E3 2009 Preview: The platform holders
It's the video gaming equivalent to Glastonbury or Woodstock. Once a year everyone who's anyone in gaming converges on LA for E3 - the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
For those in the industry it's where a lot of business gets done. For bloggers and other hangers on it's something of a rite of passage. For the gaming masses, it's where their juices get whet for the year's biggest announcements. With less than a week till all hell kicks off in LA, here are my hopes for what will emerge as the big show rolls into town.
Microsoft are first up and will need to come out punching if they are going to be remembered after the hype from the other platform holders. It wasn't until we sat down to research this article that we realised how little Microsoft had given away.
The one big story surrounding them in the build up to E3 has been their rumoured motion controller. This started life as an anonymous tip on a blog but soon gathered weight as details of a 360 motion-sensing peripheral hit the pages of The Wall Street Journal and Engadget. The device is rumoured to be set for release next year and provides a 3D camera to enable a player to control games by simply moving their body. This all makes more sense in the light of Microsoft's design and patents held by 3DV Systems, an Israeli company Microsoft just happened to recently acquire.
One other rumour is that of a new version of the Zune. The ill-fated music player never quite made it first time around, but with Apple going great guns with their MP3 player-come-gaming device (in the shape of the iPhone), many expect Microsoft to return with a Zune device that can play games and interface with the 360.
The last few years Microsoft has emphasised their wide ranging and exclusive game catalogue. Although this has been diluted a little with titles like BioShock and exclusive DLC also appearing on PS3, they are likely to continue this theme with titles such as Mass Effect 2, Halo ODST and Lost Planet 2. Alongside these, which we hope to be playable, are the games a little further off. APB, from Realtime Worlds of Crackdown fame, promises to be a massively multiplayer GTA game is likely to be among these. Forza 3 may also make an appearance although again this is unlikely to be playable.
Nintendo is up next. Sitting happy in terms of profitability and general public adoration, this E3 is theirs to lose. As long as they attend to both their casual and hardcore following Nintendo should come away intact as the new kings of gaming.
The most hoped for rumours from Nintendo revolve around new first party games for their popular characters. A new Mario, Zelda or Metroid title for the Wii would go a long way to repairing the damaged relationship between Ninty and their old faithful following. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata stated last year that the core Zelda teams are hard at work, so let's hope this now starts to solidify into new games. Retro Studios (of Metroid Prime fame) have also been said to be busily working on something, and this again adds weight to the fan rumours for new games from Nintendo this year.
While not part of the central cohort of well known characters, Pikmin is still a strong franchise for Nintendo. Following up on their re-release of the GameCube's Pikmin 1 and Pikmin 2, it seems likely that a proper Wii version of the game comes next. Indeed, Pikmin 3 was referenced in last year's E3 conference and if revealed this year would make us very happy.
The final rumour for Nintendo is the addition of a fully fledged Netflix service to match that found on the 360. Not only would this (finally) make sense of the Wii's absence of DVD support, but it would also move the console into the multimedia arena. Provided that is that the SD card storage solution is up to streaming movies.
Firmer than these rumours, Nintendo have teased some new DSiWare games that make substantial use of the device's extended features - camera and SD card. We hope for a slew of ingenious and imaginative titles to be announced. In addition there has also been talk of fully fledged DSi titles that provide a fully fleshed out game experience that again extends to use the DSi's features.