Two-Player Mode: E3 Predictions

Two-Player Mode: E3 Predictions

e3_logo_smallE3 is back! After two years in the doldrums, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is set to return to its former glory when it kicks off on June 2 in Los Angeles. So with the biggest gaming event of the year drawing near, I decided to to kick off the latest Two-Player Mode by asking Screen Play editor Jason Hill for his E3 predictions.

From: David Wildgoose
To: Jason Hill
Subject: E3 Predictions

With E3 a matter of mere weeks away, I’m curious to hear your predictions of the major news to emerge from the show. In the “console war” space, what – if anything – might we see from Sony and Microsoft to combat the runaway success of the Wii? And, more generally speaking, what new game announcements from first and third-party publishers are you anticipating?

Recently, we’ve heard whispers that Sony may unveil a redesigned PlayStation Portable, potentially abandoning the UMD format in favour of digital delivery. And, as rumoured prior to last year’s show, we’re once again hearing that Microsoft may roll out some kind of motion control technology. Meanwhile, Nintendo have yet to announce a single first-party game for the latter half of 2009.

What do you think the “big three” should be revealing at E3? And what do you think they will end up announcing?

From: Jason Hill
To: David Wildgoose
Subject: E3 Predictions

The rumour-mongers always concentrate on speculating about new hardware in the lead up to E3, as that is always more sexy to readers. But I imagine that the real focus of E3 2009 will be on software. Expect lots of big-name sequels, and a focus from Sony and Microsoft on exciting the mass market with innovative new games or applications. The three format holders will certainly unveil some major new properties, but just don’t expect to see a lot of innovation and risk-taking from the third parties in this tough economic climate.

From Nintendo, there will be lots of fan service to make up for last year’s debacle. Mario Golf using MotionPlus is a cert, and new PilotWings, Star Fox and Pikmin games are a big chance along with a 1080 snowboarding game for the Balance Board. And we’re much more likely to get shown the new Mario game in development for Wii than the new Zelda, as Zelda is likely to take much longer and Spirit Tracks for DS is coming for Christmas.

For Sony and Microsoft, their focus will be on capturing the mainstream audience that has so enthusiastically embraced the Wii. Of course, there will be a few key hardcore titles, including plenty of emphasis on the likes of God of War III, Heavy Rain, the new Team Ico title, Forza 3 and Halo: OST, but I reckon both Sony and Microsoft will have at least a couple of very big games or applications clearly aimed at widening their audience beyond the hardcore. Sony is also finally going to cut the PS3’s price.

How about you have a stab on the hardware front. How likely are we to see Wii Remote knock-offs from Sony and Microsoft? Or a new PSP? Or a high-def Wii?

From: David Wildgoose
To: Jason Hill
Subject: E3 Predictions

My hardware prediction is: the only new piece of hardware on show will be a revised PSP. In line with the rumours, it’ll have a sliding (but not touch) screen and it’ll ditch UMD. Whether it will be called the PSP Go! I’m not sure. It sure sounds stupid, but then so did Wii the first time we heard it.

I just can’t see Microsoft successfully shoehorning motion control onto the 360. They’ve spoken in the past of “reinventing” the platform via software, for example, the dashboard reboot late last year. It doesn’t make sense that they’d now try to do it via a hardware add-on, especially now they have 30 million or so consoles in the market without that motion control capability. How many console add-ons have actually achieved majority market penetration?

And as for a high-def Wii? Hahaha!

Onto games, we already know much of Sony’s strong first-party PS3 lineup, but I’m hopeful of one or two surprises there. The new PSP will occupy much of Sony’s presence and I’d anticipate a raft of game announcements, including perhaps ports of many existing PSN titles. Oh, and maybe – just maybe – Team Ico will reveal their next project. They could wrap E3 up right at that moment and I’d go home a happy man.

Microsoft has plenty to prove, since we know so little about their release slate. Halo 3: ODST is a sure bet, as are Alan Wake and Forza 3. Beyond that though, I’m a little confused as to what will be standing in for Gears of War 2 as the big holiday “blockbuster”.

You claim that Sony and Microsoft will focus on capturing the mainstream, but how will that be achieved? It certainly won’t be via further iterations of the God of War and Halo franchises. I’m also curious to discover how you think Sony can reach out to the mainstream given the PS3’s price and how Microsoft can appeal to a casual audience given its history of lacklustre me-too titles (Lips, Scene It, You’re In The Movies)?

From: Jason Hill
To: David Wildgoose
Subject: E3 Predictions

Yeah, the new PSP is a safe bet. It won’t be called the Go! as Sony already use that branding for the camera and GPS add-ons – Go!Cam and Go!Explore. But, I wouldn’t be so dismissive of a motion-controller for 360. In Microsoft’s eyes, it wouldn’t have to “reinvent” the platform, just make it a bit harder for all those casual gamers to decide what platform to buy. It would be cynically designed to muddy the waters and let them advertise groovy young people flailing about in their living room playing some Wii Sports knockoff.

And just because I say that Microsoft will try to reach out to the casual market doesn’t mean I think it can succeed. Microsoft is bloody lucky that Rock Band and Guitar Hero have been so successful because as you note, it’s first-party “me too” efforts in the “casual gaming” market cloning the likes of SingStar, Buzz and EyeToy haven’t been terribly exciting. I want to see more innovation from Microsoft. The trouble is, they don’t have a lot of internal studios left.

On the other hand, people have been too quick to forget Sony’s impressive credentials in the “party starter” market following the rampant success of the Wii. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sony pull a rabbit out of its hat this E3 and deliver something new and exciting aimed at the mainstream that could be as big as Buzz, EyeToy and SingStar were for the PS2.

I saw some impressive technical demonstrations of next-gen EyeToy applications when visiting the London Studio last year. Some of the tech will be seen in the (previously announced) EyePet simulation, which might strike a chord with the younger audience, and I suspect Sony has other motion games designed to take the gloss off Wii. I think something camera-focused is much more likely than a new controller given that PS3 already has Sixaxis functionality and Sony has invested over five years of research and development into camera-based technology.

I imagine you’ve now booked most of your appointments for E3. What are some of your biggest priorities in terms of games to see? What do you expect will be some of the best games on show?

From: David Wildgoose
To: Jason Hill
Subject: E3 Predictions

Before I get to my games predictions, allow me to quickly respond to your thoughts on Sony and the mainstream. The PS3 is still $700. The mainstream audience that bought into PS2 on the back of Sony’s “party starters” are not going to buy a $700 console. So while we may see a few more casual products from Sony, I’d expect their focus to remain the core gamer for the rest of the year at least. God of War III, Heavy Rain and whatever Insomniac is cooking up will be the PS3 highlights at this E3.

Away from the “console wars”, I can’t look past Modern Warfare 2 as the leading candidate to garner the most media attention. Call of Duty is a phenomenon and, while I may not personally be a fan, I’ll be very curious to see how Infinity Ward plans to continue that success. Will it be more of the same or do they have a few tricks up their sleeve?

Nintendo’s first-party lineup is shrouded in mystery. You mentioned Pilotwings, which sounds like an ideal fit for motion control, and Pikmin 3, which we know Miyamoto is working on. The hardcore craves a new Wii Mario or Zelda, but I doubt we’ll see either. Instead, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a third-party bring a previously hardcore series to Wii – something along the lines of a Final Fantasy or a Grand Theft Auto.

Elsewhere, I think 2K will have a strong show. Mafia II, BioShock 2 and Borderlands all hold tremendous promise. Capcom have consolidated their position as the leading Japanese publisher (who isn’t Nintendo) and I’m keen to check out their Lost Planet and Dead Rising sequels. And I’ll throw in Sega’s Alpha Protocol and EA’s Brutal Legend as personal picks.

But the thing about E3 is that, even though I’ve already secured appointments with almost every major publisher and developer, few of them are willing to divulge their exact lineup even this close to the event. The best memories I have of E3 are the surprises – that Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer, that early glimpse of Half-Life 2, that Wii Music debut…

Seriously, I’m hoping that none of the games I’ve mentioned above turn out to be my choice of game of show. I want something totally unexpected, something I’ve never even heard of, to sneak up and astound me.

I know you’ve skipped the last couple of E3s when the organisers decided to downsize the show. Now that it’s allegedly back to form, what are you most – and least – looking forward to?

From: Jason Hill
To: David Wildgoose
Subject: E3 Predictions

You have a view that PS3 is not mainstream because its $700. Fair enough, a lot of people would share that view. Sony, however, do not. You’re looking at it from your point of view, not theirs. By your reckoning, Sony wouldn’t have already released Buzz and SingStar for PS3, and even LittleBigPlanet. Sony’s focus is already on broadening the PS3 market, and I reckon at E3 we’ll see something major that continues their determination to replicate the success of the PS2 in the mainstream market. And as I said before, a price drop is on the cards – the PS3 won’t be $700 forever.

I absolutely agree with you regarding a possible “game of the show”. I also really hope it’s something that we don’t know about yet. I love that sense of anticipation when you get ushered into the massive press conferences for Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. The cynicism starts from the minute the press conferences are over, but it’s hard not to feel like a fan boy (of the entire industry, rather than a specific vendor) in those moments leading up to the unveiling of something new. It’s still an exciting industry, even if we don’t see as much innovation as many of us would like, and I particularly enjoy hearing a passionate developer explain how they are putting their heart and soul into their latest project.

Instead of attending E3 for the past two years, I went to the Games Conventions at Leipzig. They were fantastic – developers were so much more casual, revealing and generous with their time. I assume it was largely because most of the American press didn’t attend. So what I’m least looking forward to is a return to the “bad old days” of E3 with strictly managed and orchestrated demonstrations in appallingly hot and crowded conditions. At times it felt like the old E3 was akin to sending the world’s film reviewers to Cannes and getting them to make assessments of upcoming movies based on short clips that they could barely see or hear. Hopefully the industry hasn’t forgotten why it killed the beast after E3 2006 and tries to hold onto some of the intimacy that was the aim for the failed 2007 and 2008 events.

Let the circus begin…

Two-Player Mode is a regular column across Kotaku and Screen Play. Join in the discussion on both sites and let us know if you have an idea for a future discussion topic.


  • Sony needs to drop the price of the PS3 to have any chance of coming out on top. It’s crazy to think you can still buy a Wii and a 360 for the price of a PS3!

    • @stalker

      Great question. I suspect the official line is: no booth babes. But you just know a few companies will squeeze them in there.

  • David, I really hope you’re wrong about Nintendo not announcing a new Mario or Zelda. As a Wii owner, I’ll be very disappointed if they think Pilotwings and Pikmin are enough to please us hardcore gamers. I know they’re giving us Zelda Spirit Tracks or whatever it’s called, but we demand a proper Zelda for the Wii!

  • David, can you give us any clues for any top secret games you’re going to see? Do you know if Thief 4 will be there?

    • @Garrett

      Everyone’s really quiet on exactly what they’ll be showing. However, I’ve heard about quite a unannounced titles, but obviously I can’t say any more than that. Haven’t got an appointment locked in with Eidos yet, so I don’t know about Thief 4.

  • LOL @ Garrett. I suppose you have to ask.

    David, I’m guessing due to your (our) proximity to the studio there won’t be any more L.A. Noir news from Team Bondi at E3 this year? I thought the project was starting to ramp up a little bit for release in the next 12 months.

    • @url404

      No idea about LA Noir. Rockstar’s one of the other companies I’ve yet to lock in time with.

  • Oooooh speculation!

    I just don’t see a UMD-less PSP being announced, however I do agree that the focus will certainly be on digital distribution for it. I reckon it’ll pack at least 16gb in internal memory, be lighter, less bulky than the current PSP and will have a sliding screen. This’ll be the biggest hardware announcement. $1 says so.

  • I want big unannounced titles to be be shown. Nothing beats getting goose-bumps when u see a new game that makes your jaw drop.

    I hope MS announce a new FPS sci-fi shooter. Something that will replace Halo and to fill the void when a new Gears isnt out.

    Also i want to see some MMO games on 360 (APB, Champions online etc) and Alan Wake. If they dont show this game i will have lost all hope for it.

  • Anyone besides me that wants to see a Chrono Cross/Trigger sequel?

    Or a Top Shop(PS1) remake for the DS. It was a quirky title, but it was loads fun, and very social too.

  • Has everone here just forgotten about mass effect 2? Along with modern warfare 2, bioshock 2 (wow its the year of the first sequel) and everything else you mentioned, as well as nintendo’s need to reconnect with the hardcore, i think this will be a prettey massive year for software! Now if only valve would tell us a little about half life 2 ep 3….. oh and maybe some golden sun for ds…. but i guess im dreaming on that one 🙂

    • @wrex

      I think Mass Effect 2 is off the radar a little, perhaps because we know it’s not coming out this year. Personally though, I cannot wait for it.

  • I’m still hoping for the outside chance that Sony might drop a PS2-backwards-compatibility-in-all-PS3s-via-downloadable-software-update bombshell. More than a price drop, that move would really help them move up in the market. At the moment you have to keep your PS2 around even when you ‘upgrade’ to the new system. I’m not prepared to ditch my 60+ PS2 game collection just yet, but I’d really like to get rid of my PS2 as it’s getting pretty old, but my PS3’s not backwards compatible. The decision to pull that capability is one of the worst that Sony ever made, hardware-wise.

  • if youve got the money to buy a 1080p TV $700 dollars to actually display the full resolution of a movie/game on it is cheap. play tv will make this even better value. Dave you cheapskate in PCPP you can recommend people buy a $12000 gaming pc but you dont recognise the value of the PS3 i just spent $1500 on a tablet PC that cant even play bioshock 🙂 my $1000 PS3 was incredible value

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