E3 2010 Anticipation: Xbox 360 and Project Natal Forecast
By Louis Bedigian GameZone.com
If Natal is indeed a “new console” (as Microsoft has reportedly called it) for the Xbox 360, then just how many games will be unveiled at E3?
My bet is that no more than 15 significant games will be shown, or will be playable. In addition to those games, there will likely be a smattering of smaller titles that could be fun (mini-games, quirky ideas, hopefully some concepts that are risky and entirely unique, etc.). Also, don’t be surprised if you see a few old games that are modified to work with Natal and will be released at a discounted price (a la Pikmin and Resident Evil 4 on the Wii).
Of those 15 – assuming there are that many – I’m betting that at least half of them will be published by Microsoft, but not all of them will be released this year. Expect at least one of the hottest Natal games (first- or third-party) to have a “tentative” fall 2010 release date that will inevitably slip into the following year.
All told, this should amount to 25 Natal-specific or Natal-compatible games at E3.
E3 Predictions: Xbox 360 Announcements
Rare in Motion: One of the most frequently asked questions surrounding Natal is whether or not Rare will unveil a new motion-controlled game at E3. While it would be foolish to get our hopes up thinking that Rare may release a Natal game this year – this is a developer who loves to delay, remember? – I am pretty certain that the Banjo maker will (if nothing else) make a significant announcement at E3.
Assuming that’s the case, which game will it be? Existing franchises seem out of the question. Though I wouldn’t be surprised to see iconic Rare characters appear in this game, I’m betting that it will be the start of a new franchise for Rare. It will be a game that was developed for Natal from the ground up, and it will be one of the showpieces for this motion-based peripheral.
On the other hand, if I’m wrong and the game is coming from an existing franchise – or better yet, what if Rare is going to announces two Natal games? – then my money is on one new franchise and a sequel to Perfect Dark or Killer Instinct. Either franchise would offer a unique opportunity: they could prove that Natal is capable of handling a wide variety of gameplay styles.
Right now, many gamers see Natal as an extension of the Wii. Few of us can or want to imagine playing Perfect Dark with a Wii remote and Nunchuk. The thought of a Wii Killer Instinct is even scarier. But if either game could work on Natal, think of the possibilities. We would actually start to consider the idea that we don’t need a controller to play intense and highly intuitive games.
Halo Offshoot: If not this year, then definitely by E3 2011, I predict that Microsoft will announce a new kind of Halo game that takes full advantage of Natal. It may be a shooter, it may be a strategy game, or (if my wish comes true) it could be a brilliant combination of the two that will forever change the way hybrid genres are developed.
Third-Party Surprises: It’s a no-brainer that Microsoft will use its third-party support to help boost Natal’s presence at E3. But in addition to the expected line of sports games (Tiger Woods is heading to PS Move, if that’s any indication) that will be supporting Natal, I suspect we’ll hear about – and hopefully see – a few impressive surprises.
My prediction: the surprise(s) will come from Ubisoft, Capcom, EA, Konami, and/or Activision.
Natal Name Change: Just as Nintendo transformed its Revolution console to Nintendo Wii, it seems that Microsoft is planning to announce a new name for Natal at this year’s E3. Based on an invitation Microsoft sent out to the media announcing its exclusive pre-E3 event, many are speculating that the new name will be Xbox Experience.
While catchy, doesn’t that sound like the end of a sentence? “Enjoy the Xbox experience.” When it comes to names, Microsoft isn’t the smartest company – for proof, all you have to do is examine the history of Windows. Still, I have doubts that Xbox Experience will be the final name for Natal.
Natal Goes Live: Will Natal get its own specific store within the Xbox Live marketplace? I’m betting that it will, but only if Microsoft has or intends to open Natal to XBLA-style development.
Inevitably, this will open the floodgates to shovelware, but I still hope it happens. By allowing developers to experiment with low-cost motion-based releases, we’ll see a lot of clever and innovative downloads appear. It could also be a venue for big developers to test out miniature versions of their game concepts before investing millions into the project. Plus, it could make XBLA more attractive to developers since it would give them not one but two distinctly different control options.
Wheel-Free Racing: It’s time for Microsoft to make good on its silly tech demo by unveiling a Natal-exclusive racing game. Honestly, I can’t fathom how this will be successful: isn’t the whole point of a racing game to simulate an element of real life? Real cars have steering wheels. Since most gamers seem to agree (Natal is exciting because of what it can do, not because of the controllers it can replace), Microsoft needs to blow our minds at E3.
Hulu: The word on the street is that a paid subscription-based version of Hulu is headed to Xbox Live. That’s all fine and dandy, and I’m betting it’s true. But if we’re expected to pay for the service, Hulu had better start offering EVERY episode of the shows it streams.
Other Services?: Microsoft is dedicated to bringing non-gaming services to Xbox Live, so I imagine we’ll hear about some new services – in place of or in addition to the rumored Hulu feature – at E3.