It’s that time of the year again, where I get all my bees in my bonnet (is that the phrase?) and gear up for E3. It’s the most exciting time to be a player in video games, and even though there is a continuing struggle for maintaining relevance on the part of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, it’s still the only time where really all of video games gets together in one spot.
This year is odd, as opposed to last year which was really just a strong year with strong games and the time to show off what was cooking as far as a console cycle well into itself was concerned. With so much new hardware going off this year, Nintendo’s Switch and Microsoft’s Xbox Scorpio, it’s one of those E3 conference years with a lot of expectations. There is always the want for games, the want for advancements, but Microsoft especially this year has a lot of weight on their shoulders. A lot of expectation to meet or to fail on. Nintendo also needs to really follow through with their new platform, especially considering they are so unwilling to leave the 3DS behind, and their mishap with the NES Classic.
As for Sony, well I’m one of few people that really, really did not like their press conference last year. It had plenty to show, and literally none of the major hits of that conference have been discussed or shown again save for Horizon, which is out now. The big set pieces of last year: Detroit, Spider-Man, God of War, and Days Gone are all still complete unknowns as far as release, and I honestly don’t think any of them will be out this year. I know it’s weird to say, but Sony has the most to be excited about with little reason to expect that any of it will be in hand any time soon. Of those games, Detroit is the one I’d bet on to come out this holiday, and with Quantic Dream’s track record, that is a massive stretch. Even though Horizon was and is a phenomenal game, it feels like it came out far later than it was intended.
All this being said, the only ones of the big three that I am genuinely worried about as far as games go is Microsoft. Microsoft, in my opinion, has had the two best press conferences they have ever had over the last two years. In 2015 they dropped backwards compatibility as a complete surprise, and have supported that service so well to this day. In 2016 they just had a well paced show that got me excited, and ended it by talking about a half-step console in a way that actually felt exciting. Now they have to deliver on that, and like many have said before, they need games that lean out of their typical spectrum. Halo, Gears of War, and Forza don’t cut it anymore. These are known quantities, and while Sony is out there locking down exciting ideas like Spider-Man, and Nintendo even did something incredibly new by reinventing Zelda this year, there needs to be a step-up-to-the-plate moment, so to speak, for Microsoft.
But that’s the general vibe and feeling I have for all of the major players. There isn’t much to say about Nintendo since they have a major Mario title coming this holiday, and while I could always ask for more, realistically that’s all they need. They can ride this wave of success until calendar next year, at least.
So let’s get into the real big predictions.
Number ONE – Scorpio
I think Scorpio can sit comfortable at $499 in the US. Any more and you’re clearly asking for too much. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect it to be within parity price as the PS4 Pro, and Microsoft has been billing this as a premium product. It’s what the Xbox One launched at with its Kinect in box, which is all but gone, and I think it fits. If they can get the messaging right on this one, they can make it look like a better product than the PS4 Pro, and since Microsoft isn’t making a completely new platform here, and isn’t going to turn this console race around anytime soon, I think that makes the most sense.
I also think the Scorpio will release this September. Phil Spencer had implied on Twitter that the Scorpio was actually ahead of schedule, and I think that means they are aiming for an early fall release instead of just holiday. It would make sense, if the Scorpio will probably just generally be a disappointment to the people expecting it to be the new Xbox hardware (which it definitely isn’t) to just get it out as soon as possible, and give it as much time leading into holiday as you can. I think it means it sells better in the long run, because it’ll be out there for longer and people will know what it is before buying it for the holidays.
I also like the idea of them getting back into the “Elite” branding. Calling this the Xbox One Elite makes a ton of sense.
Number TWO – Sony’s Release Schedule
I’ll say it again, I think the only big Sony game coming this year will be Detroit. And I think it’ll probably be December, if it makes it. I could see an announcement for November/October, but just with their track record, I see them pushing that one out right at the very end of the year. I’d bet we see Spider-Man early next year, God of War next summer, just before or after E3, and then Days Gone as their early-holiday zinger for next year. The feeling will be that, “man, 2018 looks great for Sony but this year is lacking,” but they are really being supported by third parties right now. I mean, if they can afford it, why not wait on their big first party exclusives until they really need them?
There is still a lot of rumblings that the next console generation will start as early as next year, but with PS4 Pro just released and Scorpio coming out this year, on top of PS4 continuing to sell like lunacy, I just don’t get it. There were seven years between PS3 and PS4, and I can’t see it being any less until a fifth PlayStation console.
Sony is hard to judge, because I loved their more intimate-feeling PSX conference, but it seems they’ve given up on bringing that to E3 anymore. And why shouldn’t they? “Everyone” loved their conference last year, everyone but me, and maybe showing a bunch of games with not even a hint as to when they’ll release is the best way to do it? As long as they lean more into demos and off of announcement trailers, I try not to be too salty about it.
Number THREE – Metroid.
I’m so serious. This is the year. Let’s do it Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch is a massive success for Nintendo. It continues to sell well, even though NIntendo doubled their initial stock of it, and I’d bet it’ll continue to sell through their first full calendar year (through March of next year). I’m excited every time I turn that bad boy on, and people are playing it and loving it. Hell, I just played ARMS in the technical alpha and I’m genuinely jazzed about that game too.
Nintendo has had a lot of trouble making people excited about Metroid. That mostly comes from two things: (1) not even trying, and (2) putting out Other M almost seven years ago, then having the next “Metroid” game be
Axiom Verge Metroid Prime Federation Force.
The extreme lack of any effort at all is very uncharacteristic to Nintendo. Sure, say what you will about their idiocy when it comes to being a company that understands consumers in a modern, internet age, but they always try and make good games and do right by their franchises. Star Fox Zero being the exception, not the rule. It’s boggling that one of their oldest franchises hasn’t seen a release since 2010, and I think now is the time.
I’m not expecting much, just an announcement really, but it’ll be enough. It’s just like the whole Kingdom Hearts 3 thing; knowing its real and is coming is comfort enough.
Number FOUR – Bloodborne 2
To believe that Bloodborne 2 isn’t in the cards would be crazy, but I think there is definitely room to say that it may be too soon for From Software to start talking about it. Ultimately, Bloodborne did very well, it’s a great exclusive for Sony, and I’d bet they’d love another one. I know I sure as hell would. The game is different enough from the Dark Souls franchise that I think there is interest on From’s part to continue to explore the mechanics, world, and tone of that universe too.
On top of all of this, with what I’ve said about Sony and PlayStation, it’s safe to say they are in a rough spot where if they just show all the new games they showed last year, again, they don’t look nearly as poised or in power as they did with their ice cold presentation from before. They need new games or games that’ll get people excited again. A sequel to Bloodborne is absolutely the game to do that.
We know From Software is working on a lot of new stuff, it would make sense that if they’ve decidedly walked away from Dark Souls, that their other Souls-esque franchise could keep their wide Souls audience happy while also not retreading old ground.
I believe in Bloodborne 2. This may not be the time to announce it, but I think it’s definitely on the table.
Number FIVE – EA Fails At Delivering Again
Believing in EA is so, so hard right now. Not just because of their fantastically bad press conferences two years in a row, their self-removal from E3 as a whole, or the abysmal handling of Mass Effect Andromeda. I think EA has consistently shown that they have trouble admitting their own mistakes, and are reactive, not proactive. Titanfall 2 did bad because it released right between Call of Duty and Battlefield 1? Crazy talk, that was a great idea. Forcing Mass Effect Andromeda out before the end of fiscal and not delaying it, even though it was clearly not ready for launch? That was absolutely necessary.
Forgive me for these two moments of clear sarcasm, but EA has been clouded by mistakes over the last 12 months.
Since these two things the Mass Effect franchise is on ice and EA said themselves that Titanfall 2 sales were less than expected, yet no real, substantial attempt to change and do things right has arisen yet.
I think it’s safe to say that EA is unnaturally stubborn, and haven’t shown any signs of really switching it up. I’m expecting more concept art, little-to-no substance, and a frstrating amount of disconnecting monologues, probably about sports. These things alone don’t really ruin a press conference, but do show that EA doesn’t even understand its own strengths, a truth that they have reiterated over the last two press conferences.
I hate to have downer predictions, since I am generally excited for E3, but I have learned to go into EA’s presentation with very low expectations.
Number SIX – Year of the Services
With Xbox’s new game program rolling out now, I think it really is going to start stacking in their favor that services are just as important as titles. I know Sony is doing stronger in the whole console-sales department, but it stands to reason that the services are what keep the Xbox One selling. They don’t have as many exclusives or as powerful hardware, but they keep really speaking to their consumers and delivering things worth having. Not just backwards compatibility, but online infrastructure as well. It’s always worked for Microsoft, and I think this is really where other companies take notice.
Whether it’s a comparable backwards compatible service for PS4 or Nintendo’s paid online program, I think everyone out there is gonna start stepping up the services they offer. Hell, Nintendo already reacted with their delay of their service to 2018 and saying it’ll have a Netflix-like model for classic games. I typically hate ambiguous predictions, but I think these kinds of features are what is going to make console hardware worth owning in the future, not the power or the gimmicks.
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Much like last year, we are deep enough into the console generation that this E3 has the benefit of games-games-games. There is so much room for cool new games and for developers who have been quietly working on new titles since the PS4/XBO launch to come out and show us how much they’ve learned that I can’t help but be excited. My hesitancy with Sony is far overshadowed by how much room there is for Nintendo and Microsoft to show us some bangin’ reasons to buy their new hardware.
I’m excited for E3 this year and I cannot wait to see what happens after, considering this will be the first E3 officially open to the public.