Sneak peek: PS3 – and maybe "Halo 3"
New video games, game machines get ready for their coming out party at industry trade show.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – While there aren't quite as many mysteries at this year's E3, there's plenty of anticipation. The video game industry's annual trade show may have revealed plenty of next generation secrets in 2005, but it left just as many unanswered questions.
Among them: What games will launch alongside the PlayStation 3? And how much will the machine cost? Will Nintendo's next-generation machine (code-named the Revolution) allow it to break from the pack or is it just a gimmick? And how will Microsoft defend the Xbox 360's head-start against the Sony's widely anticipated PS3?
We won't get all the answers when the show kicks off May 10, but with the sheer number of new games, gaming systems and gaming gadgets on display in a space roughly equivalent to 4,650 Olympic swimming pools, we'll learn a lot. (No reason to call your travel agent. E3 – the Electronic Entertainment Expo – is closed to the general public – but we'll have complete coverage at CNNMoney.com.)
As in 2005, this year's show is going to be focused primarily on hardware. Sony (Research) kicks off the festivities on Monday (May 8), with a press conference where it will reveal more details about the PlayStation 3, which will be released in November. We'll likely learn more about the system's online network and we'll see what games the company hopes to include in its launch window.
One detail that won't be revealed is the PS3's price, which is bound to cause frustration amongst gamers, but is actually a savvy media move. By withholding those details, Sony gains additional media attention (and a renewed burst of public awareness) when it ultimately reveals the price - likely at the end of summer or early fall.
Similarly, don't expect Nintendo to announce the Revolution's launch date or price – although we will learn the final name of the system. We'll also get a good idea of the launch lineup, which (if Nintendo sticks to the pattern of the past several E3s) will be playable on the show floor.
Nintendo will also likely announce more additional partners for its Virtual Console system (an online service that will allow users to download hundreds of games from previous Nintendo game machines, the Sega Genesis and the TurboGrafx gaming system). The company also has promised to reveal the final secret of the Revolution – though it's anyone's guess what that might be.
Microsoft (Research), while it might show off a few new accessories (such as a camera enabling online video chat via Xbox Live), has the luxury of focusing on games instead of hardware. Expect to see the first footage from the next installment of "Halo," which might shift some focus away from the competition. (The game won't hit stores until 2007, however.) "Forza 2" will almost certainly make an appearance. And "Gears of War," the tent pole of the company's winter lineup, will have a significant presence at the show.
For the first time in years, Microsoft will shine some of its gaming PR spotlight on the PC as it prepares for the launch of Windows Vista. While we'll almost certainly see a couple of games that take advantage of the system's improvements, we'll probably also hear a fair bit about how Vista gamers will be able to interact with Xbox 360 players.
Beyond the big three, it's going to be a little quieter.
Electronic Arts (Research), beyond its usual showcase of its sports franchises, will highlight a mix of old franchises (such as the latest installment of "Madden" and the "Command & Conquer" franchises) and new ("Crysis," a shooter from the team behind "Far Cry" and at least one as yet unrevealed title). "Spore," the upcoming game from Will Wright (creator of "The Sims"), will be at the show, but won't be the company's centerpiece, which might indicate a 2007 release.
2K Games, a division of Take Two Interactive Software (Research), will put most of its muscle behind "Bioshock," a highly-anticipated action-horror title. Three new games from Sid Meyer (the "Civilization" franchise) will also be on display.
"World of Warcraft" fans – and there are roughly 6 million of them worldwide – will get their first chance to play the first expansion to that game – "The Burning Crusade".
THQ (Research), meanwhile, will make a push towards core gamers (while still showing its bread and butter titles for younger games, such as the adaptation for Pixar and Disney's (Research) forthcoming film "Cars"). Among the titles on display will be "Saints Row" for the Xbox 360 and the recently announced "Frontlines: Fuel of War " action title for the PC. CEO Brian Farrell told me the company also plans to show 3 titles for the Nintendo Revolution. One is based on "Sponge Bob, Square Pants," the others have not yet been announced.
And, like many years, there will be some notable absences from the show. Acclaimed role-playing game maker Bioware will show neither "Dragon Age," which it debuted two years ago, but hasn't shown since, nor its in-development massively multiplayer game. id Software's new franchise, the first from the makers of "Doom" and "Quake" in 10 years, won't be there – but the company will have "Quake Wars: Enemy Territory" playable on the show floor.
As for long-time MIA titles, like "Team Fortress 2" (not seen at E3 since 1999) and "Duke Nukem Forever" (which made its last E3 appearance in 2001), well... they'll remain MIA for another show.
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Morris is Director of Content Development for CNNMoney.com. Got something specific you're curious about at E3? Send him an email and let him know.