For fans looking to hear about the future of games, E3 has always been an exciting week. This year, though, there’s a big cloud hanging over the show. Two of the biggest names in the industry aren’t holding their usual press conferences; mega publisher Electronic Arts will instead be live streaming news and announcements over the course of a weekend; and Sony isn’t just forgoing a keynote, it’s skipping E3 altogether. At the same time, the weeks leading up to E3 have been full of major announcements, from the next Call of Duty and a strange array of Pokémon experiences, to long-awaited details on Google’s cloud gaming service and a release date for Death Stranding.
It has left some to ponder — and not for the first time — whether E3 is even relevant any more. Should you still be excited?
Well, even without those two big names and their commanding presence, there is still a lot going down in Los Angeles next week. The absence of Sony has left a big opening for Microsoft, while other platform holders like Epic and its fledgling PC games store are looking to make a splash. On top of that, there’s the real reason E3 is so fun: the games. We’re going to be getting our first real-look at the long-in-development Avengers game, as well as Nintendo’s anticipated return to Animal Crossing, the latest Gears of War, and the slick-looking Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn.
And that’s just the stuff we know about. Ubisoft loves to surprise (multiplayer roller derby, anyone?), and with all of those new studios under its umbrella, Microsoft likely has plenty of new titles to talk about. With the first virtual reality keynote at E3, VR games will have a big presence as well, and there are also existing titles getting ready for big updates: think Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Monster Hunter World.
So yeah, E3 might be missing a few big players, but there’s still going to be a lot to take in. Here’s what to expect.
First details on the next Xbox
With no PlayStation to compete with, expect a big drop from Microsoft. And what’s bigger than a new console? Chances are that the next Xbox won’t actually be physically present at the show, and we probably won’t see a box or hear a final name, let alone price or release date. But, in the same way Microsoft teased the Xbox One X (then Project Scorpio) at E3 2016, we expect to hear a) confirmation that the new console exists and b) some high-level specs and a broader philosophy. It’s the same strategy that Sony has used with the PlayStation 5, slowly dripping details ahead of a big, final reveal that’s still to come.
Cloud gaming’s buzz keeps growing
The big buzzword at this year’s GDC was cloud gaming, primarily because of the unveiling of Google Stadia. That trend continued ahead of E3 when Google detailed the service’s launch price and games just yesterday. But Google isn’t the only player in this space. Microsoft also has its xCloud platform, which will be a large part of the company’s future gaming plans, and should have some sort of presence during the Xbox E3 keynote.
Nintendo finally shows off Animal Crossing
For the last few years, Nintendo has chosen a single game as its primary E3 focus. It started with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and continued with Super Mario Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This year, expect that spotlight to fall on the next Animal Crossing. (It likely won’t be Pokémon Sword and Shield, given that Nintendo announced new details for the Switch games just this week.) The animal-themed life sim will be a major holiday game for Nintendo, but we have heard almost nothing about it since it was announced last year. Though there won’t be hands-on opportunities with the game, we still expect to learn some actual details about it.
Epic keeps pushing its PC store
PC gaming hasn’t traditionally been a big part of E3, which leans more towards the console space, but that looks to change. And a big reason for that is Epic. The Fortnite developer will be headlining this year’s PC Gaming Show keynote, which means we’ll be hearing more about Epic’s games store. That could mean new features to better compete with Steam, and it’ll also probably include even more exclusive titles coming to the shop.
Virtual reality gets a spotlight
VR has always been present at E3, but it’s always felt largely like an afterthought. This year, though, will mark the first VR-centered keynote. Called the E3 VR Showcase, the event is being put on by enthusiast site Upload VR. Don’t expect much in the way of new hardware, but instead a wave of game reveals, both big and small. “We’re going to be jetting off around the globe to meet VR devs of all shapes and sizes, talk to them about their latest projects, and reveal them to you,” the event description reads.
Existing games get bigger with expansions and updates
One of the biggest changes to video games over the last few years has to do with lifespan: we no longer play a game once and then forget about it. Instead, they continue to grow and change over time. This means that some of the most interesting revelations at E3 will be about games you can already play. We’re going to hear more about Apex Legends’ (hopefully much-improved) second season, as well as the first major expansion for Monster Hunter World, which just so happens to be Capcom’s best-selling game of all time. And don’t be surprised if we get some Fortnite-related announcements as well.
Square Enix makes up for last year
Last year Square Enix held its first proper E3 keynote and, well, it was a bit of a disappointment. (Unless you really like Kingdom Hearts.) But it looks like the publisher is going to make up for it with at least two significant announcements. For starters, we know we’re going to get the very first look at the company’s mysterious Avengers game, which is being helmed by Tomb Raider studio Crystal Dynamics. And it also looks like we’re going to see more of the much-anticipated remake of Final Fantasy VII, with many expecting an actual release date announcement.
Netflix moves further into gaming
Netflix has slowly been expanding its presence in games, with everything from the choose-your-own-adventure show Bandersnatch to video game iterations of Stranger Things. The streaming company will be on-hand at E3 for a panel discussion about bringing Netflix properties into the world of video games. It also promises there will be “a few surprises in store,” which hopefully means we’re getting a Russian Doll adventure game.