E3 is next week, which means it’s time to add our two cents about what we’d like and expect to see from the big three companies. First up is Microsoft, whose press conference is Monday, June 6, at 9:30 AM Pacific time (12:30 PM Eastern time).
Microsoft’s press conference last year was disappointing at best and embarrassing at worst. After a Sunday night event showcasing Kinect, featuring Cirque du Soliel, we figured Microsoft would use their E3 conference time to concentrate on more traditional gameplay options. Instead, we got a rushed, steamrolled showing of Call of Duty, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Gears of War 3, Fable III, and Halo: Reach that only took up the first half hour of the conference. The remaining hour featured the same Kinect games featured during the Sunday night show, and spawned several memes – not the least of which was Skittles girl. It was overall a pretty bad showing, and the 360 redesign announcement at the tail end of the conference did nothing to add any excitement.
Microsoft will hopefully have a stronger showing this year. Here’s what we expect to see, along with some things that probably won’t happen but would be really cool anyway:
Halo: Combat Evolved HD – It’s been rumored for a while, and since this year is the 10th anniversary of the first game’s release, it’s the perfect time to release an HD remake while 343 works on the next installment in the series. Chances of it happening: Pretty damn good.
Gears of War 3 – It’s coming out in September, it’s quite possibly Microsoft’s biggest release this year, it’s going to be shown. Expect a gameplay demo and much to be made of it during the conference. The trademarked Gears of War: Exile might make an appearance too. Chances of it happening: 100% assured. Exile is pretty probable too.
More Kinect shovelware – Kinect’s having a bit of a lull, and Microsoft is really pushing it to be the true continuation of the 360’s lifespan. Unfortunately most of the games for the peripheral are Wii-class shovelware, with not much for the core gamer. We really don’t expect that to change this year either. Chances of it happening: Definitely.
360 Price Drop – A 360 price drop could push interest in the console and maybe even bring in a few more Kinect adopters. Dropping the 4GB model and replacing it with the 250GB one at the same price would be appreciated, with the Kinect bundle at $299. Chances of it happening: 50/50.
Forza 4 – It got shown off last year, but all we got to see was Kinect features. Expect a more in-depth showing, with more gameplay. Chances of it happening: Really, really good.
Kingdoms – Crytek’s new 360 exclusive game Codename: Kingdoms was announced last year with a teaser trailer and then shoved to the side to make room for the hour of Kinect. The game looks to take place in a classical 300-ish setting, and of course shows promise since it’s Crytek. Maybe we’ll get another trailer and maybe some gameplay footage. Chances of it happening: Not too likely.
Alan Wake 2 – Remedy has been teasing an E3 announcement, and this seems the most likely. There are rumors abounding that the studio is using Rockstar’s motion capture technology, used in L.A. Noire, in the sequel to the well-received thriller game. A sequel to the game is pretty much a sure thing, but will it be revealed at E3? Chances of it happening: A resounding “maybe”.
A handheld Xbox – The handheld market is getting smaller, especially with smartphones and apps carving their way into the market. Nintendo just released the 3DS to disappointing sales numbers, and Sony’s NGP portable is scheduled to drop later this year or next year. It’s not a promising market environment for a handheld release by Microsoft, but who knows? This is one rumor that’s been around for years, but we think they’ll settle for concentrating on the Windows 7 Phone as their portable outlet. Chances of it happening: Hell freezing over.
Social networking and cable streaming services – E3 has traditionally been the outlet for revealing these additions to the 360, such as Twitter, Facebook, last.fm, and ESPN. What’s left? Well…there’s always Youtube. And maybe VH1? We’re kind of running out of options. Chances of it happening: Doubtful.
There are some other things we’re expecting to see from Microsoft, such as Kinect features being added into more games, and free-to-play games coming to Xbox Live is another potent rumor. The company is doing a good job of keeping its cards under wraps, however, so we could be in for some surprises.