E3 2012: all the latest news

E3 2012
So engrossed by games that they don't notice the giant birds

E3 is the games industry's most important yearly conference - and also a reminder each year about how huge the industry is getting.

Despite the double-dipping depths of the recession, the big three console manufacturers - Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo - have been in perpetual war since the launch of the Xbox 360.

Microsoft at E3 2012

Microsoft had their press conference and while everyone was hoping for an announcement about the much-rumored Xbox 720, the company was mum. Instead they announced a bevy of upcoming titles, new content deals, a new service called Xbox Music and an exciting new technology called Xbox SmartGlass.

Now feast your eyes on the best of the game news from E3 2012 in our handy round-up video:

Nintendo at E3 2012

Nintendo is also predictable; they showed off a much improved Wii U, and announced a holiday launch date for it. It'll have a good line-up of third party games, including big titles like Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, all of which will use the redesigned Wii U controller. However, the price was still under wraps and many of the games won't be ready for launch.

Sony at E3 2012

The dark horse is Sony. While the company didn't announce any new hardware, they did show off a ton of AAA titles. Sony is also struggling financially, due to poor HDTV sales last year, and its new handheld, the Vita, isn't selling as well as it had hoped. Despite all that, Sony is the only company that could surprise us.

E3 for PC gamers

The biggest market that's not covered by those three manufacturers is the PC market. Yes, we're admitting that Microsoft doesn't support PC gaming explicitly any more. Though its DirectX technology is behind many of the best games on the platform, it has shut or remodelled most of its PC-focused development studios into studios producing games just for Xbox 360 - for example, Rare and Lionhead.

PC developers needn't worry; there are enough indie, kooky and free games on the PC to keep it going. Smaller publishers like Wargaming.net, Paradox Interactive and Bohemia Interactive are releasing PC-only titles like World of Warplanes, War of the Roses and ARMA 3 which make the mooted next-gen consoles look 8-bit. Meanwhile, thanks to Steam's support through Steamworks, modding is again thriving.

On top of that, the rise of Kickstarter means that the PC games community is getting to communicate directly with developers about what they're actually interested in. Before a game has had more than rudimentary design work done, the developer can know if it will be a success or not; a huge step forward for developer security.

E3 2012

The crowds to get in on day one of E3 are legendary

The only company that's really backing the PC is Valve, the creator of Half-Life. There have been persistent rumours that Valve will be launching its own hardware, of some sort. These rumours were confirmed earlier in the year when Valve said that it was working on wearable computing, similar to Google's Glasses, but also working towards pervasive computing and the UI for that.

However, Valve also announced that it will not show anything new at the show, beyond its announced games (DOTA 2 and Counterstrike: Global Offensive but no Half Life 3) and its new 10' UI - showing off how its games and systems will work on sitting room TV screens.

E3 games to look forward to

The favorite for Game of the Show is GTA V, if announced, but there are few details on it yet and Rockstar has said that it's not attending. Barring that, the game that could steal the show is Elder Scrolls Online. It's been rumoured for years, it's only just been revealed and the only surprise is that Bethesda will release it before the inevitable Fallout MMO (or Fallout 4, which we'd assume it has a team working on). Massively multiplayer, despite no game really succeeding since WoW, nevertheless captures the imagination of the E3 audience.

So what about the third party games? Well, they'll be covered by our colleagues over on GamesRadar but just to reel off the biggest names we think will be there: Halo 3, Resident Evil 6, God of War Ascension, Assassin's Creed 3, Starcraft: Heart of the Swarm, Batman: Arkham City 2, Rainbow Six Patriots, Last of Us, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Super Mario Wii U, Metal Gear Solid 5, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Dead Space 3, Dragon Age 3, Star Trek: The Game, Medal of Honor, Need for Speed, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, Hitman Absolution, Far Cry 3, Metro: Last Light, Company of Heroes 2, Xcom: Enemy Unknown, Planetside 2, Borderlands 2, Rayman Legends, Beyond Good & Evil 2, a new Total War game, Star Fox Wii U, an unknown LucasArts game, Sim City, Shootmania and Lego Batman 2.

And the best of the rumours is that Eminem is going to appear on Nintendo's stage to promote a game called Acid Ghost.

Cloud and mobile gaming

Increasingly important is the cloud gaming sector. Though the established contenders here are Gaikai and OnLive (read Gaikai vs OnLive for a comparison), many other larger companies have the infrastructure and tech to enter the market.

For example, Nvidia, Amazon, Google and Microsoft all have the tech, away from any games divisions. We're just hearing rumours that Sony, in a bid to rejuvenate the PS3, will announce a cloud partnership at E3. Our bet is that it will be with Gaikai, as its instant-on gameplay will allow the PS3 to bypass the poor download structure and UI it currently uses, and its CEO, David Perry, is extremely well-connected.

E3 2012

Even Mario gets bored now and then

Bystanders at the show, but increasingly important, are the mobile and indie sectors. Indeed, Apple's iOS devices are swallowing an increasing proportion of casual gamers' incomes, and the PC hardcore increasingly is.

The indie sector really comes into its own at GDC, the games developers conference, earlier in the year while the mobile sector has its own shows, including Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Behind closed doors, they'll show off the titles that will really come to dominate the market, and the new profit models and tech that the main sectors will copy in coming years.

The other story of learning from the mobile and social games sectors is the rise of the freemium market on all platforms. Sony has said that it believes that the next generation of consoles will be led by free-to-play games, and analysts are implying that both Sony and Microsoft will attempt to cash in on this money-spinner, sooner rather than later. We think you'll see the first free-to-play games on PS3 this year.

The one thing that we've really been wishing for, which luminaries as far apart as Ray Kurzweil and Lord David Puttnam have been pushing for, is that games take a bigger part in education, given their proven benefits in improving attention and hence learning.

We don't think that there will be many developments on show for this at E3 and we're not sure it's the right place to show them off anyway, but we'd love to see them being given more attention.