CrunchArcade: E3 2007 Preview

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By this time of year the nightmare that is known as the Electronic Entertainment Expo should just be a distant memory, and those of us who made the pilgrimage to the Los Angeles Convention Center to cover the show should be fully recovered. However, the organizers opted for a smaller and more “business focused” event, and thus have moved the fun-filled event from the traditional May timeframe to July, and taken the show from downtown LA to Santa Monica.

So as we prepare to depart for the City of Angeles and head to the beach we’re previewing what we can expect from this year’s E3.


Hardware News and Price Cuts
Considering that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all have new systems out there; we’re not expecting any significant hardware news this year. Not even Microsoft could be so daring as to further shorten the console lifecycle. So as for major consoles, we’re not expecting any earth-shattering news.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be some price cuts. The rumors already in overdrive mode now, and we’re hearing that Microsoft could go all out and cut the price of the Xbox 360 significantly. Let’s face it; the company needs to do something. Even with a year lead on their rivals, the 360 is not close to winning this thing, and a price cut but that’s a wait and see from the Redmond giant.

Sony is the company that needs the price cut the most, but as they’re already losing money on the PlayStation 3 the executives may see such as a move as throwing good money after bad. So will they bother with a $25 or $50 price cut to prime the pump? We’ll find out.

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As for Nintendo, they have a system that they could actually RAISE the price on and still sell units. What this company needs to announce is that they’re finding a way of getting Wii consoles to stores. Unfortunately this is Nintendo so we’re expecting them to talk about games and avoid real issues once again.

Add-ons and Hand Helds
psphone.jpgBut this doesn’t mean there won’t some hardware news to share. Hardware is what the mainstream press likes to hear about. Sony will probably come up with some Eye Toy thing to show for the PS3, along with the usual other add-ons that may or may not ever actually show up in stores (remember the keyboard and LCD monitor for the PS2… we’re still waiting). There could be a new handheld version of the PSP, but once burned is Sony really about to go down that road again? Not unless they launch a PSPhone or something similar.

The Nintendo DS has taken off, so there is no reason for the Mario gang to introduce a new system, but the designers in Japan need to stay busy so we can expect Nintendo to re-release something, and Nintendo fanboys to cheer and buy it up anyway!

And that leaves Microsoft. There have been rumors of a handheld, but Gates & Company have had their hands filled trying to keep up with Apple with the Zune, releasing Windows Vista and getting that whole Live thing working with the Xbox 360 and the PC. With all this company’s projects a handheld isn’t out of the question, but considering that the PlayStation Portable isn’t a runaway hit why should, and why would Microsoft risk something now? Still, just being in the space is a possibility for Microsoft. So maybe they’ll show off an Xbox Portable anyway!

Game Time E3
halo32.jpgWell, again E3 is supposed to be about the games. So what do we know? Halo 3 will likely be at the show and will be the main attraction at Microsoft’s Tuesday night press conference. But considering that we just had the beta released is Halo 3 going to be enough? We better see Gears of War II or another must-play game for the Xbox 360 at this point. OK, we know there will be exclusive content for Grand Theft Auto IV, but that’s a far cry from “exclusively on the Xbox 360.”

Sony likewise needs to show something really spectacular as well, could it be a God of War title for the PS3? What else could they have up their sleeves? Maybe another Resistance game so they can go and annoy another city by defacing a famed landmark? Yeah, that could do the trick.

Nintendo has kept pretty mum, but without a huge press conference attended by thousands of fanboys their showing could be vastly different. Will the mainstream press, even the mainstream gaming press, get as hyped about Zelda or Mario? We’ll see. Nintendo has a hit on their hands, and it is worth noting that it also isn’t because of Zelda or Mario either. So we’re expecting more basic simple games, possibly even a Wii Sports 2, or something similar.

As for the various third party developers the playing field is going to be pretty level. Companies like Electronic Arts and Activision can’t dominate the show any longer. This isn’t to say that Madden, Battlefield 3142 (or whatever they’re up to), Call of Duty and Tony Hawk won’t still be impressive, but without the big booths and massively loud bass telling us how will we know if these games are good?

And here is what some other voices from the industry have to say:

Dean Takahashi of The San Jose Mercury News, and author of The Xbox 360 Uncloaked: The Real Story Behind Microsoft’s Next-Generation Video Game Console.
“I am not expecting earth-shaking news out of E3. Microsoft may have some leeway to cut its prices, but it may not have the motivation. That’s because Sony is in no position to cut the costs on its money-losing PlayStation 3 yet. And Microsoft is not likely to cut its price just so it can compete with Nintendo’s Wii. Instead, I expect that there will be a lot of focus on blockbuster games. Nintendo will have its staple brands such as Metroid and Mario. Microsoft will tout Halo 3 and newer bets such as Mass Effect. Sony will show off Lair and Heavenly Sword. Many of these games are known quantities. Again, just as with hardware, there are few surprises.”

Mike Wilson, GameCock Founder and organizer of the “Anti-E3” Expo for Interactive Entertainment, Independent and Original (E.I.E.I.O.).
The only thing for sure at this E3 is a bunch of scattered stiff boardrooms full of Power Point and cocktails and a bunch of suits yawning, stretching, and loving the fact that they aren’t listening to techno and sweating to death. Other than that, I’d imagine the press will do their required appointments with the wall street publishers’ PR slacks and then dash off to write their lamentations of E3′s of yore, perhaps just before rediscovering their enthusiasm at EIEIO or maybe even the independent games showcase at Barker Hangar. In the end, many glasses will be raised to the E3 that is forever dead, the one we loved to hate so much, and to new hangovers closer to the beach.

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