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E3 2016 Preview: Speculation & Expectation

With E3 looming we consider the announcements that we know are coming, and some of those that we have a hunch will be made in LA next week.

  • Text: Bengt Lemne
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Microsoft have been bustling with rumours ahead of E3. It's highly likely that company's much speculated new hardware will premiere at the show, and we wouldn't be surprised if a slimline Xbox One actually launched in America during E3 week. It's a stunt they've pulled before, and it's a great way of creating hype for something that, if we're perfectly honest, maybe isn't all that exciting. What about Scorpio, the rumoured hardware upgrade? And VR? We wouldn't rule anything out, but if that's launching next year it would certainly kill off much of the buzz around a slim model and the Xbox One line-up for the rest of 2016. But perhaps Microsoft feels they need to get ahead of Sony on this front...

Microsoft have a bunch of first-party games coming this year and next, and we expect to see them during their press conference, but quite honestly we can imagine them holding off on some in favour of creating space for new announcements at Gamescom. Gears of War 4 will be there along with Halo Wars 2 and a new Forza (Forza Horizon 3?). Crackdown 3 too, if it's not slipped into 2017. Sea of Thieves would seem likely. And we'd love to see more of Recore. Perhaps Scalebound will have to wait until Gamescom for an update? We also expect Microsoft to have some major third-party reveals, possibly stuff that's exclusive like Dead Rising 3 or Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Forza (Horizon 3?), Crackdown 3, and Halo Wars 2 should be in attendance for Microsoft.

Sony, much like Microsoft, seem to be in hardware mode. We expect PS4 Neo to be announced at the show, and PSVR needs to be given a big focus if they want to carry the momentum forward towards launch. Of course, timetables could change but it makes sense to prepare the audience for an upgrade well in time if it's launching this fall. If the rumours of PSVR needing Neo to reach its full potential are true, then Sony need to be mindful of how they communicate this and position the product.

There are plenty of games that could be showcased at the press conference that we already know about. Horizon: Zero Dawn. Gran Turismo Sport. The Last Guardian. Wild. Detroit: Becoming Human. Horizon and GT Sport will no doubt be there, even with the former's delay into 2017. The Last Guardian is highly likely. We could see Wild and Detroit having to wait until Paris Games Week (or Gamescom if Sony returns this year). But we also have heard indications of major new announcements on the first-party side of things (which by now we have come to expect from Sony at E3). Could The Last of Us 2 be ready for its premiere? God of War IV? Something completely original?

Or might Sony and Activision have come to some sort of agreement over a Crash Bandicoot game? We doubt Activision wants to fund it in the current climate, so letting Sony foot the bill in exchange for it being an exclusive seems the only possible route forward, and it would be a massive PR win for Sony. Another candidate for a long-awaited reveal would be Beyond Good & Evil 2, of course. It's one we've sort of given up on, so if Sony wants to continue their crowd-pleasing streak after Shenmue III, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and The Last Guardian, it would make sense.

Horizon: Zero Dawn, Shenmue 3, and The Last Guardian will all star for Sony.

Over the last 3-4 years Ubisoft have gone from strength to strength with their E3 press conferences. Sure, you should probably expect that the finale, the major announcement, will sport graphics that will not match those in the game as it releases a couple of years from now. But then again it's always fun to buy into the hype at E3. It's why we watch, isn't it? Ubisoft has confirmed that Watch Dogs 2 will be shown and along with For Honor and Ghost Recon Wildlands, it will make up a big part of the show. South Park: The Fractured but Whole will also be there. But given it's Ubisoft's 30th anniversary we expect at least a couple of major surprises. We would not be at all surprised if the finale reveal is a new core Assassin's Creed entry, slated for release next year. Beyond Good & Evil 2? Something with Rayman (kind of hard to imagine a Ubisoft anniversary without that fellow)?

Warner have enjoyed some success in the video game arena over the last few years, but their current release schedule lacks a bit of punch and from what we've understood, there will be a couple of new games from them at this year's show. Could it be time to show Rocksteady's next game? It seems a bit soon given the extra work that had to go into Arkham Knight post-launch. How about that heavily rumoured sequel to Shadow of Mordor? That certainly sounds more plausible. As does a new Injustice from Netherrealm. If there's one knock on Warner's rise in gaming it's that they've relied heavily on licenses, so perhaps they've got something lined up that will challenge that notion.

Will there be a new Injustice or a fresh Shadow over Morder?

Bethesda had a massive E3 last year. Dishonored 2 was revealed. Fallout Shelter was released as part of it. They announced The Elder Scrolls card game. And Fallout 4 and Doom provided us with high-octane action. Dishonored 2 will naturally once again be part of the show, and we expect to see a proper gameplay play-through, much like we got with Fallout 4 last year. Speaking of which, we expect Bethesda to shed light on the second half of the extended season pass for the post-apocalypic RPG. Could Machine Games (Wolfenstein: New Order) or Shinji Mikami's Tango GameWorks be ready to show something new? Maybe. The rumours surrounding the reworked Prey 2, however, seem to hold a lot of substance and it will be interesting to see how it ended up in the hands of Arkane (who allegedly took over after Human Head). Todd Howard previously hinted that Bethesda Game Studios had several projects in development, suggesting that Fallout 4 development only occupied part of the studio. Is there the possibility of a new Elder Scrolls? Or perhaps Bethesda Game Studios has something else they've been working on, something smaller.

CD Projekt Red will be there with... something. We know it's not The Witcher 3 related. We know it's not Cyberpunk 2077. So what is it that the Polish studio will show at E3? Simply put, we don't know. Is it something entirely original they've been cooking up internally, or have they possibly picked up an external project to boost their line-up as we all wait for Cyberpunk 2077? We're leaning towards the latter, but it takes us no closer to what it actually is that CDPR are showing in Los Angeles. Consider us intrigued.

Something's coming from CDPR, but it's not Cyberpunk 2077. Dawn of War 3 will be there too.

Sega announced Dawn of War III prior to the show and this will be their big focus. A new Sonic the Hedgehog game ought to be announced soon given the anniversary, but it's doubtful that E3 is the right venue for the struggling blue mascot. Of course, we always hope they'll come to their senses and announce Phantasy Star Online 2 for Western audiences, but that's not going to happen.

Deep Silver has something new, or at least something they're keeping under wraps, for E3. Could it be the new Dead Island 2? Perhaps, even if there's recent movement to suggest it may have been cancelled altogether (or again). Volition have been quiet for a while and a new Saints Row would make sense given that the next GTA is likely a couple of years away (Update: shortly after publishing this article Volition announced Agents of Mayhem). It could also be that they've been working on something original. It should also be remembered that while E3 is a big deal to all publishers, in the case of Deep Silver they do tend to save something big for Gamescom as there they have home advantage.

Square Enix won't host a press conference this year, but still has a strong line-up headlined by Final Fantasy XV and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. We don't expect to see anything fresh from Kingdom Hearts III, but we do expect something new to be unveiled. Maybe not something massive, but Square Enix has shown interest in revisiting older RPG franchises. We've heard nothing to suggest the Final Fantasy VII Remake will make an appearance, but perhaps an update could be part of the Sony press conference. However, with Final Fantasy XV launching very soon, the timing isn't great to show something that could potentially overshadow it.

Final Fantasy XV will be there, and Deep Silver will be showing off Agents of Mayhem, set in the Saints Row universe.

We've heard rumblings of something big coming from Capcom. And these days that can really only mean Resident Evil and the long awaited Resident Evil 7. Of course it could be something else, but we're not convinced. We doubt another Devil May Cry is close to being announced. And Monster Hunter makes more sense at TGS. Lost Planet 4? Dragon's Dogma 2? Ace Attorney? A new Darkstalkers? Mega Man? Of course, it could be the Resident Evil 2 Remake that's getting a proper reveal...

Konami? The new and Kojima-less Konami seem to be focusing all their efforts this year on PES 2017. And by all accounts this year's kickabout seems very promising. Don't expect any news of new Metal Gear, Silent Hill, or Castlevania titles this year, or next year. 2018? Well, maybe if they come to their senses, but we're not putting money on anything.

How about Activision? Well, we don't expect any surprises. The new Destiny expansion, Skylanders: Imagination, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. The Sierra project seems semi-abandoned, and while they have had a few licensed games pop up, we understand that Activision are trying to move away from this to focus on their big franchises. It feels like something of a slow year for the publisher, unless of course they'll shock us with Crash at the Sony conference.

Resident Evil 7 is on the cars, PES 2017 looks super, and might we get a look at Destiny 2?

EA are doing their own thing this year, EA Play, that runs Sunday-Tuesday. It seems a bit puzzling for them to make a huge event of their own with fewer titles on display/playable than what is usually the case for EA at E3. EA Sports are going to be present with FIFA, Madden and NHL. There is Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2. Mass Effect: Andromeda will likely be shown at the conference, but we have no indication of anything more in-depth beyond that. In fact, in all likelihood those five games are what the public attending EA Play can expect to play at the event. We do expect them to share more about the continued support for Star Wars Battlefront, and perhaps they've finally come to terms with Sony on an EA Access-like service (which seems to be something that EA wants to pursue aggressively as a business strategy). Skate 4 is another game that keeps popping up. Wishful thinking or is there something more to the chatter? And what about a new-gen SSX? And that Criterion project that was so awkwardly teased at E3 two years ago - is that still a thing? There's Visceral Games' Star Wars project, and Respawn's Star Wars project. Neither feels ready to be fully unveiled just yet, but perhaps they could be teased? And what about Jade Raymond's new studio? Two years ago EA surprised us by showing a few games that had barely entered production - maybe now that they've got their own event they want to pull out a few early announcements to get the hype started. And what has Bioware been up to (the Edmonton team that was working on something completely original)?

Also on the outside, as has been the case during the last couple of shows, is Devolver Digital. Their trailers will be parked on the lot across from the LA Convention Center once again, and they've got the interesting Absolver, Shadow Warrior 2, Strafe, and something new from Croteam. It could be a good year for the quirky publisher.

Battlefield 1 is going to be one EA's headline titles, and Cliffy B's Lawbreakers should make a splash too.

Speaking of outsiders, PC developers felt a little left out of the show for a number of years. The PC Gaming Show, a press conference of sorts lodged in between Microsoft and Ubisoft this year, takes aim at giving PC titles a little attention amidst all the big console announcements. Boss Key Productions' Lawbreakers and Relic's Dawn of War III will be there and look like major crowd pleasers, but other presenters include Oculus, Razer, Torn Banner Studios, TaleWorlds Entertainment, and Bohemia Interactive, so it should be a good and well-rounded show.

We almost forgot about Nintendo, but they've all but bowed out of this year's show. With one rather significant exception, a likely candidate for game of the show: The Legend of Zelda Wii U. Every time Nintendo brings a playable Zelda to E3 the lines are insane, and perhaps it's a good thing they've made space for as many Zelda stations as they can fit into their booth as there will no doubt be lines from morning until closing. The Nintendo Direct on Tuesday morning could of course feature some surprises, but we kind of get the feeling that Nintendo wants to use E3 to make the most powerful statement that it can about The Legend of Zelda Wii U. One final big game on the Wii U before NX changes everything. Whether you view it as a sign of strength or weakness, will likely depend on just how impressive that one game is.