The three E's of E3 stand for the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Hosted by the Entertainment Software Association, or ESA, it's an annual sneak peek at what's in store for the videogames industry for next year.
But enough dry details, this E3 2013 promises to be the most revelatory in years. Why? Because of the coming console war. Sony's PlayStation 4 is about to square off against the Xbox 720, or whatever Microsoft names it, for living room supremacy.
But those aren't the only horses in the race. Nintendo's Wii U is already on the track, though Nintendo already revealed it's staging a semi-E3 hold out. And then let's not forget PC gaming and its de facto dark horse, the Steam Box by Valve.
What thrills, spills and chills will await us E3 2013? None can be too certain, but we have some predictions for what you'll see on stage and around the showfloor. So read our list, mull it over, have your say in the comments and check back June 11-13 for TechRadar's E3 coverage from the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Here's the latest we've heard about the conference:
1. Xbox plans press event for June 10
Props to Microsoft for keeping its word on an Xbox-themed event for E3 - not that we ever doubted it would happen.
The company sent out invites to a press briefing for June 10 in Los Angeles, one day before E3 officially gets underway. This is decided an Xbox event, and we hope to "continue the conversation" on the company's new Xbox following its May 21 happening.
We'll be there to cover the action live, so do please check back in for more.
2. No Nintendo press conference
Nintendo has made the somewhat surprising decision to forgo its usual E3 press conference in favor of hosting a smaller, closed-doors events to focus primarily on software.
"We have decided not to host a large-scale presentation targeted at everyone in the international audience where we announce new information as we did in the past," said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata.
"Instead, at the E3 show this year, we are planning to host a few smaller events that are specifically focused on our software lineup for the US market."
We must say we're a bit bothered by Nintendo's decision, if only in an altruistic way because it stands to loose some serious ground to competitors Sony and Microsoft. We'll see what Nintendo decides to show, but it will certainly lose out on a lot of E3 buzz.
Granted, we're not complete Nintendo naysayers. Its newest console is not next gen, but it's not bad either. We gave it a three and a half stars in our Wii U review. The GamePad is cool, and finally seeing Mario in HD is a welcome uptick.
However, most of the world is for PS4 and 720, or just sticking with their Xbox, as the nearly eight-year-old Xbox 360 sold four times as many units as the Wii U did last month. In fact, even the old Wii is selling better.
We know Nintendo has some game titles on the way and we hope it can build enough excitement around these titles to carry it into its next big offering. Whenever that happens.
3. Microsoft to reveal more on the Xbox 720
Microsoft has a very big Xbox announcement planned for May 21, where we fully expect the new Xbox will be revealed. Whether we actually see the new console or only hear about it (a la the PS4), we won't know until the day of, but what we do know is that Microsoft is saving some more news for E3.
"With E3 only a couple of months away, we look forward to sharing more shortly," Microsoft CFO Peter Klein uttered during a company earnings call on April 18 as he spoke about the growth of the Xbox and Xbox live.
Then, a few days later, the company revealed it has an #XboxReveal event planned for May but will "continue the conversation at E3" and showcase a full line-up of blockbuster games at the show.
Beyond game titles and the potential of seeing the device, there's a chance Microsoft may use E3 to introduce a new Xbox 360 platform or a less-frill filled Xbox Mini, but we think the Xbox 720 will be the real star here.
4. We'll actually see the PS4
Despite not actually seeing the system, we liked Sony's PlayStation 4 launch event. We'd call it a mostly positive non-surprise. The focus on games and developers was admirable, as were the social functions of the system. And while not getting a peek at an actual PS4 console was frustrating, Sony has saved some magic for next time, and we're betting that next time will be E3 2013.
Despite Sony saying the reveal might come sooner than June, the smart money is on a PS4 reveal at E3 2013. Why? Because it needs a main attraction at the show where an appearance by its chief rival, the next Xbox, is guaranteed. And if its already shown the PS4, it'll have to give the crowd something, like pricing info, online subscription details and a hard release date, something more specific than "holiday 2013." Sony may not be ready to to talk hard facts just yet, and simply wheeling the system out before a whooping crowd will buy it some time.
5. The fate of the Vita
Vita, vita, vita. What is Sony going to do with you? The poor PS Vita is a lovely little system. It earned four tars in our PS Vita review. But subdued marketing and a lack of must-have have made it something of a non-start.
It's not completely Sony's fault. It's hard to sell a premium mobile gaming device these days. Most consumers are happy to play cheap games on the smartphone they already own, and who can blame them?
So how can Sony move units? Well, a price break worked in Japan, but Sony seems rather dead set against dropping the price in other markets. Still, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see the asking price get lowered at E3, because it seems that Sony will treat the Vita as a PS4 accessory.
Using the streaming service Gaikai, the PS4 will let you stream PS4 titles to your Vita, using an airplay like feature. Now this doesn't mean you can walk down the street playing Killzone Shadow Fall. As we understand it, it'll be more like the Wii U's second screen feature, which lets you move your game to the tablet if someone wants to use the TV for something besides watching you play Mario.
Still, Sony can't bet it all on the PS4 to save the Vita. It's asking a lot to expect consumers to pick up two pricey pieces of hardware. We're curious to see what else it may have in store to kick start its good but underloved handheld.
6. WWCBD? (What will Cliff Bleszinski do?)
If you're much of an Xbox fan, or you've played more than a few rounds of horde mode in Gears of War, you've probably heard the name Cliff Bleszinski. Or maybe you know him by an easier to spell moniker, like Cliffy B, Dude Huge, or the ex-Design Director at Epic Games.
That's right, in October of last year, Bleszinski left the pillar of the industry that is Epic Games to do...well we're not sure what yet, and that's the exciting part.
He hasn't stayed on the sidelines, however, giving a talk on VR at this year's PAX East and waxing long on the web's reaction to the online lynching of a now-ex Microsoft employee's thoughts on an always on Xbox and an always-connected future as a whole.
Now, Bleszinski hasn't announced any plans to...announce any plans. So far he's not on the roster for any E3 presentations, and that makes him the perfect the surprise guest. Remember when Gabe Newell stepped on stage at Sony's 2010 E3 show? Well, imagine Bleszinski doing the same, acting as a consultant for Ubisoft, Volition or another developer on the cusp of breaking into the next level.
Or imagine him striking out on his own, announcing a new development house. Dude Huge Studios, Cliffy B Industries, or a some name that's far less terrible. No matter what, we're excited to see what the man does next, and E3 2013 is the perfect place to get the ball rolling.
7. The biggest titles of E3
E3 is known for surprises. Unexpected sequels and brand new IP's all step out of the shadows and into the spotlight at this celebration of the video game industry. So what will the biggest games of the show be? Surprises aside, we're prepared to make a few educated guesses as to what will have the fans clamoring come June.
First off, even though its been at E3 before, Watch Dogs is a game to watch. It blew audiences away with its detailed open world and insane techno-chaos. Sharp observers rightly guessed that it was next-gen title, and Ubisoft has confirmed that it will on both PS3 and PS4, as well the Xbox 360, and its successor, we presume.
Super Smash Bros. Wii U is highly anticipated title bound to create buzz. Nintendo has confirmed that the next installment of its character brawler franchise will have some presence at the show. Even if its just screens and a demo, fans will want to get their hand on it, and as entry in beloved Nintendo series, it's exactly the shot in the arm the Wii U needs.
As far as annual, excuse us, long-running franchises are concerned, a new Call of Duty game would shock no one. We'd say we're due for a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4 pretty soon. Battlefield 4 is also a given, since it was announced at GDC 2013. There's also the pirate glory of Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag looming on the horizon.
Finally, Grand Theft Auto V will be a no show, but that won't stop anyone from talking about it. Its release has been delayed to Sept. 17, so Rockstar could demo it at the show, but that wouldn't be their style. The studio notoriously skips most E3s, leaving the crowd to build buzz about what the heck its up to. Hey, it's worked for them in the past!
8. Just how unreal is Unreal Engine 4?
L.A. Summertime. Thousands of game-heads. It could get a little trippy at E3, no doubt.
Unreal Engine 4, the ultra-powerful game engine we got a real-time demo of during the PS4's launch, could really rip the seams of reality if its makers unleash it on the E3 crowd.
Marketed as architecture that brings to life fully dynamic lighting features, shortened dev time and "less iteration on creative ideas," the pomp and circumstance for Unreal Engine 4 is certainly glitzy. Can it live up to its self-produced hype, though? Will it elicit authentic jaw drops and awed, "Dude, that's unreal!" exclamations?
We'll be very curious to see if the touted high-end visuals are as captivating in person as they seem in demos like the one above, plus what devs have to say about the potential for such power to be scaled and accessed in lower-end PCs.
We're hoping for amazing, and we think Unreal Engine 4 has the chance to deliver at E3.
9. Steam Box unboxed
There's arguably no other "alternative" console gathering as much, er, steam as Valve's Steam Box. Not only does it have popular gaming personality Gabe Newell at its helm, it's just a damn cool concept.
Some consider it a "console killer" while others are wary it can really stand up to Sony and Microsoft, becoming more of a niche PC product than a true gaming champion, but honestly we simply want to get our hands on the thing and see if its muster really stacks up.
So far we've only eyeballed a pseudo-Steam Box - the Xi3 Piston - in the flesh, but Valve recently said that it's distanced itself from the firm. That leaves us to wonder not only what caused the rift, but how it will effect the product we see Valve itself bring forth.
Maybe the separation will have changed things fundamentally for Valve, though probably not. Regardless, we get the sense some folks are getting a little antsy to see what Valve is cooking up on its own. We think E3 may be the time we at least get a look at a prototype or rendering of the console, especially considering Newell said a short time ago that prototypes will be ready to ship to some Steamers in the next three to four months.
Newell made that comment in early March, placing the ship date at around June or July. As E3 is in mid-June, we wouldn't be surprised if the Valve crew has a unit ready for gamers' eyes then. The shroud may not be ready to lift quite then, but eager E3ers will be clamoring for a peak.
Valve may not want to disappoint.
10. Ouya talking to me?
OK, maybe there is another buzz-breaking system. Like Valve, Ouya has captured the imagination and burrowed into the hearts of gamers and developers, the Kickstarter darling that's launching on June 4 for $99.99/£99.99.
The console will be available in the U.S., U.K. and Canada then, giving many eager customers the gaming system they've been waiting for.
It seems like the mystery is all but gone from the device, but if you're thinking that, then you're (we're sorry to say) quite wrong. There are plenty of questions remaining, some we hope are addressed at E3.
For one we want to know how the company plans to address controller lag many in the press (including ourselves) experienced when testing the console. We imagine this will be fixed by release time, but Ouya should provide clear answers to a key hardware issue.
There's also been lots of talk by the company that the product will be in a state of near-constant evolution, so will there be more steps take between the June 4 release and the dates surrounding E3?
We're also curious about how many launch titles there will be, how the company plans to navigate the world of in-app purchases and what it plans to do about ESRB and PEGI ratings.
It's too early to talk about the Ouya 2, but we wouldn't be shocked if a new peripheral or two gets some press time as well.
11. 4K at E3
4K tech is still very much in its infancy. Yes, we have Samsung, ViewSonic, LG, Toshiba and Panasonic readying and releasing 4K-capable TVs and displays, but the content is lagging far behind. Games, as you can imagine, are on the peripheral of the 4K conversation looking in.
Sony confirmed 4K video output for the PS4, but so far not for games. 4K games could be something it's working on right now, however, and the company may be ready to make that known at E3.
Microsoft has thus far stayed out of the 4K foray, but might E3 be where we can get them in a corner, so to speak, and pick the company's brains on the tech? Might they let slip a little 4K ambition of their own?
The issues of making 4K games extend beyond console makers and into processor and content makers as well.
AMD recently revealed its Radeon HD 7990 "Malta" GPU, capable of playing titles in eye-popping 4K. Nvidia, AMD's arch nemesis, might want to cook up an answer to the hyper-drive graphics card.
4K is a few years off from making it into mainstream gaming, but we fully expect it to be part of the conversation at this year's E3. 4K is not just a facet of gaming future but the future of all digital content, and it's a topic that continues to be fascinating for many.