E3 games event to provide battlefield for console war

The rivalry between Microsoft and Sony most likely means some new hardware next week

Testing Samsung VR gear: this year at E3 is expected to be one where virtual reality really gets going. Photograph: EPA/Ritchie B Tongo

Testing Samsung VR gear: this year at E3 is expected to be one where virtual reality really gets going. Photograph: EPA/Ritchie B Tongo

 

The biggest games event of the year is about to take place in Los Angeles. E3 has been the stage for some of the world’s biggest games to hit the market, and the battleground for the unfolding of the console war between Microsoft and Sony.

The news is sure to flow thick and fast from the exhibition, which has faced competition from Gamescom in recent years as the highlight of the games calendar.

Last year’s event saw more than 52,000 people ranging from industry attendees, media and games fans hit the LA convention centre for the three-day event, representing 109 countries.

So what are we likely to see next week ?

New hardware

The big releases for games consoles happened in 2013, which means we won’t see anything earth shattering from Sony and Microsoft at this year’s show. But although the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are still locked in a battle for gamers, don’t discount the possibility that we could see some new hardware next week.

Microsoft, in particular, is expected to announce what it plans for the Xbox One, with rumours there will be a new slim-line version of the Xbox One for gamers, or that a more powerful version of the console will be coming down the track.

It won’t be the first time that a games company has streamlined its devices. The Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 both had sleeker versions introduced in a bid to widen their appeal.

Sony, meanwhile, could be bringing 4K gaming to its console, with a new version of the PS4. So the rumours have it anyway; if it’s true, it will fit in with Sony’s strategy of bringing 4K to almost everything it’s putting out these days, from phones and TVs to video cameras and now games. The existing PS4 hardware can run 4K video but it cannot do gaming just yet. The new PS4, which could be dubbed the 4.5 or 4K, if it appears, will fill that gap nicely. Will it push people to invest in some of those pricey new TVs though?

The last piece of the puzzle is Nintendo. The games company stopped having an official press conference at E3 a few years back, but it still takes a massive stand and runs the Nintendo Direct broadcast straight to consumers. This year though the company is skipping the Direct briefing and holding a “Treehouse Live” event, which will feature only Legend of Zelda.

What about hardware though? The Wii U may not have hit the high points that its predecessor did, but don’t write off the company yet. We may have been expecting to hear more about the NX, and although we can’t rule out a surprise announcement, given the company’s lack of Nintendo Direct event, that seems less likely now.

Virtual reality

HTC has put its Vive on sale, as has Oculus, and Samsung’s Gear VR has been on sale for several months. You cannot get away from virtual reality, no matter how hard you try.

This year is expected to be the one where virtual reality really gets going, so we should see a lot more of the technology at this year’s E3. The theme of the event even hints a little at it – inspiring new worlds.

Sony, by the way, is gearing up for the launch of its PlayStation VR this year, so this year’s event should see a lot more emphasis on the games that will be available at launch.

It will be interesting to see where Sony plans to pitch the VR when it finally hits the market in October.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has been working on HoloLens. But its holographic computer system isn’t expected to be shown at E3. Rather, the games company is expected to expand on its partnership with Oculus that allows games to be streamed to the Oculus Rift. The company is covering all its bases.

Aside from that you can expect a lot of the smaller players to push their VR kit this year, from headsets to peripherals designed to make your gaming experience more immersive.

Games

E3 is, for the most part, all about the games. It’s the launch pad for everything from Fifa to Elder Scrolls, and this year will be no exception. Among the titles certain to get their official viewing at the event are Fifa 17, EA’s annual football franchise; Horizon: Zero Dawn on PlayStation; and the previously mentioned Legend of Zelda title from Nintendo.

The franchise juggernaut will roll on, with news on the latest Call of Duty title from Activision, Titanfall 2 from EA, a new Forza title and a Halo follow-up.

There are also strong rumours that Capcom could be about to introduce a new Resident Evil title, perhaps returning to the survival horror franchise it created 20 years ago. A follow up to Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption is also a possibility.