E3 2011: what to expect from this year's show

Interestingly, perhaps the most significant thing about E3 2011 is the fact that most developers and publishing execs in the games industry already know what new tech to expect from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft prior to the event.

For example, we know that Nintendo's press conference will be dominated first by talk of new 3DS software and utilities (such as the handheld's new download store launching E3 week) followed by what is sure to be the major news of this year's show - the final reveal of the successor to the Wii, currently code-named Project Café.

Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata and creative head Shigeru Miyamoto are certain to unveil the latest "Wii 2" tech with a number of game demos featuring high definition renders of some of their much-loved iconic characters such as Mario, Link and others. We expect an announcement of a finalised name for the new console and a confirmation of a 2012 release date.

Project Café game demos aside, what we really want to find out more about when we get hands-on time with Nintendo's latest tech on the show-floor is how that rumoured 6.2-inch touchscreen display gamepad actually works.

On top of that, we will be poring over the tech specs of the new console itself with online rumours to date suggesting that Wii 2 will be powered by a three-core IBM Power PC chip, with 1080p 3D-capable graphics driven by an ATI R700 GPU.

Iconic nintendo: expect to see lots of appearances from much-loved characters

Iconic nintendo: expect to see lots of appearances from much-loved characters

ICONIC NINTENDO: Expect to see lots of appearances from much-loved characters

Major publishers including Activision, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have all had development kits to create software for Nintendo's latest home console for some time already, so we also expect to see some well-known gaming franchises from those - and other as yet un-named Nintendo partners - being showcased at Nintendo's presser and demonstrated on the company's booth.

"I'm extremely excited by Nintendo's Project Cafe. I'm sure everyone will be surprised by whatever they have up their sleeves to yet again expand the market," says Philip Oliver, CEO of Blitz Games Studios. "For developers like us it's always exciting to get stuck in with new tech and we look forward to working on our first wave of titles for the new machine.

Sony: the PSN aftermath

Sony will, of course, have to face its public en masse for the very first time since the recent security failure of the PlayStation Network, a PR disaster for the firm which could well mar its plans for the bigger games and tech announcements at this year's E3.

"I feel for Sony right now as the hacking incidents must be very time consuming internally and E3 will be very important for them to restore confidence with the industry, media and the public," agrees Oliver.

"Microsoft made a bold move with the Kinect at the last E3 which paid off well and I'm really excited to see how they follow this up this E3 this time. I'm also looking forward to seeing what else people are using this innovative tech for now that we're out of the honeymoon period of first and second wave titles."

Microsoft kinect 2.0: the latest gen of motion-control at e3 2011

KINECT 2.0: The latest gen of motion-control at E3 2011

Blitz Games Studio design director John Nash is equally keen to see what other developers are now managing to squeeze out of Microsoft Kinect, telling TechRadar: "Kinect has been with us for a while and we are starting to see some semblance of interface standards beginning to emerge.

"If Microsoft can demonstrate that the 3rd and 4th wave of Kinect experiences are producing, dare I say it, new genres, then greater future success is assured. Game designers are charged with leading this process as they embrace new technologies to deliver compellingly new entertainment and hopefully engage people in fresh ways."

The best ever E3 for gamers?

Vocal US analyst Michael Pachter is one of the few analysts willing to go on record predicting who will "win" E3 2011, claiming recently: "Gamers will win this year's E3, because there is going to be a ton of gaming goodness this year."

Games-wise, Activision's recent leak of the next outing of Call of Duty in the shape of an Infinity-Ward developed Modern Warfare 3 is clearly going to be one of the major must-see games of this year's show. Anybody fancy a bit of World War 3 action, in near-future settings featuring well-known locations New York, London, Berlin or Paris? Oh, only around about a hundred million eager console gamers worldwide, you say?

In terms of some of the other major titles for 2011, Rockstar has already made its play with L.A. Noire and Bethesda has also recently released the Splash Damage-developed and parkour-inspired futuristic urban-shooter Brink - two of the latest titles which most of the hardcore gaming attendees at E3 are likely to already have an in-depth familiarity with.

Still, there's a hell of a lot more to look forward to later this year, with Pachter "personally excited to see Star Wars and Battlefield from EA, a Call of Duty from Activision, possibly a Bungie or Respawn game, something cool from Take-Two (like BioShock Infinite, Max Payne 3, or . . . dare we say it . . .GTA?). Ubisoft will show Driver and the next Assassin's Creed, THQ will show Saints Row, and we'll probably see Batman Arkham City, Rage … so much that I can't keep track."

While this speculation of a new reveal from Bungie may well be misplaced - as the firm recently claimed that it is not even attending E3 2011 - with a list of solid AAA-titles such as these, it's easy to see why Pachter thinks that "the console guys are almost secondary" and why, providing there are no major disappointments or PR embarrassments from the Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo camps, we could well be looking at "the best E3 ever" for gamers.

What's also very telling, with TechRadar having spoken with plenty of publishing execs and developers in an off-the-record capacity in the run up to this year's event, is the fact that many of these companies are no longer interested in stoking console fanboy fantasies and arguments about whichever console tech offers the end-user the best, most-exclusive games or allows them to show-off the most-advanced tech demos to their mates.

What with Microsoft developing and refining its Kinect strategy, Sony focusing heavily on its new NGP handheld and Nintendo finally releasing a high def console that is on par with the PS3 and Xbox 360, the technical playing field for home consoles has been levelled.

Disruption in the cloud

Finally, while much of the mainstream media coverage of E3 is seemingly all about new console hardware, boxes under your TV and AAA-exclusives, many forward-thinking developers and gaming hardware designers are clearly now embracing mobile and social networks such as Facebook as viable gaming platforms in their own right.

"As disruptive technologies such as Facebook and mobile platforms increasingly steal large slices of the games market it will be very interesting to see how new and established players are adapting their businesses to the new ways of thinking and doing business," says Philip Oliver.

"For us at Blitz it's about making sure that we consider not just the technology at consumers' disposal now but also focus on how they want to interact. There's huge potential in this space and we're looking to expand our footprint here too as we've already integrated browser functionality into our BlitzTech engine."

David Perry is another well-known games developer looking to progress his latest cloud-gaming business model, Gaikai. Perry is of the opinion that we are now "on the long tail section of plastic accessories (my cupboards are full!)" and thinks more developers and publishers will "re-embrace the PC/Mac/Mobile combo as the biggest digital platform," in addition to the industry seeing a gentle growth of stereoscopic 3D across all devices.

"E3 used to be the show where we would all be waiting for the retailers to show up and decide if we live or die. The future of E3 will depend on publishers and retailers finding a new digital symbiotic relationship. I suspect many conversations over beer and wine will focus on defining the shape of that digital future together."


Like this article? Then check out Microsoft at E3 2011: what to expect

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Adam Hartley