If you care about the video games that are coming out during the next 365 days, now's the time to pay attention.
Monday (May 8) marks the beginning of a week of events staged around the 12th annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, which kicks off Wednesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Conference organizers estimate 400 game companies from 80 countries will be there to show off their wares.
To first-time show-goers, E3 impresses with its football field's worth of floor space and the airport-tarmac decibels of several hundred games being played in one building. But what reverberates beyond the walls of the convention center is the buzz created by 70,000 attendees debating which games are the ones to watch and play.
Every game has a shot to impress. Will it be the launch titles for the PlayStation 3? Or "Equestrian Challenge" for the PS2? The odds favor whatever "Mario" and "Zelda" creator Shigeru Miyamoto has been working on for Nintendo's new Wii console over the Moscow-developed first-person-shooter "You Are Empty." But you never know.
Here's what to watch for in the week ahead:
Monday: The day begins with press conferences touting the "Final Fantasy"-heavy lineup from Square-Enix and the roster of titles from Activision, longtime publisher of the "Call of Duty" and "Tony Hawk" games and new caretaker of the James Bond franchise.
But the main event on Monday kicks off at 4 p.m. on a massive soundstage in Culver City, where Sony, the industry's console leader, will try to outdo last year's supercharged unveiling of the PlayStation 3 with an event that will finally show actual PS3 games in action. Sony teased attendees at March's Game Developers Conference with a look at some PS3 tech demos (see "PlayStation 3 Demo Breaks Gaming Ground; Sony Predicts 'Radical Change' "). Actual games will make more of an impact. The advance word doesn't have Sony lining up to launch in November with a game quite the caliber of "Grand Theft Auto" or "Halo," but Sony platforms seldom launch with a blockbuster. Instead, expect a muscular show of support and some games that effectively demonstrate the PS3's raw processing might.
Tuesday: Nintendo will kick off the day at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. This will likely be Nintendo's biggest pre-E3 press conference ever, as the company finally reveals the launch games for the Nintendo Wii and explains how it thinks gamers can make good use of a controller that you have to move through the air to use. Nintendo E3 conferences are always entertaining because hard-core fanboys somehow always make it into the professionals-only event. Two years ago audience members wept as Nintendo premiered a surprise trailer of a new "Zelda" game. Shouts and cheers typically abound. The big question, though, might be whether Nintendo executives can keep a straight face and avoid the cat calls when they begin discussing the console's ridiculed name, the Wii (see "The Revolution Has A Name: Nintendo Wii").
Any other conference is a wake by comparison, though Microsoft, which will follow Nintendo just blocks away at Mann's Chinese Theatre, will do its best to prove it wasn't too early with Xbox 360 but smartly ahead of the curve. While it will address PC gaming, the company will focus on the 360, which should benefit from its jump on Sony and Nintendo with some software that looks more polished than the competitors'. Expect a shooter named "Gears of War" to take center stage — that is unless Microsoft unveils a rumored "Halo 3" trailer or follows through on speculation from earlier this year by announcing development of a handheld gaming machine.
Tuesday continues with an afternoon press conference from Konami, which is notable because it may contain the full reveal of "Metal Gear Solid 4," one of the hottest titles coming to the PlayStation 3. It should also include some news on Konami's attempt to revive the idea of making "American Idol" games.
Wednesday-Friday: The E3 expo finally opens. Among the curiosities will be a next-gen return — and promised rehabilitation — of Sega's "Sonic the Hedgehog"; first looks at games based on "Desperate Housewives" and "Dirty Harry"; and a new look at the "War of Warcraft" expansion. Electronic Arts will try to build more buzz for star designer Will Wright's evolution simulator "Spore" and an ambitious, cooperatively played, two-player war game called "Army of Two." LucasArts will showcase the return of "Indiana Jones" to gaming, and Ubisoft's acclaimed "Prince of Persia" design team will introduce a brand-new game, the promising "Assassin's Creed."
And, of course, there will be many more games, both expected and unexpected, grabbing people's attention and making headlines. E3 will be the place to figure out the hard questions. For example: Can a Nintendo DS game called "Cooking Mama" actually be good?
For more E3 coverage from MTV News and MTV Games, check out e3.mtv.com.