For completely understandable reasons, E3 didn’t happen in 2020. We received plenty of game news throughout the summer, but it didn’t happen under the familiar banner that’s hyped gamers since 1995. In 2021, E3 returns for what might be the most unpredictable show yet.
Starting June 12, E3 2021 will be an entirely virtual event, already a huge change from prior shows. Instead of press and fans playing games on the show floor, we’ll all watch the happenings via live streams. Also, with the games industry still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many games that might have otherwise been ready to make their grand debuts have likely been delayed.
Still, E3 is all about seeing new video games for the first time, something that will definitely happen at E3 2021. Here’s what to expect from the major players.
What to Expect From Microsoft (6/13, 1 p.m. EST)
New Xbox Game Pass Additions: Microsoft may have just launched two next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, but its real flagship product is the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Expect Microsoft to spend much of the show explaining how it’s adding even more value to what’s quickly becoming the Netflix of video games. Exclusive games, simultaneous launches, and maybe a new platform? Game Pass is already on phones, so perhaps it’s time to bring the service to Nintendo Switch. Phil Spencer’s shelf holds the answer.
Halo Infinite News: The new Xbox consoles were supposed to launch with a new Halo game. That didn’t happen. Instead, Microsoft delayed Halo Infinite to give 343 Industries more time to polish what seems to be an ambitious, open-world take on the classic shooter. A great Halo game will sell Xbox consoles this holiday season. We just need to see the game’s scope and improvements.
Bethesda News: E3 2021 will be Microsoft’s first E3 since acquiring Bethesda, a developer with more than enough games to sustain its own conference. Elder Scrolls 6 and the new Indiana Jones game are probably too far away to talk about, but we’re very confident that Starfield, a sci-fi RPG, will make its full debut. We’re also holding out hope for Wolfenstein 3.
Another Acquisition: After spending billions on Bethesda, Microsoft may not have much appetite to acquire another large studio. As a fan of strong antitrust laws, I hope that’s the case. However, don’t be shocked if Microsoft gobbles up a smaller studio, such as the Cuphead team or another company at that level.
What to Expect From Nintendo (6/15, 12 p.m. EST)
The Nintendo Switch Pro Reveal: Rumors about an upgraded Nintendo Switch have persisted for months now. Most recently, outlets reported the enhanced console would be announced before E3, letting Nintendo’s partners talk about enhanced games during the show itself. As of this writing, the Switch Pro remains vaporware, but if it does get revealed, expect that to be Nintendo’s big news.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2: At Nintendo’s last proper E3 in 2019, the company announced a follow-up to the beloved The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Since then, we’ve gotten Zelda ports, remakes, and spin-offs, but no news on this sequel. E3 2021 would be the perfect time to unveil the game, including a title and release window (hopefully, no later than next March).
New Pokemon Games: New Pokemon games come out like clockwork, but even lapsed fans have reasons to be excited about the latest games on the horizon. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remake the classic DS games with an adorable chibi style. Meanwhile, Pokemon Legends Arceus goes the open-world, action-RPG route, clearly taking inspiration from Breath of the Wild. Both of these games launch in just a few months, so expect them to get a big spotlight at E3.
Metroid Prime 4: Nintendo’s redheaded, stepchild of a franchise is primed for at least some kind of appearance at E3. Metroid Prime 4 isn’t coming out this year, but it’s been long enough since Retro Studios rebooted development that we could at least get a CGI trailer. Perhaps the Metroid Prime Trilogy HD remaster gets announced. I think a new 2D Metroid, a Samus Returns follow-up from MercurySteam, is very likely. Heck, we might get a Samus Aran skin in Fortnite.
A New Super Smash Bros. Character: Nintendo needs to reveal two more DLC fighters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate to complete the promised six-character Fighters Pack 2. At least one of those fighters will get announced at E3. I’m crossing my fingers for a first-person shooter icon, such as Doomguy or Master Chief.
What to Expect From Sony
Absolutely nothing! Sony abandoned E3 well before the plague. In fact, PlayStation’s last E3 appearance was in 2018. Still, many games that we’ll see during E3 will appear on PlayStation consoles, too. However, if you want to hear more about Sony’s own PlayStation 5 games—Gran Turismo 7, Horizon Forbidden West, and the untitled God of War sequel that’s totally not God of War Ragnarok—then you must wait for the separate Sony events coming this summer. In the meantime, we suggest playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. It’s great.
What to Expect From Third Parties
Bandai Namco (6/15, 5:25 p.m. EST): Two words: Elden Ring.
Capcom (6/14, 5:30 p.m. EST): Between Resident Evil Village and Monster Hunter Rise, Capcom had a great year. Expect updates to those titles, plus the reveal of the rumored Resident Evil game for Switch.
Devolver Digital (6/12, 4:30 p.m. EST): Whatever happens, it’ll be indie and weird.
EA (6/9, 10 a.m. EST): Battlefield 2042 already got its big unveiling a few days before E3 officially starts, so that’ll be EA’s big focus. It’s also a prime opportunity for a Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order 2 tease.
Square Enix (6/13, 3:15 p.m. EST): Fans of the publisher’s Western games should get ready for Eidos Montreal to announce a Guardians of the Galaxy game. Fans of the publisher’s Eastern games should get ready for a Dark Souls-esque, Final Fantasy spin-off. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from getting hype for both.
Take-Two (6/14, 1:15 p.m. EST): Don’t hold your breath for GTA 6. However, rumors suggest Take-Two will announce both a Tiny Tina-themed Borderlands spin-off and a Marvel-themed XCOM strategy game. Where’s the new Bioshock?
Ubisoft (6/12, 3 p.m. EST): We just got a deep dive on Far Cry 6, and know that neither The Division nor the Prince of Persia reboot will be at the show. Rainbow Six Extraction (formerly Rainbow Six Quarantine) has been confirmed, though. A Mario + Rabbids sequel wouldn’t be shocking, either.
Warner Bros. (6/13, 5 p.m. EST): WB confirmed it’ll be showing its Left 4 Dead spiritual sequel: Back 4 Blood. It would be wild if we didn’t at least hear something about Gotham Knights, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and Hogwarts Legacy.
That’s what we think we’ll see at E3. That said, the show’s real magic comes from the jaw-dropping surprises. So, expect the unexpected, at E3 and at various other gaming shows spread across the summer. For more game-related happenings, follow the E3 news here on PCMag. For more in-depth video game talk, including E3 discussions, visit PCMag’s Pop-Off YouTube channel.