I used to be a regular attendee of E3, the enormous video game conference held annually in Los Angeles that plays host to many of the industry's biggest hardware and software announcements. I haven't attended the show for more than half a decade, but my extended absence ends this year. I'm slated to arrive in L.A. this coming Sunday evening, just in time to cover the major press conferences planned for Monday, the show's unofficial first day. I'll spend the next three days trekking through the Los Angeles Convention Center's cavernous halls and taking in as much of the show's kaleidoscopic sights and sounds as I can. A merciful flight home awaits me late Thursday afternoon.
I've been spending most of my spare work time over the last month planning out my E3 week in 15-minute chunks, trying to fit in everything I possibly can. Past experience with the show's massive crowds and hours-long lines has combined with the inherent pessimist in me to make me worry that all of my careful scheduling will be for naught. However, if by some strange miracle everything works out, I expect to come away with reams of information about what's new and coming up in the video game universe. Here's the plan.
Monday, June 6th begins with Microsoft's presser, at which I suspect I'll hear an awful lot about the blistering sales posted by Kinect during its first six months in the market, followed by some long overdue announcements concerning upcoming games for Microsoft's motion sensing gizmo (remarkable as the hardware may be, it's almost unbelievable that Kinect has sold so well given its current lack of truly compelling game experiences).
Kinect aside, we can expect new details on Microsoft's fall line-up, which includes the final Gears of War game and Forza MotorSport 4. Rumours abound that a remake of Halo: Combat Evolved is due this fall, and E3 would be a great place to officially announce it. Who knows, perhaps 343 Industries-the new steward of future Halo projects-will show up as well. I also expect announcements concerning brand new third-party franchises and titles, not least of which could be something from Crysis 2 developer CryTek.
Electronic Arts presser follows shortly after. This conference will likely deliver the goods on games like Battlefield 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3, and all of the publisher's sports brands. We could also see something new on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a new single-player open world RPG announced earlier this year. Unfortunately, I hold little hope of seeing what Call of Duty founders Vince Zampella and Jason West have been up to since their infamous departure from Activision and Infinity Ward in 2010. The duo created an EA-backed studio called Respawn Entertainment a year ago, but I doubt that their team is willing to announce anything they might be working on just yet.
Ubisoft's conference comes next. Here we'll see new footage of Assassin's Creed: Revelation, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Driver: San Francisco, and the web-based Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Online, as well as some of the developer/publisher's popular casual gaming fare, including new titles in the Raving Rabbids, Just Dance, and Your Shape franchises. I'll be surprised if Ubisoft doesn't cap its event by unveiling at least one big surprise, but I can't even begin to guess what it might be. The French company has shown strong support for Nintendo's platforms in the past, so I suspect they're working on something for Project Cafe (don't worry if you don't know what this is-more on it in a moment), but I doubt it will be revealed prior to Nintendo's presser the following day.
Monday will finish with an epic five-hour event hosted by Sony, starting with a presser the highlight of which-assuming Sony's event staff can keep hecklers from drawing too much attention to the company's PSN woes-will almost surely be Sony's soon-to-be-released "Next-generation Portable" system (which, recent rumour has it, may be dubbed the "PS Vita"). I expect attendees will be given hands-on time with some of the system's biggest launch titles, including a much-discussed handheld version of Uncharted.
Speaking of Naughty Dog's popular action adventure series, this fall's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception will likely take centre stage for the PlayStation 3 portion of the event, alongside games like Starhawk , Infamous 2, Resistance 3, and Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One. History suggests Sony will also tease a few third-party games at its presser, PlayStation-exclusive or otherwise. Perhaps the next single-player Final Fantasy?
Moving to Tuesday, Nintendo will host its press conference just prior to the show opening at noon Pacific time, and I have a hunch that it will be the event of E3 2011. Having just come off the worldwide launch of its 3DS handheld, the Japanese company is set to show off what the web has been calling " Project Cafe," a brand new console rumoured to be more powerful than Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 that features a controller with an enormous built-in touch screen. It's been a long time since E3 attendees have had the opportunity to salivate over new living room hardware, and the crowd's appetite should prove fierce.
Nintendo will also need to show off a line-up of launch window games for its new system. Just what these titles might be is pure guesswork at this point, but I'd be surprised if they didn't have a Mario title in the works. Expect a couple of lesser-known first-party franchises as well; perhaps a new Pikmin or Wario game. The system's anticipated processing oomph makes it likely that we'll also see a few ports of current Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games. I suspect some hardcore, M-rated fare, as Nintendo tries to win back some of the affluent grown-up gamers it lost with the casual-focused Wii.
While Project Cafe will likely steal the show, Nintendo will also spend a fair bit of time detailing upcoming 3DS games. There are literally dozens of known titles for the 3-D handheld that could be shown, including Kid Icarus: Uprising, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Mario Kart 3DS, Paper Mario 3DS, and Star Fox 64 3DS. Nintendo has made such an effort to promote upcoming 3DS games over the past year that I'd be surprised if we saw many previously unknown titles.
The Wii spotlight, meanwhile, will likely focus squarely on The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. With declining sales and a new system on the horizon, it's unlikely that many more high-profile efforts will come to Nintendo's outgoing console.
Once E3 starts in earnest at 12:00 p.m. Tuesday my schedule transforms into dozens of brief meetings, theatre-based viewings, and play sessions booked back-to-back for hours on end. In addition to getting hands-on time with and talking to developers about hardware and software shown during the press conferences, I'm hoping to see plenty of other third-party titles, including Activision's next two Call of Duty games, Eidos Montreal's Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim, iD Software's Rage, Irrational Games' Bioshock Infinite, and Rockstar's Max Payne 3.
Packed as my schedule is, I'm hoping to encounter a few pleasant surprises that force me to detour. In fact, should you happen to have a suggestion for a booth you think I should visit, feel free to get in touch via the comments section of this blog, by email (email@example.com), or through Twitter (@chadsapieha). If something sounds interesting enough I'll try to make time for it.
I'll be posting dispatches on this blog after each of the press conferences and occasionally between appointments, when I have time. I'll also post a daily wrap late at night covering highlights from my time on the show floor.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have less than a week left to finish planning...