Right now, with summer approaching, I am looking at all the games I have bought and have not had the chance to finish, let alone start. There is my long neglected ShinTen games, like persona and Devil Summoner. Then I have my steam game list. With Humble bundles and great sales, I keep getting games I didn’t have time to finish. Both Deus Ex and Skyrim are going to pull large chunks out of my free time this summer.
All in all, It has been a very fruitful year for gamers, with excellent triple A and indie games in about any genre imaginable. That’s why I am not been as enthusiastic about this year’s E3. But the industry is ever growing, and we could use a bit of excitement as the news cycle has slowed to a crawl in preparation for the event. Thus I gave it some thought and here is my list of 4 things that would make this year’s E3 one of the most memorable ever.
Valve needs to make an announcement… On something
Valve has a very unique position within the industry right now. They have a large amount of influence on the industry thanks to being the defacto online distributor. They have been able to keep a very positive public opinion by both being responsive and supportive of their fanbase. However, Valve has one stigma that still haunts its fans – Valve time. Let me remind you that the Orange box was released in 2007, coming up to about 5 years of wait time on the next chapter of Half Life. Now we understand that Valve takes its flagship seriously, and that they will not rush an inferior experience.
But for the exception of Dota 2 (which is all but released via beta testing), we have no title to look forward to from valve itself. They keep dropping hints at a big announcement, however. And rumors abound on a possible piece of hardware that could act as the unifier between PC and console gaming.
In essence, Valve has the fans right where they need them to dominate E3, as long as they have something to show off.
While the comparison of the games industry to Hollywood has been overdone a bit, one way we are definitely following tinsel town’s example is with the reliance on old Intellectual property by big studios. New intellectual properties are few and far between lately, because they are extremely risky for developers. While a successful new IP will gain legions of new fans, a failed IP and undo studios. For example, how many still remember “Too Human” or “Mirrors Edge”, both a planned trilogy that most likely will never be visited on again do to their poor first showing in sales.
Yet we need new intellectual properties to remain the fresh and vibrant industry we have grown to be. As Luck would have it, the Indie industry has lead the charge in developing interesting new characters and stories for gamers to enjoy. It might be that this will turn into another parallel the video game industry has with hollywood, that independents act as the incubator for new creative talent before getting hired by larger studios.
Finally, many stories have been or will wrap up in past year with Gears of war 3, Mass Effect 3, and Uncharted 3. If 3 is the magic number for a story, we are going to need new IP to fill the gaps. Otherwise, we could just pull a Pirates of the Caribbean and continue to beat the hell out of these characters until all the fun and originality is gone.
We need a timetable for the end of this generation of hardware
We got a peek at Nintendo’s WiiU last E3, but we still don’t know what Microsoft or Sony are planning with their next generation of hardware platforms. With the integration of online services, this generation of hardware has been able to stick around longer with updates and added features via incremental hardware changes like the Kinect and Playstation move. However, PC games are starting to greatly pull away from their console capabilities. One needs to ask how much more life will developers pull out of this generation of hardware.
Also, what do we want from from the next hardware platform? Just having faster, more powerful processors won’t really cut it, as development costs are still extremely high to make a detailed experience using current generation hardware. What about interfaces and controllers? Will we see more hands free? Or here’s a thought – allowing the integration of other tough devices as controllers like our phones or tablet machines. And then there’s the question on most retailers minds, what media will the next generation use? When are we going to see disk based media leave, and what will that mean for renting and sharing games between friends. Will this mean a new age of DRM, when we will see games become unplayable without any internet connectivity? All questions I hope get addressed by the big three.
A number of promised titles have been stuck in development, leaving fans waiting for any new news about their development. Chief among them in my mind is The Last Guardian. The last we heard about this game, we were promised a 2012 release, but trouble with the game development makes that very uncertain. I brought my PS3 with this title in mind, and while the HD release of the first to games was a nice gesture to fans of the series, Sony could use this exclusive title to distinguish itself from Microsoft’s offerings. This years “Journey” by thatgamecompany was a great step in that direction, providing a unique experience that could not be had on any other platform.
Regardless of if these questions get answered or not, It should be a very interesting E3. We have had a very interesting year for game enthusiasts, and with all the experience we should expect the last years of this console generation to go out with a bang.