The days are finally getting longer, the winter coats have been put back into storage, the snow is (mostly) a memory. You know what that means? Yup, E3 season is upon us. E3, of course, is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the annual gaming show that publishers use to tell the press what's coming next in the world of gaming. Yesterday Sony announced that it will be holding its annual E3 Press Conference on June 6th, which made me take a closer look at the calendar. That's just a bit over 8 weeks away!
I decided I'd stick my neck out and make some early predictions for what the focus of "the big three" console makers at this year's show will be. Let's start with Sony since they're the easiest: they're going to be promoting the heck out of the Sony NGP (which will get it's real name, probably something wildly original like PSP2, during the conference). It still isn't entirely clear if the NGP will ship this holiday season worldwide or not, but Sony seems determined to get it out in at least one region in calendar year 2011. Selfish me hopes that one region is North America. Sony will also continue to push the Move Controller and will shine a spotlight on Playstation Home and the free games that have been quietly added to that service.
Nintendo is going to be pushing its first party Nintendo 3DS games. While the 3DS had a decent launch most accounts say that sales are slowing down. In Japan the aging Sony PSP has been out-selling the 3DS and Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian says sales have slowed considerably in North America [CVG] Why? I'm no analyst but I'm willing to peg soft sales on lack of killer launch titles. The good news is that "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time 3D" is shipping on June 19th in North America – right after E3. Nintendo will probably use this launch as a kind of anchor date to promote a string of big titles running up to the holiday season. Nintendo will want to make the 3DS the 'must have' gift for Holiday 2011.
What about a Wii 2, or a Wii HD? Is it time for Nintendo to announce a new home console? I think there's a very good possibility. The Wii seems to be starting to show its age in the marketplace and for the first time in recent history Nintendo isn't sitting on top of all the sales charts. Big game releases for the Wii seem to be drying up and there's a rumored price cut coming soon (May 15th, if the whisperings are to be believed). I think a successor to the Wii could be announced with a launch date of Fall 2012. It's even possible it'll come sooner, perhaps February-March 2012.
Last up is Microsoft, and I have to admit I'm stumped here. There've been rumblings that they're working on a successor to the Xbox, but really that almost goes without saying. These things take time to develop, after all. The question is, are they ready to announce it yet. With both the Xbox 360 and the Kinect doing so well, I don't think Microsoft is feeling any real pressure to rush to market with an Xbox 720. They know Sony is going to be focused on NGP so it won't be talking Playstation 4, and Microsoft never seems to look at Nintendo as a direct competitor (why that is, I cannot fathom). So I don't think they'll be talking about new hardware this year.
Instead we'll be hearing more about Kinect, and perhaps even a Kinect 2 of some kind (and/or a Kinect price drop). I still think Microsoft needs to come up with a Kinect system that works in smaller rooms. There've been some rumblings about MS bringing Free-To-Play games to the 360 next year, and some kind of Kinect-enabled casual-gaming portal on Xbox Live seems a likely possibility.
I'm just not sure this is enough pizazz to carry Microsoft through E3. I can't help but think they've got some kind of tent pole announcement that is going to take us all by surprise. I just have no idea what it'll be. Adding more content to Xbox Live isn't going to be enough.
So those are my predictions of what E3 2011 will bring, but as I said, I'm no analyst. I'm just a gamer who happens to have this venue to shout predictions from. Disagree with me? Great! Please leave a comment and let me know what you think this year's E3 will bring!