The 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo is still nearly two months away, but it looks like the highlight of the show has already been revealed. Several respected game publications recently reported that Nintendo's long-awaited next-generation game console will be unveiled at the conference.
Speculation began last week when a rumour popped up on Engadget that Nintendo would issue a 25 per cent price cut for the Wii in mid-May. Console makers generally don't drop hardware prices in the weeks leading up to a major event, preferring instead to make such announcements part of their conference presentations. EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich explained the situation to C&VG: "Most video game companies withhold their biggest announcements until E3 and if Nintendo chooses to announce a Wii price drop before their E3 press conference, they must have something much bigger to announce."
This set people wondering: What could be bigger than a console price cut? The answer: A new console. But this was nothing more than conjecture-until, that is, a pair of heavyweight game publications entered the discussion bearing information from an array of anonymous sources.
First came Game Informer, which said that it had confirmed from several sources that the announcement of a new HD-capable Nintendo console would take place at E3 or possibly even sooner. The article posted few details on the potential system, save to say that its processing power would be comparable to that of the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, that it looked like it would see a late 2012 launch, and that Nintendo was actively working with third-party publishers prior to release (which, one imagines, is how information came to be leaked).
Then came a report from IGN, which tapped its own sources to discover that the alleged machine will actually be much more powerful than Microsoft and Sony's current consoles, and that Nintendo plans to recapture some of the hardcore crowd it had lost with the casual-leaning Wii.
C&VG, meanwhile, had learned more about the prospective system, too. The British games magazine reported that the console will come with an entirely new controller that features a built-in HD screen. "Nintendo's plans sound unreal," one of C&VG's sources said. "Publishers are already planning launch titles and it's all very exciting. The hardware is even more powerful than current HD consoles and backwards compatible with Wii. The controller will be all-new and has a HD screen on it."
Rumours continued to flow on Friday and over the weekend, some of the most compelling of which came from French site 01net, which revealed several hardware details. The site, which also came into possession of key specifications of Sony's NGP prior to its announcement, states that the system is currently codenamed "Project Café," that its guts will be vaguely similar to those of the Xbox 360-including a three-core IBM CPU and graphics by AMD-and that the controller's screen will be single-touch, sport a full complement of traditional gamepad buttons and controls, and even feature a camera.
IGN fueled the fire of speculation raging over the new controller, revealing that its screen will be six inches and that it will be able to display games streamed from the console.
Of course, Nintendo has yet to confirm any of these reports. However, with sales of its current system flagging most people expected that Nintendo would be first out of the gate with a next-generation console, and 2012 has been floated as a likely potential window by many people (including me). Given the quantity and detail of leaks posted over the last few days, I'd not be surprised if the game giant chose to tease the system prior to E3. Still, the industry's annual conference in Los Angeles will likely be where folks get their first in-depth official look at Nintendo's alleged new platform.