E3 2011 Preview: What can we expect from the Big Three?

With E3 just under a week away, the gaming world will once again be turning its eye toward the Big Three (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) to see just what the major console manufacturers will be setting their sights on in the coming years. There’s always a ton of pressure on each to come out of E3 with the sense of being the top dog, earning that distinction by nailing the best exclusives, striking the best deals with third parties, or even unveiling new technology via motion sensing devices, handhelds, and consoles. Last year saw Nintendo emerge as the clear favorite for the first time in years, with Sony holding strong and Microsoft falling behind due to its focus on the family-friendly advertising of Kinect.

In the year since last E3, things haven’t panned out the way the experts thought. Kinect sold millions, Sony faced a major issue with the shutdown of its PlayStation Network service, and Nintendo’s 3DS failed to make as much of an impact as expected. With the next generation of gaming coming to fruition in Nintendo’s Project Cafe, it will be interesting to see what each company pulls out of their hat to wow press, investors, and fans alike. Before the big event happens, here’s a little insight into what everyone can expect to see from each of these three industry titans.


It would be easy to say that Nintendo is going to walk away from this year’s E3 the clear favorite, thanks to the official unveiling of Project Cafe. Just remember last year’s marvelling at the reveal of the 3DS. The updated graphics, innovative 3D tech, and ability to turn the 3D off wowed each person who laid his or her eyes on it, leaving gamers anxious to try it out themselves. Fast forward to present day and we see that the 3DS is not exactly the home run everyone expected it to be. Sales have been underwhelming and people have complained about headaches and other problems with the portable’s technology. Another reason for the slow jump at the gate has been the lack of solid first- and third-party titles.

With this history lesson in mind, perhaps we should all take Project Cafe’s unveiling with a grain of salt. The update to HD and a new system for online multiplayer for Nintendo is huge, but what else do we know about it? Based on what’s been leaked, the controller is said to have a 3″ touchscreen mounted right in the middle of it. From how the design looks, it could be the most inconvenient controller to use since, well, the Nintendo 64. Having menus in hand could be an efficient way to reduce HUD clutter, but that would require looking down from what is happening on the bigger screen.

The Metroid, Donkey Kong, and Kirby franchises have all seen a major title release last year and Zelda will likely have Skyward Sword for the Wii at the end of this year. No doubt the latter will be huge for the company, but what will this leave for Project Cafe? One name should say it all: Mario.

What better way to open up a new Nintendo console than with a new adventure from everyone’s favorite plumber? Don’t expect this title to be Super Mario Galaxy 3. Another franchise to look out for that has been dormant far too long is Star Fox. If Nintendo has learned anything with that franchise, it’s that you should keep Mr. McCloud in the sky where he belongs. There is no better way to bring Fox and crew back to what they do best than in the glory of HD.

With just a new Mario and Star Fox game, though, how much depth will Project Cafe’s launch have? Sure, another Smash Bros. could also be on the menu and perhaps another Mario Party, but Nintendo doesn’t have many smash first-party properties to bank on this time around. This is why you should look for Nintendo to finally break down the wall it has put up with third-party developers and let some major “hardcore” titles into the fold.

Nintendo has already tested the waters with some third-party titles from major franchises coming to the 3DS, using them as a boxer would playful jabs to find a weakness before throwing the knockout punch. These early partnerships could very well see the company announce deals with the likes of Capcom, Electronic Arts, and other major publishers to release exclusive AAA titles.


The last twelve months started off well for Sony. They beat out Microsoft in the E3 reception game, came in a respectable second to Nintendo, saw an increase in console sales, and signed deals to bring games like Portal 2 and exclusive DLC for titles like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood to the PlayStation 3. Extremely underwhelming sales for the PlayStation Move, combined with mixed reviews for SOCOM 4, which was billed as the essential Move-compatible game, began to hurt the momentum the company had been riding since 2009. Then came the attacks on the PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment. The online networks for the company were down for nearly a month, drew the ire of several customers, and now make people wonder if they can trust Sony with their personal information.

That said, there is no doubt that the very first thing we will see from the Sony’s press conference next Monday is a big public apology for everything related to the PSN attack. Sony will do their best to make it clear that its security is even better than it was before, detail everything in the compensation packages once again, and possibly even show information on how their new security is better. Don’t expect any mudslinging in the direction of Microsoft or Nintendo this year, because frankly the company is not in any position to do so.

Once the company gets that out of the way, expect Sony to come hard with its exclusives. The company still has the strongest exclusive lineup among the Big Three and won’t be afraid to show it off. Unfortunately, with inFAMOUS 2 releasing the very next day, it won’t be a surprise if nothing is said about that title, but Sony has what is one of the hottest franchises in gaming with Uncharted, which will release its newest entrant this November. So just like in 2009 with Among Thieves, expect a big blowout for all things Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. A new full-length trailer accompanied by a brand new demo, potentially showing the return of other series favorites like Elena Fisher, will most definitely be in order. This will also probably be everyone’s first chance to see just how the masters of water and snow animation at Naughty Dog have tackled their newest environmental undertaking: sand rendering and physics.

Another exclusive that will surely get the new trailer/demo treatment will be Resistance 3. Don’t be surprised if Sony tries to push the Move once again with the demo, as it will likely be played on the motion device while the presenters talk it up. With a year since its announcement and its release coming in October, we should also be on the lookout for a brand new glimpse at the upcoming reboot for Twisted Metal. Perhaps a deeper look at some of the game’s multiplayer modes will be in order.

In addition to games, Sony also has brand new hardware to talk about. The NGP’s (or perhaps Sony Vita’s) existence has been known for quite a few months now, but we really haven’t been given a whole lot to see of it. We also haven’t been given a price or release date. With the 3DS out and getting a lukewarm reception, Sony would be foolish to pass this opportunity up.

Lastly, don’t be surprised if Sony makes a couple of announcements regarding exclusive content on the PlayStation 3 version of certain titles. Doing so would go a long way for the company as it would show that it still has the faith of major developers and publishers. And now that it’s known that the company is working on its next console, Sony will probably officially acknowledge its existence and give us the first details. Don’t expect a full reveal, but an announcement and some information on how early in development it is in an attempt to take some thunder away from Project Cafe is possible.


Microsoft took a major hit in their fans’ eyes last year at E3 when the company decided to ignore its faithful crowd in order to cash in on the casual market. The mediocre presentation of so-so Kinect games put the company that was seen as the favorite going into the event in dead last place. Microsoft got the last laugh, though, when the Kinect sold like hotcakes upon release and has allowed the company to finally dig into a market once dominated by Nintendo.

Despite this success, don’t expect Microsoft to spend another two hours showing off Kinect demos. They have their market share and while there will probably be some of that in the company’s press conference, it shouldn’t take up the whole thing. Some of those titles may even do what many were hoping the technology would when it was first revealed two years ago: Draw the attention of “hardcore” gamers by integrating Kinect into “hardcore” games.

Aside from all things Kinect, Microsoft has been extremely and unusually quiet with regard to what it plans to show at E3. We know Gears of War 3 will be a big to-do. With this year marking the tenth anniversary of Halo: Combat Evolved, many are looking for Microsoft to unveil an HD remake of the classic shooter. There may even be a chance that 343 Industries, which has taken over the Halo reins from Bungie, will unveil the next major Halo title itself.

Microsoft is hiring technicians to work on the next Xbox, but will the company show anything? The chances aren’t likely, since Microsoft has yet to officially confirm the console’s existence and it’s practically in the infancy stage of development.

With the shutdown of the PSN, Microsoft will probably throw some veiled (or even outright blatant) punches at its arch rival. The company will talk about how successful Xbox LIVE is and maybe even talk about how “secure” their network is compared to the competition. Perhaps they will then use the platform to talk about how they are expanding upon the online network with even more entertainment options.

Ultimately, it’s hard to really figure out just what will come from the Microsoft camp this year. Its tight-lipped approach leading into the event makes it difficult to predict just how the company will make out, but if anything is known about Microsoft, it’s that the company loves a good surprise. So maybe something big is on the horizon that will shock the world, come June 6. Or maybe they’ll just do what they did last year, take the criticism, and then hope to ride the Kinect train to the bank for another twelve months.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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