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.



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.



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.



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?

By navneetalang

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

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