The Calm before E3 2017 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 23, 2017

This will be the first prediction article since 2014. Last year, Nintendo’s Zelda-exclusive entrance made it moot to speculate much. And I honestly forgot about giving my predictions for the year 2015. So here it is, the return to glory, my crazy predictions for E3 2017. It marks the first E3 post-Switch launch and there’s also Sony that has to prove a lot. Also, for the first time ever, I’ll have to put Microsoft on the back-burner. Their new philosophy of having no Xbox-exclusives and instead putting everything on PC, too, has made me lose any interest in their console. It doesn’t help that their first-party games output is on an alltime low point, unless you enjoy driving sims, which I don’t. But let’s look at what will hopefully be present at E3 2017!

Fanboy’s Favourite: Nintendo

Nintendo’s first and foremost task is to keep the current momentum of the Switch. It’s selling even better than the Wii did back then, but it’ll be hard to stay at that level of sales. But Wii-like success or not, quality games that drive hardware sales need to be announced!

That’s why I want to preface this section with a simple statement: I want ALL my games on Switch! This would have been fanboy-drivel in the past, had someone said “I want all my games on Wii U/Wii!”. But the Switch is different. Finally, I am free from the TV! I no longer have to sit in that one spot in front of the television, no, instead I can play my games wherever I wish. And that isn’t necessarily out of my living place. It also means I can play lying on a couch, chilling in bed, taking it with me into the kitchen while preparing a meal. And I can play it on the big TV-screen if I choose so. The level of comfort the Switch brought to the world of video games is unprecedented and can no longer be undone for my gaming tastes. So when I say “I want ALL my games on Switch!”, it means I want all my games to have this level of freedom and comfort. And it just so happens that Nintendo is the only company offering a hybrid system.

Since I’m already at it, let me talk about 3rd-party predictions. Western publishers will be disappointing. I expect two key showings at E3: Electronic Art’s FIFA 18 will be shown and made a big deal about. But I see two significant problems coming in: For one, the game will use a last-gen engine, emphasizing that EA is unwilling to seriously support the Switch, as in saying “it’s not worth it porting Frozenbite, because we won’t ever release any future games on this system”. And secondly, the game will be missing a couple of key features when compared to the PS4-/Xbox One-versions. Which will be unfortunate to the n-th degree, because despite those issues, it’s probably going to be a fun game, perfect for a handheld. But it’ll fail commercially and give EA an excuse to say “see, our games don’t sell on Nintendo-systems!”. The end. *sigh* Honestly, I’d love to be wrong about that prediction, but it’s the only outcome I can currently envision. And then there’s Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Yes, it’s an old game that dozens of millions of gamers have already played. But I will say this: As long as it’s a good port, there’ll be plenty of hype for this version. I know because I’m kinda looking forward to it myself. I’ve played the game on both my old PC and laptop, but I never finished it. Having such a game on a handheld would immensely raise the chances of me beating the game. And nobody can say that the Switch-audience doesn’t love big open world-games, considering it’s number one-launch title. If this game can release in late summer/early fall, I could see it be a fantastic bridge title between Zelda and Mario, especially for gamers who prefer a more realistic artstyle (because there’s another big title announced for this year that will also satisfy fans of open world-games, except with a completely different art direction. But more about that one later). If Bethesda can maybe add some new Nintendo-exclusive stuff (like a Link-costume or a new dragon that’s called Volvagia or whatever), it would give even more incentive to Nintendo-fans to dig in.

Otherwise, I’m not sure what western 3rd-parties will be offering. If Ubisoft gave a damn about the Switch, they’d at the very least announce South Park: The Fractured but Whole for the system. If they’re fully committed, the new Assassin’s Creed-game should follow suit, too. But with them only having shown Steep, Rayman Legends and Monopoly so far, I’m not confident in them at all. The one semi-big third party-title that should be announced is Grand Theft Auto 5 from Rockstar. But rumors say that L.A. Noire is getting a port. Oh well … In terms of “it makes too much sense, so it’s probably not gonna happen”, I see Overwatch and Rocket League be ported to Switch. Both are social phenomena that could get even bigger by bringing them from online-only to local-multiplayer experiences. It’d be a good opportunity for these games to introduce offline-modes, too.

Now for Japanese 3rd-party developers. Much brighter outlook, although many announcements could end up being withhold until Tokyo Game Show in early fall. But ignoring the latter, some of the titles I expect for Switch are as follows:

All the obvious ports should become a reality. The upcoming Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory has no reason to not be released on Switch. Same for Persona 5, which would be so much better on a handheld than a console. I actively decided against getting the PS4-version, because I simply cannot play a 100 hours story-focused JRPG tied to a TV. Persona 4 Golden was so great partly because I could play it on the PS Vita. Unless Sony pays Atlus to keep a Switch-port from happening, it’d be true madness not to make this port happen. Lastly is the Dragon Quest 11-version for Switch.  It releases at the end of July in Japan. No idea if the Switch-version is planned for a simultaneous release, but even if it isn’t, it needs to be shown. And it better be based on the PS4-version, unless Square Enix wants to become the industry’s laughing stock. As for an out-of-nowhere neat surprise, I’d love to see Nier: Automata get ported to Switch. Platinum Games was very postive about the system and the game deserves all the attention it can get. And there could be exclusive Nintendo-themed costumes for 2B. Sexy Link-tunic dress maybe? ;>

But Switch needs new game announcements, too, so let’s get to them. These are based on what I’d love to see, not on existing rumors.

First of all, From Software needs to materialize its promise and deliver a game for Switch. Worst case scenario is a port of any of the existing Dark Souls-titles, something that would be boring for most players, as Souls-fans already played them to no end. I’d like to see a new franchise that’s exclusive to Nintendo, similar to how Demon’s Souls is exclusive to Sony. I have two predictions to make about such a new From Software-franchise for Switch: 1.) A slightly more light-hearted fantasy-action RPG. Emphasis on “slightly”, as I wouldn’t want some silly cartoon game. But speaking of cartoons, the kind of atmosphere I’m imagining here is that of the old cartoon-series “Dungeons and Dragons”, where a group of teenagers visits an amusement park and somehow gets lost in a parallel universe where dragons and magic are real. Despite being a kids cartoon, the atmosphere was very serious, oppressive, and gave a constant feeling of danger looming somewhere. What’s best, however, was how full of crazy secrets that world was. So when I say that I want a more light-hearted game, I mean an action-RPG with less focus on scary, tough fights, and more focus on creating a surreal atmosphere, induced with sympathetic, voiced NPCs. Less focus on stats, more focus on actual effects of your skills. Basically: “What if the Zelda-team helped From Software creating a game”. 2.) The second option for a Switch-exclusive From Software-game would be to simply make a game based on BLAME! or Knights of Sidonia. It’d be a scifi-take on the Dark Souls-formula. Focus on long-range weapons over swords. Not much more to be said about that, just watch a trailer of these manga/anime to get a sense of it.

Then there’s Capcom. Oh Capcom. I’ll put aside my annoyance over Monster Hunter Stories being released on 3DS instead of Switch in the West, sigh. But speaking of which, the Monster Hunter-franchise is *the* big topic here. The problem is that Capcom historically likes to have their own announcement event for MonHun, so it’s unlikely to see it at E3. But be it E3 or TGS, I predict that there’ll be an HD-version of Monster Hunter XX for Switch released in late fall/early winter in Japan, followed by a spring release in the West. They’ll also announce Monster Hunter 5 at the same event for the following year. Basically, a 1:1 repeat of how it went on 3DS (MH3 Ultimate first, MH4 the next year). I hope those silly PlayStation 4-rumors turn out to be wrong (stating that the main-version of MH5 is made for PS4, while Switch gets a lesser portable-version), although I’d take the entertainment of “Capcpom” driving yet another franchise into the ground by trying to appeal to an imaginary western audience. Keep MonHun MonHun, for god’s sake! But Monster Hunter isn’t enough from maybe the most important 3rd-party publisher during the Switch’  hardware conception. Despite personally not beingt that fond of the game, I expect Resident Evil 7 to be ported in form of a “Complete Edition” with all the released DLC. Capcom already talked about how they might look into getting RE7 to run on the Switch, so that’s already a precedence. Adding to that the fact that RE7 wasn’t a mega seller like previous series entries, it’d actually make sense to get another couple 100k units sold, while at the same time preparing Switch-owners for RE8. Following that train of thought, a release of the RE4-6 collection for PS4/One also makes a lot of sense. I don’t see any new franchises being announced. If we’re lucky, there’ll be a new Phoenix Wright-game.

I expect a bunch of games from various other Japanese developers and publishers. Bandai Namco Entertainment ought to show a reveal-trailer of their Tales of-title for Switch. Announce Code Vein for Switch, sigh. Sega will show more of Sonic Forces. I’d hope Konami brings something to the table after Bomberman’s success. Pro Evolution Soccer and maybe, although that’s from the realm of dreams, but maybe a new Silent Hill-game. Ideally Silent Hill: Shattered Memories 2, because the first game for Wii was fantastic. Unlikely to be shown at E3, but I want to see all of those smaller niche-titles that would typically be released on the PS Vita. Visual novels and such. And I hope to see some surprise-title like Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon and Opoona, too. Again, many of those are more likely to be shown at TGS, if they happen at all. But that’s it for 3rd-parties. Now on to my 1st-party predictions.

There will be big blow-out of the Switch’s Virtual Console-service. Not only will the amount of instantly available titles surprise everyone (100+ games), but there’ll be various business models, offering both the traditional “buy and keep” option as well as a subscription service. Previously purchased VC-titles from 3DS/Wii U can be played on Switch without any upgrade-fee, showing Nintendo’s good will towards its loyal fans. Most importantely, though: There will be online-multiplayer for all VC-games with multiplayer. Welcome to playing Melee online!

Other then the obvious huge Splatoon 2-showing, Super Mario Odyssey will be heavily demoed. Breath of the Wild’s new difficulty-mode as well as the new story-scenario will be shown. Splatoon 2 will have a lot of presence, considering its July release. The three most shocking announcements, though, will be: 1.) Xenoblade Chronicles 2 atually releases this fall in Europe and the USA! It’ll prove why a 100% MonolithSoft-developed open world-game is even superior to Breath of the Wild. 2.) Pokémon Stars will be unveiled. First home-console Pokémon-game. Massive hype. 3.) RetroStudio’s game. This will be a sneak-preview into 2018. It’ll be a non-cartoony 3D-game, maybe a shooter, maybe an action-RPG. The type of game the rest of Nintendo’s development studios isn’t good at.

Another group of smaller scale games will be announced: 1.) Endless Ocean 3 by Arika, 2.) a revival of Cosmic Walker, 3.) Wave Race and 4.) the long wished-for F-Zero NX.

More interestingly, Nintendo will have a trifecta of 3rd-party collaborations. These ambitious prestige projects will encompass The Last Story 2, Beyond Good and Evil 2 and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories 2.

To smooth things out, Nintendo will announce a stream of Wii U-ports that will add value to the Switch’  line-up without being an excuse for a lack of newer titles. Pikmin 3 will be the first of these ports, accompanying the upcoming 3DS-Pikmin.

To end their E3-presentation, they’ll announce a new Metroid-game that is developed in collaboration with a 3rd-party developer. I have no idea which one, but it’ll cause lots of attention. Maybe From Software. Maybe Hideo Kojima. Maybe Capcom.

Still there: Sony

I have one big task for Sony which also happens to be my prediction for them: They need to show why buying PlayStation VR was a worthwile decision. For the past couple months, it got more and more quiet around Sony’s virtual reality-headset. The software you’d see for it consisted of small-scale experiences, Resident Evil 7 marking the one big exception. But that’s not enough. Unless Sony intends to cement their unreliability when it comes to all things NOT a PlayStation home-console (see the Move-controller or the Vita), they need to show at least one big, ambitious PSVR-game, ideally exclusive to PSVR. The only game I can think of that would cause a huge splash is Sword Art Online PSVR. A first-person action-RPG title built from the ground for PSVR. No, nothing like those shitty Vita-games. I’m talking about a huge, seamlessly connected open world, full of well-animated, voiced NPCs. Dynamic battles that make you feel like you’re really there. And just a really engaging story and presentation (with a character editor. Please no more Kirito …). Would such an ambitious, expensive game make profit for Sony? Probably not. But neither did Bayonetta 2 for Nintendo. It’d be a strongly needed prestige title, there to reassure fans and the world that Sony gives a damn about PSVR. Show us, Sony! And don’t you dare announcing another bunch of 5 hour-experiences.

Why so PC: Microsoft:

Sorry, but due to their “everything releases on PC, too” policy, I have no more interest in anything Xbox-related. I’ll eventually play it on PC, when I ever buy a gaming-capable one again.

Conclusion:

As one can see, I’m stoked for Nintendo’s E3 offerings this year. As I laid out in the introduction, I simply want to play as many games as possible on my Switch. Free from the TV, wherever I choose to play. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, truly revolutionizing the way we play. Considering all that, it makes sense that the one thing I care about in relation to Sony is PSVR, which also has the potential to revolutionize gaming, but has been held back by the lack of risk-taking so far. When I think of E3, about the future of gaming, it’s the things that are new, that I haven’t experienced before. I don’t care about graphically impressive open-world games like Horizon that give me a feeling of “been there, done that”. I’m also not convinced that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be anything ground-breaking. But the Switch, the potential games for it, and the promise of PSVR are the elements that keep me invested in this greatest of all hobbies. Come June 2017, I hope to see at least some of my predictions turn out true. I know I tend to be overly optimistic, but … come on, Nintendo and Sony, show us! And Microsoft … at least make sure Phantom Dust rulez!

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The Calm before E³ 2014 – Crazy Prediction Time

April 8, 2014

An unprecedented calm even? This year´s E3 will either be one devoid of many news or one full of surprises, seeing how we hardly hear about any rumors for the upcoming gaming-mega event in Los Angeles. Especially as a big time Nintendo-fan, the wait for news is excruciating. A Smash Bros.-related Nintendo Direct later this day promises to soothe things a bit, but even the inevitable reveal of a playable Ridley, Shulk and Krystal cannot mask the dire situation of the Wii U. What´s going to happen? Let´s try to predict some – and fail badly at it!

Fanboy´s Favorite: Nintendo

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My past predictions of Nintendo´s E3-offerings used to be high in numbers and overly positive. Ever since the company´s treatment of its own new home console, the Wii U, it is clear that such optimism is unfit the situation. I´d love to go into this segment of ths article full-steam and write “Metroid 5 will be shown, as well as a 1080p60fps F-Zero”, but I cannot. This is a year where I have to take into account the circumstances and reflect Nintendo´s best and most realistic chances at delivering a high impact-E3-showing. Thus, I will focus on a few selected titles instead of listing dozens of wish games. Here I go:

The Legend of Zelda U will be revealed as promised by Eiji Aonuma. There will be some major changes to the typical formula, lon-needed changes as Aonuma himself admitted. Firstly, the focus of the game is on exploration to a never before realized degree. Aonuma already hinted at more non-linearity and this entry in the series will finally be the one that takes the original Zelda 1 for NES and makes it into a stunning 3D-game. The player is thrown into the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a beautiful, open, living game-world. You´re free to go anywhere. This where the next major change is revealed: Environmental interactivity is taken to the next level. Link can climb any surface that´s not entirely flat. No “gamey” specially marked surfaces where you can climb, but truly everywhere. Think of Shadow of the Colossus´ climbing mechanic, but with less restrictions. The movement of Link will be central to the experience, with additional items expanding your options of locomotion. Within a world that wants to b explored, climbing, jumping and more are integral to the gameplay. Of course, the jump-button will return to 3D-Zelda for the first time ever. A big change in its visual design is the renunciation of the blocky, almost grid-based layout of the world that existed to allow for an easier implementation of puzzles. Instead, the world will look believable, no more blocky, perfectly flat walls of mud. The environment wants to be experimented with, thanks to the non-scripted movement options. One change might cause a huge uproar to some conservative fans: Link will be able to be customized. At the very least will we be able to buy and change his clothing, and not just limited to 2-3 status-effecting armors, but real custom clothing. Get rid of the ridiculous hat, thank you! As for the visual artstyle, I´m expecting something close to the E3-demo, but not exactly the same. They can´t stray away from that too much, or we´ll have Spaceworld vs. TWW 2.0. Nobody wants that. Whatever it is, this is a Zelda-game that needs to prove that Nintendo is still capable of producing ambitious games, and not just minimum effort-cash ins like Super Mario 3D World or Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Something.

Monolith Soft´s X will be shown. For the first time, we will see a lengthy, story-centric trailer that gives an elaborate glimpse into the world, its characters and its circumstances. Personally, I expect a lot of people to be shocked by the true scale of the game, that might even exceed what we´ve seen so far. Xenoblade was all about exploring a gigantic world – with a flying mecha, you have to up the ante a lot to keep this sort of exploration, so even a huge continent might be too small to keep it up. Think bigger. Think … stars! Anyway, the game will be set for an early 2015 release in the west and a holidy 2014 release in Japan. Worst wait ever. Oh, and a short bonus-teaser will reveal that it is indeed Shulk who we saw at the end of the first teaser in 2012.

Super Smash Bros. 4 will have a big show-casing at this year´s E3. I expect more character reveals and and in-depth presentation of the games modes, especially the online-ones. Even in worst times, Smash Bros. managed to keep Nintendo relevant, as proven by Super Smash Bros. Melee, the only million-seller on GameCube in Japan. The game builds on its great foundations, no big surprises incoming (other than any newcomer being a surprise in itself, or course).

Two major new announcements will be made: One of them is Pokkén, the long rumored Pokémon-fighting game. The fantastic graphics and the exciting choices of playable Pokémon will make this appealing to the entire fanbase. Developed by Bandai Namco and the Tekken-team, it´ll have more than solid gameplay as well as a flawless online-component. The other new title will be from RetroStudios, and it´ll be in the tone that most of us whished for a long time: Some “mature”, non-cartoony looking, open-world 3D-game. Three possibilities: 1.) StarTropics, 2.) A Metroid-game where you play a Federal Space Trooper, not Samus Aran, or 3.) a new franchise. Whatever it is, it´ll look great, moody and be released sometime 2015 or even later.

The rest of the Wii U´s E3 will consist of known titles like Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2 and Yoshi Yarn.

The Nintendo 3DS is hard to predict. Last year has been fantastic, this year is a lot quieter in terms of software. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate might be shown. Lots of smaller titles. Hopefully, Fire Emblem: Awakening sees a sequel; afterall, the game hints that the story is not over yet AND it´d make sense saleswise, since this turned out to be one of the best-selling games in franchise-history.

The big wild card for Nintendo´s 2014 E3 will definitely be the QoL-device. It´s either going to be the laughing stock of the industry or something truly awesome, a must-have gadget. Not much in-between, really. Since I refuse to believe that Nintendo´s putting so much effort into a generic me too-fitness device, I think that their QoL-device will be something really cool. My personal speculation revolves around improved AR-capabilities and/or some highly evolved, endearing A.I./algorithm-“companion” that manage your daily virtual ventures and becomes more individual the more you keep using the device, thus bein able to automatically set or deactive the alarm, notify you of someone´s birthday or, as that´s part of the concept, tell you about your health. The AR-part could be seen as a reasonable counter to the current VR-hype. VR is all about a solitary experience at home, whereas AR is all about experience virtual content in the real world, so it´s automatically a more social experience, thus befitting Nintendo´s philosophy. We haven´t really seen what´s possible with AR at this point, both the 3DS´ and PSVita´s AR-capabilities are a glitchy, jittery mess. Think along the lines of that supercool Google-April fools-video, where you could see Pokémon interacting with the real world by looking through your smartphone. That sort of AR. As for the virtual companion idea, that´d be super-popular in Japan (think of all the anime that had A.I. partners for the hero) and is already touched upon by both Apple and Microsoft. Apple had Siri, and MS just recently published their Cortana-update for Windows Phones. Both are a nice start, but so much more would be possible, if you made it the focal point of a device. Maybe the QoL?

Microsoft´s effort-machine:

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Sony´s PS4 is currently beating the Xbox One´s ass, so Microsoft needs to show more than all those third-party multiplatform titles. While I have no interest in buying another system next to my Wii U and gaming PC, Microsoft managed to create some truly interesting first-party titles in the past. I´m looking forward to what they have in story.

The Third Place: Sony

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I´m (not) sorry, but i just don´t care.

Conclusion:

Games development gets more and more expensive as the industry turns more and more risk-averse. It is this year´s E3´s challenge to prove that creativity is not dead. All three big publishers and home console-manufacturers have to prove that you do not need a VR-headset for a fresh, fantastic experience. If they fail to do so, Facebook´s Oculus Rift might have them in for a bad awakening. It´s entirely up to each of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony to prevent that from happening, though. An exciting E3, even without a plethora of new announcements.