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5 events to look forward to at E3 2012

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With the next Electronic Entertainment Expo just around the corner, Michael Glavin takes a look at some of the events you can't afford to miss out on.

E3 2012

5. A brand new Star Wars game

Boba Fett

The reputation of Star Wars games hasn't been doing so well recently – after the launch of Star Wars: The Old Republic just a few short months ago, which saw the most ambitious game based on Lucasfilm's iconic franchise quickly rise to become the fastest-selling MMO of all time, support from fans has been flagging recently, with server population dropping daily. The Force Unleashed series has also been coldly received by some fans of the franchise, who have criticised both games of being too short and having little replay value, as well as claiming that the games mess with canon just for the sake of shoehorning in their own storyline. And the less said about Star Wars Kinect, the better.

But all that may be about to change. Lucasfilm have announced yesterday that a brand new Star Wars game is in development, and gameplay will be showcased at this year's E3 on the 4th of June. No other details have emerged, but fans have long been anticipating a Star Wars: Battlefront 3 or a sequel to the fan favourite Republic Commando. However, Lucasfilm have recently trademarked “Star Wars 1313”, hinting that the game will be based on bounty hunter Boba Fett based on his callsign “CT-1313”. This alone has generated a lot of buzz; Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, based on Boba's daddy Jango Fett, was something of a sleeper hit and has since became a cult classic among advocates of PS2-era gaming, so a lot of fans are hoping for something in the same vein of gameplay.

 

4. The Return of Mr. Caffeine & Friends

If you watched last year's E3 on a live stream, as I did, you'll probably remember Ubisoft's event. They showcased some good games, had quite a warm reception from attendants and, most memorably of all, the showcase was presented by one Mr. Aaron Priceman, who very quickly earned the moniker “Mr. Caffeine” among the realms of the internet.

To say that Mr. Caffeine was energetic and impassioned about Ubisoft's announcements and showcase would be a bit of an understatement; the man exuded that much energy that they probably had him hooked up to power the IMAX-size screen onstage. As was the case with most presenters at E3, people cringed at his antics, especially the flashback “doodly-doodly-doop” sound and puns galore. Unfortunately one cannot simply be told of Mr. Caffeine's antics; one has to see it for themselves. Fortunately, we've provided a quick and easy means for you to question your own senses with a handy-dandy video embed below.

A selection of “highlights” from Mr. Caffeine's “presentation”

This isn't really an exception to the rule; the big events always have had their share of personalities invading the stage to reluctantly plug the next big thing while “I'm only doing this for the money” is printed so clearly on their faces you could read it from space. No doubt after last year's antics we'll see more of Mr. Caffeine's antics at Ubisoft's event - not to mention the oh-so-funny Kevin Butler persona generated by some Sony marketing executives who mistakenly thought they had a sense of humour; Microsoft's insistence on dragging pre-teen kids onstage to stamp around and pretend to enjoy themselves in front of a global audience (We get it, guys, you made a next-generation Eye Toy. We weren't impressed then, and we're not impressed now); and the string of awkward celebrity endorsements that always make me wonder exactly who thought the demographics of “people that are dedicated enough to watch or attend E3” and “people who actually know who these NFL stars are” were in any way similar.

 

3. More news on the Wii-U

After Nintendo's announcement on their next console last year, there's been a pretty vocal divide in opinions over the “Nintendo Wii-U”. Long thought to be simply a placeholder title for the project, Nintendo have all-but-confirmed the console's name with an official Facebook page bearing the Wii-U name, complete with a welcoming video from Nintendo of America president and all-round-cool-guy Reggie Fils-Aime.

Since last year, a small but steady trickle of information and hints on the Wii-U have been emerging, with game developers indicating at its graphical and processing power (or lack thereof, depending on the account), the extent of its compatibility with the Wii and other Nintendo platforms, and just what is up with that controller anyway.

Wii U Controller

Seriously guys, what the hell?

We'd like to claim that we're looking forward to news on more next-generation products, but Nintendo have so far been the only one of the “Big Three” to make any sort of commitment to talking about a brand new product at E3. Sony have recently pushed their PS Vita out the door to a mixed reception so a significant portion of their show will doubtlessly be confirming how well this is doing, but they've also announced that they've got “something big” to announce that involves working with a leading cloud gaming service – most likely OnLive. Meanwhile, Microsoft have stated repeatedly in the last few years that they're committed to basically milking the Kinect cash cow dry until 2015 at the earliest, so we'll likely only see the aforementioned pseudo-enjoyment kids on-stage, with some gameplay footage of Black Ops 2 thrown in to appeal to the “hardcore gaming” market.

 

2. Someone Something big is coming...

Half-Life 3

There have been a lot of stirring among the Internet crowd recently. They're nervous – excited, but nervous. Across the globe, things have been spotted. Things which wouldn't make sense or would simply be dismissed as trivial on their own, but put together, they seem to form a message. A hint of some kind. But what does it mean?

I'm talking, of course, about the shenanigans at Valve Corp. The group of game developing geniuses behind some of the most iconic games in history – not to mention the absolutely stellar Steam digital distribution service – have been dropping hints left and right that they've got something to reveal. The problem is, they're flat-out denying that it has anything to do with them. But all the clues are there: viral sites purportedly registered to Valve have been popping up with “3” as a recurring theme; a sound-bite from the recent Portal 2 Perpetual Testing Initiative has the pragmatic CEO of Aperture Science talking about a corporate buy-out of Black Mesa; a leaked Valve Employee Handbook shows two employees chatting while wearing a Portal 2 and Half-Life 3 shirt respectively; and one of Valve's own employees has been spotted in public wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with the signature Lambda logo and a “3”. It's all adding up! I'm not crazy, I swear!

Valve

It's a sign!

Fans are claiming that this is a definite sign that the long-awaited Half-Life 3 is finally coming our way, and that we'll undoubtedly hear something at E3 this year. Valve CEO Gabe Newell has flat-out stated that Valve will not be announcing any new titles that the public aren't already aware of, and will instead be showcasing games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2. But the most optimistic of fans are claiming that it's all a cunning attempt at misdirection, and that Gabe will once again take the world be storm when he troops on-stage and unveils that glorious 3 that everyone has been waiting for - although some cynics with a cruel sense of humour believe that it'll be an announcement for Portal 3 or Left 4 Dead 3. Admittedly that would still be pretty cool, but still – it's not Half-Life 3.

 

1. Damage control!

In a worrying state of affairs, the games industry has been floundering financially lately. More than a few smaller developers have gone bust in recent months, and even the big-hitters like Sony and EA have announced massive losses in the last quarter after some of their flagship projects – the aforementioned PS Vita and Star Wars: The Old Republic respectively – failed to perform as well as had been hoped. Even Nintendo, whose consoles pretty-much print money for them, have announced losses in the last year for pretty-much the first time ever; the 3DS sold well by all accounts after a bit of a spotty start, but it still didn't do as well as had been originally projected.

Looking back at last year's E3 gives us a bit of a hint of what we might expect: after the PSN hacking fiasco, Sony dedicated a significant portion of the start of their show to addressing the matter, which came across more as shifting the blame and trying to minimise damage to their assets. Now imagine that, replicated across pretty-much every one of the major showcases this year, and you've got a pretty good idea of what we might be in store for. It might sound like boring corporate babble, but the more sadistic side can't help but revel as these big companies, so sure of themselves that they can easily pump out any old garbage and still get our money, are forced to account for why their stocks are plummeting and their products aren't selling.

Reggie

Don't worry Reggie, we still love you.

It's a curious debacle to watch; at the time when gaming was emerging as a respectable entertainment medium in its own right, profits were skyrocketing – now that the economy has taken a turn for the worse and people are a bit more selective over what they play, things aren't looking so good, and it's interesting to see how the PR-produced spokespeople for these companies handle being brought before the judgement of a global audience and being held accountable in ways that they're not entirely sure how to deal with. Some will come clean on their mistakes and throw their mercy on the gaming public; others will deny any wrongdoing and point fingers, instead preferring to label their audience as ignorant and "entitled" similar to the Mass Effect 3 fiasco a few months back. It's kind of like a trial of judgement – if they pass, all will be forgiven; if they fail, the media and the internet at large will chew them up and spit them out. It'll be interesting to see how the dynamics of the games industry shift after this year's E3 rolls over. Personally, this is what I'm looking forward to more than anything else at this year's event.

Except maybe Pikmin 3.

 

What are you looking forward to most at E3 this year? Let us know in the comments below!


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