E3 is about to begin. Here’s what it is and why you should watch en

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Virtually, because the world is still not quite out of the woods when it comes to the pandemic, of course.

Millions of new players, stuck at home because of the pandemic, powered the video game industry to a huge 2020. It’s now so big it now exceeds the pre-coronavirus global film industry.

If you’re one of them, you’ll want to tune into the 2021 Electronic Entertainment Expo — or E3 for short.

What started as a boring trade show in the late 90s has evolved to a must-watch smorgasbord of events as the biggest video game companies in the world gather and take the wraps off all the big projects they’re planning on releasing for the next year and beyond.

The companies taking part this year include your console giants like Nintendo and Microsoft, major publishers like Capcom, Sega and Ubisoft, and a whole slew of indies.

So if you want to find out what’s happening with the new Halo game, when the next Elder Scrolls will be released, or what weird thing Nintendo will do next with Mario, this is the place to do it.

In recent years E3 has been hosted in an actual convention hall in Los Angeles, with huge stages and cheering crowds and super flashy areas to try out all the new games and tech that was announced.

But the pandemic has put an end to that, so the 2021 version of the show will be all virtual.

Expect a series of presentations from the major players packed with big announcements and then a flurry of Zoom interviews afterwards.

They are. And their shiny new PlayStation 5 is still extremely tricky to get a hold of six months after launch because it’s so popular.

But for the last few years, Sony has been like the edgy kid at school who didn’t want to sit with everyone else. It won’t be taking part in E3 2021 (and hasn’t since 2019).

This year, major developer and publisher Electronic Arts is doing the same, hosting its EA Play event the month after E3.

The big conferences are spread out over a few days, so here’s who is presenting, and what to expect this year.

What you know them for: Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Pokemon, Mario Kart, *deep breath* last year’s early-pandemic smash-hit Animal Crossing, Wii Sports…..C’MON IT’S NINTENDO. You know them.

What to expect this year: There have been rumblings for a long time that Nintendo has been working on a bigger, beefy version of its Switch console, and the E3 stage would be the perfect place to make a splash with a new iteration.

On the software front … it’s a bit of a mystery. Nintendo’s upcoming software schedule has been left curiously empty for the second half of 2021. Expect that to change.

We’re tipping a release date for the previously-announced sequel to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, some updates to Animal Crossing to bring back the millions who created a village last year, and a deeper look at the upcoming pair of Pokemon titles.

Make sure you don’t leave early for this one. Nintendo is the master of sneaking in a bombshell right at the end. Just listen out for « and one more thing… ».

What you know them for: Halo, the Xbox, Gears of War, Forza racing games, Sea of Thieves

What to expect this year: Microsoft spent the last year splashing the cash and hoovering up third-party studios like nobody’s business. Then it went all out and bought Zenimax and, importantly, its publisher Bethesda for a whopping $US7.5 billion.

The video game world is now looking to Microsoft to see what exactly goodies all this spending is going to produce.

And while Bethesda (creators of huge franchises like Elder Scrolls and Fallout) would normally have a separate showing at E3, this year they’ll feature at this event seeing as they’re now owned by Microsoft.

Also keep an eye out for the latest entry in Xbox’s flagship franchise Halo. It’s been weird for the new Xbox One X to be without a title featuring the Master Chief for so long, and after a less-than-impressive first showing for Halo: Infinite and subsequent delay, Microsoft will want to use this E3 to hype up one of the few bonafide system-sellers in their library.

What to expect this year: Hot off the heels of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla in 2020, Ubisoft will likely be without a new entry in its sneaky-stabby history tour franchise. Given the success of Valhalla, though, some major plans for extra content could be in the works.

The spotlight will fall on Ubisoft’s other big franchise, Far Cry, with a long look its sixth instalment (starring everybody’s favourite villain actor Giancarlo Esposito) looking likely. There’ll be another Just Dance because there’s always another Just Dance.

It’s also been a long time between updates on the sequel to cult-classic Beyond Good and Evil if Ubisoft wants to please its die-hard fans.

What to expect this year: Rumours have it that Square-Enix will be leaning pretty heavily on its flagship Final Fantasy franchise this year, with whispers of a new PlayStation-exclusive entry in the works.

Aside from that, Square has plenty to talk about with the next instalment of its episodic remake of Final Fantasy VII, and plenty of fans eager to hear more about its very medieval-looking Final Fantasy XVI that was revealed in September.

What to expect this year: Capcom has been in a bit of a purple patch of late, with critically-acclaimed and commercially successful entries in two of its biggest franchises fresh out of the oven in Monster Hunter Rise and Resident Evil Village.

It means downloadable content for both could be on the menu (especially with Rise already selling a massive six million copies in just four weeks).

No-one would be surprised to see Capcom continue its successful strategy of remaking the earlier Resident Evil games — especially with the beloved Resident Evil 4 the next cab off the rank.

A Street Fighter 6 announcement might be a dark horse, especially given the five-year rocky ride that the last instalment in the classic fighter series has been going through. A fresh start might be just what the doctor ordered.

We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.

This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

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