The 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3) is less than a week away, leaving gamers everywhere salivating for new hardware, exclusive gameplay footage and the almost inevitable awkward stage moment. With new consoles in the wild hungry for games, as well as a growing interest in virtual reality and new platforms like Valve's Steambox, E3 2014 has plenty of potential to be a big one.
Many of the industry's most cherished games and systems made their debut at the major Los Angeles expo, and last year's event gave us our first glimpse into the new generation of gaming with the Xbox One and PS4. Here are some things to expect from gaming's biggest expo, as well as some ways you can keep up with the madness from home.
Games, Games, Games
It sounds silly, but the thing we're most excited to see at E3 is, well, more games. Now that the anticipation surrounding the Xbox One and PS4 has subsided, it's time for publishers and developers to give gamers a reason to own those consoles.
One thing you can count on is seeing more of the big multiplatform titles announced earlier this year. Among the show's confirmed games are shooters including "Evolve," "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare," "Destiny" and "Star Wars: Battlefront." We're looking forward to action/adventure romps like "Batman: Arkham Knight," "Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor," "Dragon Age: Inquisition" and "Assassin's Creed: Unity."
That's already a pretty tasty plate of confirmed games, but the rumored titles are even juicier. A leaked presentation slide suggests that beloved stealth game "Dishonored" will get a sequel, and given that the next installment in sci-fi RPG series "Mass Effect" is in development, we would love to finally get a taste of gameplay.
Capcom is rumored to have "Resident Evil 7" ready for E3, and the company might even revive its long-dormant Dino Crisis franchise. However, if you're hoping that 2014 is the year Valve announces its forever-rumored "Half-Life 3," you shouldn't hold your breath.
To most gamers, Sony was the definitive winner of E3 2013. Not only did the company announce that its Playstation 4 would be free of the always-online requirements and restrictive sharing rules of the Xbox One, it also revealed that the system would launch at $399, instantly swaying many fans that were once considering Microsoft's $499 console.
Despite all the hype (and the 6 million PS4s sold as of Mar. 2014), the system only has a handful of exciting exclusives like "Resogun" and "Infamous: Second Son." This needs to be the year Sony breaks out its true system-sellers for its shiny new console.
A new "Uncharted" game could be that killer app; A PS4 version of the PS3's flagship action franchise was previously teased in a short video by Sony, and E3 2014 would be the perfect time to give fans a taste of some next-gen Nathan Drake action. Sony's intriguing alternate-history adventure "The Order: 1886" is confirmed for E3, and the rumored PS4-exclusive "Project Beast" (from the team behind "Dark Souls") could make an appearance.
Sony's Project Morpheus virtual reality goggles made their debut at this year's Game Developer's Conference, and you can bet on seeing more of them at E3. The accessory is still in the prototype phase and doesn't have many known titles being built for it right now, and we'd love to see Sony bring some of its big franchises into the realm of VR for the expo.
By the time E3 2014 rolls around, Microsoft will have completed a full 180 on its original vision for the Xbox One. The system that once required an online connection, had strict used game policies and needed a Kinect camera has since dropped all of those restrictions, and will soon be available in a new $399 configuration sans Kinect.
With the drama behind them (and a new leader in Phil Spencer), Microsoft is ready to deliver what everyone wants: Games. The Xbox team will be showcasing exclusives like "Halo 5" and "Sunset Overdrive," as well as a second wave of content for revitalized fighting game "Killer Instinct."
MORE: Best Xbox One Games 2014
You can also expect some significant updates to the Xbox One interface come E3. Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi previously told Engadget that the team is working to make the UI more navigable for those who don't have a Kinect for voice commands, and Major Nelson confirmed that users will soon be able to use their own external hard drives with the console.
Microsoft could be jumping on the gaming glasses bandwagon, as previous patents suggest that the Seattle hardware maker is working on a pair of augmented reality goggles. This accessory would be a logical companion to the Kinect motion-sensing camera, and would provide gamers with an alternative to the virtual reality experiences being crafted by Sony and Oculus.
Like last year, Nintendo is taking a back seat at E3 2014, forgoing a major in-person press conference in favor of a livestreamed "Digital Event" in addition to playable demos on the show floor. While the house that Mario built doesn't have the powerful hardware and robust third-party lineup of Microsoft and Sony, there's still plenty to be excited about for fans of the Big N.
Fighting fans can look forward to more footage from the Wii U and 3DS versions of "Super Smash Bros," as well as "Legend of Zelda" hack-and-slash spinoff "Hyrule Warriors." Speaking of the latter franchise, Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin Williams, named after the game) tweeted that she'll be "doing something extra special" at E3 2014. Perhaps Nintendo is ready to unveil a proper Wii U Zelda sequel, as there hasn't been an all-new non-handheld version of the game since 2011's "Skyward Sword."
Nintendo previously announced that it will launch a series of near field communication (NFC) toys for the Wii U and 3DS, so expect to see lots of little figurines poised to take on the likes of "Skylanders" and "Disney Infinity."
MORE: Best Nintendo 3DS Games
We expect to see more of "Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire" on the 3DS, as well as action game "Bayonetta 2" and RPG mash-up "Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem" on the Wii U. A purportedly leaked document from Nintendo's upcoming stream lists some tantalizing titles, like a 3DS version of "Metroid," a Pokemon fighting game called "Pokken Fighters" and a full lineup of downloadable Gamecube games for the Wii U, but we'll have to wait until the big show to see if those rumors hold up.
Steam Machines and Virtual Reality
We've already seen over a dozen Steam Machines, which provide different specs and price points for those who want to experience Valve's upcoming SteamOS software. We're hoping to actually play with the devices and get some release dates at E3 2014, as the likes of Origin, Gigabyte, Maingear and Alienware are among the brands looking to bring Steam to your living room later this year. Because the SteamOS ecosystem isn't exclusive to Valve, there's always a chance even more manufacturers will jump aboard come E3.
If "Steam Machines" is one of 2014's big gaming buzz phrases, "Virtual Reality" is the other. Oculus continues to refine its Oculus Rift VR headset, and perhaps the Facebook-owned company is finally ready to announce a consumer model now that it has proper financial backing. While Oculus is becoming a household name in the world of VR, we expect to see more competitors pop up during the expo to take on the likes of Oculus Rift, Morpheus and any crazy gadgets that Microsoft may have in its back pocket.
Where to Watch
Just because you're not in the Los Angeles area doesn't mean you have to miss all of the excitement. Livestream service Twitch will be broadcasting all of the major events, including media briefings from Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, EA and Nintendo as well as live game demos. You can view the full schedule here, so you'll know exactly when to tune into Twitch on your PC, mobile device, Xbox or Playstation console.
If you prefer good ole' fashioned television, you can tune into Spike TV's All Access Live starting on June 9th. Spike's coverage includes industry interviews and game demonstrations, and will also be available at Gametrailers.com.