Every year, the videogame industry assembles in Los Angeles for the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3. The industry as a whole trends towards hyperbole: Everything promises to change everything, whether it’s a new system, a new software update, a new motion-capture device, or even just the newest sequel-spinoff in a franchise about shooting things controlled by foul-mouthed fifth graders in Kentucky. But it’s not hyperbole to say that this year’s E3 is arriving at a climactic moment of radical evolution for the industry. Here are the six big questions we have going into E3 this year:
1. Is the Xbox One actually a videogame console?
When Microsoft showed off its next-generation console last month, they stressed that the device was a kind of all-in-one multimedia playground, unifying your computer and console and TV into one glorious Kinect-ified experience. It was a bold pitch, essentially offering up the Xbox One as the new center of your living room. It was also a pitch that was notably low on actual videogames. This is of a piece with Microsoft’s recent behavior: Last year at E3, they spent a significant amount of their press conference blathering on about SmartGlass, which barely ever became a thing. Does Microsoft even want to be in the videogame business anymore?
2. Can Sony find success with a videogame console that is actually a videogame console?
Despite all of the widespread complaints about the Xbox one, you could argue that Microsoft is just rolling with the times. The console era might already be dead; the concept of games has expanded far beyond of Thing-That-Sits-On-Your-TV-Stand-That-You-Put-Games-Into. But don’t tell that to Sony. When they showed off the Playstation 4 back in February, they prominently featured an exciting array of videogame developers at the forefront of expanding the medium. Is the Playstation 4 going to be the Gamers’ Game Console? And in the casual gaming era, is that actually a good idea?
3. Does Nintendo have a plan for the Wii U?
The Grand Old Man of videogame companies took the curious step of canceling their E3 press conference, opting instead for a series of events on Tuesday utilizing YouTube and social media. If it works, it could be a bold move that redefines the whole E3 presentation model. If it doesn’t, well, it wouldn’t be the first strange move Nintendo had made this year. Its extremely puzzling new console isn’t selling well, and has a weirdly undernourished lineup of games. Supposedly, this is the year that Nintendo shows off its old standards: A new Mario, a new Zelda, maybe even a new Smash Brothers. These are not names to be trifled with; some of us still really like Zelda. But has the Wii U’s moment already passed?
4. Can Watch Dogs possibly live up to the hype?
Ubisoft stole the show last year with Watch Dogs, the open-world game about a guy who can hack into basically everything — the medical histories of random bystanders, the Chicago-city infrastructure. Buzz on the game exploded. It sounds, in theory, like the very definition of a next-gen game. It’s also the kind of game that could wind up being disappointing. (Notably, despite the highfalutin presentation, it appears to be yet another game about a guy with a gun who knows parkour.) We are hopeful, but comfortably skeptical.
5. Speaking of hype: Can Bungie establish themselves as a post-Halo superpower with Destiny?
The game developer’s first game in over a decade without Halo in the title has been pitched to high heaven. It’s a science-fiction epic. It’s an MMO, kind of, which means you’ll be playing with lots of other people. But it’s not quite an MMO — or at least, Bungie insists it’s not. So what is it? The future? The past? The first real look at gameplay will happen at tonight’s Sony press conference. Fingers crossed.
6. The Last Guardian, question mark?
It has to happen sooner or later, right? Right?
Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich
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