This year’s E3 could prove to be a turning point – not just for gaming, but for the event itself.
Traditionally a place for studios to show off what they have been working on, this year the gaming industry extravaganza has shaped up a little differently.
Publisher EA has decided to run a separate event aimed at gamers, while rival Activision is letting the console companies promote its games, rather than having its own showcase.
“Usually it has been a retail show connecting publishers with buyers, but that is less relevant now due to the digital opportunities in gaming,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, director of games at consultancy IHS Technology.
“But E3 still has an important role to play. It’s where people learn about new products coming to market.”
And plenty of studios have capitalised on the excitement around E3 to tease their new releases, many squeezing out announcements before doors open on 14 June.
Of course, if previous years are anything to go by, there are likely to be a few surprises during the week.
Game developer’s ones to watch
Harvey Smith has worked on critically acclaimed games including cyberpunk role-playing adventure Deus Ex, and stealth-action thriller Dishonored, which won the Bafta award for best game in 2013.
The BBC asked him to share the games he’s most looking forward to at E3.
I’m a big fan of Adam Saltsman. His game Capsule – an incredibly tense and claustrophobic space travel game – is sublime. Overland is a thoughtful, soulful, post-apocalyptic road trip game with a beautifully laconic art style. Every year, there’s an indie game or two that just feels like it was made for me. This year, it might be Overland.
I really like Robin Hunicke’s work and the art style is super cute – but it goes beyond that. I love that you’re not really sure what kind of game it will be. It’s the combination of looking sweet and naive on the surface, but somehow hinting at something more complex and sophisticated. I suspect it’s a bit of a Trojan horse in that respect.
No Man’s Sky
We play games for a variety of reasons. Some people play games to demonstrate mastery over systems; some play to marvel at a reality beyond ours; some play to feel a sense of wonder at the ecological grandeur of the world. No Man’s Sky promises all of that, seducing us with unknown possibilities.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
As one of the people to have participated in the genesis of the Deus Ex brand of dystopia, I am full of hope for the new Deus Ex game. If it’s all I want it to be, it will present players with a gritty world gone wrong, challenging moral terrain, and flexible game systems that lead to improvisational “play” in the true sense of the word.
State of Decay 2 (Rumoured)
As a fan of often nihilistic zombie fiction, I was really drawn to State of Decay. The original was a gem in the rough. The best thing about the game was the way it kept enabling player-driven stories. So many times, I got into a tight spot of my own making, then managed to get out of it through creative play. Some moments left me sweating and yelling when I got back to home base, and those moments were generally unscripted. If the new game is more polished, this could be really strong.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rumoured)
I grew up watching spaghetti westerns. They’re problematic, but they occupy a mythic place in my soul. I loved Red Dead Redemption for its pacing and exploration value – watching a good western is cool, but inhabiting one is another thing entirely. I still miss my beautiful horse, killed by a pair of mountain lions, both of which I shot dead and skinned. I hope the developers took note of the stories players told after engaging with the game.
Three short years have passed since the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One went on sale, but there is an expectation that both consoles will soon be refreshed.
In the past, Microsoft and Sony refined their consoles during their lifecycles with cosmetic changes and occasionally some useful upgrades such as a larger hard drive.
But this time round more significant changes are planned.
Sony revealed to the Financial Times on Friday that it is working on an upgraded PS4 codenamed Neo. It said it would be able to handle 4K output – four times the detail of 1080p high definition – but would not be ready to unveil at E3.
Sony added it would be more expensive than the basic version, which will continue to be made, but did not say by how much.
“I do not believe the new PS4 will be possible of native 4K gaming,” commented Mr Harding-Rolls.
“The cost implications on both the device and content creation make this unfeasible.
“It is likely to support 4K video – as this is where the majority of 4K content is emerging – and will probably upscale PS4 games to 4K output.
“Whether this upscaling significantly improves the visuals probably depends on the game, the size of the 4K TV it is shown on and the quality of upscaling.”
Gaming blogs have also suggested that a smaller Xbox One could be unveiled at E3.
The console has been criticised for being bulkier than its predecessor, although Microsoft designer Carl Ledbetter has explained the size helps keep the machine cool and allows it to run quietly.
Nintendo has already confirmed it is working on a new console – codenamed NX – but has said it will not be showing the device at E3.
Virtual becomes reality
Virtual reality was expected to steal the show at last year’s E3, but despite high-profile backing from the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, gamers with VR headsets are still few and far between.
Headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are finally making their way onto gamers’ faces, so 2016 could be the year that blockbuster titles that attract the masses are announced.
Sony’s PlayStation VR is due out in October – perhaps perfectly timed for the highly anticipated space exploration game No Man’s Sky to be revealed as a launch title.
Creator Sean Murray has said it would be a “perfect fit” for VR, and it has been tested in Oculus – but he has yet to reveal more.
Microsoft currently has no VR hardware of its own, instead focusing on its Hololens augmented reality helmet, which superimposes graphics over real-world views.
But the Xbox controller already works with the Oculus Rift headset, and there is speculation that Microsoft will announce a tie-up with the Oculus platform.
Media captionDave Lee examines the potential of Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality technology
“Microsoft has been looking at an open approach to VR, inviting manufacturers to use its Windows platform to build their businesses on,” said Mr Harding-Rolls.
“I think it would be a stretch to go from those ideas, to announcing an exclusive agreement to bring a particular VR headset manufacturer to Xbox One.
“But it has to put forward strategies to convince Xbox 360 users who haven’t converted yet to upgrade.”
And for the players?
The PS4 has pulled ahead of Xbox One in the console race, so gamers will be watching Microsoft closely for exclusives. Gaming blogs have suggested two series featuring the undead will be revived.
“We’re expecting Dead Rising 4, and State of Decay 2 – both have performed well on the Xbox platform before,” said Tom Phillips, deputy news editor at Eurogamer.
Some of last year’s biggest announcements – such as first-person shooter Gears of War 4, and role-playing game Scalebound – have yet to be released.
Sony too has yet to deliver on some of its previous announcements, such as The Last Guardian, a fantasy-adventure about a boy who befriends a cat-bird hybrid creature. It was first announced at E3 in 2009.
“The Last Guardian has achieved an almost mythical quality by this point,” said Mr Phillips.
“It’s finally coming out this year, so hopefully it’s the last time we’ll see it trailed at E3. But it does feel like when these big games do come out, they are generally well received, as with Uncharted.
“This year, I think we’ll see Sony hand over the stage to some of the games it has tie-ins with, such as Call of Duty.”
The military-inspired shooter began as a Windows game in 2003, but now offers some add-on content to PlayStation gamers first.
It’s shaping up to be a relatively quiet E3 for Nintendo, but it is likely to attract attention with its much-delayed Legend of Zelda game, with a new quest for the young sword-wielding hero Link.
It is one of the bestselling series of all time, but the latest instalment has been repeatedly delayed. First announced in 2014, is now tipped to be a launch title for the NX console, and could end up being the last big home-grown game Nintendo releases for the Wii U.
Not everything promised at E3 is successfully delivered.
Ubisoft was criticised after its 2012 demo of Watch Dogs featured superior graphics to those that appeared in the released console games. A San Francisco-set sequel has been teased ahead of E3.
“First time round there was huge interest in the game, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations,” said Mr Phillips.
“Ubisoft has a history of having a good idea but not quite getting it right until the second release, as with Assassin’s Creed.
“Hopefully with this sequel they have had time to refine it.”
Where to watch the announcements
Sunday 12 June
EA – 21.00 BST (13.00 PDT)
Monday 13 June
Bethesda Softworks – 03.00 BST (Sunday 19.00 PDT)
Microsoft – 17.30 BST (09.30 PDT)
PC Gaming Show – 20.00 BST (12.00 PDT)
Ubisoft – 21.00 BST (13.00 PDT)
Tuesday 14 June
Sony – 02.00 BST (Monday 18.00 PDT)
Nintendo – 17.00 BST (09.00 PDT)