E3 2010: What Do Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony Have Up Their Sleeves?

It’s that time of the year again, folks! No no – not the new iPhone. It’s time for E3, gaming’s most important conference, where Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony announce their latest hardware, games and services. Fanboy battles will rage, marketing execs will boast – but if all goes according to plan, gamers will find out what will dominate their time over the next few months.

 

Microsoft

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What We Know:

  • Expect Microsoft’s big push to be about Natal. Everything we’ve heard from the Redmond-based company so far has suggested that this isn’t just another peripheral – it’s essentially a console relaunch. And make no mistake: with Natal, Microsoft are going after the Wii market – which is to say everyone. In the same way Nintendo expanded the gaming demographic, Microsoft want Natal to appeal to people who would never even consider a game of Halo or Uncharted.
  • What we don’t know is what Natal will finally be called – or much more importantly, how much it will cost. And it’s a tricky issue. Too cheap, and Microsoft will undo the work its done to make its entertainment division profitable; too expensive and it won’t get the uptake it needs. Anything more than $99 (rumors point to $149)and Microsoft will really have their work cut out for them. BUT – Microsoft have proved quite effective at marketing this generation. So who know?
  • In games, Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3 will be the big stars, but it wouldn’t be a Microsoft E3 conference without the announcement of some big 360 exclusives.

Possible Surprises:

  • While there has been a lot of chatter about a possible redesign – an Xbox 360 ‘slim’ – what’s more likely is two announcements: a Natal pack-in bundle and a price cut. Is it possible Microsoft will cut the Arcade model and only run with the Elite and an Elite/Natal Bundle? A $249 Elite isn’t out of the question.
  • Will Hulu come to the Xbox? Hard to say. On the one hand, it makes sense and certainly fits in line with Microsoft’s approach; on the other, content owners have been pretty adamant about preventing set-top boxes from getting access. I’d say this one is a 50/50 chance.
  • Another possible surprise might be the announcement of a Natal game meant to appeal to hardcore gamers. We have no idea what that might look like.
  • Is another Final Fantasy XIII bombshell possible? Not likely – the only third-party exclusive Sony is holding on to is Rockstar’s Agent, and it seems very unlikely that MS will snag that.

What They Have to Prove

  • The big challenge for Microsoft will be balancing their huge hardcore base with their new, serious push for casual gamers. So Microsoft, while the only company with one platform to worry about, will have to figure out how to appeal to two very different demographics: the people who play Halo and the people who only play Wii Sports. Our guess is that, as a result, Microsoft’s conference will be all about rebranding and sending out a new message: we are the console for everybody, hardcore and casual gamer alike.

 

Nintendo

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What We Know:

  • The biggest news out of Nintendo will likely be the 3D Nintendo DS. A whole new handheld platform, the 3DS (tentative name) is huge news, especially since the DS Lite/i/XL have sold about a 130 million units. Yes, that many. Given Nintendo’s emphasis on using tech to create new experiences rather than simply trying to be cutting edge, it’s possible this could be really something compelling.
  • Last year, Nintendo introduced the ‘Vitality Sensor‘, which clips onto a finger (we presume) to measure your pulse so that games could… um… do something. We have no idea what. But expect Nintendo to give us an answer this year. Personally, I’m expecting disappointment on a Wii Music level.
  • In terms of games, we know… well, almost nothing. Metroid Other M is about the only major title that we know we’ll see more of. Which leads us to…

Possible Surprises:

  • The big question mark here is whether or not Ninty will announce the next Zelda for the Wii. Speculation has been rampant, and with Galaxy 2 out of the way, Miyamoto is likely working on something. Whether or not they’re ready to announce Zelda though…
  • Will there be a price cut? Probably not. In the West, its sales still dwarf Sony’s and Microsoft’s. It’s unlikely a price cut will hit until the end of 2010 or early 2011.
  • Pretty much everyone was caught off guard when Super Mario Galaxy 2 was announced last E3. Will this year’s conference hold a similar surprise?

What They Have to Prove:

  • Nintendo have to do two things: prove that the Wii, despite its raging success, still has some compelling things coming on the horizon; and second, that 3D on a handheld is something that people will want. Unlike their competitors, Nintendo are in a comfortable position and can now afford to take some (hopefully) innovative risks.

 

Sony

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What We Know

  • Sony will obviously be pushing two things: Playstation Move; and 3D, which they had a whole press conference about this week. But both will be a hard sell. Move is still an unknown property, and its appeal to large numbers of people remains to be proven. 3D, on the other hand, is limited to those few people who have 3D TVs, no matter how impressive the tech. On the plus side, Sony has momentum on its side, and the PS3 seems to finally be hitting its stride.

Possible Surprises

  • What will the price of the Move be? While we’ve gotten some hints, nothing final has been announced. Our guess? $99 for the Move, Eye Camera and pack-in game.
  • A PSP2? Doubtful. While we’ve theorized what it might have to contain, it just doesn’t seem likely that Sony are ready to do this yet. They know that Nintendo have dominated their handheld efforts, and that Apple has redefined what people expect from an ‘all-in-one’ device. Our guess is that Sony are working with Google to come up with a new portable solution (Playview, anyone?)
  • A redesigned XMB for the PS3? Possible. Sony’s interface has been well received and is neat and efficient. That said, it’s not exactly flashy or non-techie friendly. An NXE-style makeover is definitely not impossible.
  • A price cut for the PS3? Unlikely. Sony is finally at or near break-even point with the PS3 and they’re unlikely to jeopardize that in the near-term. $249 is a possibility for later in the year though (to coincide with the launch of Move).
  • A new service? Maybe. For a long time now, we’ve been hearing about how Sony intends to compete with Apple with their mysterious ‘Sony Online Service’. Maybe E3 is the time to announce how this is all going to work?
  • The biggest hint that we may get something surprising: Sony have announced all their big games already (Killzone, Motorstorm, LBP2). What are they saving for E3?
  • WILL WE FINALLY GET A RELEASE DATE FOR GRAN TURISMO 5? If not, Sony can just quit video games and do something else.

What They Have to Prove.

  • Sony has two big problems: first, they need to prove that Move is something greater than a more sophisticated version of the Wiimote. That means they need to show how this control scheme is better than a traditional controller in way that is compelling to the kind of person who plays Killzone or MAG. Secondly, they also have to make 3D games such an appealing idea that people will want to buy a new TV, only a few years after everyone bought new TVs for HD. So, um, good luck with that Sony. Hopefully, they’ll still focus on the standard PS3 library and services enough to keep gamers interested.

 

What Are You Expecting From E3?

What do you hope gets announced at E3? And what do you think each of the big three have to do to make their platforms the most compelling?

Written by Navneet Alang

Navneet Alang is a technology-culture writer based in Toronto. You can find him on Twitter at @navalang
SEE MORE ARTICLES BY "Navneet Alang"

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Comments
  • DW

    Great article. When you put the 3 side by side like that, it seems that Nintendo has a huge edge on the other 2 companies. Don’t get me wrong, I own only a ps3 and so I am not a Wii fanboy, but I really think that 3D is a fad that will not catch on. There isn’t enough money (credit) in the market for people to go out and buy a 3D tv any time soon. The ps3 Move and MS Natal are ideas that were due years ago. Nintendo now has a 5 or so years head-start on the other 2 companies by way of motion control gaming, and I doubt MS and Sony can steal those fans after ignoring those potential customers for so long.

  • Patrick

    I don’t see anything spectacular coming forward this year, just a lot of questions answered. But I’ve been suprised before.

  • smilingoat

    I Just want to see more on fable 3.

  • Haiku

    Microsoft:
    What i expect – Natal Hardcore Games or New IP (Halo or GOW) Megabomb style
    Big Surprise – FF XIII Versus or RARE Classic Revivals

    Sony:
    What i expect – Move and 3D used in a same game, with good graphics
    Big Surprise – FF VII Exclusive Reedition

    Nintendo:
    What i expect – New Donkey Kong or [Hyper Waoo]-Zelda new game
    Big Surprise – Wii Hi Def

  • Randy

    So I can see you guys aren’t fans of Sony. Everything about Xbox and Nintendo was pretty positive, then according you, Sony has the big uphill battle. What about what Microsoft has to prove with Natal, like that it will actually work the way they say it does. Facial recognition? That it will recognize gestures? Voice recognition? Individually all of these types of technologies are pretty damn expensive. Perhaps MS needs to show actual games that work with it, we see tech demos, just like with Sony. MS has more to prove then Sony does.

  • liquidhg

    Please for the love of god, unicorns and all things meaningful in life – RELEASE GRAN TOURISMO 5!

    I’m seriously starting to worry that I’ll see Playstation 4 before I see GT5.

    I hate you Sony for making me wait almost 4 FREAKING YEARS for this title.

  • Andy

    @Randy, Microsoft have already proved the NATAL works so they don’t really need to. When you look at Sony they haven’t really proved it yet and they have a terrible history of trying to add things on at the last minute and doing a terrible job of it. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a fanboy of any of these and I don’t believe NATAL or MOVE will work for any of the hardcore gamers out there but with MS’s huge marketing ability and the fact that NATAL has already been demoed and aimed at the occasional player market it has a greater chance of winning hands down.

    Maybe it’s time for Sony to start aiming at a different market?

  • Hutch

    The only reason Nintendo has a pull on everything else is because it’s FAMILY oriented, there are no good action games on it or anything. I got one for my wife and I NEVER play it unless we’re playing drunk bowling or tennis. I can’t stand the thing honestly, I’ll stick with my 360, red ring of death has never happened with me and I’ve had it for almost 4 years. I’m interested in seeing a Madden game for Natal, will bring me back to my football days in high school if they do it right.

  • Zac

    It feels like hardcore gamers are going to be largely ignored for this E3. I have literally no interest in Natal or Move. All I want to see is some good ol fashioned use-a-controller games. But to narrow that down…

    What I want from Microsoft: Give me a reason to finally not regret buying my Xbox :(
    Sony: Cut your price even further, and show me a good quality game. You’ve gotta have something left to tout.
    Nintendo: DSi to support Virtual Console NES, SNES and Genesis games. Show me some Zelda, NSMBWii2 and revive Donkey Kong Country as a Wiiware game.

  • shoe

    I’m glad I was not the only one to notice the bashing of Sony. Things were pretty objective until he started talking about Sony.

  • http://gamecritical.blogspot.com Viking ZX

    It’s pretty hard to not bash Sony these days. You’re talking about a company alive only through a dedicated fanbase that has yet to break even with profit on it’s console, and that actually had its entire game department up as one of four divisions that was going to get the ax in 2009. It squeaked by that one, but the sheer fact alone that the CEO’s of Sony would consider axing their entire games department due to lack of profit shows that Sony’s game division has a very clear cut uphill battle ahead of it.

    Love them or hate them, the PS3 is still a solid mess without any sort of clear direction save doublespeak and extra peripherals.

  • http://www.hghtruth.org/ Charlee

    Great article! Well-written, short, informative. That seems a rarity in gaming websites these days. Thanks for submitting!

  • http://www.oneworldtosee.com/ Jesika

    If Sony is partnering with Google on some things, why not have Google TV on the PS3. Surely the hardware could handle it.

  • 4.cl066

    Wow Sony and Google! Did I miss a news article somewhere or something? I know with all the fueding going on between Apple, Adobe n Google I just would’ve thought that if anything Google would be more likely to partner up with someone like MS n the 360… I just feel like it would make sense for Sony n not so much for Google.

  • http://us.playstation.com/games-and-media/games/killzone-3-ps3.html Killzone 3

    Waiting Eagerly for Killzone 3 on Move