Here We Go Again
It's that time of year again. The arrival of the one event that somehow always manages to overwhelm online journalists with mixed feelings of anticipation and dread. Of course we're referring to the Electronics Entertainment Expo 2005, where some 400 companies from 80 countries will be on-hand to demonstrate more than 1,000 new computer and videogames, according to the Entertainment Software Association, which runs the event.
E3 is closed to the general public. It is also off limits for anybody, regardless of occupation, under the age of 18 -- a rule that will be strictly enforced this year, says the ESA. Still, tens of thousands of industry professionals are sure to turn out to see the latest hard and soft wares from publishers and developers.
For Nintendo fans, one game matters above all else: the new Legend of Zelda title for GameCube. The spiritual sequel to Ocarina of Time is already an early contender for Game of the Show based purely on the quality of previous Zelda titles.
This year's E3 is particularly special because it will house the unveiling (in some form) of three new consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. These transitional periods come along on average only once every five years, so attendees of this May's E3 are in for a treat. Microsoft's next system, Xbox 360, which is scheduled for release this holiday season, is sure to take center stage at the publisher's pre-conference show. The system is also likely to be playable on the expo floor. Nintendo and Sony, on the other hand, both scheduled to debut their respective Revolution and PlayStation 3 platforms in 2006, are much more likely to instead discuss their next consoles, announce tech specs and philosophies, and perhaps preview some eye-popping demos.
Any single game announcement or hardware unveiling is newsworthy, but E3 2005 -- like every one of its predecessors -- will be dominated by never-before-shown software and hardware, which is why it's so important to the industry. Every major developer and publisher will be on hand, and each will be trying to outdo the other with its lineup of games or hardware. It's chaos. And online games journalists therefore anticipate the parade of new titles and consoles but dread the countless news stories to be filed and the late hours to be worked.
The Show Before the Show
E3 2005, which takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center, officially opens its doors on Wednesday, May 18 and closes them again on Friday, May 20. But for Nintendo fans, the show really starts on Tuesday, May 17 with a meaty pre-show conference. Incidentally, both Sony and Microsoft hold their pre-show conferences on Monday, May 16, a day before Nintendo.
Nintendo's pre-E3 conference is an invite-only affair designed specifically for press, retailers, developers and publishers. It's traditionally at these pre-shows that Nintendo executives take the stage and unveil their new games and hardware, talk about business philosophies and make announcements about the future.
The pre-show is, put simply, much more important than the actual show. That's not to downplay the value of E3 because the event is integral for media to get hands-on time with software, to interview development figures and company executives, and more. But historically, publishers and developers preview in-future soft and hard wares at the pre-show that will never make it to the show floor. For instance, while Nintendo president Satoru Iwata is certain to talk about the Revolution console at the pre-show, there's very little chance that the system will be displayed in any form on the floor the next day.
Readers hoping to sneak into the shindig are out of luck. Press invited to Nintendo's pre-show must register online well before the event. We've included an image of the invite just because we know it will get some die-hard fanboys excited.
Naturally, there's no way to know for sure what Nintendo will talk about or focus on during its pre-E3 show, but we've got some strong ideas based on what the company has done in the past and what we know are important topics for its future.
The company may -- like last year -- choose to start its pre-conference with a sizzle trailer that previews snippets from upcoming GameCube and Nintendo DS software. We expect that some of the spotlighted games will include the new Legend of Zelda, Fire Emblem, Pokemon XD, Dance Dance Revolution with Mario, Mario Baseball, Geist, Nintendo Pennant Chase Baseball, Chibi Robo, and the new Kirby. The trailer will likely also include a number of important new DS titles. Unfortunately, we do not believe that Nintendo will have any major GameCube surprises to demonstrate, except for the possibility of a Mario Party 7, and therefore will have to make the most with a lineup of games that fans already know about. Given the magnitude of the new Zelda, this probably won't be difficult for the publisher to pull off.
Afterward, we expect lots of well-rehearsed spin. Nintendo of America's vice president of sales and marketing, Reginald Fils-Aime, whose edgy presentation last year earned him street cred with Nintendo gamers, will undoubtedly handle the majority of the company's pre-show presentation. He will talk about Nintendo's lineup, which appeals to both the "core gamer" and other, mainstream players. If last year's event is any indication, he may occasionally pass the torch to the subsidiary's resident sales guru George Harrison, who will almost certainly up-play Nintendo profitability as a whole and downplay discouragingly low GameCube sales.
Nintendo will predictably spotlight its DS handheld, which has sold well around the world. We anticipate new game announcements and a session dedicated to previewing the portable's new online gameplay features.
A portion of the pre-show will surely be dedicated to a demonstration of the new Legend of Zelda. Series overseers Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma will probably take center stage during this enhanced preview, which promises a deeper look at the game than ever before. It's likely that it's during this demo that the world will learn the game's real title and some first legitimate storyline details.
Powered by IGN.com
Eventually, we expect that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata will take the stage and talk about industry trends. He may philosophize about the company's place in videogames and reiterate Nintendo's status as a developer focused on intuitive, fun software, just as he did at the Game Developers Conference in March. These comments will of course lead into the main event: talk about Nintendo's still-codenamed Revolution console, of which very few real details are available. Despite a major unveiling of Xbox 360 and detailed specs and demos on PlayStation 3 the day prior, we believe that Nintendo will choose to guard information on Revolution. An official name may be announced. Initial specs may be released. A preliminary release time frame may be given. But the console will likely be discussed and not shown. We do not believe that gamers will see Revolution's design, or the new controller, which is allegedly vastly different from existing pads. Neither do we believe that any real games running on Revolution will be spotlighted. However, Nintendo may choose to show a graphic demo or two, just to spice up the presentation. With any luck, Nintendo may take the opportunity to debut footage from Mario 128, which is rumored to be for Revolution. In March, NOA's Reggie Fils-Aime said the title would show up at E3 2005 in video form, but would not say for what system.
One Day Later...
The day after pre-shows are over, E3 2005 begins. The ESA opens the Convention Center doors in the early morning and there are always thousands of industry professionals waiting to get in. Readers attending the event need to know where they are going and they need to move fast. There are several halls in the Convention Center, but the Big Three -- Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony -- are always found in the two largest, which are the South and West halls. Nintendo and Sony are in the West, and Microsoft in the South. This year, Nintendo's booth is slightly bigger than Sony's, and the company will undoubtedly be using that extra space to feature a wide number of kiosks for playable DS and GameCube software.
Of course, viewers will have to turn to our DS channel for its best guesses on what new portable games will be on display. That said, we predict that Nintendo will put a noticeable emphasis on its DS lineup and -- save for the new Legend of Zelda -- downplay some GameCube titles. This move seems to make sense as many of the GameCube titles sure to be on display in playable form will either have been previously shown at another event, or will be on the verge of releasing in America. In contrast, we expect several major surprises for the publisher's portable system.
We anticipate about 15 Nintendo-published GameCube titles at the company's booth, most of them, but perhaps not all, in playable form. The list naturally includes the new Legend of Zelda, which will be one of the main attractions at Nintendo's booth. Based on previously released magazine reports and insider information, we expect that gamers can look forward to a four or five-level demo of the new Zelda, showing off various stage types from the game, from horseback battle to village exploration and quite possibly fishing. Attendees be warned: the Zelda area is certain to be packed full of gamers. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if Nintendo chose to close off this particular portion of its showing in order to properly regulate and observe the flow of visitors.
Many of the Nintendo-published GameCube titles on the show floor will be identical to the ones featured in the pre-conference sizzle trailer. Titles like Nintendo Pennant Chase Baseball and Geist will be there, but since both will be out a month later we doubt the Big N will make big deals of either. Donkey Konga 3 should be there. Other titles include Advance Wars, Dance Dance Revolution with Mario, Fire Emblem, Pokemon XD, Odama, Mario Baseball, Kirby and Chibi Robo. If there are any surprises, we haven't heard about them, but Mario Party 7 seems almost inevitable at this point and we wouldn't be shocked to see another Mario sports cash-in. Perhaps football?
As per usual, Nintendo-published GameCube titles will probably draw the biggest crowds, but that doesn't mean GCN owners won't get to play some gems from the likes of Capcom, Electronic Arts, THQ, Activision and Ubisoft. Capcom will be on-hand with Killer 7 and at least one other unannounced GameCube project. Our guess is that it's the anticipated GameCube port of Okami, but it could also be the next Viewtiful Joe or an original game from Clover Studio. Regardless, we're excited. Electronic Arts will have the usual suspects, from Madden NFL '06, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Need for Speed Most Wanted to the new James Bond: From Russia with Love, Batman Begins and Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects. Activision will have Madagascar and The Fantastic Four, among others. THQ will show off WWE Day of Reckoning 2 and kid-oriented software like Tak 3, Scooby Doo Unmasked, sequels to The Incredibles and SpongeBob SquarePants, and more. Meanwhile, Ubisoft should show such GameCube titles as Prince of Persia 3, King Kong and 187: Ride or Die, for starters.
There will also be games from other publishers, including The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction from Vivendi, One Piece Grand Battle and Zatchbell from Bandai, Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue from Namco, Midway Arcade Treasures 3 from Midway, and Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life from Natsume. Sega will show off Shadow the Hedgehog and at least two additional new Sonic games.
All in all, a very solid event for Nintendo thanks to a big showing of Zelda and promised new Revolution information, which is always exciting. Although software releases as a whole have dropped off for GameCube, we were surprised to see so many solid third party efforts for the console when putting together this feature. Based on all of the above, it appears that E3 2005 will be good to Nintendo owners. Still, we're hoping Nintendo will be less tight-lipped about its next console than we've predicted. If that turns out to be the case, the company stands to have an outstanding show.
©2005, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Powered by IGN.com