It's that time of year again: the Electronic Entertainment Expo begins in just 2 weeks from Sunday. I'm definitely excited, and somewhat disappointed, with the prospects of this year's Expo. However, competition seems to be pervasive throughout society, so in the spirit of this idea I must ask: Who will steal the show?
You may have noticed, as I quickly did, that some names are missing from that list: Square Enix and Nintendo do not have conferences this year. As a long time fan of Square Enix, it's interesting that they would not hold a conference this year despite the properties they have to talk about. However, more shocking is the lack of any Nintendo conference or Nintendo Direct presentation. Rumors of the NX have been swirling for a few years now with the most recent being that the NX was to be revealed at E3. Instead, Nintendo is only going to have a live stream starting at 9 am PST / 12 pm EST. Had Nintendo revealed the NX at E3 this year, I feel that they definitely would've stolen the entire Expo with the combined might of a new Zelda game and a console rumored to be on par with the Xbox One and PS4 in terms of hardware.
Now, before I get into the real competition I want to put this disclaimer: This is an opinion. All opinions and judgments that follow are speculation based on current information and does not account for surprise reveals by any publisher. With that out of the way, let's get into it:
Microsoft vs. Sony
War. War never changes. The war between Microsoft and Sony has waged for well over a decade and it doesn't seem to have any chance of stopping in the near future. Although exclusives seem to be at the heart of the war, the hardware is becoming increasingly more relevant. So, let's get into the two halves of this war and what they're bringing to E3 (potentially):
Microsoft's Xbox One has boasted the features of control over your TV via the Kinect, backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, and a platform for Indie games exclusive to the Xbox One along with a host of other features thanks to Windows 10. Microsoft also has several exclusive franchises including but not limited to Forza Motorsport, Halo, and Dead Rising. Add to it Square Enix granted Microsoft access to Rise of the Tomb Raider a year before its release on Sony's Playstation 4.
Microsoft's E3 presentation will most likely harbor some announcements like Halo 6 and / or more on Halo Wars 2 from 343 Industries and maybe a trailer for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided since it releases in August after several setbacks. Gears of War 4 will most likely also have a story trailer given a multiplayer beta has already launched, so gameplay would be a bit redundant. With Quantum Break just being released, it's unlikely we'll be hearing anything on Alan Wake 2, but that's obviously a possibility.
However, they also have to compete with the likelihood of Sony's PS4K (or NEO) being announced along with the planned Project Morpheus being launched in October of this year. As of writing this, there are scarcely any rumors regarding new hardware for the Xbox One. The most notable one is a plan to release a thinner Xbox One which makes sense since that's what happened with the Xbox 360. Another rumor points to the idea that Microsoft will announce a system of interchangeable pieces of hardware, turning the Xbox One into more of a personalized computer and less of a console with set hardware specifications.
Sony's PS4 has opted more for supporting the user and less on its hardware. The PS4 is roughly as good as the Xbox One in terms of graphics, processing, etc., but the PS4 offers a controller with a touch screen (it provides an interesting mechanic in games like Until Dawn), a headphone jack in its controller, and free online multiplayer through PS Network. Sony also tends to rope in the better deal with games (excluding the nasty business with Square Enix mentioned above) with console exclusive content and special edition consoles. Microsoft has done the latter with Halo, but it seems Playstation takes it more often.
In terms of exclusives, Sony has hit a huge loss in angering Square Enix which has already come to fruition with the Tomb Raider embargo and Kingdom Hearts III being shared between Playstation and Xbox. However, Sony still has more potential with Naughty Dog in the form of a potential announcement with The Last of Us 2 unless Naughty Dog chooses to take some time off with Uncharted 4 just getting released. It's also possible that Square Enix will have a trailer for the Final Fantasy VII reboot during the Sony press conference given the anticipation behind that is too great to pass up. There's a rumor going that Injustice 2 will be officially announced by NetherRealm at E3 and I'd guess it will be announced here given Mortal Kombat X was also announced during the Sony conference in 2014. Saving the announcement for the last conference is also a smart strategy by keeping people in anticipation of the trailer until the last possible time.
As I said, Sony tends to push for support for the user instead of attacking full on for the best hardware possible. This is still the case with the announcement that several PS2 games will be made backwards compatible on the PS4. However, they're also making a bold move with the release of Project Morpheus in October. It's likely their E3 booth will allow people to try out the Morpheus and the announcement of Morpheus compatible games could boost this launch. There's also an all but confirmed rumor of the NEO/PS4K getting announced at E3. The details of this are not fully fleshed out as yet, but this announcement would be crucial for Sony since the company seems to have been upstaged in relation to their console hardware given their main competition is a computer company. All in all, a renewed focus on new hardware is most likely what Sony will bring to E3 and be its most prominent feature.
Bethesda, Ubisoft, and EA
Each of these companies is at the head of a multitude of successful franchises that they can showcase at E3. However, it's not to say that these games are on such a high rate of production that trailers and sequels get announced year after year. That being said, there were some announcements last year that will hopefully be brought into this year. So, let's get into what those announcements may entail:
Bethesda is hot off the release of Fallout 4 and numerous content expansions to Elder Scrolls Online. Their next move? A card based game called Elder Scrolls Legends. That's actually one of the games they have listed on their website as "Coming Soon" for PC and iOS. I'd expect maybe a short gameplay trailer or teaser but not a lot of time spent on this. Instead, It's almost guaranteed we will be seeing more from Dishonored 2 since it was announced at E3 last year. I wouldn't get my hopes up about another console game for Elder Scrolls, but the possibility is always there. It's been almost 5 years, but part of that was from Fallout 4, so only time will tell what Bethesda decides. Maybe we'll even get to see a Rage 2 announcement, I know it's not the most well received game, but I enjoyed the vehicle aspect of the game and would love to see more.
Ubisoft had an interesting press conference last year to say the least. The announcement of The Separate But Whole South Park game, For Honor gameplay, and the announcement of demos for Assassin's Creed Syndicate . . . in place of an E3 demo. That last part was odd to put it mildly, but this year we'll probably see more from the South Park game and less from Assassin's Creed given the last of Chronicles came out a few months ago and there is not going to be a new full fledged sequel coming out this Fall. I'm personally hoping for an announcement with Watch_Dogs 2 given I thoroughly enjoyed that game and want to see more from that world. However, the Watch_Dogs Easter Egg in Assasin's Creed IV: Black Flag also has me interested in how Abstergo could play into the world of Watch_Dogs as Blume becomes a more global organization. A government-contracted surveillance company would most definitely be aware of the activities of the contemporary Templar and Assassin organizations. I'm not saying there's a link, but I would definitely love one.
EA does not have the best track record as a company. Whether it's terminating the entire team on a project a month before release or lawsuits over the illegal use of a person's likeness, EA manages to do quite a bit wrong. However, EA also created the Need for Speed, Battlefield, and EA Sports franchises, all of which have provided entertainment to plenty of people. Add to it EA bought the company BioWare which went on to become the creator of one of the most well known RPG series ever: Mass Effect. This year, EA is set to launch a three ring assault with Battlefield 1, Battlefront, and Mass Effect: Andromeda. Battlefield 1 is a fresh take on the franchise, returning it to its World War roots. Battlefront is their Star Wars game which is still adding DLC and has a sequel announced, so it's likely they'll feature a teaser for the new DLC they plan to launch for that soon. Mass Effect: Andromeda is the first in a new trilogy of games set after the events of the first three Mass Effect games. As of now, the only information given about the game is that the game returns to the series's roots and focuses on exploration of the a new galaxy. Add to it Mirror's Edge: Catalyst releases in a week from today, so if that goes over well with fans, EA will certainly have a more popular following than usual at E3 this year.
So, the ultimate winner?
Sony. I believe the announcement of the NEO/PS4K paired with the announcement of backwards compatibility for classic PS2 games will have a stronger impact than Microsoft announcing a slimmer Xbox One and potentially a system with interchangeable hardware. While EA could set up a power play with its properties, it's likely that Sony will wrap up the Expo presentations quite nicely and leave people with something to think about as they stampede to Nintendo's booth to check out the new Legend of Zelda demo.