For most people, June marks the beginning of summer. It’s an exciting month, punctuated by graduations, vacations and generally awesome weather.
For gamers? All that garbage takes a backseat to E3.
Now in its 24th year, the biggest video game event of 2018 is lumbering towards downtown Los Angeles, ready to demolish rumors, launch memes, resurrect franchises and evangelize the $36 billion interactive entertainment business until every game releasing this year has been sufficiently pre-ordered.
Once an exclusive, industry-only trade show, E3 has expanded in recent years to become a wild mishmash of insiders, fans, journalists and marketers. E3 is mostly about games – stakeholders like Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (SNE) and Nintendo (NTDOY) annually battle it out with huge announcements and reveals – but it also sheds light on the broader trends and motivations of the industry.
Whether you’re an investor interested in diving into gaming’s tumultuous waters or a fan anxious to see the latest and greatest offerings for your platform of choice, E3 is a must-watch event.
Here’s what you need to know about this year’s show.
When is it?
E3 2018 technically settles into the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 12 – 14, but in truth, the show begins a few days earlier courtesy several high-profile media events scattered around town. Some of the biggest news of the week happens during these shows:
Saturday, June 9
Electronic Arts: 11:00 a.m. PST (stream)
Sunday, June 10
Monday, June 11
Tuesday, June 12
Nintendo: 9:00 a.m. PST (stream)
How big is it, exactly?
We won’t have specific numbers until after the show has ended, but suffice to say, E3 is big. Really big. After holding steady at between 40,000 and 50,000 attendees for a few years, last year’s show exploded to nearly 70,000. This year’s show could eclipse that.
Nearly 200 game makers will be hawking their goods at the convention center, but E3 spills out far beyond the halls of the LACC. Electronic Arts (EA) will be posted up at the famous Hollywood Palladium for their EA Play fan expo.
The E3 Coliseum, produced by video game host and personality Geoff Keighley, takes place next door at LA Live. Featuring interviews with legendary game makers alongside talks with luminaries like director Darren Aronofsky and the showrunners of HBO’s “Westworld,” it’s an enticing three-day event for fans.
Fan-oriented events will be all over the convention center itself, including an esports arena, Nintendo-hosted tournaments and a “Fortnite” pro-am featuring 100 popular streamers and celebs.
Sounds awesome! Can I go?
Maybe! Though E3 was once only open to industry professionals, it’s now possible to attend as a fan courtesy of a gamer pass. They’re not cheap — it’s $250 for three days — and they tend to sell out. But as of publication, there are still official passes available here.
If that’s too pricey (or if they sell out), you can always watch the show unfold on your favorite streaming site. Game outlets like Gamespot and IGN, and our sister site Engadget, among a slew of others will host countless trailers and live demos from the show floor, while Youtube, Twitch and Twitter will be pumping out content all week. It’s the next best thing to being there (and considering the crowds, it might be preferable.)
What will be the big news?
If we already knew that, we’d write it all now and enjoy E3 from the comforts of a Tahitian resort. But based on quite a few leaks and some general industry trends, here are a few guesses:
Sony will play it safe
Sony’s enjoyed a stellar run the past few shows, unveiling huge, exclusive franchises for their industry-leading PS4. This year, however, they look to buck the trend by deep diving into a handful of known entities: post-apocalyptic open-world game “Days Gone,” Hideo Kojima freakout “Death Stranding,” soothing game creation tool “Dreams,” enigmatic action game “Ghost of Tsushima,” highly anticipated “Spider-Man” refresh and long-awaited sequel to 2013 Game of the Year, “The Last of Us.” Here’s hoping they fire off a big new reveal or two as well (looking at you, “Bloodborne 2”).
Microsoft will turn its gears
The last few E3s haven’t been especially kind to Microsoft. A few anticipated games have either been canned (“Scalebound”) or seemingly lost in the mail (“Crackdown 3”). While they tend to go big with third-party games on their main stage, Microsoft will need to focus and deliver announcements for their biggest first-party franchises if they want to gain some momentum heading into the holidays.
This year, we’re expecting a ton of “Gears of War.” In addition to “Gears of War 5,” rumors point to a standalone battle royale game and possibly another spin-off. Leaks also hint at a new entry in their highly-regarded “Forza Horizon” series, though most fans are angling for something — anything — about “Halo 6.”
Nintendo will open up a little
Nintendo marches to a different E3 drum these days, bailing out on the gaudy press conferences in favor of a relatively brief, pre-taped online show directed at fans. They also like to announce new games all week long.
After a few years playing it close to the vest as they transitioned from the Wii U to the Switch, the company is primed to blow fans away with interesting new Switch takes on their famous franchises.
For sure we’ll see plenty of “Super Smash Bros.” for the Switch — Nintendo’s even throwing an invitational tournament at the show — but we also expect to see something concrete about “Metroid Prime 4,” which they simply teased last year. An odd new “Star Fox” racing game has also been rumored, and we’ll hopefully hear more about the proper “Pokémon” RPG for the Switch the company revealed last year (currently set for a 2019 release.)
What else? We wouldn’t count out more remasters and remakes of old Nintendo games for the Switch, though with so many franchises floating around and Nintendo keeping a tight lid on news, it’s anybody’s guess at this point.
The battle of the battle royales
The incredible popularity of “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” has given rise to the hottest trend in blockbuster game design: the battle royale.
By now you probably know the drill: 100 players (more or less) drop onto an island, scavenge for resources and weapons and fight it out until only one player (or team) is left standing. Historians can argue about whether this is really a new concept, but regardless of who exactly was here first (“DayZ,” maybe?), the fact remains that the battle royale genre is all the rage. And it’s about to get rage-ier.
Activision (ATVI) has already confirmed a battle royale mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.” The rumor mill thinks Microsoft will follow suit with a “Gear of Wars”-themed battle royale game. “Mavericks: Proving Ground,” a game with a whopping 400-player battle royale mode, could also show up. There’s “Realm Royale” from the developers of Smite. And based on a pretty legit leak, “Fortnite” could be taking its battle royale act to the Nintendo Switch.
One game that won’t show off a battle royale mode? EA’s “Battlefield V,” though the designers are certainly talking about it.
Gamers may clamor for fresh ideas, but their wallets say they also really, really like sequels. So they’ll be getting a ton of those at E3 2018.
Bethesda’s already cracked the seal by doubling down on the post-apocalypse with “Fallout 76” and “Rage 2.” They’ll surely show off more, possibly including a follow-up to the awesome “Fallout: Shelter” mobile game they released at E3 2015. Ubisoft has gone big at E3 the last few years, and so far we’re already sure to see “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,” “The Division 2,” and more on the long awaited “Beyond Good & Evil 2” (fingers crossed for a new “Splinter Cell,” too). Square-Enix will get in on the sequel act with “Shadow of the Tomb Raider,” the long-awaited “Kingdom Hearts III,” and perhaps a new “Just Cause.”
We also expect one notable sequel to be MIA: “Red Dead Redemption 2” from Rockstar Games. The ace developer rarely shows much at E3, and with hype over their open-world Old West sequel already off the charts, they’ll plot their own course to release.
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