E3 2014: Who Will Surprise Us This Year?

As E3 draws nearer we come that much closer to getting bombarded with new information about the games we’ll playing in the coming year. E3 is certainly one of the most exciting times of year to be a gamer, and why wouldn’t it be? Soon we’ll be seeing new gameplay footage of highly anticipated games, learning release dates, and hearing developers talk about their games in great detail. While all of these things are certainly great reasons to look forward to E3, the one thing gamers look forward to more than anything else are surprises.

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Some of the best moments of E3s past are those “one more thing” announcements at the end of a press conference that reveals something no one saw coming. Sitting through the inevitable talk about sales figures, motion control demonstrations, and yearly sports game demos instantly become distant memories when that mindblowing bombshell is dropped. The E3 press conferences have produced many of these memorable moments in the past, but rather than look back I thought we’d look ahead and maybe speculate a little about what might be in store this year.

Now, of course a surprise is an inherently difficult thing to predict, and if I were actually able to accurately guess what these announcements will specifically be chances are they aren’t all that surprising. However, using some deduction we can maybe take a few guesses about who may have a previously unannounced game to show at this year’s show. One of the more likely companies to have a major reveal set for a press conference is Ubisoft.

The last two E3s Ubisoft has featured the biggest surprise announcement of the entire show, with Watch Dogs in 2012 and The Division in 2013. In each instance these announcements were a complete surprise and wound up being among the most talked about games for the entirety of the event and beyond. With the recent release of Watch Dogs we’re seeing just how much that initial hype really persisted, even through delays, resulting in great sales for what has turned out to be generally accepted as a very good but not great game. Given how well it’s worked out for Ubisoft these past two shows, one would expect them to have something in store for this year’s show as well, but of course we’ll have to see.

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Looking at EA, I find it much less likely that they will have anything all that shocking to show. Battlefield Hardline from Visceral may have been intended to be a surprise reveal, but that ship has certainly sailed after all the leaks. Looking at the studios in EA’s lineup, there doesn’t appear to be much opportunity for surprise announcements. DICE has two already announced games, Mirror’s Edge and Star War Battlefront and probably another Battlefield set for 2015 or 16, so it’s very unlikely they have any surprises to unveil. EA will certainly have game announcements, but most likely things to be expected, like Need for Speed. There is perhaps a slight chance that Bioware may have a new IP to announce, this being the game the Mass Effect team has been working on since Mass Effect 3 wrapped in 2012, but I find it much more likely we hear about the next Mass Effect game from Bioware Montreal, that is if Bioware even has anything to talk about beyond Dragon Age Inquisition.

Looking at other studios that could have new games ready to be unveiled, Arkane Studios is one that comes to mind. Dishonored was released about two years ago, so the timing works out for them to be ready to at least announce their next project, though I find it more likely to be a Dishonored sequel than something very surprising. Yager, the developer behind the excellent Spec Ops: The Line has already confirmed that their next project, described as a “AAA first person shooter” will be at E3, so that could be interesting. Every year people get excited for Valve and a potential Half Life 3 announcement, which would certainly be a surprise considering that game’s almost mythical status.

Turning towards Microsoft, it’s hard to really predict whether they have anything in store. Their major first party studios have either just put out a game (Rare, Turn 10) or have upcoming games that are already announced (343, Lionhead, Black Tusk). Some of these developers may be two project studios, but I certainly find it unlikely we’re going to see anything unexpected from these developers. Of course, Microsoft is also one to partner with third party developers on exclusive games, Remedy and Insomniac being two current examples, so we could see some surprise announcements from a third party studios at Microsoft’s conference.

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Sony is, in my mind, a frontrunner to have at least one surprise reveal at this year’s show, maybe more. The main factor in this assessment is that they have hardly any first party software announced at this point except Driveclub, The Order: 1886, and Uncharted. Two studios we know are working on new games that haven’t been seen yet are Media Molecule and Guerrilla, but unfortunately both have confirmed they won’t be showing anything at E3. However, that still leaves studios such as Sony Bend and Santa Monica Studio as first party Sony studios that are due to announce new projects. There’s also the multi-team Japan Studio that could have any number of games on the horizon, and also the possibility of third party partnerships, though that seems less likely with Sony than with Microsoft.

That brings us to Nintendo, who are always a tough one to predict. With their internal studio structure at Nintendo EAD being a lot less clear than Microsoft and Sony’s first party developers, it’s hard to really get a sense of what teams are due to announce new games. It’s a pretty safe bet that the core Mario team doesn’t have anything set for the near future since 3D World came out only a few months ago, but Zelda on Wii U does seem to be an accepted fact of this year’s show. Retro Studios has been confirmed to be working on a new game, but considering development only started after the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze earlier this year, we’re unlikely to see anything for a while.

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While this is nothing more than educated speculation, hopefully some of these developers do indeed have surprising new projects to show off. Even still, it’s entirely possible that some developer or publisher that wasn’t even on my radar will show off something unbelievable and blow everyone away. Whatever happens, E3 is sure to be very exciting this year, as it is every year, and I personally can’t wait.