E3 is like video game Christmas, even if Xbox's Phil Spencer is a poor substitute for Santa and you don't get presents until *actual* Christmas; just a dizzying, often cruel, tease of what might be months - or even years - from our grasp. We already know a good selection of the E3 2018 games that'll feature next week, but ahead of the E3 2018 schedule kicking off with EA Play on Saturday 9th June, here are the big games, themes and talking points likely to dominate this year's show:
Death Stranding should just leave us with more questions
After three trailers of unexpected celebrity appearances, dead sea creatures, and teleporting pod infants, Death Stranding has cultivated the optimal aura of Hideo Kojima weirdness. We know another trailer is bound for E3 at the Sony press conference on Monday (18:00 PDT / 21:00 EDT, Tuesday 02:30 BST) and, as the game nears the end of its initial launch window - remember, Kojima said at one point that it would arrive before 2019 - people are hoping to get a more solid grasp on what the game actually is. It's understandable. But listen: at this point, there are no solid gameplay details that Kojima could reveal that wouldn't be disappointing. Right now, Death Stranding is like Schrödinger's cat - it exists in every possible form until we actually see it. The mystery that Kojima Productions has cultivated over the years deserves so much better than the old "camera pans behind the hero's shoulder as somebody walks out on stage and picks up the controller" trick. The only concrete answer I want from Death Stranding's E3 presentation is a release date - until then, just give me more questions until the game comes out. That said, the Death Stranding reddit group are convincing themselves there might even be a surprise demo made live during the show, akin to Kojima's PT. As tantalising as that seems, it really might be talk from a parallel dimension. Connor Sheridan
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PS4 exclusive Ghost of Tsushima has the potential to be the samurai answer to Red Dead Redemption
Western and samurai movies are two sides of the same coin. With Ghost of Tsushima - from InFamous developer Sucker Punch - no doubt due to be shown off at E3, there’s the possibility that the game could have the similar themes. Dying frontier life was at the heart of Red Dead Redemption, and similarly Ghost of Tsushima is going to show us a world saturated in conflict as samurais are forced to adapt to the Mongol invasion. Taking place in 1274 when feudal Japan was at its peak, the demands placed upon the samurai in Ghost of Tsushima should shape up to be a parallel to John Marston’s own change of character in Red Dead Redemption: whereas Marston abandoned the outlaw life in favour of a home life, in Ghost of Tsushima the samurai has to set honour aside and use stealthier fighting methods against the Mongol invaders. The figure of the lone samurai being torn between his duty and his own belief of what’s right is the familiar backbone of samurai movies, and I’m betting that the same will apply to Ghost of Tsushima. Along with a healthy dose of katana action, of course. Zoe Delahunty-Light
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The Avengers game is an incredibly exciting idea, but feels like an almost impossible task to fulfil
In the most abstract terms, the idea of a full-scale, AAA Avengers game is exciting – and of course, long overdue. But at this stage, given the scale of the MCU, and its escalation since the appearance of the first team-up movie in 2012, what the heck form could it even take? At this stage, post-Avengers: Infinity War, the very notion of the Avengers feels too big to be contained within a single game design. If taking a traditional, story-led, linear action direction, surely it has to be at least five games in one to give every character a satisfying work-out, and that’s going to risk all kinds of bloat and focus problems. But what are the other options? Will the game dodge trying to contain the roster of characters within a strained, single-player campaign by opting instead for a more free-form, co-op affair? Will it side-step the challenging issue of equally favourite characters altogether by tasking us with creating our own, new hero to exist alongside the Avengers, a la DC Universe Online, or a superhero Destiny? There’s boggling potential here, and it increasingly feels like the more leftfield an approach the game takes, the better. David Houghton
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E3 2018 won’t be fought on hardware and exclusives, but ecosystems and services
We’re not seeing PS5 at E3, confirms Sony America President Shawn Layden. Xbox One X is only seven months old and the Nintendo Switch is 18 months old. So it's looking likely that we’re not going to see a significant hardware update at E3. While attention will inevitably be focused on which console has the best press conference, exclusive games and third-party deals (play Big Shooter Royale beta first on PS4 etc), the battle is shifting to online services. Nintendo Switch’s premium online service launches in September. The Big N need a compelling reason to drive sign ups. As it stands, they’re offering the ability to play online games, access 20 classic NES games and cloud saving for your – quite affordable – $19.99 / £18.99 yearly sign up. Nintendo are yet to reveal its advertised ‘special offers’, but if rumors of Fortnite on Switch are true, this could be Ninty's killer app; especially if Switch can establish itself as the most tween-friendly environment for Epic’s battle royale. All eyes are on Xbox, with boss Phil Spencer now shaping wider Microsoft strategy, like recent moves to a ‘Play Anywhere’ on Xbox or PC ecosystem. Xbox’s backward compatibility already trumps Sony’s offering and Game Pass is edging toward a ‘Netflix for Games’ model. PS4 will almost certainly boast the best exclusive games… so will Xbox counter with a left-field surprise? Dan Dawkins
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Will Nintendo finally give us some Limited Edition Switch hardware?
The Nintendo Switch is already 18 months old (where did that go?) and although Nintendo has delivered us some funky coloured joy-cons, we’ve yet to see any limited edition versions of them, or the console itself. Take a look at the 3DS for example. Over the years, Nintendo has been regularly pumping out new editions of the handheld, including, most recently, an all new Hylian Shield Edition 2DS XL, but where’s the love for the Switch? I hope Ninty will treat us to a limited edition Pokemon Let’s Go Switch or even a Smash Bros edition, especially as by then you’ll be able to utilise cloud saves to move your game saves from one console to another at last. And by limited edition I mean, completely new joy-cons, custom back-plates, perhaps a new colour for the switch itself instead of the black, not just more neon Joy-Cons. And if I’m being really greedy, what we really need are custom designed docks, with a possibility of built in RGB lighting. Is that too much to ask? Nintendo can do it, and it will, but when is the big question. Brandon Saltalamacchia
Who's going to win the E3 2018 battle of the royales?
There’s a running joke about 100 battle royale games dropping into an arena and fighting it out to see who emerges victorious, but this year’s E3 really might end up feeling as ridiculous as that sounds. Fortnite is hosting an epic celeb and streamer-filled Party Royale tournament (and will probably announce a Nintendo Switch port), Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - the first of many triple-A contenders - could show off some gameplay for its new mode Blackout, and there’s even rumours of battle royale experiences for Red Dead Redemption 2, Battlefield 5, and the next Gears of War, all of which could see surprise reveals during one of the press conferences. With so many to choose from and get excited about, predicting which battle royale game will ultimately steal the show is no easy task but, as the genre itself dictates, there can only be one winner (psst, my money’s on Fortnite)… Alex Avard
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Microsoft really needs to pull some exclusive titles out of the bag
Technically, Microsoft is in a very interesting position for this year’s E3. The Xbox One is being outsold by the PS4 by at least 40 million units, and even the Switch sales figures are starting to nip at the Xbox’s fan ports. The Xbox One game releases for the end of the year are looking very thin indeed if you strip away third-party titles like Black Ops 4, Red Dead Redemption 2 or Battlefield 5. Because of that though, Microsoft has the most to gain this E3, with a lot of ground to make up for and currently nothing in the books that would make you buy an Xbox One X over a PS4 or a PC. It’s a shame because the Xbox One X is always the go-to console for developers to show off their new games, because it makes them look just so delicious. But there might be some light in them there green hills. There are rumblings online about Fable 4, a new Forza Horizon, and even murmurings of not one, but three, new Gears of War titles, including a battle royale contender. But for me, Microsoft needs that one big game. That console seller that would ease them over the finishing line of this console generation with a bit more of a bang than its current whimper. It might be the case that it’s Halo 6. But for me, I want Microsoft to pull its own new IP to rival Sony’s Horizon Zero Dawn or a complete and utter reboot in the style of God of War or Zelda: Breath of the Wild out the bag, to prove that it’s still got the moves to compete with Nintendo and Sony. If it doesn’t, Microsoft can’t just rely on good systems and services to keep things ticking over, and I fear my Xbox One will continue to gather dust for another year. Sam Loveridge
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Fallout 76 is almost certainly a multiplayer game, but are Bethesda ready for a backlash?
On Sunday we’ll finally get a look at Fallout 76 after all those Bethesda E3 rumours. The showcase is on Sunday at 18:30 PDT/ 02:30 BST, and given recent release date rumours point to an early release, expect Fallout 76 to feature heavily. But what are going to get? Numerous sources suggest this will be some kind of online/co-op world building game along the lines of something like Ark: Survival Evolved or Rust. And, for some reason, that’s made people so angry, with the internet full of outrage Bethesda isn’t making another single player Fallout for them. A game that, at this point, can only exists in the heads of those hammering all-caps fury into the world - considering Fallout 4 took about 5-6 years to make the idea anything approaching Fallout 5 being ready barely two years later is a big ask. It means Sunday will be interesting: the current reaction feels like a fan base slowly winding themselves up in preparation for an imminent hissy fit of entitlement. Is Bethesda ready? Leon Hurley
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