Does anyone get the feeling that this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo will be… well, less than stellar?
Both Sony and Microsoft have hinted, if not outright stated, that their next-generation systems will be no-shows. While that leaves quite a bit for Sony to chew over up on the big stage, from the struggling Vita to upcoming blockbusters The Last of Us and PlayStation All-stars Battle Royale, Microsoft is left with a this-year-only-focus, which has been the hallmark-– and, in most cases, the downfall-– of their presentations for the past several shows. Which is not to say that getting our first look at Black Ops 2 or an extended playthrough of Halo 4 won’t be satisfying in a majorly geeky way, of course.
(And which is also not to say that either company will resist the temptation to lift the curtain, even just a little, on their new crops of hardware. This is particularly true for Microsoft, I suspect, as it would obviously help spice up what is, at least as of right now, shaping up to be a rather bland presser, and it would also be, quite frankly, necessary; there’s no way that the company isn’t launching the new Xbox next year, no matter what all the talking heads are currently saying over each other. [Sony, on the other hand…])
What’s most interesting about E3 ’12 is how Nintendo has similarly painted itself into a corner. No release date announcement for the Wii U? No price point revelation, either? It’s a little like telling your date that there may be hand-holding that night, but certainly no second or third base. Whispers-– particularly official ones, from Miyamoto-san and company–- of a new Super Mario Bros. entry and the way-too-long-awaited Pikmin 3 are certainly welcome and will help to make an interesting show… but if there is little else, plus the gaping hole of hard Wii U launch data, the big N runs the risk of having less substance than Sony’s conference and less style than Microsoft’s. That’s bring-out-the-Vitality-Sensor time, that is.
(Why not announce, in grand E3 style, pricing or release information? The former is easy: given the unprecedentedly wonky price points and drops this past generation, and given that the Wii U is roughly a suped-up XB360 or PS3, Nintendo is waiting to see how its two rivals will play out their pricing strategies for the rest of the year– particularly if Microsoft dramatically slashes the price of the 360 to $99, as is being heavily rumored at present. If, say, the 320GB version of the PS3 is retailing for $249 come Q4, expect to see the Wii U anywhere from $299 to $349.
As for the latter, well, that’s a trickier point, but it essentially boils down to one thing: delays. The days of news sites speculating-– and the big N hinting– that an August launch is possible are long over, and now even a November release seems so shaky, rumors are spreading that a highly improbable Q1 ’13 window is ahead. The Wii U and the Xbox 720 hitting shelves in the same year is bad news for Nintendo, but one thing is certain: if the company can’t even officially comment on its new system’s release just five months out, things ain’t looking too rosy in Kyoto.)
What else won’t be making an appearance at the show? The 3DS redesign, for one. Those individuals, journos and fanboys alike, who are all a-twitter about a “3DS Lite” reveal are, not to put too fine a point on it, clueless. Much like politics, much of the mystery– not to mention the entirety of the ideological dogma– of the process is dissipated once history steps into the picture. In this case, Nintendo has traditionally unleashed a new handheld design every two years (conveniently overlooking the one-two-three release of the DSi, DSi XL, and 3DS [2009, ’10, and ’11, respectively], of course), and given the still-quickly-improving success of the portable and the still-stuck-in-the-mud floundering of the Vita, there’s simply no incentive to rush to the market– not to mention how much of the spotlight it would take away from the impending Wii U launch, as well.
Now, as for what that does leave–- well, I’ll let the experts tackle that one. There has to be something left for the final column, yes?
Marc N. Kleinhenz has covered gaming for over a dozen publications, including Gamasutra and TotalPlayStation, where he was features editor. He also likes mittens.