Over the last few years, E3 has developed a habit of stealing the limelight in terms of gaming exhibitions. While the LA event is considered to be of a higher profile, the significance, and indeed timing of Gamescom cannot be understated. Having amassed over a quarter of a million attendees – 275,000, to be precise – at last year’s event, the expo is widely considered to be the largest annual trade show on the video game calendar. You see, unlike E3, Gamescom opens its doors to the general public, and considering that the event falls between the furore of June’s E3 and the forthcoming holiday season, the level of excitement surrounding Cologne rarely disappoints.
2013 marks the fifth iteration of the European event, which will, as always, take place in the Koelnmesse Centre in Germany and is poised to start its five-day gaming related exhibition on August 21st through to August 25th. With a schedule that encompasses the developing heavyweights of the industry – including Electronic Arts, Sega and Square Enix, to name but a few – the guest list for Gamescom 2013 isn’t short of gaming A-listers. We’re just three months away from the nebulous release date of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which means that developers will be able to present a refined, near-complete version of their upcoming games.
Ahead of the software showcase, though, Microsoft and Sony will take to the stage to talk about their next-gen hardware, before their eventual release later this year. Much like E3, the two competitors will address the gaming audience on the same day; August 20th in this case. During which, it is all but guaranteed that both companies will pin specific release dates for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Other than the former hitting retail in November, it’s all been legends and hearsay to this point. Still, one would imagine that Black Friday – which falls on November 29th this year – will act as the figurative cut-off point for both consoles. That first Friday after Thanksgiving is a lucrative market for high street retailers, so it’s difficult to imagine Microsoft, or indeed Sony, dropping the proverbial ball on such an advantageous release window.
What’s important to remember about next week’s occasion is to never underestimate the stature of Gamescom. After all, this is an event that has witnessed the announcements of the PlayStation Slim, Uncharted 2 and Fable III over the years – to name but a few – so best clear your schedule for next week, dear reader.
But before it all kicks off and we become, once again, engulfed in a storm of next-gen hyperbole, let’s retread the road leading up to Gamescom for both Microsoft and Sony, what’s expected of each company at the event, and a few wild theories thrown in for good measure.
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The Road So Far:
The successor to the Xbox 360 was initially announced back in May, since then, however, Microsoft’s next-gen hardware has been subjected to a series of alterations. These alterations themselves were in direct response to the passionate backlash towards the system’s original architecture – which adopted a Steam-based approach to the ownership of games. Specifically, this proposed design would have marginalised video game piracy while also doing away with used game trading in general. This underlying caveat would have been monitored by Microsoft through a once-a-day internet check – itself a prerequisite of the Xbox One. Nonetheless, Microsoft failed to communicate their future-proof concept effectively which left the Xbox community confused and aggravated – particularly as the model was contrasted by Sony’s approach to the PlayStation 4.
Thereafter, the company reversed the DRM and the need for a persistent internet so as to appease the Xbox community and level the playing field with Sony’s next-gen hardware. Two steps forward, one step back, it seems. Other than Kinect 2.0 – which has also been tweaked ahead of launch – we have an upcoming system that mirrors the PlayStation 4 in more ways than one. Still, Microsoft have assembled a versatile line-up of games – one that is arguably better than Sony’s, at this time – and Gamescom will serve as the perfect platform to discuss those fifteen mysteriously exclusive year-one properties.
DRM, the constant internet connection and the necessity of Kinect 2.0 have all been revised in the last couple of months. Whether this is Microsoft presenting their fanbase with the choice they lobbied for or a sign of their fractured credibility, I’ll let you decide. For now, though, Gamescom is of paramount importance if they’re to position the Xbox One in a stable, consumer-friendly manner for the EU market.
In a recent report, we understand that Phil Spencer; the vice president of the company’s Game Studios, will take to the stage in Cologne to deliver Microsoft’s keynote. The industry, he says, is at a turning point. One which will curate an evolution in game development, but Microsoft still have a way to go if they’re to make the Xbox One the most sought after next-gen hardware. Mind you, not all of the company’s focus will be locked on the next generation. In fact, in response to a fan’s question via Twitter, Spencer said that Microsoft have a new Xbox 360 game up their sleeve that nobody has guessed at yet. A Fable title, perhaps?
Having skipped the event entirely last year, Microsoft’s presence in Germany is a clear sign of the company’s desire to attain a better foothold in the European market. The fact that the industry giant has scheduled an Xbox One showcase event for August 20th signals their plans to present a clearer image of their upcoming hardware; with more information surrounding software line-up and an even a firm release date seeming rather inevitable, too.
According to Marc Whitten, we’ll also get more details surrounding self-publishing – another area that Microsoft have retooled recently – in order to claw back some of the indie deficit lost to Sony at E3. In doing so, the company will hope to boost the next-gen version of the Xbox Live arcade with a collection that could emulate the likes of Fez and Braid on Xbox 360.
The Wild Card:
Speculating ahead of time in regards to a gaming exhibition is always fun. It gives you the opportunity to toss your suggestion into the figurative hat, one which you often look back at in hindsight and wonder what the hell you were thinking. Nevertheless, let’s stipulate about Microsoft’s Gamescom, 2013 showing next week.
It surfaced recently that Microsoft are poised to reveal an unannounced Xbox One exclusive at the event, which will be debut to the audience in Cologne for the first time. For all we know it could a Kinect title. It may even be Fable 4. But what if it’s the game that Black Tusk are working on? If that studio sounds familiar to you, it should. After teasing the community at E3 with a futuristic, yet mysterious trailer, the team have remained mum on any information regarding the next-gen property. In saying that, it’s worth noting that Black Tusk is a first-party studio, thereby fitting the bill when Phil Spencer teased the ‘unique exclusive’ late last week.
Mind you, with Microsoft reported to dedicate a large portion of their stage time to the indie community, it could well be that most of the surprises come from the small-sized genre itself. Quite frankly, after all the DRM reversals and u-turns, it’s hard to imagine Microsoft doing something that will have our tails spinning. Then again, never say never.
Unlike Sony, Microsoft won’t live stream their press conference from Germany, opting to release snippets of their keynote at a later time. Nevertheless, we’ll keep you posted about all the news from the event as it happens, so keep it tuned to We Got This Covered.
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The Road So Far:
Sony’s next-generation home console was first unveiled to the industry back in February. Since then, the PlayStation 4 has accumulated an overly positive rapport with much of the gaming community; what with its attitude to indie developers and its pragmatic approach to the medium as a whole. That momentum continued into E3 before hitting the stratosphere when Andrew House – president and Group CEO of Sony –announced that their next-gen hardware would be $100 less than the opposing Xbox One all the while excluding any form of DRM red tape.
As I’ve previously mentioned, though, with Microsoft reversing their once stringent policies and online requirements, these two consoles have recouped their sense of parity. No longer is the mindshare unbalanced to the degree it was immediately after E3, which means Sony can no longer rest on their laurels. Sure, the price point could serve as the determining factor for the more casual audience – $100 is a significant difference between each respective Day One packages – but for the dedicated fanbase, Sony need to bulk up their launch line-up with more exclusive content. The pro-gamer standpoint is no doubt an admirable avenue to take; particularly as it opposes the Xbox One’s extensive audience reach, but in order to double down on the core gamer, the Japanese giant must ensure that a plethora of games are available on day one, rather than two to three months post-launch.
Unlike Microsoft, however, Sony have the opportunity to invest time in their portable gaming console; the PlayStation Vita. While it isn’t reaching sales figures like its 3DS brethren, the dedicated handheld still has the ability to become a core component of the PlayStation ecosystem going forward. The Remote Play feature – which was relegated to an underused gimmick on the current PS3 – will be a prime focus in the interchange between the device and the PlayStation 4. It’s a Wi-Fi fuelled synergy that has the potential to bestow the ailing handheld with a unique selling point, though Vita owners will want more from the conference than a feature reminiscent of the Wii U’s GamePad.
A Vita price cut, perhaps? Some new first-party support? Either way, in that case of the PlayStation Vita, the old industry adage of software selling hardware couldn’t be more apt.
Much like their competitor, Sony have been banging the war drum in order to champion the number of games in active development. Shuhei Yoshida has been quoted as saying that the PlayStation 4 has, at present, thirty games currently being developed. Of these thirty titles, two-thirds will ship within the first year of the hardware’s life cycle and 12 of said games will be new intellectual properties. These figures, while enticing, are simply hearsay until we get some concrete information. In saying that, Jim Ryan – president of Sony America – has ensured fans that there’s “a lot more coming” when referring to Gamescom, 2013.
Before Sony focuses on new announcements, though, it seems highly likely that the company will provide updates on confirmed titles such as The Order 1886 while also providing the community with further clarification on the console’s inherent features. The fact that PlayStation pillars such as Uncharted and God of War were absent from E3 hints towards a possible development in Cologne. A fourth iteration in each respective franchise would seem like the safest bet, although it may well be that one, if not both, could make their appearance on Vita – for the second time no less, in Nathan Drake’s case.
Either way, the transition to PlayStation 4 for Sony’s staples will undoubtedly break new ground in terms of visuals and gameplay experiences. With a supposedly large roster of unannounced titles in their next-gen vault, it’ll be interesting to see what the company have to offer when they approach the podium at 6pm GMT/1pm EST/10am PST on August 20st.
The Wild Card:
Speculating ahead of time in regards to a gaming exhibition is always fun. It gives you the opportunity to toss your suggestion into the figurative hat; one which you often look back at in hindsight and wonder what the hell you were thinking. Nevertheless, let’s stipulate about Sony’s Gamescom, 2013 showing next week.
First off, we know there will be a major focus on the PlayStation Vita, one which the company have backed up on numerous occasions. And quite frankly, Sony’s handheld could do with several software announcements, considering the quiet release window in the aftermath of Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway. As such, Sony could well plug this gaping void by releasing an inFamous title on the Vita.
Now, with Sucker Punch toiling away on PS4’s inFamous: Second Son, it’s almost certain that this possible development will be shipped off to another developer. Still, the addictive, open-world style of the series would suit the Vita; which has been cramming for its ‘killer app’ for some time yet. Of course, Call of Duty and Resistance stumbled within the niche market, but an inFamous title that was developed to serve the universe’s overarching storyline is an exciting prospect – just so long as the touch-screen gimmicks remain on the floor of the editing room.
I would say The Last Guardian, but then again, a shock announcement by Team Ico will be that little bit more likely at Tokyo Game Show in September. Hey, if Final Fantasy Versus XIII was able to claw its way from development hell, why can’t Team Ico’s long gestating project do the same?
In terms of Microsoft and Sony’s respective press conferences, is there anything in particular you’d like to see? Do you anticipate many surprises when they address the gaming community next week? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.Previous