TIME Rumors

Don’t Count the iPhone 6’s September 9 Debut Out Yet

The new iPhone line reportedly had a backlight engineering problem that goofed up the assembly process earlier this summer.

Reuters is reporting that Apple may be having difficulty prepping a sufficient number of screens for the next iPhone. Apple is expected to unveil the new line at media event on September 9. The problem, says Reuters, involves a “key” component that’s disrupting the production of the line’s new screens, rumored to be larger than the iPhone 5’s current four inches, and possibly come in two sizes.

More specifically, Reuters’s supply chain sources say the problem is with the backlight configuration in the new phones. Apple wanted to reduce the material used for the backlight from two layers to one in hopes of thinning the phones, says Reuters. But without that second layer, the phones apparently weren’t bright enough, which forced the parts back to engineering and held up the assembly process earlier this summer. That’s now impacting the number of screens Apple’s been able to produce in the ramp up to the unveiling, according to Reuters’ sources.

How many phones amounts to a sufficient number at launch anyway? I have no idea, nor does Reuters, but the news site defangs the issue somewhat by pointing out that its sources indicated the “hiccup” may or may not make it harder for you to get one of the new phones at launch or delay the phones outright. Thus we’re left to mull the possibility that there could be a launch availability problem, but with absolutely no idea of its magnitude, on a scale that runs from “catastrophic” to “irrelevant.”

Short of actually delaying the debut, which seems unlikely at this point–rumors of a September 9 event bubbled up just a few weeks ago, well after the June/July timeframe referred to in the Reuters piece–it’s unlikely we’ll know whether this story impacted the phones’ arrival. Availability issues have been a major part of every new iPhone launch, and a certain amount of scarcity–so long as Apple’s able to ramp up production to meet or surpass its fiscal projections in the long run–isn’t the worst problem to have. Sony’s PlayStation 4, for instance, which Sony claims was plagued by supply issues from launch, has gone on to sell 10 million units worldwide, a record-breaking figure even Sony can’t explain.

TIME Big Picture

Questions About a 5.5-inch iPhone

There’s already a bit of controversy surrounding the launch of Apple’s new iPhones this fall.

Most informed sources seem to all agree that Apple will introduce an iPhone 6 sporting a 4.7-inch screen, as compared to the 4-inch screen on today’s iPhone 5s and 5c models. But there are several rumors coming from the supply chain that suggest Apple is also preparing to release a 5.5-inch version of its newest iPhone, too.

The possibility that Apple could be making a 5.5-inch iPhone leads to a few important questions.

Why make a giant iPhone?

The first: If Apple really wants the 4.7-inch model to be what we in the industry call the “hero” model — one that would drive the majority of iPhone sales going forward — why even make a 5.5-inch model at all?

While we will sell about a billion smartphones this year, fewer than 70 million will feature screens larger than five inches. However, the answer to this question is actually pretty simple: While demand for smartphones larger than five inches is minimal in the U.S. and Europe, there is great interest in smartphones in the 5.5- to 5.7-inch range in many parts of Asia.

For example, well over 80% of smartphones sold in Korea have screens that are at least five inches and above. They have also become big hits in China and other parts of Asia where larger smartphones double as a small tablets, thus driving demand in these regions of the world for what are called “phablets.”

I suspect that if Apple is making a larger iPhone 6 in the 5.5-inch range, it will most likely be targeted at these Asian markets where demand for large smartphones is relatively strong. This is not to say that Apple wouldn’t offer a 5.5-inch iPhone in the U.S. — I believe there could be some interest in one of this size — but like most of my colleagues in the research world, we believe that the lion’s share of those buying the new iPhone would want the 4.7-inch version if indeed this is the size of it when it comes out.

Would you buy it?

The second question: If Apple does bring a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 to the U.S. market, would you buy one?

For the last month or so, I have been carrying three smartphones with me of various screen sizes all day long, and have learned a lot about my personal preferences. In my front pocket is an iPhone 5 that has a four-inch screen. In my back pockets are a Galaxy Note 3, which has a 5.7-inch screen and the new Amazon Fire, which sports a 4.7 inch screen — the same size that is purported to be on the new iPhone 6 when it comes to market.

Here are my observations. Keep in mind they are personal observations, but I suspect that my preferences are pretty close to what the majority of the market may prefer when it comes to the screen sizes in a larger smartphone.

I like to keep my primary smartphone with me all of the time, so my iPhone 5 is in my front pocket. The screen size is very important in this case and, at four inches, it easily fits in my right-front pants pocket and is easy to access as I need it. The other thing that is important about the four-inch screen is that I can operate it with one hand. From a design point, one-handed operation has been at the heart of all iPhones to date, as Steve Jobs was adamant that people wanted to be able to use their phones with one hand. So the idea of possibly moving up to a new iPhone with a 4.7-inch screen has intrigued me, as I wondered if a smartphone with this size screen would fit in my pocket and still be usable with one hand.

So when I got to test the 4.7-inch Amazon Fire phone, I immediately put it in my front pocket. Thankfully, it fit well and continued to be just as easy to access as the smaller iPhone 5s with its four-inch screen. Also, while I had been skeptical that I could still use it with one hand since I have medium-sized hands, I found that I could still operate the Amazon Fire with one hand easily. The other thing about a 4.7-inch screen is that the text is larger; for my aging eyes, this is a welcome upgrade. However, on these two issues, the Galaxy Note 3, with its 5.7-inch screen, flunked both tests. This phablet-sized smartphone did not fit in a front pocket, nor could I use it for one-handed operation.

That led me to wonder if a Samsung Galaxy S% smartphone, with its five-inch screen, would work in these similar scenarios. So I took a Galaxy S5 that I have, put it into my front pocket and tried to use it with one hand. To my surprise, it also worked well. But I had another smartphone with a 5.2-inch screen and, amazingly, that failed both tests. On the surface, at least for me, a smartphone up to five inches did fit in my pocket and allowed me to use it one-handed, but any screen larger than that was a bust.

I also did this test with some of the women in our office. We have a very casual workplace and most wear jeans to work, so I had them try the 4.7-inch Amazon Fire. They were also surprised that it fit O.K. in their front pockets and could still be used in a one-handed operation mode. However, like me, a screen larger than five inches did not fit in pockets and was impossible to use with one hand for all of them. These women did point out to me though that for most women, it’s less likely that they would carry a smartphone in their pockets as more keep them in a purse or handbag. That being the case, at least for the women in our office, a smartphone with a 5.5-inch screen was acceptable to them, although one person said she would prefer the smaller 4.7-inch smartphone if push came to shove.

Ultimately, it probably comes down to personal preference, yet I suspect that an iPhone with a 4.7-inch screen would take the lion’s share of Apple’s iPhones sales if this is indeed the size of the company’s new iPhone.

What about tablets?

But a 5.5-inch smartphone begs a third question that, at the moment, has stymied many of us researchers: Would a 5.5- or 6-inch smartphone eat into the demand for a small tablet?

I find that in my case, even though I do use the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 3 often for reading books while out and about or while standing in line, my iPad Mini is still my go-to tablet due to its size. I also have a 9.7-inch iPad Air with a Bluetooth keyboard, but I almost exclusively use that tablet for productivity and less for any form of real data consumption.

Some researchers have suggested that, especially in parts of the world where larger smartphones or “phablets” are taking off, this has really hurt the demand for smaller tablets — and that’s partially why demand for tablets has been soft in the last two quarters. Unfortunately, the data is still inconclusive on this, but my gut says that “phablets” are at least having some impact on demand for tablets in many regions of the world.

With the expected launch of Apple’s new larger-screen iPhones just around the corner, those planning to buy a new iPhone might want to keep my experience in mind. There’s a very big difference between how a person uses smartphones that are less than five inches and smartphones that have larger screens. For those who keep them in their pockets and/or want to use them with one hand, they have only one real choice. For them, a smartphone smaller than five inches is their best bet.

But for those that don’t keep their smartphones in their pockets, the virtue of a larger screen is that it delivers much more viewing real estate. Consequently, it’s much easier to use when reading books, web pages and for other tasks where a large screen can deliver a real benefit. The good news is that if these Apple rumors are true, people will have better options coming from Apple. For the first time in the iPhone’s history, Apple might give users multiple screen sizes to choose from.

Bajarin is the president of Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market-intelligence firm in Silicon Valley. He contributes to Big Picture, an opinion column that appears every week on TIME Tech.

TIME Rumors

That 5.5-Inch iPhone Is Still Pretty Mysterious

A larger iPhone seems likely for this fall, but don't bet on an even larger "phablet" version just yet.

There comes a time in every Apple rumor’s life when it starts to feel like inevitability–when the sum of insider information, leaked images and “supply chain” speculation becomes too difficult to dismiss.

That seems to have happened with the 4.7-inch “iPhone 6,” which is widely expected to arrive this fall. But that’s not the only iPhone that Apple is reportedly working on. Reports of a 5.5-inch iPhone have been circulating since last year, and they’re starting to reach that threshold of inevitability as new reports keep rolling in.

Still, looking at the dozen or so rumors about the extra-large iPhone, there’s little consensus on when the phone would arrive, how it would differ from the 4.7-inch iPhone and what the larger screen would mean for apps and software. Until we get answers to more of these questions, it’s foolish to assume an iPhone “phablet” is imminent.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was telling its suppliers to prepare for a record number of iPhones, including 4.7- and 5.5-inch models. But the paper also said that Apple was struggling to get good production yields from the larger model, which may not enter mass production until a month after the smaller iPhone.

We’ve seen other publications make similar claims, but the timing is always murky. 9to5Mac, for instance, says that Apple hasn’t decided whether to debut the 5.5-inch iPhone in September along with its smaller sibling. Chinese media sources claim that mass production on the larger model won’t even start until September. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo–a hit-or-miss source for Apple rumors lately–believes the 5.5-inch iPhone won’t arrive until after October, or possibly next year.

As for the phone itself, there isn’t much corroborating evidence on how it would be different from the 4.7-inch model aside from screen size alone. Kuo has speculated that it would be the only iPhone with a scratch-resistant sapphire display and optical image stabilization, but without corroboration from more reliable sources, I’m skeptical.

The other big question is how screen resolution would change with the larger display. It’s unlikely that Apple would stretch the screen without increasing the number pixels as well, but there hasn’t been much discussion to address this issue.

None of this leaves me feeling confident that a 5.5-inch iPhone is coming any time soon. If you’re only interested in phones with gigantic displays, and absolutely can’t wait longer than a couple months, you might want to consider other options.

TIME Rumors

Valve Might Have Made Its Steam Controller a Little Less Peculiar

An analog thumbstick would bring Valve's game controller more in line with traditional ones.

Valve’s Steam controller is apparently looking less like a crazy experiment and more like a typical gamepad in a newly-surfaced image.

As discovered by Steam Database, the design shows an analog thumbstick on the left side, which would replace the directional buttons on Valve’s previous design. If the image is legit, the controller would have a pair of round, circular touchpads on either side, though, so Valve wouldn’t totally be backing off its original vision.

Having tried the original Steam Controller prototype at CES in January, I can understand why Valve would make the change.

With something like a first-person shooter, the right touchpad still makes sense as a way to turn and aim, as it kind of feels like moving a mouse on a gaming PC. Compared to a thumbstick, the touchpad allows for more precise aiming–at least in theory.

But for movement, you don’t need precision as much as you need quick action. A thumbstick, much like keyboard controls on a PC, can be quickly thrown in any direction with minimal effort. It doesn’t really matter that the controls aren’t as fine-grained as a mouse or trackpad.

Still, Valve would be making a trade-off: The thumbstick would come in place of directional buttons, which are popular for fighting games and can be useful for old-school platformers.

Valve could have just ditched the left touchpad entirely, but I’m guessing the company would want to keep it around for games that are mainly controlled by cursor, such as strategy games. That way, users could move the cursor with their left thumbs and use their right hands for buttons and triggers.

Besides, if you’re really bothered by the lack of a d-pad and thumbsticks, there are always more traditional controllers instead.

Valve hasn’t said exactly when it will release the controller, along with the first Steam Machine consoles, but it recently pushed the effort back to 2015.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles

TIME Rumors

Amazon Appears to Be Testing All-You-Can-Read Kindle Ebook Subscriptions

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Kindle in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 15, 2013. Yasuyoshi Chiba—AFP/Getty Images

The "Kindle Unlimited" plan could include more than 600,000 ebooks for $9.99 per month.

Amazon loves its subscription business models, so it’s no surprise that the company might be testing an unlimited ebook plan.

The so-called “Kindle Unlimited” plan would reportedly cost $9.99 per month. It was first noticed by users on a Kindle forum, and then by GigaOM. Amazon has since wiped most the evidence from its site, but you can still see some of the test pages on Amazon’s site and on Google Cache.

While Amazon already offers ebook rentals as part of Amazon Prime, users can only take out one book per month, and can only read those books on Amazon devices such as Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets. Kindle Unlimited would apparently be available on all devices–including iPads and Android tablets–and would have no reading limits.

Unfortunately, none of the major book publishers seem to be participating, as GigaOM points out. Though there are some smaller publishers on board, many of the titles come from Amazon’s own publishing arm.

Still, some publishers are warming to the idea of ebook subscriptions, with Scribd and Oyster offering all-you-can-read books from HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. If Amazon can offer a similar service that integrates with users’ existing Kindle libraries, it could be a hit that shakes up the way people pay for ebooks. But maybe giving more power to Amazon is what publishers are worried about.

TIME feminism

‘I Would Never Intend to Be Difficult,’ Says State of Affairs Star Katherine Heigl

Ahead of the premiere of NBC's upcoming State of Affairs, star Katherine Heigl addressed rumors that she and her executive producer mother are challenging to work with

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During a Television Critics Association panel about Katherine Heigl’s forthcoming NBC show State of Affairs, NPR’s Eric Deggans asked the former Grey’s Anatomy star to confirm or deny rumors that she and her mother Nancy Heigl — who is an executive producer on the show — are “difficult” to work with on the set.

According to Variety, the younger Heigl replied, “I would never intend to be difficult. I don’t think my mother sees herself as being difficult. I think it’s important to everybody to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully and kindly, so if I’ve ever disappointed somebody, it was never intentional.”

State of Affairs features Heigl as CIA analyst Charleston Tucker, providing daily briefs to the first female President, played by Alfre Woodard. The show is scheduled to premiere in November. Heigl described the part of Tucker as an “extraordinary” role that allowed her to break out of romantic comedies and to flex “different muscles of my ability,” the Wrap said.

The Wrap reports that when Heigl was asked what her mother actually did on the show, the actress replied, “She makes us cookies.”

Entertainment-news reports have speculated that Heigl and her mother have demanding personalities, while others have suggested that Heigl is being penalized for simply being an assertive and frank woman.

TIME Rumors

HTC’s Volantis Tablet May Be the Last Gasp for Nexus Hardware

Rumored tablet combines sharp design, high-end specs and some rather strange display proportions.

Google may be preparing to wind down the Nexus program and replace it with something better, but there’s reportedly at least one more Nexus tablet in the pipeline for this year.

Android Police claims that HTC is building the tablet, codenamed Volantis, in conjunction with Google. The site says it’s heard about Volantis from several unnamed sources, and has shared what appears to be a planning document with tech specs.

If the report is accurate, the tablet will have an 8.9-inch, 2048-by-1440 resolution display. This is probably the strangest part of the story, as it would result in an uncommon 64:45 aspect ratio. (The planning document claims, incorrectly, that Volantis’ aspect ratio will be 4:3, same as an iPad.) If the 2048-by-1440 figure isn’t a typo, Volantis will be wider in portrait mode than most other Android tablets, but not quite as wide as Apple’s iPad.

Aside from this one questionable detail, the rest of the spec sheet seems reasonable enough. The device will reportedly use an Nvidia K1 processor with 2 GB of RAM and a minimum 16 GB of storage. It may also include front-facing speakers, a 3-megapixel front camera, an 8-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and 4G LTE connectivity. The device will reportedly measure 0.31 inches thick and weigh 0.92 pounds, and come in an aluminum casing.

Google has not released a Nexus tablet larger than 7 inches since the Nexus 10 nearly two years ago. Volantis could be the company’s final effort as it works on a new program called “Android Silver.” According to Android Police, this program would include many Nexus-like features–including prompt software updates and minimal bloatware–but would add premium customer support and lots of marketing from Google. The idea is that hardware makers would offer Silver as a high-end option for discerning Android users, but it’s unclear when this program will launch, if ever.

TIME Smartphones

Amazon’s Phone Announcement: What to Expect

3D head-tracking may be the gimmick, but the meat's in the services

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If you’re in the market for a smartphone today, you’ve got plenty of options — from the iPhone to countless Android phones to a handful of Windows Phones and even BlackBerry handsets.

But Amazon thinks there’s room for one more. After months of hype, the company will likely lift the veil on its own smartphone on Wednesday at an event in Seattle.

We already have a good idea of what to expect, thanks to numerous leaks and rumors, so let’s walk through why Amazon’s smartphone is already getting so much attention.

What’s the Big Deal?

Many of the rumors leading up to this event have focused on the crazy technology Amazon is cooking up.

Reportedly, Amazon’s smartphone will use four corner-mounted cameras to track users’ heads (and possibly their eyes, the Wall Street Journal claims) in 3D space. As you tilt your head or the phone, the screen will show a different perspective, and can reveal hidden menus in certain apps.

TechCrunch claims that this feature will be kind of gimmicky at first, but it could help with one-handed use if it makes faraway icons and menu items easier to reach with your fingers. The phone will reportedly have a 4.7-inch 720p display, which is pushing the boundaries for comfortable one-handed operation. Most of the other specs reported by TechCrunch seem pretty typical for a smartphone, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera and a low-resolution front camera.

Beyond Specs and Gimmicks

3D tracking may help lather up the tech press and turn some shoppers’ heads, but for Amazon, it’s much more important to offer useful services that other phones don’t have.

Of course, because Amazon’s business model revolves around selling content, we can expect music, movies, books and games to play a big role. Amazon recently launched a streaming music service for Prime subscribers, with more than 1 million ad-free songs, to go along with Prime’s existing video and e-book offerings. Look for Amazon to hook its content deeply into the smartphone’s software, as it has with the Kindle Fire tablets.

Amazon’s FreeTime service, which helps parents set limits and find content for their children, also seems like a good fit for a smartphone. And for Fire TV users, the phone could get the same Second Screen features as Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets, letting users fling videos and photos to the television with the press of a button.

Amazon’s Mayday feature could be of major importance as well. Mayday debuted in Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablets, and allows users to quickly pull up a live chat with a support representative for help with anything on the device. Just last week, Amazon announced that the average response time for Mayday is 9.75 seconds. The timing of this news is probably no coincidence.

Finally, The New York Times speculates that we might see a smartphone version of Amazon Dash. This small device, currently available by invitation only, lets you order items from Amazon by scanning the barcode or saying the item’s name. Most people probably don’t want to carry something around specifically for this purpose, so it makes sense for Amazon to build Dash functionality into its phone.

In short, Amazon will likely push its smartphone as the missing link for Prime subscribers and other frequent Amazon users. It’s the thing you always carry to easily to get the stuff you’ve bought, or want to buy.

Amazon’s Challenges

As Amazon walks through its latest product, it’ll be interesting to see if the addresses some of its weak points.

Specifically, Amazon’s Appstore has a much smaller selection compared to the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for Android. It has no support from Google, so there are no official apps for key services such as Chrome, Gmail and Google Drive.

It’s also unclear whether Amazon has come up with a competent mapping and navigation app to rival Google Maps and Apple Maps (which itself is far from flawless). Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets don’t have a native maps application, which is essential for any smartphone.

When and Where Will We See It?

Conventional wisdom holds that Amazon products are dirt-cheap, but that’s not always true.

The company’s Fire TV costs $100, same as an Apple TV, and the Kindle Fire HDX starts at $229, same as Google’s Nexus 7. And while Amazon has experimented with cheap bundled data plans in the past, the latest Kindle Fire HDX tablets with 4G LTE use the same data plans as every other connected tablet.

Don’t expect anything too crazy on the pricing front, as this might just be another $200 phone with a two-year contract. As for timing and carrier support, the Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T will be the exclusive carrier, and the phones will start shipping in late September.

Amazon’s event kicks off at 1:30pm Eastern on Wednesday, June 18. Check back here for coverage and updates.

TIME Video Games

11 Things I’m Hoping to See at E3 2014 (and 6 Things We Probably Won’t)

Alex Beckers
FILE - In this June 13, 2013 file photo, Alex Beckers watches a presentation on the video game "Destiny" at the Activision Blizzard Booth during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, June 13, 2013. Jae C. Hong—AP

E3's really more a present-moment state of the union than "the future revealed," but this one promises a bunch of software-focused surprises. We walk through some of the most -- and least -- likely.

If E3 2013 was about touting new platforms and software promises, E3 2014 is about putting paid to some of those vows. This is the point companies like Sony and Microsoft start to show their 2015 hands — and in Nintendo’s case, its holiday 2014 one — hoping to convince us that they have the coolest-sounding exclusives, or the most compelling upcoming platform features, or insert your buzz-phrase-of-choice here.

The following isn’t a comprehensive E3 rumor list, it’s just a collection of what we’re most likely to bump into (as well as not encounter), with a bit of context seasoned by my own biases.

11 things I’m hoping/expecting we’ll see:

Halos 1 through 4 in a single high-definition collection…

Engadget started this rumor last month, citing “sources” that claim Microsoft is planning a Halo 1-4 roundup, dubbed “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” and remastered in high definition to carry Xbox One fans through 2014 until Halo 5 arrives next year. I have no idea how reliable Engadget’s sources are, but the idea of replaying those first four installments back to back on Legendary difficulty, if only to reevaluate their craftsmanship, sits fine with me.

…or Halo 2 alone remastered

Halo 2‘s 10-year anniversary is this November, and Microsoft gave the original Halo: Combat Evolved the anniversary-edition treatment back in November 2011.

Halo 5: Guardians

The game was just announced, and even though it’s a 2015 release, it stands to reason we might get our first peek at actual gameplay next week.

Nintendo’s NFC figurines

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata confirmed in May that the company was hopping into the NFC (near field communications) figurine business already staked out by Skylanders and Disney Infinity, adding that the figurines would be “compatible with video games starting from this year-end sales season.” So the chances these won’t show up at E3 in one form or another — hi there Super Smash Bros. for Wii U! — are probably nil.

Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars

The next Star Wars: Battlefront game we know about, so expect that. But Star Wars Episode VII (the J.J. Abrams-directed upcoming film) is underway now and due out December 2015. EA has exclusive license to make Star Wars-related games for the next 10 years, but the clock’s ticking, so it’d make sense to at least tease some of the other stuff that’s doubtless in the pipeline for 2015’s bona fide Star Wars-related freakout.

A glimpse of the next Mass Effect

I didn’t care much for any of the first three, and plenty of you cared even less for the trilogy’s finale, but I’m wide open to whatever’s next. BioWare Montreal director Yanick Roy confirmed the next Mass Effect was underway (and still untitled) early last month…

…so it’s not off the wall to hope we’ll get a peek at the game next week, though Roy later tweeted this:

Uncharted 4

Why not? It’s already been announced (not with the “4,” but Sony confirmed Naughty Dog’s working on a PS4 Uncharted game ages ago). And with all the news about Naughty Dog staffers — including creative lead Amy Hennig — leaving the studio, Naughty Dog could use this E3 to mitigate worries that the next game is still a ways off (Uncharted 3 shipped back in 2011), or developmentally impacted by all those high-profile departures.

Resident Evil 7

So sayeth a Japanese business newspaper, anyway. The timing makes sense: Capcom’s Resident Evil 6 was released in 2012, and Bethesda’s going to be showing off Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s new survival horror game, The Evil Within, so there’s arguably incentive for Capcom to ante up with its next-in-series zombie-masher.

Our first look at a proper Zelda game for the Wii U

Hyrule Warriors, which stars The Legend of Zelda‘s iconic protagonist in a Dynasty Warriors riff, sounds interesting enough, and I’m guessing we’ll have a chance to give it a whirl at this year’s E3. But the game that players who love Nintendo and tune into trade shows like E3 most want to see is a proper new mainline Zelda action/adventure. Say what you will about Nintendo tilling plowed ground, it’s arguably incumbent on the company at this point and in light of Wii U sales to hand fans their first aperitif.

There’s also this cryptic tweet from Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Williams — named for the series — wherein she says she’ll be doing “something extra special” at this year’s E3:

Though she then followed that up with this smokescreen-like tease:

Mortal Kombat X

This one’s no longer a rumor, and therefore a shoe-in.

An indie gaming cavalcade

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Anamnesis, Celestia, Elegy for a Dead World, Paparazzi, StoryPops and tons more (check out 29 showing as part of IndieCade’s E3 showcase here). Microsoft says it’ll show off two indie games each day between Tuesday and Thursday (via the Xbox Twitch channel), and I’m assuming Sony and Nintendo will devote time during their respective media blasts to highlight new and upcoming titles.

And 6 things we won’t see:

A new Nintendo games console

You can argue Nintendo should have made the Wii U GamePad an optional accessory, that the Wii U should have instead been architected to anticipate Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One (and PCs and Steam Machines and so forth), that Nintendo should have thrown more energy into wooing third-party developers and that its console should have launched with a game like Mario Kart 8 instead of Super Mario Bros. U or Nintendo Land. You can argue all kinds of things, but they won’t change reality.

And that reality won’t include the Wii U’s successor at E3 2014. The Wii U’s in trouble, but even if we assume it’s going to have a shorter lifespan, it’s smack in the middle of its first-party software cycle, a cycle from which we’re still anticipating next-gen riffs on Mario, Zelda and Metroid. Introducing a new Nintendo console this early along would be madness — a Wii U sales-killer. Who’d pay $300 for Nintendo’s beleaguered Wii U today, with its still-smallish library of new games, if Nintendo publicly formalized plans to surpass it in a year or two? This one’s just common sense. That, and the Wii U’s story isn’t over: Nintendo’s brand power is undiminished, and finishing third doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you finish profitably.

Half-Life 3

Bear in mind that the Steam (and soon, mayhap, Steam Machines) magnate has never formally (or informally) announced, talked about or even much alluded to a third Half-Life. It’s taken for granted that the series doesn’t end with Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and an “Episode Three” was at one point on the books to be the final part of a once-confirmed trilogy (to conclude by Christmas 2007). But when the latter didn’t happen, and in view of Valve’s reticence about further sequels, wishful thinking’s led to a lot of speculative nonsense.

The latest involves a former Valve employee who, in an otherwise unrelated recent Twitch interview, said something that if you’re not paying close attention might be misconstrued as confirmation that work on a new Half-Life game is underway. But if you parse what the ex-employee actually said, you realize nothing was really said at all, and thus there’s no reason to think any more about the series’ existentially indeterminate status than before those words were uttered.

As for what might occur at E3, anything’s possible, but Valve’s not on lists of confirmed show vendors, and since they tend to do whatever they want, whenever they want, independent of conferences and trade shows, it’s more likely that we’d see a new Half-Life unveiled (if those stars and planets ever align) at a Valve-led media event.

Rockstar announcing Red Dead Redemption 2, or Grand Theft Auto V for PC, PS4 and Xbox One

Rockstar doesn’t generally do E3, so like Valve, any new game announcements — say a sequel to Red Dead Redemption, or souped-up versions of Grand Theft Auto V — are almost certain to happen outside the show (if those two in particular happen at all).

Parent Take-Two said in a mid-May earnings call that Rockstar would debut a new game in its current fiscal year (which ends March 2015), but that’s all anyone knows.

Fallout 4

Bethesda PR poobah Pete Hines said no (in so many words), so that’s that:

Virtual reality product-makers proving VR’s more than an enthusiast toy at this stage

Oculus VR’s Rift, Sony’s Project Morpheus and others are sure to try their level best to prove that VR’s more than hype, or for more than enthusiasts willing to cavort with bulky hardware on their heads, or not just a time-stream-hopping novelty echoing a fad that wasn’t ready for mass consumption in the 1980s and may still fall short of that hope — multibillions backers or no — today.

A slimmer PlayStation 4

Come on, Reddit, you want something smaller than the current model? What for? The PS4’s already a PS4 slim. But if we’re shooting the moon, I’d be a trifle happier with a version that didn’t have those two inscrutable pieces of plastic on the underside, the ones that make the system sit unevenly on a flat surface if you position it horizontally in lieu of using the vertical stand. (That, or give me the same case with cooler internal processors and/or a quieter cooling fan.)

TIME Rumors

What to Make of a Potential YouTube-Twitch Deal

On Sunday night, Variety reported that YouTube was about to acquire video game streaming site Twitch for more than $1 billion.

The deal may not be as imminent as that initial report suggested. While sources told The Verge that an acquisition is close, the Wall Street Journal reports that the negotiations are still in an early stage. As of Monday afternoon, Twitch and YouTube haven’t announced anything.

Nonetheless, some in the gaming community are in panic mode at the thought of another beloved service being swallowed whole by a tech titan. We did, after all, just go through this with Facebook and Oculus VR. To help understand what the big deal is, let’s consider what we know about Twitch, YouTube and YouTube’s corporate masters at Google to figure out what an acquisition might mean:

What is Twitch?

Twitch lets anyone stream video games in real-time, with their own live commentary on top. It’s used for everything from huge gaming competitions (such as the yearly Evo fighting game tournament) to amateur broadcasts, some of which have become hugely popular. At first, broadcasters needed special video capture software to stream games from their PCs, but new apps for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 make it easy to broadcast from those consoles directly.

In addition to the basic video feed and commentary, each stream has its own chat room, where users can comment on streams as they happen. The Twitch Plays Pokemon phenomenon from earlier this year made extensive use of this feature, allowing commenters to dictate every move in the game. Using Twitch isn’t just about watching other people play video games; it’s about hanging out with people around a set of common interests.

Why would Google/YouTube want that?

The problem with YouTube is that people tend to swing by for short video clips, and they have little patience for ads. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Twitch users will watch videos for hours on end, which means plenty of opportunities to advertise, and at premium rates.

Perhaps more importantly, Twitch may be the closest thing YouTube has to a threat. Google buying Twitch would be kind of like Facebook buying Snapchat (which almost happened) or Instagram (which did happen). Even if they aren’t direct competitors, they are competing for the same audience attention and ad dollars.

Would Twitch get shoehorned into Google+, then?

Probably not. If recent rumors are accurate, Google has realized the error of trying to ram its own social network into every product, like it did with YouTube last year. By that logic, Google should be smart enough to leave the Twitch community alone.

But that doesn’t mean Google wouldn’t be interested in tracking Twitch users for advertising purposes. Some sort of optional Google-based sign-in or account link would be a safe bet if this acquisition went through. (Here’s a hypothetical: Sign in with your Google account during Evo and get the HD stream for free, instead of having to buy a $12 ticket.)

Would the Google-Microsoft rivalry spell doom for Twitch’s Xbox apps?

Again, probably not. Google only skips platforms when it thinks they’re too small to invest in, which is why there are no official YouTube apps for Windows 8 or Windows Phone. But there are YouTube apps for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, which means Google thinks Microsoft’s consoles are large enough not to ignore.

Just don’t expect an official Twitch app for Windows Phone anytime soon (although the unofficial LiveGaming app is pretty good.)

What’s the potential upside?

As in any acquisition by a big tech company, additional resources are the most obvious benefit. Twitch could tap into Google’s massive data centers to keep things running smoothly, and could make a bigger effort to improve its mobile apps. Chromecast support, with the ability to chat through your phone or tablet while watching a stream on TV, could be pretty awesome. An acquisition by Google could put mobile game streaming on the fast track, especially for Android.

And the downsides?

Twitch’s dominant position in live game streaming would be firmly established, and YouTube would have even less competition than it does now. If the combined companies make a bone-headed decision–requiring everyone to use a real name, for instance–you’d have nowhere else to go. And in a way, it’s just sad to see that the endgame for another small but fast-growing company is to get bought by a huge corporation.

The potential acquisition also raises some questions: How would game publishers respond? Could this be the start of a copyright mess, as publishers try to get their pound of flesh from Google? Would Twitch eventually try to move beyond games to other forms of entertainment, and would that end up watering down the gaming aspect?

If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s that Twitch would follow the usual pattern of major tech acquisitions, and promise that it won’t be royally messed up by its new overlords. But it doesn’t always work that way. All Twitch users can do right now is wait, and hope for the best.

 

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