A little perspective
A lot can happen in a year: births, deaths, marriages, divorces, everyone jumping on the Breaking Bad bandwagon. And while many measure a years events from January to December, gamers find it just as easy to plan their time according to the 12 month span between E3 conventions in Los Angeles. And if you look at what has happened since 2013s event, the industry has gone through a shocking number of changes.
Sony now has the best-selling console, the Xbox One has been significantly altered, and several people were used to seeing at E3 have left their companies. When taken as group, there have been a crazy amount of major shakeups no one couldve anticipated at the close of E3 2013. Such as...
Jack Tretton has left Sony Computer Entertainment
While Kaz Riiiidge Racer Hirai might be the man most gamers associate with Sonys E3 press conferences, Jack Tretton became a favorite in recent years. Some may recall important moments like Tretton humbly addressing the PSN outage in 2011, or his satisfied grin at announcing the PS4 would have no used game restrictions. The latter was a moment of career satisfaction that may never be topped, and you likely wont see him try to improve on it any time soon, as he left Sony on April 1 of this year.
When Jack Tretton announced his exit, hed been with Sony for 19 years and had worked on every PlayStation console, so Sony is presenting its system for the first E3 ever without Tretton. Jack could still make waves with some comments as an outsider at this years show, but different Sony employees will be reading teleprompters in his place. Andrew House, the current head of PlayStation, will no doubt be part of Sonys E3 victory lap, along with new regulars like Adam Boyes and Shuhei Yoshida, but who else will take the stage on Monday night in Trettons stead?
Sony comes into E3 on top
The PS3 era must have felt like a very long generation for Sony. The company came into it on the defensive, continually having to clean up a boatload of mistakes, all while trying to catch up to Microsofts early lead in console sales. But, as in a cliched sports film, this humbled the former industry leader, and (as you saw in the previous slide) it came out swinging with the PS4. This has left Sony in a position unfamiliar to many younger gamers: first place.
Now that the PlayStation 4 is currently outselling the Xbox One and PS4 games are doing great at retail, itll be interesting to witness how Sony deals with such obvious success. Honestly, itll be odd to see the company come into the trade show without the need to apologize for something. For Sonys sake, heres hoping it learned a real lesson from the PS3 years, avoiding the type of hubris that cost it so dearly back in 2006.
Don Mattrick is gone from Microsoft
If Jack Tretton left Sony as the conquering hero (with Sony fanboys wrote epic poems in his name), then Don Mattricks Microsoft exit was far less regal. Mattrick had overseen the Xbox brand for six years, often hosting Microsofts press conference with a type of muted excitement, like when he unveiled the 360 Slim. Mattrick certainly didnt hear those cheers when presenting the Xbox One to the world, and he quickly became the face of every problem people had with the new system.
Don was all over the Xbox Ones embattled reveal last year, and saying We have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity. It's called Xbox 360, didnt help his popularity. Right or wrong, Microsofts confused messaging for the system got credited to Mattrick, not surprising when the companys total reversal on its policies was written by the man. After all the grief the Xbox One earned Microsoft, it makes sense that Mattrick left his unpopular position at Microsoft not long after that policy change. It looks like new Xbox boss Phil Spencer will have to be the star of countless snarky memes in 2014. Fortunately for him, Mr. Mattrick wont have any detractors at his new job running Zynga, a company thats universally beloved!
The Xbox One is a very different system
E3 2013 was a real learning experience for Microsoft. It had so much enthusiasm for the Xbox One, but a large chunk of the public wasnt into the confusing rules about online, nor the price, or the Kinect camera required to operate the console. Microsoft used much of its precious stage time to explain these plans to doubtful consumers, and it left MS open to the aforementioned Jack Tretton knockout blow. And despite all that time and energy, the Xbox One quickly transformed into a very different system post-E3.
Weeks after the event, the rules for used games and online functionality transformed to almost mirror the PS4s, and a giant day one patch made the Kinect optional instead of integral to the systems operation. May 13, 2014 saw Microsoft announce an Xbox One bundle without a Kinect packed-in that costs the same as a PS4, modifying the price and integral nature of Kinect in a flash. The console has changed more in its first year than most do in three, but this shows MS isnt about to give up on the Xbox One. Expect Microsoft to be on the attack this year.
Nintendo has some weird plans to save itself
Gamers have come a long way since the It prints money! days, as Nintendo had some tough times following E3 2013. Sure, the company wasnt in great shape going into last years event, with particularly stagnant Wii U sales, but the company had a strong holiday lineup that could potentially change the situation. Despite quality Wii U games, the console didnt come close to hitting these conservative holiday estimates, and has already been outsold worldwide by the PS4. Despite healthy 3DS sales, Nintendo is firmly in third in the current console war.
But the biggest changes since E3 came with Nintendos reaction to the situation. The publisher says its steadfast with the Wii U, while its new business plans are as unpredictable as youd expect. It plans to invest in Skylanders style NFC figurines, in addition to dipping into the mobile app market. Nintendo also has a mysterious Quality of Life platform that will somehow change the way people live. In the face of a faltering performance, Nintendo seems to have some weird strategies ahead... but the Wii sounded pretty silly back in 2006.
Microsoft purchased Gears of War from Epic
This time last year many were wondering what Epic Games had planned for next-gen consoles, particularly with its Microsoft-exclusive Gears of War series. How would it look on the Unreal 4 engine? Would it be a centerpiece of Microsofts presentation? Or would Sony score it as a PS4 release? Gear never showed up at E3 2013, and just as people were questioning Epics commitment to the the series, the publisher sold it to Microsoft.
The sale of its highest-selling franchise was a bold move by Epic. And it makes sense given the companys shift from console-focused titles like Gears into a future it has yet to fully explain. Just as Epic is changing its development strategy, Microsoft needs more exclusive Xbox One games, which the purchase of Gears certainly addresses. This definitely strengthens the Xbox Ones portfolio, but are we going into E3 2014 anticipating the next Gears, or is whatever Epic is planning more intriguing?
Irrational Games is basically gone
Following years of anticipation for BioShock Infinite, the game shipped to acclaim and millions of copies sold. Riding this wave of success, Irrational boss Ken Levine has the potential to own E3 2014... or rather he would, if Irrational still existed. Fans are still eager to see Levines next game, but the excitement falls under the shadow of the massive downsizing of Irrational Games.
Despite being responsible for releases that were both commercial and critical hits, Irrational Games shockingly cut most of its staff early in 2014. Its a troubling sign of the times that an esteemed developer of that size cant stay open, and it makes me worry that history will soon repeat itself with other big studios. Whats going on in this industry If the team behind BioShock cant stay together? That question will be a dark cloud that hangs over the E3 excitement.
Indie games are everywhere
Indie games had made slow headway on consoles, but the last year saw them take a big leap forward thanks to the new generation of consoles. Indies are a well-established entity on PC, but the new systems open the doors to console gamers wider than ever for indies. Through either planning or happenstance, indies are a major part of the PS4 and Xbox One today, and will likely only get bigger at this years E3.
Sony gave ample stage time to indies during its 2013 press conference, and the small games made an impact in the year since, with popular titles like Transistor and Towerfall filling the gaps between the system's few retail releases. At the same time (perhaps after seeing Sonys success), both Microsoft and Nintendo have been warming up to indie devs more and more. First parties will likely give more time than ever to indie games during their press conferences this year, a situation many wouldnt have predicted even two years ago.
Streaming is more normal than ever
Much like indies, streaming is an area traditionally dominated by PC. However, during the last 12 months consoles have really started to catch up. During E3 last year, streaming your own PS3 or 360 games took a little technical know-how and some pricey hardware. By comparison, the PS4 and Xbox One are amazingly stream-friendly, with owners given easy access to services like Twitch and UStream.
Whether in response to consumer demand or the millions that are watching eSports, publishers that once seemed to fear the possibilities of streaming are now embracing it. Even Nintendo, a company that once tried to block Super Smash Bros. from being played on Evos fighting game tournament stream, is now hosting hours of Twitch content during E3, including a Smash Bros. tourney of its own. Playing your games to an audience has gone mainstream, as streaming transitions from a nice perk to a prerequisite for all games, and this year's E3 will reflect that change.
What happens next?
So those are all the major moments I could think will impact this year's E3, but if I missed any other huge developments, let me know in the comments. That also goes for any predictions you have for what will happen in the fallout of this year's convention.