An E3 2013 attendee interacts with Ryse: Son of Rome for Xbox One at Microsoft's booth at E3 2013 in Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 11, 2013.
Gaming is an ever-changing industry, and E3 is always a good place to gauge its biggest trends. The opulent annual show draws the biggest publishers, hardware makers and accessory producers, giving us a chance to see what's in store for the next year.
This year we'll certainly see plenty of surprises at E3, but we've tried to predict a little bit of the bigger trends likely to be on display at the Los Angeles Convention Center next week.
Last year's E3 featured some virtual reality games, including the impressive prototype EVE Valkyrie. But the last few months have seen Facebook purchase Oculus VR and Sony introduce its own VR headset prototype. Suddenly the potential of VR is becoming a bit more actual. At this year's Game Developers Conference at San Francisco, which occurred even before the Facebook buyout, we saw more virtual reality game prototypes than ever.
That rush is due to Oculus VR reported selling more than 85,000 of the Oculus VR development kits — prototypes for developers to start creating virtual reality experiences. Those developers have had their headsets for more than a year now, and we're starting to see more sophisticated experiences all the time. With Sony throwing its resources into the pool, we'll be getting double that; this is an instance where competition can only help the market strengthen.
It's unfortunate that this E3 falls a month before the release of the second-generation Oculus development kit, a higher resolution headset that fixes some of the original's problems with latency. Once developers get access to that, the work calibre can only increase.
The rise of independent game developers is no longer news. But this E3 could help prove that indie games are a legitimate revenue model for first party publishers to support on their new consoles.
"We're going to see a lot of indies that were only on Steam being elevated by first party publishers," said Casey Lynch, vice president of indie games publisher Midnight City and former editor-in-chief of IGN. "People want to see indie games. The footprint is expanding and there are far more than just a couple big name indie games."
Last year, Sony touted nine different indie games at its press conference — something Lynch said would have been unheard of at E3 just a few years ago.
"The stance Sony has taken with indies is very smart. They've kept their clear focus on the games and it shows," he said.
Indies could also potentially capitalize on the new consoles as they still wait for bigger releases, which will come this fall and into next year.
"Coming in 2015..."
These last two weeks have seen a monumental number of games have their release dates pushed into next year: Batman: Arkham Knight, Ubisoft's The Division, Sony's exclusive The Order: 1886, RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, zombie freerunner Dying Light, Mad Max and television-game hybrid Quantum Break.
While we probably won't see any more delays before E3, it's strange to have so many games slide into the next year, especially since many of the games that will make their debut next week will also not be available for at least a year. But while many gamers may be itching to have more to play on their next-generation consoles, the consoles themselves are to blame for a lot of the delays.
With the new consoles come new challenges, mainly the rising cost of developing games and the time it takesWith the new consoles come new challenges, mainly the rising cost of developing games and the time it takes," said Trendy Games CEO Darrell Rodriguez, who is also former CEO of LucasArts. "The expectations of consumers are growing, too. They want better graphics, stories, more complex gameplay, layered on top of of things like systems of achievements and interaction."
That means publishers want to put out a game that most definitely gets a return on their investments, especially with game budgets reaching the hundreds of millions. (Upcoming Bungie online title Destiny will reportedly cost publisher Activision $500 million.)
Rodriguez said that move between the last console generation had similar slow downs, as developers moved from the original Xbox to the Xbox 360 and the PS2 to the PS3.
"Back then, developers and publishers had to figure out HD," he said. "The legs on the PS2 and first Xbox were much longer than anyone anticipated."
The Skylanders franchise has become a literal billion-dollar industry for Activision. The annual game series has release more than 200 toys onto store shelves, and there is no sign of the gravy train stopping with the upcoming release of Skylanders Trap Team.
Disney has clearly seen enough return on its investment with Disney Infinity, its own NFC-enabled game, to double down for Disney Infinity 2.0, which will feature expanding into NFC figures at its earnings presentation last month. The figures are expected to work with both the Wii U and the 3DS handheld, but few other specifics were mentioned by Nintendo president Satoru Iwata.
This year, more game makers are likely to experiment with new monetization models. While we've seen free-to-play dominate mobile, and explode thanks to the MOBA genre and games likeLeague of Legends, other bigger games companies haven't jumped on the bandwagon.
This year's E3 will likely see even more free-to-play titles though. Massively multiplayer online games have been the next PC genre to embrace new monetization experiments in an effort to capture player's attention, and there will be plenty upcoming ones at E3.
Bethesda, which notably resisted making aspects of its MMO The Elder Scrolls Online free, is showing off its first free-to-play PC title Battlecry at E3. The 32-person matches in that game take place in an alternate history World War I-era where gunpowder has been banned, and players must fight with more archaic weapons like swords.
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