Take a second to imagine, if you will, a week-long showcase of the year's biggest movies. Imagine that it's almost entirely visible to the public, not to be consumed only by those fortunate enough to attend in person. For example, wouldn't it be simply fabulous to watch a stream of Marvel dropping the hammer on the industry in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con?
Well, that's a reality in the world of video games, thanks to a little something called E3.
So what is it?
For the long-winded folks among you, it is the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and it's been an annual trade fair since 1995. Every summer, many of the industry's publishers, big and small alike, set up shop at the venue to shine a spotlight on their biggest upcoming releases. That means a virtually endless supply of announcement trailers, gameplay debuts, hands-on demos, 'schwag,' and more.
The centrepieces of E3 are a series of individual press conferences from major publishers. They kick off the whole show, in fact, highlighting Day 1 before the show floor opens up for attendees on Day 2. For the last decade or so, all eyes were on 'The Big Three' - Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. More recently, however, other marquee publishers have been booking their own time on various stages in Los Angeles, such as the makers of Fallout, Bethesda.
At E3 2015 (June 16-18), there will be no fewer than seven press conferences. Sound a bit overwhelming? I agree. As someone who has watched as much of E3 week as possible for as long as he can remember, I find it daunting to say the least. But hey, I'm here to help....
Let's take a look at the who, what, when, and where of this year's viewer-friendly showcases.
Sunday, June 14th
Remember not very long ago at all when I said that the press conferences kick off E3 week on Monday? Well, Bethesda is rewriting that unspoken rule. The gall... they've never even had an E3 presser before! But that's Bethesda for you - they have set themselves up as favorites to steal the show this year.
This past Wednesday, Bethesda officially announced that they've been working on Fallout 4, possibly the most asked-for sequel behind only Half-Life 3. Two weeks before the expo even takes place, they planted their flag and established themselves as having the title to beat in the fight for front page headlines.
Not only that, they've scheduled their inaugural press conference for the evening before the traditional Monday start. This move is basically unprecedented (and I worry slightly that it'll affect the shape of E3 in the years to come, but that's a possible story for another time). It's bolder than this text.
Highlighting this first conference will be a 30-minute on-stage demo of the open world, post-apocalyptic surefire hit. Additionally, gameplay of a new Doom game is expected, and there are rumors of Dishonored 2 and Skyrim Remastered announcements.
Monday, June 15th
Of the two biggest presentations expected at this year's Microsoft conference, only one of them is a sure thing: Rise of the Planet of the uhhh Rise of the Tomb Raider. Last year, the publisher negotiated a timed exclusive deal for the upcoming sequel (i.e. it will release on other platforms following the initial Xbox debut).
That exclusivity arrangement is actually a pretty big deal, as 2013's reboot of the classic series was a significant critical and commercial success. Since these pressers are all about puffing out your chest and showing off what makes you the hottest publisher in town, it's a safe bet that the new Tomb Raider will receive some due attention.
The other big story expected out of Microsoft? They'll likely reveal a remake of the first Gears of War.
Halo 5 - ahem, Halo 5: Guardians - is shipping this fall. As it's Microsoft's premiere title, I'd expect nothing less than a gameplay video. The same can be said for the next Call of Duty, a franchise that has rested pretty comfortably in Microsoft's pocket for years.
The Xbox 360 had at least three different dashboard variations during the console's lifetime. It might be time we see a redesign for the One's dashboard.
EA is synonymous with their sports games. They'll come out and flaunt new features we're to look out for in FIFA, Madden, NHL, and maybe a couple others. These typically amount to the least interesting segments of their conference.
Most eyes on EA's show will be anticipating the first gameplay footage of the Star Wars: Battlefront reboot. We've seen developer commentary and cinematic footage, but it's still not clear what the game will look like when we get our hands on it this coming November. There isn't a new Battlefield game coming this year for EA to talk about - now is the time for them to pull Battlefront's curtain back all the way.
My most anticipated? Mirror's Edge, no question. The original game really hit all the right notes for me. Gorgeous aesthetic, memorable soundtrack, interesting protagonist, a unique and rewarding gameplay focus... it was a solid, under-appreciated title. Like Battlefront, the new Mirror's Edge received a behind the scenes video two summers ago and a cinematic trailer last June. It'd be nice of them to show it off in full later this month.
Other expected presences include Mass Effect 4, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and the next game from Criterion, the studio that developed Burnout and the last few main entries in the Need for Speed series.
Declaring the biggest announcement is a subjective matter - I have my interests and you have yours - but for my money, Ubisoft has taken the title three years running now. At back-to-back-to-back conferences, Ubi revealed games that no one knew existed in any form prior to the show. In 2012, that was Watch_Dogs. A year later, they debuted my most anticipated, The Division. Last year, it was the reinvention of an old fan-favorite in Rainbow Six Siege. Can they surprise us a fourth E3 in a row?
Assassin's Creed: Syndicate will be shown off in-depth, being Ubisoft's annually-releasing flagship series. Watch_Dogs 2 allegedly exists, so that's a safe bet to appear. Beyond that, there may not be much else of note coming out of Ubi's presser. They tend to fill out their show with party games and host Aisha Tyler's jokes (I don't mean to sound as if I'm selling her short - being on stage at E3 is known to be difficult, yet Aisha somehow makes even the most awkward moments bearable).
This is the Naughty Dog show.
The Uncharted 4 developer, who was also behind the impeccable The Last of Us, is owned by Sony. As such, they're to be found on Sony's stage on Monday evening. Their contributions at this year's expo will include another look at next spring's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and more details on the forthcoming Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection (that is, remastered versions of the PS3 trilogy). If we're really lucky, Naughty Dog will also tease us with a Last of Us sequel announcement and/or an update on the film adaptation of the first game.
While Microsoft likes to focus on the third party developer support it receives with games like Call of Duty and Rise of the Tomb Raider, Sony instead can be counted on to shine a light on the indie game scene. Expect to see 10 or so minutes dedicated to smaller titles that we'll find on PlayStation Network later this year. Personally, I'm excited for Everybody's Gone to the Rapture and Rime.
Oh wait - Sony makes time for the little guys while also spotlighting major timed exclusives of their own. That means No Man's Sky.
Other potentially exciting bits are sure to include a pitch for Project Morpheus (their virtual reality tech), Until Dawn, Ratchet & Clank, and God of War.
Then there are the items that would come as a surprise. Sony has a handful of studios currently working on games that haven't yet been announced, so any of those being revealed could prove to be headline-worthy. The ultimate, most pleasant surprise, could only be the resurfacing of The Last Guardian. Please? I mean, please?!
Tuesday, June 16th
Nintendo, believe it or not, has become the odd one out at E3. Formally a staple of E3 week, Nintendo has voluntarily stepped to the side and chosen to present things in their own way. In place of a staged press conference, the Japanese company streams a pre-recorded video (they call it Nintendo Direct) of their announcements.
The title most people wanted to see on the 16th - an open world Legend of Zelda game they formally revealed last June - won't be featured. Instead, expect the first real footage from the new Star Fox game and another look at the brilliantly creative Mario Maker.
Other appearances may come from Devil's Third (from the mind behind Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden), Animal Crossing (a new entry is rumored for the Wii U in 2016), Fire Emblem If (for the 3DS), and Xenoblade Chronicles X (a really pretty action rpg).
If you dare to hope really ambitiously, there are far-fetched rumors of a Wii U 3D reinvention of the original Pokemon game. That's it... that is the announcement that could steal Bethesda's Fallout 4 thunder.
Final Fantasy XV is the biggest thing on the way from Square Enix. In a strange move not unlike how Nintendo is refraining from bringing out The Legend of Zelda, FF XV won't appear at this year's expo. That of course begs the question - what is the reason for Square Enix's first ever E3 press conference?
An update on Kingdom Hearts 3 would be lovely, however unlikely it may be (GameSpot somehow neglects to mention it). Square Enix owns the developer of the aforementioned Rise of the Tomb Raider, so a more in-depth look at the demo shown at Microsoft's show is surely in order. Hitman and Deus Ex sequels are also in the works and expected to be shown.
The most exciting thing about Square Enix's conference is that they've explicitly teased an announcement of a brand new game. In a time of sequels, reboots, and remasters, new IPs are rather mouth-watering. Here's to hoping that SE brings the goods.
Where can I tune in?!
These last few post-G4tv years, my go-to source for E3 coverage has been IGN. Their streams are reliable and the hosts are bearable at worst. Head to ign.com/events/e3 on June 14th for Bethesda's show-starting press conference.
Remember, there's a lot more to see aside from what the above publishers show us those first few days. There will be a whole week's worth of trailers and demos to watch and hands-on impressions to read.
Best part about it all? The vast, vast majority of it will be made available for everybody online, the moment it debuts in LA. Ain't no need for insufficient second-hand descriptions of the awesome visual stuff that a select few get to see in person.
The worst part? Waiting.
Eight days and counting...