E3 2016 will likely be a victory lap for Sony. As of last month, the video game console maker had sold over 40 million PlayStation 4s. Analysts estimate the consoles outsells its competitor, Microsoft's Xbox One, by two-to-one. Sony has dominated with few big-name exclusives — that's about to change.
The company will seek to further extend its lead this year with a more powerful console, a virtual reality headset, and a considerable number of first-party games. Sony's E3 2016 press conference is Monday, June 13th at 8:30PM EST. Here's what we expect to see.
Lots of exclusives
Last E3, Microsoft made a show of its flashy batch of exclusives scheduled for fall release: Halo 5, Forza 6, and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Expect Sony to make similar boasts this year, as it finally cashes in its chips on long-in-development projects.
We will likely see the sci-fi exploration sim No Man's Sky; the experimental art tool Dreams; The Last Guardian, an adventure game that seemed like it would never be released; and cinematic drama Detroit: Become Human. That list doesn't include games scheduled for 2017 releases, like Horizon Zero Dawn, which will certainly make an appearance at the press conference.
As a "one more thing," we wouldn't be surprised to see an official announcement for a big name sequel, like The Last of Us or God of War.
A more powerful PlayStation 4
In March, Kotaku broke the news that Sony is working on an updated PlayStation 4, dubbed by fans the PS4k or PS4.5. The new hardware isn't a new console per say, but a more powerful version of what's currently available. It's been speculated that a more powerful PlayStation 4 would allow for more graphically complex games for the upcoming PlayStation VR, or even 4K output of current PlayStation 4 games.
Expectations should be tempered when it comes to 4K gaming, considering many high-end graphics cards, which cost hundreds of dollars on their own, still struggle to push the 4k resolution. The 4K rumors might instead mean that a new PlayStation 4 could play Sony's new 4k Blu-rays. A more powerful console built around PlayStation VR seems more likely, and would align with the accessory's release later this year.
A big-name sequel or spinoff for PlayStation VR
Speaking of PlayStation VR, we were surprised by the lack of big-name announcements at the PSVR press event earlier this year. E3 is an opportunity for Sony to pitch a mainstream audience on the PlayStation VR hardware, so Sony will want to tie the peripheral to a familiar brand.
Gran Turismo? Uncharted? God of War? An exclusive sequel tied to the new hardware, which will have a fraction of the PlayStation 4 user base at launch, is unlikely, but a VR spinoff of one of those franchises seems inevitable.
Timed exclusives on DLC
We attribute much of the PlayStation 4's success to timed exclusives on downloadable content for popular multiplayer shooters like Call of Duty and Destiny. Time exclusives aren't as exciting as new game reveals, but they accomplish an important purpose for a console maker: they establish which console a new player must purchase to play with friends.
Say a group of friends play Call of Duty. They're likely to play on PlayStation 4, where DLC currently appears first. Now, if a new friend wants to join them, she will need to also choose PlayStation 4 to play with her pals. There's a ripple effect to these multiplayer exclusivity deals that make early adopters into unwitting evangelists. Expect Sony to double down on the strategy.
Rockstar announces the Red Dead Redemption prequel
Many years ago, Sony and Rockstar, the creators of Grand Theft Auto, announced a collaboration on a PlayStation 3 exclusive called Agent. Though never officially canceled, both parties have been mum about the stealth action game since 2013. An E3 appearance by Agent is unlikely, but the relationship between the companies could mean the long-rumored announcement of a new Red Dead Redemption game will happen at Sony's E3 press event.
A new franchise from Sony Bend, the creators of Syphon Filter
The history of SIE Bend Studios is a strange one. The first game from the developer was the 1996 platformer Bubsy 3D, an unintentional parody of the mascot games that flooded the market in the mid-1990s. The dud was followed by Syphon Filter, a third-person shooter that become one of the biggest franchises of the original PlayStation console. The franchise has since faded into obscurity, replaced by the Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell franchises. Bend has focused on development for Sony's portable hardware, but has long been rumored to be working on something massive for console.
Rumors point to an open-world horror game set in the apocalypse. The rumored title? Dead Don't Ride.
Gravity Rush 2 gets a big push
This is wishful thinking, but we hope Gravity Rush 2 gets promoted as this fall's big exclusive release. Earlier this year, Sony did a commendable job remastering the PlayStation Vita original for the PlayStation 4. The rerelease felt like promotional groundwork for Gravity Rush 2, which is scheduled for release some time in 2016. But little has been shown of the game since last December.
There's good reason for Sony to push Gravity Rush 2. It's joyful heroine and colorful world are an alternative to the smug male leads and blood-soaked locales of so many big-budget games. Gravity Rush 2 could be the more inclusive, family-friendly game Sony wanted launch title Knack to be.
Knowing how these things tend to go, we won't be shocked if Gravity Rush 2 barely gets mentioned, and Sony announces Knack 2 to a dumbfounded audience.