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E3 2011 Hopes and Expectations

E3 LogoOnce again the biggest video game trade show of the year is almost upon us. E3 2011, taking place June 7-9, 2011 in Los Angeles, CA promises to be one of the most interesting in some time. I’m expecting lots of details on Project Café from Nintendo, a date and price for the NGP from Sony and eagerly anticipate seeing where Microsoft will take the Kinect platform.

I thought I’d take a moment to go over what I expect to see and what I hope to see from “the big three” at this year’s expo and some of the more prevalent rumours floating about. In general terms of content relevant to Game Forward, I’m expecting Augmented Reality (AR) to be big this year and for Kinect for Xbox 360 and PlayStation Move titles to dominate their respective system’s first party lineups. Read More...

The PlayStation brand has taken a bit of a beating in the past few months, though E3 2011 offers a great chance for Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) to regain consumer confidence.

After an apology for the PlayStation Network security breach that took place in April 2011, I’d like to think that SCE will detail (as much as they can at least) what sort of steps they’ve taken since then to ensure our user and financial data is properly secured.

That unpleasantness is dealt with, I’m expecting a content-rich presentation from SCE, with lots of new details about its Next Generation Portable (NGP)—now rumoured to be called PlayStation Vita—including a near finalized launch date and expected price range.

Some new features being speculated are head tracking and PlayStation Move compatibility, though unless it is meant to be used as an ultra-portable console the latter seems impractical and unlikely. I’m looking for more details about its supposed PSN software compatibility.

In addition to the first party titles like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048 that have begun to appear in previews and the Call of Duty title mentioned when the NGP was announced, I expect to see plenty of third party content, including one or two launch window blockbusters and console launch mainstays like Madden NFL and Ridge Racer.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss  Shows Off the Power of PlayStation VitaUncharted: Golden Abyss Shows Off the Power of PlayStation VitaOn the PS3 front, I’m expecting a PlayStation Move-heavy presentation including first party titles like Uncharted 3 and third party efforts like Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 and Resident Evil 6. Beyond that, I’m hoping to see an updated version of Sorcery, a game they showed in 2010 and frankly anything else that isn’t a shooter.

SCE always has a ton of great first party content to showcase, both retail and for PSN and I’m sure that on of their montages will get me excited to see what they have on tap for the coming year. They almost always have a big third party exclusive to show off too, I’d guess the next Quantum Dream game, a resurfacing of Agent or maybe even the long-rumoured Final Fantasy VII remake.

Microsoft has been riding a wave of market-topping sales in recent months thanks to the somewhat surprising success of its Kinect motion sensing control system. From the looks of things, they intend on keeping it that way.

There are a veritable ton of Kinect-related rumours, including dozens of software titles appearing through trademarks or located on unpublished web pages by Internet-savvy gamers. Notable titles I’d expect to see include Dance Central 2, Star Wars Kinect, a Gears of War rail shooter and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which appears to be a controller-Kinect hybrid title.

Mass Effect 3 also appears to incorporate Kinect according to information spotted on EA’s website.

I’m hoping to see more of these hybrid titles. Issuing hand signals and voice commands or having your head tracked are great ways to create immersion. I’m also waiting to see what Indie developers do with Kinect when it's integrated into the XNA design platform and hoping to see more health and education-style apps appear on the Indie Games marketplace.

There are rumours of a Kinect-integrated redesign for the Xbox 360 fueled by recent sales and gift card offers and even one of a TV with an Xbox 360 and Kinect Built right in.

The Xbox 360 is also rumoured to be getting some new features such as cloud-based save files, full stereoscopic 3D support and that we will see free-to-play games introduced to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. A NeoGAF member also claims to have overheard some developers discussing object scanning and interactive books.

On the traditional software side there have been rumblings of a Halo: Combat Evolved remake, a Forza-branded open world racer and Microsoft has yet to announce the full Summer of Arcade lineup for this year.

Project Café, the supposed codename of the next home console from Nintendo will undoubtedly be the focus of the company’s E3 media briefing on June 6 at 9:00 AM PDT, at least from a fan and media perspective. The console is said to be HD capable, have a touch screen-enabled controller that still has buttons and it is even rumoured that you will be able to stream content directly to the controller without needing a TV.

3D Classics Appear to be More than ROM Dumps3D Classics Appear to be More than ROM DumpsEverything I’ve seen about Project Café seems a bit crazy in that it doesn't appear to simply be a “Wii HD” or “Wii 2” and almost steers away from what Wii established, so I think it’s all possible coming from Nintendo. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a release date of spring 2012, a few key franchises’ Project Café iterations announced and we may even see The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword get “Twilight Princess’d” and see a dual release on both the new console and Wii; it’s original platform.

I’m not expecting much else in terms of Wii software announced, possibly a Kirby title or the long-hinted-at Pikmin 3 in addition to a new Wii Series title or two and possibly a couple additions to the Nintendo Selects line.

I’d like to see the Vitality Sensor make a return, whether for Wii, Project Café or even the 3DS. Such a a peripheral would not only lend to new gameplay experiences, but could be applied to fitness and rehabilitation programs.

For the 3DS, I’m expecting to get dates for Super Mario 3DS, Paper Mario 3 and Kid Icarus from Nintendo and to see the next wave of first party titles announced, possibly even the next Pokémon title.

They recently unveiled the Pokédex 3D app, which will be made available as a free download for the 3DS when the Nintendo eShop launches on June 6 and makes use of the StreetPass data sharing system and AR functions.

3D Classics: Excitebike will also be a free download until July 7, giving us a taste of what to expect from the series. This remake will have two racing modes and the ability to save up to six created tracks.

Other titles to be available at the eShop launch include the Game Boy classics Super Mario Land and Alleyway, as well as Mega Man Legends 3: Prototype Edition from Capcom. I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the 3DS virtual console lineup and to see what 3DSWare has to offer and I’m probably more excited about that than even the new console. Nintendo says that the eShop will be updated every Thursday.

The system update will also allow users to transfer their DSiWare purchases and access the 3DS web browser, which can be used while playing software, but does not support Adobe Flash. Future updates will include a 3D short form video sharing application.

E3 2011 should make for an interesting week and that’s even without talking about the glut of third party content expected from giants like EA, Activision, Konami, Capcom, Ubisoft and Square-Enix. The next year or two should have a ton of great experiences to keep gamers of all kinds busy.

New technology also offers new opportunities, as well as challenges to those in the fields of accessibility, health, serious games and augmented reality.