E3 2011 Anticipation: Namco Bandai, Square Enix, Warner Bros., Disney

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With a new Nintendo console slated for announcement, this year’s E3 promises to be an impressive one. Sony has big plans of its own with the NGP, and Microsoft is expected to impress attendees with new games for Kinect.

While the Big Three might rule the show, they aren’t the only ones attending E3. Let’s take a look at what some of the leading second-tier publishers could bring to this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

E3 Predictions: B-List Third-Party Developers

Namco Bandai: After coasting for years with the same old announcements, Namco Bandai blew our minds with two major reveals in 2010: Tekken x Street Fighter and Street Fighter x Tekken. While both games are still a ways off, the mere announcement (and accompanying trailer) was more than enough to get us excited.

In addition to its crossover games (one of which Capcom is developing), Namco Bandai is also working on a new SoulCalibur. The company is rumored to be designing another Tekken, one that would be separate from the crossovers. And while there haven’t been any formal announcements, you just know that a 3DS version of Tekken or SoulCalibur will arrive in the near future.

As far as major E3 announcements are concerned, Namco Bandai should have some quirky/family-oriented games for Kinect, similar to those it developed for Nintendo Wii.

Expect the company to back away from its less popular franchises (goodbye, Splatterhouse!) and embrace the mainstays like Ace Combat. Also, the Tales RPG series is slated to receive at least one remake for PS3 as well as an all-new chapter in the series. While this franchise won’t steal headlines at E3, it is likely to be a part of Namco Bandai’s E3 exhibition.

Square Enix: After the awful release of Final Fantasy XIII, the announcement of a questionable sequel, and the perpetual hype for other games bearing the FFXIII name, it’s hard to think of Square Enix as being anything but a C-list publisher. The company deserves credit, however, for rescuing Eidos, revitalizing Tomb Raider, and for releasing the breathtaking Just Cause 2.

Unfortunately, none of those are actual Square or Enix games. As we’re all aware, official Square and Enix titles (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and numerous other RPG franchises) are dispersed more sparingly than food in The Hunger Games. Thus, expect a lot of beautiful trailers at E3, but don’t count on anything else--least of all a concrete release date for the next Final Fantasy.

However, it is safe to say that the company will re-release old RPGs this year. Expect at least one of them to pop up on the Nintendo 3DS.

On the Eidos front, I doubt that there will be too many surprises (unless Gex is revived, which isn’t likely). But its E3 showing should be awesome.

Disney Interactive: Currently, Cars 2 is the only major game on Disney’s list for E3. There are a couple of reasons for this, the first being that Cars-related merchandise has been huge. This includes the many Cars games released by THQ.

The second reason is because Disney plans to cut back on the number of games it publishes. Thus, we’ll continue to see Pirates of the Caribbean in video game form, but Pure and Split/Second may never get a sequel.

However, since Disney has not closed down Black Rock Studio (yet), it seems likely that the racing game maker will get to release at least one more game very soon. Expect a tease (if not a formal announcement) at E3.

Beyond that, don’t be surprised if Disney announces another Toy Story game. While Toy Story 4 does not (and may never) exist, Disney is continuing the movie franchise with a series of shorts, one of which will premiere this summer with Cars 2. Another Toy Story game is sure to follow.

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment: Talk about a turnaround. In what feels like a matter of months, WBIE has gone from an average movie studio offshoot to a high-end publisher that releases high-quality games.

Thus far, the company’s E3 lineup is pretty darn solid. Batman: Arkham City and Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters are leading the charge, while Bastion and The Lord of the Rings: War in the North add a bit of variety to the mix.

What’s interesting is that WBIE developed these games with the source material--not the various films (Batman, Green Lantern, etc.)--in mind. So you won’t see Christian Bale running through Arkham City. You will see Batman.

Will Warner Bros. have any surprises at the show? Maybe, but you can bet the majority of its E3 hype will involve these aforementioned games.

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Louis Bedigian
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