Think about it. Where are all the first-party games at? For the last couple of E3s Microsoft has been pumping out barely anything but kid-driven arm-waving simulators, while pretending that it can claim development credit for good third-party games by encouraging the devs to shoe-horn a bit of desperate Kinect functionality into them.
Above: A first-party game. They're drying up
Sony is going quiet too. E3 2011 was conspicuously about Vita and Move, with remarkably few – if any – first-party PS3 megatons. And after Twisted Metal, The Last Guardian and The Last of Us, what is there (barring of course, the inevitable Last of the Summer Wine adaptation to complete Sony’s title-themed trilogy)? Yes, Microsoft is shifting into more of a multimedia entertainment area, but within both platform holders’ release schedules there's a very definite whiff their internal developers’ attentions are somewhere else. That somewhere is made of millions of extra polygons, has some lovely textures on the trees, gorgeously high-dynamic sunsets, and can be found just beyond the great big mountain of target footage that you’ll no doubt catch sight of soon.
Always a clincher, this one. In December 2011, Jim Ryan openly stated that the PS3 would be pushed into a more kid-friendly space, marketing wise. This always happens during the last couple of years of a console’s life. Hardware gets cheaper, as does the back-catalogue of games, and the whole platform becomes more affordable to kids and more feasible as a gift idea. Having the hardcore market locked down, platform holders move on to mopping up the kid money as they run into gearing up for the next generation.
I would explain that Microsoft is showing hints at going a bit more kid friendly too, but I don’t think I really need to. And besides, I’m not entirely sure it is entirely kid friendly to build your whole marketing plan around making the world hate all children.
Above: HATE THEM
So there you have it. Personally, I’m not in any immediate rush for the PS4 or next Xbox / Xbox 720 / Xbox Next / insert-another-crappy-made-up-name-here-box. And I highly doubt that either Microsoft or Sony really wants to start the next generation of console gaming any time soon either. But business is business and pressure is pressure.
E3 then? Well while I'm not totally convinced that recent supposed statements by certain French execs - garbled in translation and interpreted subjectively by the Chinese whispers of the internet - really do mean that we won't see anything new at E3 2012 (barring the Wii U of course), such reveals do not have to happen at the show. I do think that the presence of the PS4 and next Xbox will be felt at some point this year, and that the intention of those reveals will be to allow their respective companies to hit the ground running next January, to start the lead up to a 2013 release.
Be it by logo, target footage, or a mere reference to a successor being in development, I wouldn’t be surprised if either company felt the need to cement the existence of its next generation console in the minds of the world’s hardcore gamers. Because that’s all that’s needed right now. The seed of hype. The concrete knowledge of a machine for the community to rally around. Because as the last 12 months of internet has shown us, the mere idea of a console is enough.