E3 2017: Enhancements, Expectations and Perhaps Excitement

All of the major video game developers, publishers and console hardware makers, as well as many retail buyers and the gaming press, will descend on Los Angeles for E3 2017 next week. The annual event — a showcase for computer, video and mobile games and related products — will kick off officially on Tuesday and run through Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. However, it actually will begin on Monday with press briefings from Microsoft, Sony, Bethesda, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft.

E3 has been the main trade event for the video game industry since 1995, when game publishers sought to get out of the shadow of the larger electronics industry at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Over time, E3 has grown in stature.

It also has grown in size, although there were attempts in 2007 and 2008 to rein in the show by limiting its access to an invitation only list of key press representatives. Now the show has become a mega event and includes a public day. E3 is the place where gaming hardware, game titles and just about anything else related to video games is unveiled, with just a handful of exceptions.

All About the Games

Without any major expectations on the hardware front from Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo, this year’s E3 truly could be one that is all about the games. Publishers and developers in years past pulled out the stops to court the gaming press, especially those who participate as judges in the annual “Best of E3” rankings.

It seems that game publishers have sought to hold their cards a closer to the chest this year, but a few high-profile titles are expected to get the full-blown reveal treatment.

Among the “most anticipated titles that are currently known are Destiny 2, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Super Mario Odyssey,” said Steve Bailey, senior analyst for gaming at IHS Markit.

Those are just some of the more than 150 expected titles, but gamers should take any announcement with the proverbial grain of salt. Just because a game is announced next week doesn’t mean it will be arriving for the holiday season. If past E3s are an indicator, many titles could be many more months — or in some cases, years — away.

The long game development cycle has raised the stakes for publishers who often need to strike when the iron is hot. Few titles have been well received or widely embraced after long delays.

High Stakes

Even games that arrive on schedule — and more importantly, on budget — still need to live up to expectations. E3 is all about the hype, and this year will be no different.

“Nintendo has to show an ‘unmissable’ experience in Super Mario Odyssey to help maintain its vibrant sales momentum for the year,” Bailey told TechNewsWorld.

Then there is the competition between Microsoft and Sony, which is likely to heat up this year, as Microsoft seeks to narrow the gap by emphasizing its new hardware play with the Xbox One.

“This will, as always, be a battle between Sony and Microsoft that’ll likely capture much of the drama,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“The back story has been which one will have titles that have a remote possibility of actually being released in our lifetimes,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Xbox will be flexing everything in its arsenal that makes it stand out from PlayStation — the Scorpio console, Play Anywhere, Mixer, Game Pass, and so on,” said IHS’ Bailey.

“PlayStation has a much busier first-party schedule in software terms,” he added. “A number of games released last year are still some distance from release, so expect those to be fleshed out, plus details on further new titles.”

This means another software-driven E3 from PlayStation, but it can’t rely too heavily on such a channel for much longer, warned Bailey. “Rising competition and a maturing hardware cycle mean it soon has to start talking about PlayStation in a broader capacity, if not at E3.”

Reality Showdown

The other hardware to watch at this year’s E3 may be of the virtual reality variety, and 2017 could be the year the show gets real with VR.

“Huge VR/mixed reality content is likely at the show overall, with the question of whether any of the compelling stuff will be accessible or affordable by buyers,” said Enderle.

The technology already has been making the trade show rounds.

“Computex, for instance, had some really great demonstrations, but many were in simulators that were wickedly expensive and not accessible by regular folks,” Enderle noted.

“We should have some great demos from Nvidia and AMD, both of which will be wanting to showcase their higher-end graphics systems,” he suggested. “This will probably be the first showcase for what AMD’s Vega platform can actually do. Also look for backpack PCs to deal with the problems of high-end VR headset tethers, which can be deadly.”

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