The hype train has left the station, E3 is so close that we can smell the Doritos dust and hear the radioactive pulse of the stacks of Mountain Dew already. Jon's delivered the timetable for the busy day of press conferences, surprise reveals, and endless name-dropping that kicks off the show each and every year. Our resident Sony clergyman Brendan has outlined seven ways that the PS4 and Vita can knock it out of the park in a few weeks' time. Microsoft have been clearing house and getting as many of their hardware and service-based material out of the way ahead of the start of the show.
It looks like we might actually see an E3 this year that's all about the games.
But I want slightly more than that from this E3. Last year's show brought us the new console hardware. This year's show needs to demonstrate a shift in focus from last generation to this one. If this year's E3 is to be all about the games, it's important that the majority of the demonstrative power on show is brought to bear on renewed focus for the Xbox One, the PS4, and (in slightly different fashion) the Wii U.
I wrote something back in April talking about how it's clear that we're not ready as an industry to let go of the previous generation:
Developers are still committed to serving the massive install bases of the previous generation over exclusively exploring opportunities on Xbox One and PS4, and until that changes and the focus fully shifts, or we get a greater degree of platform exclusives on the newer consoles, there's just not going be that impetus to jump ship. My PS4 has been playing the lesser fiddle to my PC, my 3DS, my 360, and even my Vita of late, and I'd quite like some compelling reasons to turn it back on. The only way that will happen is through more games like inFamous: Second Son and a shift in third-party focus.
A month ago, I used the likes of Titanfall and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel to illustrate how pandering to last-gen hardware restricts what you can do on new-gen systems. That's not just in terms of graphical prettiness, although that certainly comes into it, but by striving to ensure that all bases are covered for last-gen versions you can't help but limit the potential for your game on new-gen hardware because you simply won't be leveraging absolutely everything you can from those new consoles.
It's time that changed.
Those hefty install bases for last-gen consoles are phenomenally attractive. But we should be reaching a point where developers are porting down rather than up -- a slight difference, but a crucial one. It makes sense from a business perspective -- delivering the best possible games on the newest systems, and further incentivising sales for new consoles. "Feature complete" is an admirable goal, but it's time to recognise that there's a significant gap between the capabilities of the Xbox 360/PS3 and the Xbox One/PS4. We need developers, publishers, and platform holders alike to be trumpeting that at E3. That next-gen console owners will no longer have to settle for marginally improved versions of cross-generational games.
It's a message predominantly aimed at third-parties who've been cautious about fully focussing in on the new consoles, and thus have not really explored the newer machines to their maximum potential. Obviously, that's also something that will come with time -- the titles that emerge towards the end of a console's lifespan are often much more technically impressive than those that came before. But it ties into design as well. Anyone who's played Dead Rising 3 will tell you that the scale of the game map in that instalment is unprecedented in the series -- it's not a game that could have been made for the Xbox 360.
And that's the thing, I want to see that gap open up at E3. "Definitive" versions don't display the potential that this new generation of consoles has to offer -- we've only just begun to scratch the surface, and that's largely due to purposefully hamstringing games thus far in order to reach the largest possible audience. Again, admirable but stifling.
This year's E3 needs to be about placing the new consoles front and centre, for all concerned. Not just for the platform holders themselves, but third-party publishers and indie developers too. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have glittering back catalogues, but it's time for the creatives and the businessmen to make the jump from last-gen to this one. Big names travel, but so do big ambitions. The PS4 and Xbox One will still feel fresh come this Christmas, but it's time to capitalise on that now. We didn't go out and get these new consoles for a bit of spit and polish on cross-gen titles, we got them because we wanted to see how studios might raise their performance to the next level, and what new delights could be sampled with greater power and potential. At this year's E3, it's time for those third-parties to deliver.