E3 2013 is going to be utterly insane. With the next console generation breathing down our necks, the 'Big Three' of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are going head to head in a battle for hearts, minds and pre-orders. Coy digs will be taken. Terrible teleprompted jokes will be cracked. Dubstep will reign supreme.
Sadly, I won't be attending personally this year (of all years, argh!), but I've danced this dance enough times to know broadly what to expect from the all-important press conferences scheduled for June 10th. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will use this platform to address us directly; showing us exclusives, revealing entirely new franchises and confirming third-party support. We've pieced together everything we know so far, as well as our own experiences at E3 from previous years, to present you with a comprehensive breakdown of what the three console manufacturers will bring to the table.
Note that the following article is one part confirmed fact, two parts informed guesswork and a soupçon of rampant drooling speculation. I've endeavoured to make it clear which is which - and of course, there'll still be plenty of surprises along the way!
Microsoft (June 10th, 17:30 GMT)
Let's start with the Redmond heavyweight, since they'll be holding their press conference first and have been making headlines aplenty over the last fortnight. Microsoft will look to supplement (and in many ways, make up for) the Xbox One's entertainment-loaded reveal event with a presentation concentrating on games, exclusives, DLC announcements and features.
After a brief hardware recap about Kinect and the new controller, accompanied by a montage of developer interviews, we can expect Microsoft to get down to business. We'll see more of the previously-announced Forza 5 and Quantum Break, alongside perhaps another small showing from EA Sports - who will naturally save much of the detail for their own E3 briefing. We'll undoubtedly get a look at Ryse, Crytek's Kinect hack & slasher, and another SmartGlass demonstration. I'd be surprised if Activision didn't turn up to show some live Call Of Duty: Ghosts code, too, which was noticeably absent from their schizophrenic developer diary that mainly focused on cute dogs and clever fish.
Then we come to the new stuff, at which point, I need to segue from dead certs to a bit of jigsaw-esque guesswork.
Rare are supposedly bringing a "historic IP" along to E3. Killer Instinct rumours have been doing the rounds for months, but a recent titillating report suggests that another Banjo & Kazooie title might make an appearance. Maybe both. Rare may be a shadow of their former selves, but have the manpower to develop multiple games in tandem. Another sports game would probably be a good fit as a Kinect 2.0 tech demo too.
Black Tusk, one of Microsoft's first-party studios, will likely reveal their debut franchise (rumoured to be a Sci-Fi shooter), while another Crackdown title from Ruffian would be an absolute blinder and a breath of fresh air. Fable 4 is looking increasingly likely, not least because new forums have opened and an HD remake of the original Fable has been confirmed for Christmas. Coincidence? Not likely.
More outlandish reports suggest that Dead Rising 3 could well make an appearance as a timed exclusive, alongside sequel showings from Mirror's Edge 2, Prey 2, Homefront 2, Dark Souls 2 and even Beyond Good & Evil 2 of all things. Grab a pinch of salt, but I'd love to see that happen. Respawn Studios are rumoured to be working on an Xbox-exclusive shooter, which might make its debut, along with some Kinect-enabled family games from first and third parties.
Oh, and a Halo 5 tease probably wouldn't go amiss either.
The Xbox 360 will also get a little loving. We've been promised a "huge" announcement, which one of our readers (stevenjameshyde) suggested could well be some timed exclusive DLC for GTA V, in keeping with the precedent set by GTA IV.
Many questions will go unanswered, mind. The glitzy bombastic E3 presentation probably isn't the right platform for discussing the Used Game debacle, which will likely be cleared up by subsequent press releases and interviews. There's also a 50/50 chance of getting a firm RRP - though it would be great to receive solid pricing details, this could overplay their hand if Sony doesn't follow suit later that day.
Speaking of Sony...
Sony (June 11th, 02:00 GMT)
Sony are currently enjoying a strong position, having secured the PlayStation 4's role as a dedicated games machine directed squarely at a savvy gaming audience. Following a great big dubstep montage (there's always a great big dubstep montage) of current-gen and next-gen footage, Sony will probably start by showing us what the PS4 actually looks like.
As always, the crowd will cheer uproariously.
Once the applause dies down and we get a little hardware recap, Sony's conference will be more about consolidation than megaton reveals. Killzone: Shadow Fall will almost certainly get another live demo, while gameplay footage - if not live code - will break cover for DriveClub and InFamous: Second Son. We'll get another look at Knack, perhaps, alongside a couple of surprises from Sony's first-party studios. Personally, I'd love Naughty Dog to reveal something (possibly Uncharted 4), and Sony Santa Monica to at least tease a new direction for God Of War (Egyptian Gods please!) if not an entirely new franchise.
Sony's massive support for indie studios will likely lead to a bit of a PSN showcase, both for next and current-gen. Some enthusiastic auteurs will probably bound onto the stage or screen, keen to discuss their wares and stress how supportive Sony have been in terms of securing funding and an open platform to develop on.
In terms of Third Party participants, Bungie have RSVP'd to deliver the true Destiny reveal we've all been waiting for. Activision could well let us scope out Diablo III, while some other major titles will likely use the event as a springboard. Square Enix have promised a major reveal, which could well be Final Fantasy Versus XIII, and we can expect some other surprises from left-field. Ubisoft might also turn up for a bit to stress their support, as they've frequently done in years past, and talk about some exclusive content.
The PS3 will get some serious attention. With titles like Gran Turismo VI, Beyond: Two Souls and Rain in the pipeline, it's clear that there's still much to discuss on the current-gen front. PlayStation Vita will probably play a minor role, perhaps with confirmation that all PS4 titles will support Remote Play functionality. This could well be the opening salvo, though we'll have to wait and see.
Sony will probably be keen to demonstrate that the PS4 is also capable of being an entertainment device by confirming some participating TV/streaming providers (likely a slide full of logos) and a deeper look at the social media Share button in action. We may also get some details about how PlayStation Plus will work going into the next-generation, though this could be saved for GamesCom and a more region-specific show.
The Last Guardian also reared its perpetually-delayed head recently, but you absolutely shouldn't get your hopes up. It will be interesting to see whether Team ICO's long-awaited title will move to the PS4, however. Whenever that happens.
Again, beyond the odd coy comment, we probably won't get a firm 'yay or nay' about used games regulation, but we'd love to be proven wrong. If Sony actually plans to foster an open ecosystem, an explicit confirmation would deal their rival a killer blow (that said, they'd probably have already confirmed it by now if they had nothing to hide). Pricing - especially European RRP - may also be withheld until GamesCom.
Nintendo (June 11th, 15:00 GMT)
Rather than being stuck between a next-gen rock and a hard place, Nintendo's decision to hold a global Nintendo direct livestream on June 11th instead of a full-on presentation seems inspired if a little risky (being that their major challenge is still reaching the mainstream audience who don't follow gaming news).
Put simply: we expect Mario.
Three Mario games in fact. Judging by a recent tweet, we'll receive firm details (and hopefully footage) of a Wii U Mario Kart, the next Super Smash Bros. and a brand new 3D Mario game designed exclusively for the system. A new Zelda title has been heavily tipped - reported to be one of the biggest and most labour-intensive games Nintendo has ever produced - and chances are Yoshi will take us on a tour of his upcoming island. Without wanting to sound too impatient, Retro Studios are also long overdue to reveal what the heck they've been working on these past few years.
On the second and third party fronts, we can expect to see much more of Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101, and potentially a full reveal of Monolith Soft's mysterious "X." Since it's either a prequel or sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, one of the best JRPGs ever made, we can't help but hope for a drool-inducing gawk at the first properly next-gen roleplaying game. With luck, the Fire Emblem x Shin Megami Tensei crossover will also break cover.
We suspect that Nintendo will try to keep the focus on the Wii U as much as possible, with the 3DS only getting a brief mention. Since their handheld has been dominating Nintendo Direct broadcasts of late, it's probably time that the home console got a stint in the spotlight - perhaps even a new hardware line and the phasing out of the lacklustre 8GB Basic edition?
Some pleasant surprises would be nice. As a Starwing (sorry American readers, but I'll always call it that) fan, it'd be great to see a brand new take on the franchise, while Samus needs to strut her bounty hunting stuff. However, more surprises would be very welcome indeed - new IPs, new mascots and an attempt to breathe life into the slightly stuffy Nintendo roster. Preferably from smaller studios and even plenty of indies thanks to their arrangement with Unity. Don't, erm, bet on it though.
It's easy to doomsling, but since Microsoft mishandled their reveal event in terms of core audience appeal, Nintendo's box that plays good games could well position itself cleverly as a cut-price alternative. There's an opportunity here, but Nintendo needs to seize it with both hands to avoid a bit of a sales rout this Christmas, and third party developers ignoring the platform out of hand. No pressure, then.