I'm torn. One of the best aspects of E3, the annual video game convention, are the surprise announcements, marking the return of a popular franchise or the birth of something new. At the same time, I feast on rumors like they're Thanksgiving day leftovers. I want to be surprised, but I also sort of want everything spoiled.
I hope this year's E3 will have plenty of surprises, but after thinking about what announcements make the most sense, I believe I've compiled a list of 12 likely big reveals. Mind you, these predictions are based on rumors. I wouldn't make any bets on what follows. But if you're like me and you'd like a preview of what might be, read on.
Microsoft has teased the Battletoads announcement so excessively, that I wonder if Phil Spencer has some secret bet with Sony’s Kaz Hirai over who can send NEOGAF into the fastest tizzy. British studio Rare hasn't made a new Battletoads since 1994, but its characters have begun popping up in new games, like Rare’s own Kinect Sports Rivals and indie darling Shovel Knight. Microsoft, which has owned Rare since 2002, filed for the Battletoads trademark last year. And Spencer himself sported a Battletoad T-shirt at CES in January that went uncommented on (above). Not to mention a Battletoads announcement would make an obvious lead in for…
A Collection of HD Rare games
A little disappointing to think that younger video game fans might not know the name Rare. The studio’s talent as of late has been misused, entire teams tossed at doomed Microsoft Kinect projects. But in the 1990s and early 2000s, Rare was dominant, creating the Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie franchises, Killer Instinct, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Jet Force Gemini, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. All of those games were published by Nintendo, causing some contract paralysis over the years following Rare's acquisition by Microsoft. Donkey Kong Country is owned outright by Nintendo, so that’s a non-starter, though almost a decade ago Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime hinted at negotiations for a port of Goldeneye that would please all parties. In the words of that kid from Angels in the Outfield, a movie that you will remember if you were old enough to play Goldeneye when it was released: "It could happen."
Sadly, the world seems to have forgotten Jet Force Gemini, but the remaining titles — Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Conker, and Killer Instinct — have been remastered or reimagined in some capacity on an Xbox console. Here's how to make money: take stuff people already love, combine it with other stuff people already love, add copious fan service, and sell the package at an inflated price.
And if none of this is meant to be, we have Yooka-Laylee, Banjo-Kazooie's Kickstarter-funded spiritual successor.
Prey 2 renamed
Prey 2’s 2011 E3 demo was one of the most impressive presentations I’ve seen at a trade show. How much of what was shown was a playable game, and how much was a staged cinematic, is tough to say. That version of the game was caught in conflict between its initial developer Human Head and its publisher Bethesda; late last year Bethesda announced Prey 2 had been officially canned. I think that’s kind of true. But I also think Kotaku’s report that Prey 2 was moved to Arkane Studios, the developer responsible for Dishonored, is also true. Yes, technically Prey 2 is dead, because now it has a different name, and that name (and the game, which is rumored to be more like a spiritual successor to System Shock 2) will be announced at E3 or Bethesda’s QuakeCon in July. Also, I can’t mention all of this without including my favorite leaked email, in which Arkane creative director Raphael Colantonio appears to refer to reporters as (language warning) "press sneak fucks."
Annualization of Far Cry
Far Cry 4 sold 7 million copies in its first six months, shattering Ubisoft’s own expectations. Ubisoft doesn’t just annualize a successful series, it releases multiple games in that franchise in the same year. At the very least we should see one new Far Cry project in 2015. I’d say Watch Dogs gets a similar treatment, but I’m less confident the franchise is ready to ramp up production following the critical lashing the original received.
I don’t know what the hell Hero is, but it looks weird and promising, and it’s remained a pretty good secret outside of this leaked video (above). With The Division, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and Rainbow Six: Siege obvious talking points from Ubisoft at E3, the publisher will need some sort of surprise besides more Far Cry. Prince of Persia rumors have been on again / off again for some time, so Hero seems to be the more likely prospect.
Update: Twitter pal Anthony Mazel directs us to this tweet from voice actor Robin Atkin Downes.
Annualization of Deus Ex
Maybe Square-Enix won’t say as much on stage, but every publisher would like to have at least one annual series along the lines of Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Assassin’s Creed that guarantees some financial predictability. Square-Enix can’t expect a new Just Cause every year, and Tomb Raider is looped into Microsoft’s curious exclusivity deal. That leaves Deus Ex and Hitman, and the former is the more mainstream of the two, which is jaw-dropping considering Deus Ex is a game about the politics of identity, bionics, and human progress. We’ll see more Deus Ex this year with the already announced Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and I suspect we’ll see it every June until people stop buying them.
Like a handful of games on this list, Mafia 3 has a fraught backstory. 2K Czech was rumored to have trouble shipping Mafia 2, with development announced in 2007 and the release almost three years later to the day. Nearly half a decade has passed since that game’s release, 2K Czech hasn’t released a game since Top Spin 4 in 2011, and Mafia 3 remains unofficially in development.
2K and its parent company Take-Two have shown unparalleled patience with big projects in the past, including the the Rockstar Game catalog and the XCOM and BioShock franchises. Last year, 2K confirmed that the 2k Czech studio consolidated and some work on the team’s project was offloaded to the company’s "main studio in Novato, California." The trouble is the main studio could be one of two things, neither especially encouraging from the outside: It could be 2K Marin, which saw substantial departures following the release of the long-delayed The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. Or it could be the new 2K studio Rod Fergusson established in September 2013, only to leave in December of the same year to lead….
Gears of War 4
This one’s a little bittersweet. While Gears of War 4 led by Rod Fergusson (a developer known for getting tough projects like the original Gears of Wars series and BioShock Infinite out the door on deadline) is promising, we’re left wondering what could have come from the entirely new franchises formerly in development at The Coalition, neé Black Tusk. One of the untitled projects was even shown at E3 2013. But you don’t change the name of your studio to a fictional alliance from the Gears of War franchise if you don’t plan on focusing wholeheartedly on the franchise.
Starfox or Metroid or both
No, we almost certainly won’t see that bizarre rumor from three years ago about a Starfox and Metroid mashup come to fruition, but we should see a stand-alone for at least one of the properties. Starfox seems especially likely, following the brief, vague announcement at last year's E3. The likely candidates for developers are Next Level Games and Retro Studios. Next Level created Luigi’s Dark Mansions, Super Mario Strikers and the Punch-Out!! reboot; they haven’t released a game in two years; and they’re hiring a 3D level designer and quality assurance contractors. Meanwhile, Retro Studios developed the fan-favorite Metroid Prime trilogy, but hasn't created a new Metroid since 2007.
Untitled Star Wars game from Visceral gets a name
EA will focus on Star Wars: Battlefront, which should see a release this fall, but they will probably also make a little time to tease the Star Wars game from Visceral. The director of the game, Scott Warner, has been dropping hints on Twitter in the past week, kind of, sort of alluding to an open-world Star Wars adventure.
Nintendo’s Five Nights at Freddy’s-style shooter, Project Guard, gets a name
The Five Nights at Freddy’s trilogy — which at its base level is about monitoring security camera — has been a fountain of wealth for its humble creator. Last year, Nintendo briefly presented a game with a somewhat similar design, in which the player monitors 12 security cameras, firing at enemies with remote-controlled weapons. Think Five Nights at Freddy’s meets tower-defense and you have Project Guard. Nintendo’s smaller demonstrations sometimes disappear, never to be seen again, but with Five Nights' staggering, continued success, expect Nintendo to fast-track the project for a release this year — probably as a downloadable game or part of a mini-game collection. You can take a look at Project Guard around the 12-minute mark of this video.
The Last Guardian
This is the year. I heard it from some doofus on Twitter.
And here’s me predicting it won’t be at E3 2010. Lol, I’m five years closer to death!
Hearing rumors of a Last Guardian announcement at E3.— Chris Plante (@plante) May 27, 2015