Next week, it begins. E3 2013, the boistrous, frenzied annual scrum of announcements, press releases, screenshot dumps, videos, trailers, teasers, gaffes, explosions and controversies. The next console generation has finally gotten off its bum and waddled into the tumult, which at least means we'll see lots of new games popping up, and we'll have lots of feet on the floor from our teams on both ends of the Atlantic - you can keep up with all the latest news from the show on our E3 2013 channel .
But how will the PC fare this year? We've put together a few thoughts about how it might go down below, but we'd love to know what you think as well. You can let us know in the comments, via Facebook , or on Twitter (tag your suggestions with #pcge3 so we can see them). Without further ado, PC Gamer's predictions for E3 2013.
Optimism level: 84%
Most anticipated game of E3: The Witcher 3
E3 preparation: Four star jumps and a Mars Bar
Status: needs to stop promising to eat things that will certainly kill him.
This year, finally, there will be a ton of new videogames at E3. Dozens of them. HUNDREDS, pouring out of the walls. The next gen consoles have bolted, giving developers and publishers gagged by NDA agreements license to gush about the things they've been working on silently for ages. The expo has been a patchy affair for the last year or so, serving as a networking event rather than a platform from which to launch new stuff. It's been a show for the industry, not gamers. I hope that will change next week.
Having said that, I'll eat my telephone if the PC gets mentioned once up on stage in any of the conferences. It'll be PS4 this, and XBone that, a "connected living-room experience" here, an "unprecedented gameplay experience" there. The PC will be there in force, but stealthily, on the show floor. Indies and Kickstarter crews will bring in new ideas, while big-budget efforts like Rome 2 will showcase what a muscle-PC can really do. The PC always suffers a bit at E3 from the lack of a centralised conference to focus the eyes of the world media, but that doesn't mean this won't be a good E3 for us.
Other predictions. There will be lots of hand-wringing over what the word "exclusive" means. How many of Microsoft's XBox One exclusives are actually timed exclusives, destined to head to other platforms six months/one year down the line? What strange phrases will publisher spokespeople come up with to avoid saying which when asked?
Mirror's Edge 2 will be announced for Xbox One. It'll have guns in in it. The Ubisoft press conference will feature a glitzy song and dance number. A dubstep drop in the Microsoft conference will give several audience members in the front rows a concussion. The strange obsession with bows and hunting will be replaced - with the help of Garret's cudgel and the Watch Dogs baton - with thwunky clubs. Half-Life 3 will not be announced, or teased, or anything. Graham will absorb more caffeine than humanly possible and ascend to a higher plane of existence. We'll miss you, Graham.
Optimism level: 74%
Most anticipated game of E3: Thief
E3 preparation: Testing experimental caffeine delivery systems.
Status: Wary. Skittish. Fearful. Trembling with trepidation.
As Tom points out, the only time the letters P and C will be combined on the conference stage is if an executive says “paradigm conversion” as part of a relentless buzz-phrase assault. It's console announcement time, which means the two major platform holders will be desperately clinging to every stray scrap of exclusive material. We'll have the timed exclusive, we'll have the “console exclusive”, and we'll have my personal favourite, the DLC exclusive.
It will look remarkably like the major publishers have abandoned us. They haven't. They'd be mad to. For one thing, the PC ecosystem has changed dramatically since the last console cycle. PC gaming, and Steam in particular, is a Big Deal. It's a gateway into a stable market, unaffected by the questions surrounding the early install base of a new generation of increasingly antiquated consoles/“all-in-one media solutions” .
And let's not forget, many of these publishers have their own download services to target. Origin may not be hold the largest share of your digital portfolio, but if EA aren't planning to eventually fill it with their fresh announcements, they're ensuring a slow and expensive spiral into irrelevance.
Away from the conference centres, where success is measured through decibels and knife-wound tallies, expect to hear from many PC-centric developers. The exhibitor list contains plenty of familiar names: CD Projekt RED, Bohemia Interactive, SOE, Telltale, Bethesda, Sega; not to mention IndieCade festival.
Where the consoles will focus on multi-million dollar monstrosities, we'll target everything: AAA, indie, free-to-play. The PC is a known quantity, and one that can support whatever a publisher or developer wants to throw at it. Hence my final prediction: as multi-platform gaming sites speculate over which console “won” E3, we'll still be here, smiling smugly at the prospect of the year ahead.
Optimism level: 22%
Most anticipated game of E3: Dragon Age 3
E3 preparation: Played a backlog of indie gems to create a fragile buffer of hope.
Status: Down and out in mid lane.
This is the highest-stakes E3 for years. A spree of console announcements has trampled the world's supply of lifestyle entertainment buzzwords into a meaningless mulch. Living room. Social. Connected. Smart. I have no idea what any of these words mean any more. I walk into the room in my flat that has a television in it and feel confused and lost. Where am I? What am I supposed to do in here? What am I for? Xbox, go home! Xbox, take me with you! Xbox!
So, right, yes. Microsoft have bravely gone full dystopia with their vision for our always-on, always-watching entertainment future. Sony have fared better, making a visible effort to reach out to indies and adopting a little-dog position that's endearing to anyone who felt alienated by the Xbox One (so everyone except technology execs and their college-age kids, basically.)
E3 this year is going to be dominated by that conflict. Every game announcement will factor it in, and I would expect any PC-exclusive developers making the trip to L.A. to keep a relatively low profile. E3 simply isn't the best place to promote games like Rome II or ArmA 3 - in fact, most publishers been in a mad rush to demo their games to the press away from the show floor.
There'll be announcements, of course, and I'm looking forward to finding out more about Mirror's Edge 2, Dragon Age 3, and the new Thief. In the majority of cases I think a day-and-date PC release for most new games will be be a safe bet: as Phil says, the PC is in a strong, stable position.
Microsoft's promise of 15 exclusives is the only potential fly in the ointment: we may see those games on PC eventually, but it really depends on just how much money they've been firing at publishers. It's not out of the question for Microsoft to stick to their guns and lock down a lot of popular games - Mirror's Edge 2 included - for the Xbox One in perpetuity. It might seem counter-productive and stubborn, but this is the company that invented Games for Windows Live.
Basically, expect a couple of entertaining trailers, an array of new games industry memes, and enough Twitter snark to keep the internet ticking over for another year. PC gamers will get something out of E3, but don't expect it to be in any way proportional to the astronomical sum of money that publishers will spend paying visibly uncomfortable celebrities to prance about on stage for five minutes.
There is something that excites me about E3, however: that as high-stakes as it might be, it'd be entirely possible for one company to entirely steal the show from Microsoft and Sony.
Valve, here's what you do. Rent a nondescript auditorium for a last-minute, one-off mini-conference at the beginning of the week. Get Gabe up on stage, natter about the state of the industry for a bit, then reveal a Half-Life 3 logo. You can then win E3 with three words:
"Preloading begins tomorrow."
It's good to dream, right?
Optimism level: 50%
Most anticipated game of E3: Dark Souls 2
E3 preparation: Thought very deeply about Dark Souls.
Status: Is thinking about Dark Souls right now.
This will be the year where the fourth E emerges from the centre of the Earth, finally completing the prophesied set of power letters. Every single person present at E3 will be subsumed into the new E4's cloud. You'll be unable to access them offline.
There will also be videogames. Slightly shinier, slightly prettier videogames than you'll have seen for a few years, because the console manufacturers have awoken from their decades-long slumber, googled “cheap PC components”, bought the first page of results, and bundled them into their branded boxes alongside restrictive DRM systems and microphones that wait for you to go to the toilet before broadcasting all the grunts you make to the person you have a crush on.
It's an exciting time. It's exciting because the announcement of new consoles has finally teased publishers' upcoming games out into the open - it was looking a bit bleak back in February - but also because the obfuscation, confusion, and general apprehension that all right-minded people met the PS4 and Xbox One announcements with will drive increasing numbers over to the PC.
Read between the lines on E3's already announced games, and you'll see this trend. Titanfall, Respawn's just-announced robo-shooter, is coming out on Xbox One and PC. In the olden days, it'd be Xbox 360, PS3, DS, maybe PS2, PSP, a spin-off on the iPhone and mumblemumbleperhaps PC. We're now sitting front and centre of the show, even if we don't have a big gltizy conference like the platform-holders do.
We don't need one any more. There was a dark period where it felt like we were stuck jumping up and down and waving our arms to no-one, where we could've done with glorious Gabe taking to the stage and calling every single member of the audience up to the stage to give them a comforting cuddle. But we're above that now. If anyone says we need to make the PC relevant at E3, we can just smugly point to Minecraft, or 35-plus million League of Legends players, or anything else on the PC's conveniently whopping stat sheet.
That's also why I don't think we'll be seeing any knockout blows at E3 this year. The most exciting games at the moment are slow burners, things knocked into shape over time and testing periods. I'm keen to see Watch Dogs, the Witcher 3, and Rome II, but I'm also keeping tabs on games like Torment, that won't be standing on stage and parping their own trumpet blasts.
Actually, scratch that: Dark Souls II. It will be the best game of all time, so good that every other game developer will give up and go home. Next year's show is cancelled.
Well, Rich has cancelled next year's E3, so that means this is your last chance to ever predict what might happen at an E3. Take that opportunity. Seize it. Massage it into coherent sentences and let us know what you think. We'll be bringing you the best of the PC at E3 throughout the show here on PCGamer.com.