With the beginning of June approaching, the E3 Show is looming large. Already it feels like all roads lead to Los Angeles, and this year, the buzz of anticipation is mixed with a tinge of relief because, so far, 2012 has been a painfully slow year for keen gamers. But that's not the only reason why the games industry as a whole (never mind us gamers) needs a huge, blockbusting, headline-hogging E3 this year, and needs it more desperately than it ever has before.
Admittedly, by the time E3 comes around, any non-attending gamers will be able to temper their absence from LA by playing the mighty Max Payne 3, but the arrival of the newly Rockstar-ised take on Remedy's much-loved IP will mark the first occasion this year in which games have a chance of grabbing the pop-culture limelight since the launch of the PS Vita (which, glorious machine though it is, hasn't exactly set the world on fire yet).
So - games industry, please note -- we're going to need a whole raft of big announcements at E3; as we're all well aware, any void in videogames news these days is swiftly filled by billions of column inches about Angry Birds or the latest Facebook take on some tedious, half-forgotten board game. The gaming public needs to be reminded that games can be deep, ambitious and spectacular to behold and that they can entertain artistic ambitions (rather than just being the sort of dumbed-down, unchallenging mass-market fodder that reminds one of reality TV).
A new console, of course, would provide a good start, but despite the fact that three of the damn things are actually poised to start rolling off production lines, we're by no means guaranteed that they will break cover at E3. Of course, the Wii U will, Nintendo hopes, be the star of the show. But Nintendo's bizarre but undeniably innovative new console surfaced last year. Sure, when June comes around, it will make the jump from glorified tech-demo to imminent product, and hopefully Nintendo will have figured out how to describe its strengths this time around (and will show new, bespoke Wii U versions of franchises like Mario and Zelda), but putting flesh on the Wii U's bones will barely divert the general populace's attention from Draw Something.
If I was Microsoft, I'd hit Nintendo with the mother of all spoilers by taking the wraps off what won't (we hope and presume) be called the Xbox 720. Now, you would imagine, would be the time to do that, since devkits for Microsoft's next-next-gen console are now widespread, which surely means that the retail machine has had its design and specifications set in stone. But Microsoft is pretty adamant that its new console won't surface at E3. You can understand why - the Xbox 360 is by no means a dead duck yet, and only recently reached its profitable phase. Of course, Microsoft could just be sandbagging in order to cause the maximum amount of annoyance for Nintendo.
Sony, too, says it won't be showing the PS4 at E3, and its denials are more plausible than those of Microsoft - the over-engineered nature of the PS3, which cost Ken Kutaragi his job, at least gives it more longevity than any previous console. And after its annus horribilis last year, Sony is still in regrouping mode.