The biggest video game show on earth hits the LA Convention Center next week, as E3 2011 drives millions of gamers crazy with huge reveals, stunning announcements, and enough sheer wattage to power a small country for a year.
Can't wait until June 7? Neither could we - so we rooted around the office hardware closet and pulled out a cracked crystal ball. (Note: It might actually be a doorknob.) Tough to say, but when we looked inside, we caught a glimpse of the possible future. (Note: It might actually have been our reflection.)
Wii - Nintendo The Wii 2 will not be called the Wii 2, but it WILL boast HD graphics.
Considering Nintendo has already confirmed that they plan on showing the Wii successor -- currently codenamed 'Project Café' -- at E3, this was an easy one for the crystal ball. Nintendo will come out swinging at the their press conference on the morning of Tuesday, June 7, showing off the new system and letting showgoers get some brief hands-on time with the machine, which is due out in 2012.
But what exactly will the system offer? We've heard everything from touch-screen controllers to 8GB of internal memory, but the feature most gamers are begging for is for Nintendo to finally take the HD leap. The Wii has been mercilessly criticized for its outdated graphics, a fact we're sure Nintendo would like to remedy. Here's their chance.
Master Chief - Microsoft A new Halo game -- or two -- will be revealed.
It's been quite a Warthog ride for Halo fans since last year's E3. Halo: Reach, the final Halo game from the franchise's original developer Bungie, was a fantastic swan song, but many have been wondering what, exactly, the future would bring.
We're going to find out at E3 2011. 343 Industries, the internal Microsoft team tasked with handling Halo now that Bungie has moved on, has already delivered one solid Halo experience in the well-received Defiant Map Pack for Reach. But map packs only go so far, and you can bet that Microsoft wants fans to feel confident that 343 is planning big, cool things with the franchise. Many are expecting an HD reboot of the original Halo: Combat Evolved to be the next order of business, but don't be surprised if you see another Halo game blast through the noise as well.
Sony NGP - Sony Sony's NGP handheld will get a formal name, launch date and price.
With the 3DS struggling a bit, Sony couldn't be in a better position to go big with their NGP (still a codename) handheld system. And that's exactly what they'll do at E3 2011.
Hands-on with the dual-analog sticked, touch-screen-crazy machine is a no-brainer, but that's not quite enough. Sony will also reveal the product's final name (rumors are swirling that it will be the "Vita"), a firm U.S. launch date, and, if they're smart, a price. That last bit is the tricky part, however. From the $500 PS3 to the $250 PSP Go, Sony hasn't fared well pricing their systems at E3. The NGP simply has to be priced no more than $200 if it wants any chance to compete with the 3DS and, more importantly, Apple's iOS devices.
Kinect Sports - Microsoft Microsoft will double down on Kinect, and possibly announce an accuracy upgrade.
It's sold like hotcakes, but has been criticized for failing to live up to its incredible hype. So where does Microsoft take Kinect? We'll find out at E3, as the company is sure to push tons of new Kinect titles hoping to appease its eclectic user base of hardcore gamers and casual fans.
Better still, we're hoping to hear more about the rumored firmware upgrade that would drastically improve the accuracy of the tracking sensor. Microsoft has kept mum on the issue, but it makes sense. Countless videos of creative Kinect hacks -- some useful, others simply entertaining -- demonstrate the potential power of the motion-sensing system. The more power Microsoft puts in the hands (or fingers, or toes) of its users, the longer Kinect will stay in the spotlight.
GTA IV - Rockstar Games We won't see a new Grand Theft Auto.
Over 200 exhibitors will be pimping their wares at E3, including just about every major game maker in the business.
Except one: Rockstar Games.
That's not an exception to the rule, however. Rockstar rarely has a presence at E3, often choosing to forgo the show entirely in favor of (presumably) hanging out in a bar somewhere acting cool. After all, when you've crafted Grand Theft Auto IV, Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire, you can just order a few drinks and let the rest of the industry fight over the scraps.
Will there be a Grand Theft Auto V? Absolutely. Will you hear details about it at E3 2011? Absolutely not.
PS3 - Sony Sony will slash the PS3 price again.
To call the last month for Sony a "rough one" is an understatement. It's been downright awful.
Concerns over the loss of personal and financial data as a result of a barrage of hacker attacks has deeply damaged the Playstation brand, once the strongest in gaming. Most folks will be entering their press conference mumbling bad jokes about security rather than focusing on what the company has traditionally done best: please gamers with solid hardware and great exclusives.
So we expect Sony will do just that. The company wants to remind everyone that, credit card breaches aside, the PS3 has been on the comeback trail, performing well at retail and gaining ground on the competition. To make it even sexier -- and to preserve some sort of consumer confidence -- the company may very well trim the price of the system by at least $50, putting it much closer to the $200 price tag of the Wii and the low-end Xbox 360. Will they go even bigger? Here's hoping.