NEWS - Monday, July 2, 2007

E3: Expectations Are Running High

It’s unusual to have a brand new media event be surrounded with so much excitement and yet still be shrouded in mystery. That’s the animal we’re dealing with for the E3 Media & Business Summit, which kicks off next week. For the first time in five years, no one is expected to talk about a new handheld or console system, so now it’s all about showing us what these new consoles can do. All water cooler discussion of past E3s came from the big press briefings that took place before the show officially opened its doors. From the looks of it, those monumental events have gone nowhere, even if the show floor may now be devoid of million-dollar light shows and booth babes from gaming heaven. We’ll see Microsoft spend a lot of time talking about Halo 3, Sony will treat the PS3’s Home as a reincarnated god, and Nintendo will be all grins talking about the Wii’s sales figures, but we aren’t so sure that there will be any surprises. What we’ll see is anyone’s guess. None of the big three players have given us a hint as to what might be unveiled next week (well, besides what you have seen on the Playstation blog), but we have a pretty good idea about what the major stories will be. Sony will likely show off the Playstation Eye, which should be as much of a show stopper as the introduction of the EyeToy at E3 2003. We’ll also most likely get a glimpse of the PS3’s answer to Xbox Live Achievements. Shown only briefly during Home’s debut earlier this year, the "trophy room" aspect of the console’s online system will no doubt show up during Sony’s big extravaganza on July 11. The Playstation 3 is the console which most obviously lacks killer game titles that take advantage of the specific capabilities (high-definition, Cell processor). So, we do expect a range of new games, which should include the final version of Warhawk (due in August), Grand Theft Auto IV (due in October), Call of Duty 4 (due in October), The Getaway 3 (due in November), as well as Gran Turismo HD, which is scheduled for a December release. Especially Gran Turismo could become one of the most significant titles for the PS3. From Nintendo, we expect to see a new trailer for Super Smash Bros Brawl, and I’m praying for some playable time with the game, otherwise known as the sequel to what many see as the only success on the Gamecube. I also expect to get firm dates for Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3. What I’m most interested in, though, is seeing if Nintendo will talk about the Wii’s upcoming online features. An associated patent talks about an AOL-style instant messenger and a dedicated online portal. We’ve yet to even see Nintendo talk about any of these, and I can’t imagine a more opportune time for Nintendo to start getting serious abut the online market. Nintendo has a knack for wowing people at these press events, and with the mountain of success the Wii has already attained, it won’t take much for the Mario company to generate some newfound excitement. I’m also very curious to see what Microsoft will show us. I expect a rather big and unexpected announced from the Xbox guys. It’s their job to bring some enthusiasm back to the 360, which already sort of seems outdated with the new kids on the block known as Wii and PS3. Halo 3 will only carry the 360 so far, and it’s not enough to create buzz among an audience that’s already very familiar with the game. With Microsoft sort of just looming in the shadows recently, no one has a clue what the Xbox may have up its sleeve, but it’s my guess we’ll see something really special. So, get yourself into fanboy mode and prepare for the week that still promises big announcements, hands-on gameplay reports, and moments that will make the YouTube hall of fame, ’cause it’s time for E3. We’ll be on hand at the Santa Monica pier to get the latest gaming dish, but, of course, we want to know - what are you looking forward to at the show? Which company will get the momentum boost to pull ahead during the holiday season? Discuss your opinions, and share your thoughts below.

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