June 8, 2013 at 6:04 PM ET
As the game industry and its many eager followers descend on Los Angeles for a week chock-full of product announcements, gameplay previews, and everything in-between, the stakes are particularly high. After all, this is one of the rare years where a new generation of consoles is born.
Sony and Microsoft are only in the process of debuting their new technology. They both still have a lot to prove, and this is the one opportunity for each to make the case for why its console should reign supreme.
Hey Microsoft: Bring on the games already!
Microsoft threw many of its gaming fans off in May when it unveiled the Xbox One in an event that had very little to do with video games. However, the timing may have been a smart move, as it allowed the company to focus on the devices many impressive-sounding multimedia and entertainment features, while reserving its stage time at E3 to address the video game part of the equation.
The company has talked through its features — and subsequently released a thorough clarification of many of the console's most controversial features, such as its policies on used or borrowed games and its online-connection requirements.
Now it must let the actual games come to the fore.
Microsoft executives have continuously emphasized the fact that the new console already has more exclusive titles being developed in-house than ever before. Does this mean that we'll be seeing a new "Halo" come Monday? Probably.
But given Microsoft's success over the last console generation and the flack it no doubt noticed erupting over its indie game development policy, the tech giant will want to show that it has even more tricks up its sleeve than another Master Chief adventure.
Sony's got games — but what about everything else?
Sony "has already done a great job with games," said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
In fact, the PlayStation 4 maker spent so much time trotting out game developers during its two-hour-plus event — to talk about everything from the blockbuster shooting franchise "Killzone" to acclaimed indie developer Jonathan Blow's next game, "The Witness" — it took a while for people to realize Sony didn't even show the machine itself.
Yes, gamers still have little to no idea what the PlayStation 4 looks like, let alone what kinds of additional features, both gaming and home entertainment, that the system will support. And given the overwhelming social media campaign that came about when a journalist speculated on Sony's possible digital rights management scheme, PlayStation fans are clearly hungry for more information about how the new console will be used.
Nintendo's software problem
Ironically enough, the one major console developer that beat the next-gen competition to market may have the most to lose at this year's convention. Nintendo released the Wii U in late 2012, about a year before Sony and Microsoft will likely ship their respective machines. But that grace period hasn't done the hallowed Japanese company any favors.
"Nintendo's problem today is that its hardcore fanbase has not supported it through the launch of the Wii U," Pachter said. "It cannot be a mass-market company without mass-market appeal, and they can't appeal to the masses if they don't get the support of the hardcore gamers."
Thing is, if Nintendo's iconic brands — the Marios, Zeldas, and Pokémons of the world — haven't managed to support the Wii U so far, this "mass-market appeal" can only come from third-party software, like "Call of Duty" or "Assassin's Creed." But can we expect Wii U versions of these to make appearances at E3 and prove to be Nintendo's saving grace?
Probably not, says Pachter. The company has already announced that, unlike its two closest competitors, it will not host a single official press conference at this year's E3 — choosing instead to focus on smaller events, previews, and the Nintendo Direct live-streaming announcements it's begun to use for software unveilings.
"The fact that they decided not to have a press event shows they don't have their act together," Pachter said. "I don't think they're going to have enough content to really thrive this holiday season."
NBC News will be on the floor at E3 all next week bringing you the latest and greatest in gaming and gadgets. Be sure to bookmark our video games page, and follow NBC's Todd Kenreck (Twitter, Facebook)and Yannick LeJacq (Twitter) — along with the official NBC News Tech Twitter and Facebook feeds —for live updates throughout the week.