May 5, 2006

E3 2006 Preview: The Big Three

Posted in General at 5:41 pm by corneliusw

The Electronics Entertainment Expo, E3 for short, is just a few weeks away, and I have never been more pumped for it than this year. Last year’s show was amazing, and this year’s is looking to be even more promising. And of course, it wouldn’t be E3 without unsubtanciated rumors! So without further adeu, let the rampant speculation begin!

First, let’s start with the news that’s still the buzz of the gaming world, that of course being the shocking name Nintendo has given to it’s next-gen console: The Wii. The reaction to the change was a mixture of confusion, laughter, and even anger. I found myself in the extreme minority of people who actually liked the name. Yes, it is a bizarre choice for a gaming console, but that’s why its genius. All you need to do is take one gander at this very site. Every forum thread about the Wii is full of bathroom and genetalia jokes. every news post about the name change is littered with puns. The name “Wii” will be tattooed on the minds of every man, woman, and child. The Nintendo marketing machine will be using the same puns used by every news outlet on the internet, and kids will be quoting those same puns to their parents every day up until Christmas. Yes, it sounds absolutely ridiculous. But its clever. And for the record, I never liked the Xbox or Playstaion names. “Playstation” sounds more like that molded plastic playground equopment you see at Roys R’ Us, As for “Xbox”, well, they might as well called it THE XTREME MACHINE, and maybe replace all the vowels with similar-looking numbers to make the name appear more “leet”.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to the rumors, shall we?

Some insiders have the Nintendo Wii going for as low as $100, but the general feeling is that the Wii will hit the US market by this November with a price tag of $200. Hell, for Super Smash Brothers Online, I’d give Nintendo the rights to my first born child.

Nintendo is rumored to be revealing the Game Boy Advance’s true successor this year. The Game Boy Advance has gone through four redesigns since it’s debut, but I think the public is ready for something more than a simple visual or functional upgrade. The Nintendo DS is great, but it’s large size and gimmicky nature tend to put off many older consumers who are either unaware of the terrific library the DS offers, or simply more attracted the shinier and hipper PSP. Of course, the Nintendo continues with their redesign madness when the DS Lite hits stores this year. A smaller version of the Nintendo DS, it features other upgrades such as a thicker and more easier to maneuver stylus, improved backlighting on the screens, and an a new mic position to make using voice commands easier. In short, minor adjustments that will likely only appeal to hardcore handheld gamers.

Moving to Sony, the PS3 will likely be the highlight of their show. While many are wondering how low the Wii will go, the opposite can be said about Sony – just how much is a PS3 going to cost us? Even though most experts expect Sony to launch at $400, the PS3 is still rumored to go as high as $800. While it’s unlikely Sony would shoot themselves in the foot with such a high number, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them do just that. While I’ve never been “anti-Sony”, their behavior towards the price of the PS3 and the threats presented to them in the form of the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii has come off as arrogant.

The games of he PS3 are also set to make a big impact at this year’s show. While GDC was certainly a big eye-opener regarding the PS3 and it’s games, we still know very little about how many games we’ll be seeing at launch. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4, Warhawk, resistance: Fall of Man, and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom are all expected to make an appearance, but with the launch looming ever closer, you’d have to guess there’s something big coming from Sony. And what about Killzone 2? Last year, it was one of the most talked about games of the show, mainly due to the controversy surrounding the authenticity of its so-called “real-time” footage. One can only assume Sony will try to rectify this with some more substantial Killzone 2 footage, and perhaps even something playable.

Another big question mark for Sony is the PS3’s online capabilities. Its still expected that online play will be completely free, unless the publisher of a specific game(i.e. an MMORPG like Final Fantasy XI) decides to charge a fee. It will be interesting to see just how much Sony will offer to their customers, especially considering Microsoft’s dedication to their Xbox Live service.

Microsoft had a big showing last year when the Xbox 360 was finally shown to the masses. MS knows they’ve got to pull out the big guns if they want distract attendees from their competitors big announcements. The biggest of these guns is undoubtedly Halo 3. Expect gameplay footage and a tentative release date for the game, possibly as early as this fall. While MS and Bungie have long said that, much like Halo 2, Halo 3 would “be out when it’s ready”, it’s also no secret that MS, or at least Bill Gates, wanted to throw Halo 3 up against the PS3’s launch. It’s also been rumored that Bungie was forced to cut a large amount of content, including a large portion of the campaign, from the final version of Halo 2. With loads of finished content already laying around, and over two years of work, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Halo 3 could be making an appearance on shelves this holiday season. However, most reports have Halo 3 hitting stores in the Spring of 2007, at the earliest.

There are also rumors that MS will announce a handheld, an “XBoy” if you will. While MS has been opposed to creating a handheld gaming device in the past, the surging popularity of handheld media – including iPods, cell phone games, and the PSP – has their wheels turning. Previously, it was thought that Microsoft’s Origami Project was a type of handheld Xbox, similar to the PSP, however it has since been revealed that the Origami much more closely related to a tablet PC. However the rumors still remain that Microsoft could announce a gaming-specific portable device to compete on the handheld market.

This year’s event is looking to be even better than last. With two new consoles and tons of next-gen games expected to be shown this year, fans and news media alike should have their hands full next week.

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