions about the Wii-U and its two-screen setup, including a Touch Screen built into the controller. While the technology is vastly improved from the Wii, will it be able to hold up against other coming next-gen boxes from Sony and Microsoft? Will core gamers have enough Triple-A games to buy on the system? And moreover, how will the Wii-U appeal to the casual audience that made the Wii such a success with Wii Sports and Wii Fit? And, how will the online experience work on Wii-U?
As you can see, E3 2012 is an extremely important milestone for Nintendo, as the company with the most to gain or potentially lose at this year's show. There is no doubt that Nintendo will have some surprise first-party games to unveil for the first time at E3, but will it be enough to convince gamers to add the Wii-U to their holiday shopping list? One thing we know we won't find out is an exact launch date or price for Wii-U; Nintendo has already said that information will not be unveiled at E3.
While Microsoft and Nintendo haven't said a lot about the games they will have on stage at E3, Sony has spent the past few weeks announcing some heavy hitters that will likely be showcased at E3 2012. First there is the new God of War: Ascension, a prequel to the God of War trilogy that adds a wild twist with online competitive multiplayer (you don't play as Kratos, but rather create your own warrior and pledge your allegiance to a God to unlock powers). In addition, the company recently announced PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, a Super Smash Bros.-like fighting game that includes classic PlayStation characters such as Radec from Killzone, Kratos from God of War and even Fat Princess. If that's not enough, don't forget that Naughty Dog, creators of Uncharted, still haven't shown any gameplay footage from their next epic, The Last of Us, which doesn't have a confirmed release date yet.
As you can see, Sony has a big lineup of first-party games for E3 2012, and perhaps even others to announce as well. The games will look great, but the bigger question is what Sony will be doing with its business overall. You've heard about the massive layoffs under new CEO Kaz Hirai, and while he says he is going to bet big on gaming, Sony has also announced that it won't be showcasing the PlayStation 4 at E3 2012. What can Sony do at E3 2012 to tweak sales of the PS3? There's no doubt that existing owners will get a lot of great content, but Sony's biggest challenge is attracting a new audience.
PlayStation Vita will also have to be addressed. Although the system has garnered positive reviews for its Touch Screen and Dual Analog controls, so far the game lineup has been lacking a hit release for the holidays. Hopefully there will be news of a big new PS Vita game at E3, or at the very least, versions of popular PS3 games that you can play on the go using the company's "cross-play" technology (imagine, for instance, if you could play God of War: Ascension on the PS Vita as well as the PS3).
That's a look at what I expect to be the big headlines at E3 2012 from the major console manufacturers. If you want more E3 news, make sure to follow me on Twitter (@geoffkeighley) or inside the GameFly App. I'll be posting updates from the show, and will be back next month with more on E3 2012.