Every month, the NPD Group lays out the top-selling hardware and software in the gaming industry, tracking physical sales of everything from Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s to Grand Theft Auto and Minecraft. There are slow months and busy months, dips in the console market and peaks in the software cycle, but in May 2016, something strange happened. Sales of current-generation consoles (meaning the PS4 and Xbox One, mostly), were "stable" according to the NPD's Liam Callahan.
This wouldn't be notable in many other months, but it just so happens that E3 2016 takes place in the middle of June, and rumors are flying about new consoles from both Sony and Microsoft.
There's little concrete information about what exactly the companies will reveal at E3, but multiple credible reports suggest that we're going to see a new Xbox One. Plus, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House just this morning confirmed that PlayStation definitely has a new, more powerful console in the works.
The Sony console is codenamed "Neo," and it will support 4K video and have all-around upgraded guts. Sony doesn't plan to disenfranchise its 40 million existing PS4 players -- developers will be able to patch existing games to work with the Neo's higher specs, for example.
"It is intended to sit alongside and complement the standard PS4," House said. "We will be selling both [models] through the life cycle."
That said, the Neo is set to be a step up from the standard PS4 currently on the market, and it has interesting implications for the future of PlayStation VR, streaming entertainment and AAA games on Sony's console. The Neo may emerge as Sony's new standard.
However, House said that the Neo won't be at E3, despite earlier reports to the contrary.
Keep in mind that House isn't afraid to set the stage for drama at E3. The weekend before E3 2013, for example, House re-wrote portions of Sony's script in order to capitalize on the hate flowing toward Microsoft after its announcement of an "always-on" Xbox One. Sony's E3 MO involves mic drops and surprises. Even with House whispering reassurances in our ears three days before the big show, it's worthwhile to wait and see what the company actually reveals on Monday.
The same goes for the Xbox One. Microsoft is poised to announce a new, slimmer model with a 2TB hard drive, larger than any of the versions on sale now. This one isn't confirmed yet, but rumor has it the new console will arrive this year.
Microsoft is also diving into VR in a way that leaves plenty of room for Xbox One hardware upgrades in the near future. Xbox and Oculus have a particularly tight relationship, though a new "slim" console probably wouldn't support the Rift. Apparently the company is building a second upgraded Xbox One model that will support the Rift, and while we don't expect to see this at E3, it'll be beneficial to see what information Microsoft offers at E3.
The PS4 and Xbox One debuted in November 2013. If you've waited nearly three years to buy a current-generation console, you might as well give it an extra month to see what new hardware Sony and Microsoft have in store. Sure, the Xbox One and PS4 have recently received widely publicized price cuts to $300 and $350, respectively -- but if you're saving up for a big tech purchase anyway, why not make sure you're getting the best deal on the greatest gear your budget allows?
The Xbox One, PS4, Neo and any other console at E3 2016 will eventually be outdated and warmly ridiculed in augmented reality chat rooms -- much like we now discuss the Atari 2600, Sega Dreamcast, Gameboy and other cutting-edge systems of decades past. Only right now will these consoles be fresh, new and exciting, and all players have the right to get in on the ground floor of nostalgia.
Amid all of the rumors, reports and hints from CEOs, one fact about E3 is clear: We don't know what will be there. The new consoles, if they're revealed at E3, may be too expensive for some people's tastes -- and that's fine. Or the new consoles may not be at the show at all. Waiting until after the press conferences on Monday, June 13th simply ensures everyone will be an informed consumer, rather than someone taking a gamble.
That is, unless you bought a new console in May because you did your research and literally couldn't wait another day to play the new Uncharted or Doom. If that's the case, carry on, digital warrior. Carry on.