June 1, 2012 at 9:56 PM ET
Longtime video game analyst Michael Pachter — never one to mince words — has this to say about the world’s biggest video gameshow which is about to get under way next week: “It'll be one of the moreboring ones.”
Saying that the Electronic Entertainment Expo might be asnoozer is a bit like saying a trip to Las Vegas might lull one into a pleasantnight's slumber. After all, the annual E3 game show, which has been around since 1995, packs the Los Angeles Convention Center with a bedazzling display ofvideo game showmanship. With 200-some exhibitors showing off their gamingwares for 45,000 retailers, reporters and analysts, it is a visual and aural overload of flashing screens, colored lights,thumping music and outlandishly decked-out booths and booth attendants.
But Pachter, managing director at Wedbush Securities, has a point. Thisyear’s E3 is shaping up to be less than sizzling ... at least for the moment.
As of right now, much of the exciting news that gamers spent previous months hoping to officially hear about now appears to be onhold. For starters, Microsoft and Sony haveinsisted they will not be revealing anything about their future game consolesat this year's big event. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture ofMicrosoft and NBCUniversal.)
Meanwile, as Pachter points out, the video game industry isin an odd place at the moment.
“We are in the unprecedented 6th and 7thyear of the cycle,” he says, explaining that the current generation Xbox 360,PlayStation 3 and Wii have grown into rather aged machines. That means game salesare declining as developers and publishers — unwilling to take risks this latein the console life cycle — scale back on the number of games they produce andcut back on the number of refreshing new intellectual properties they create.
“The industry isn’t that exciting because it’s all sequels, nonew IPs, no new consoles and fewer games,” he says. “So E3 is, by definition, justnot going to be as exciting or interesting as it’s been in the past.”
E3 — the thrill, the excitement
In the past, E3 has been the place where game companies have revealed some ofthe very biggest gaming news. Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3 there in 2005. Microsoftfirst revealed Kinect (then called Project Natal) at E3 in 2009 and fully unveiledit at E3 in 2010. Nintendo introduced its 3DS at the 2010 E3 and then, at lastyear's expo, unveiled the Wii U.
While rumor has it that Nintendo mayreveal a new model of 3DS next week and we will certainly get a much more in-depth look at the forthcoming Wii U, so far it appears there will be no biggame machine introductions this year. No Xbox 720. No PlayStation 4.
Meanwhile, rumors of a Valve-created game console/set-top box (akathe Steam Box) weremaking the rounds a couple months back with many hoping we'd see its unveiling atE3. But Valve insists that's nothappening any time soon.
And it seems even some of the titles we gamers had most hoped tosee won't be making the show.
While Valve will be on hand at E3, those from the company have vowed they willnot be showing off "Half-Life3," "Portal 3"or "Left 4 Dead 3" —despite high gamer hopes.
The folks who created the famed Halo franchise were assurprised as anyone when their newest four-game "Destiny" project wasunceremoniously outedin the press last week. And expectations have been high that Bungie mightofficially introduce "Destiny" at E3. But Bungieofficials have now said on their blogthat, and I quote: "we’re not going to be at E3 in any official capacitythis year. Some of us will be there, lurking from booth to booth, but don’texpect any announcements."
E3 boring? Say itain't so
But Mike Gallagher, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (the industry organization responsible E3) — sees things a little bit differently, to say the least.
While some see a games industry in a lull, "I seeis an industry in transition," he says. "What I see is an industrythat is evolving. It is evolving on multiple platforms constantly. Right nowyou have the ability to have a game experience on your smartphone, on yourhandheld, on your tablet and you’ve got the ability to play on theconsoles."
And he says E3 is evolving with the industry. He points out that this year there will be some important new faces on the show floor. Zynga —the Facebook gaming superpower — and Gree — the social and mobile gaming kingin Japan — both will be at E3 for the first time.
But Gallagher concedes that with it looking as if there will be nobig hardware revelations at E3, "This year the emphasis will absolutely bemore strongly focused on the games and the software."
And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Game companies have already started to unveil some ofthe new games they'll be showing off next week ... and some of it is prettyexciting stuff. We'll get our first look at the new mature-themed StarWars game "1313," as well as the super-dark, super-herofighter "Injustice." And while new IPs are few and far between, the dystopiansteam-punk adventure "Dishonored" looks well worth getting excited about, asis the newgame from "Heavy Rain" creator Quantic Dream (assuming itactually materializes).
Meanwhile, of course, developers and publishers will beshowing off new installments in some very big franchises: "Halo4," "Gears of War: Judgment," "Call of Duty: Black Ops II," "God of War: Ascension,""Pikmin 3" and the new "Tomb Raider" just to name a few.
Beyond the games themselves, if the rumor mill is to be believed, there are some interesting things afoot that may just give the show a bit of zing -- a 3DS redesign, a landscape-changing push by Sony into cloud gaming, and a new music service for the Xbox are a few of the possibilities next week.
And, of course, Nintendo will be pulling out all the stops to spread the good word about its forthcoming Wii U. The game giant will be working hard at E3 to convince skeptics that, despite some initial misgivings when it was introduced last year, the console is very worth getting amped about.
No matter what this year brings, our own In-Game editor Todd Kenreck believes E3 is still one of the coolest events out there. Check out his video above to understand why.
And it's important to remember that the seeming lack ofexcitement could be deceiving — especially since game developers and publisherslike to keep their biggest, most interesting news a secret before the show hasbegun and have been known to spring completely unexpected gaming software andhardware revelations on the thousands of attendees gathered at the convention.
Ultimately, Gallagher says you can't truly judge an E3before it's begun.
"Each E3 has its own unique feel and its own uniquepower," he says. "And it really can only be measured after the show -- after it’s all over with and after all the titles are shown."
And despite his prediction of a mellower E3 this time around, even Pachter points out, "It’s still a lot of fun."
Follow us to E3
In-Game will have a team on the ground at E3 in Los Angeles. Stay tuned here to In-Game to catch our breaking game coverage. But for all the fast and furious news also be sure to check out our In-Game Facebook page as well as our Twitter feeds: @ToddKenreck and @WindaBenedetti.
In-Game editor Todd Kenreck will also bring you ongoing snapshots from the E3 floor via his @ToddKenreck Instagram account. And don't miss the E3 experiences from video producer Matt Rivera who will be posting via his Twitter and Instagram accounts here: @MattMRivera.