Critical Chicken
Best ofE3 2021FeatureGuideMonday, 31st May 2021 by

“So, what even is E3, anymore? Does anyone still care about it? Is anyone even ‘doing’ it this year?” and other pressing questions

Educational E3 Explainer

Ever since its first outing, way back in 1995, E3 – the Electronic Entertainment Expo – has pretty much been “the” big event of the gaming calendar.

I say “pretty much”, because the last few years haven’t exactly been rosy for E3. In 2013, Nintendo started doing Nintendo Direct streams instead of their big, yearly E3 shows, although they’ve still been turning up to run a booth every year.

Sony took things one step further in 2019, deciding to forego E3 entirely, despite having been there every year since its inception. And EA’s been absent since 2016, having launched its own “EA Play” event a few miles down the road. (They were surely not missed.)

Photo showing overcrowding at E3 2017
“Hazardous” overcrowding in 2017 forced organisers to open the show floor 15 minutes early. Picture credit: Wes Phillips via Polygon

E3’s organisers have done their best to keep the hype train chugging along, even opening the show floor to the public for the first time in 2017–2019. That led to concerns about dangerous (not to mention annoying) overcrowding, and a general lack of modernisation at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Then last year, the pandemic hit, forcing E3 to be cancelled for the first time in its 26-year history.

Entirely Electronic Experience

You’d be forgiven for thinking we’d seen the last of E3 – that’s certainly what the media would have had you believe – but no. We’re only a few days away from E3 2021 which, thanks to the ongoing ~global situation~, is going to be completely online – and totally free to “attend”.

The expo is taking place from June 12th–15th, with registrations opening on the E3 website on June 3rd.

But… is it still going to be a big deal? Yeah, probably. I’m inclined to think it might even be a bigger deal than usual.

One bonus of going online-only is that pre-recorded events tend to be slicker and faster-paced than live ones. It’s hard not to get caught up in the rush of “headlines” during a Nintendo Direct, and the online format has definitely worked for Apple’s recent events. (Not to mention the usual smörgåsbord of E3 technical issues, mistakes, and general awkwardness can hopefully be avoided this time.)

Exciting Exhibitors Expected?

So that’s the what of this year’s E3, but what about the who?

It’s proving surprisingly hard to pin down an exact schedule or even a list of exhibitors this year. We know we’ll definitely be getting shows from Nintendo, Ubisoft, and the newly smushed-together Microsoft and Bethesda at some point. People who like fixing issues more than they actually like playing games will be excited to hear that the PC Gaming Show is back this year, too. Maybe I’ll stream it on my PS5. 💅

Also in attendance will be Take-Two, Capcom, Square Enix, Sega, Gearbox, and Bandai Namco – although it’s not clear whether any of those guys are planning their own events.

An early screenshot from the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

In terms of this year’s big announcements, the Internet hive mind seems pretty sure we’ll be getting our first look at Nintendo’s long-rumoured “Switch Pro” console. That’s… probably not its real name, but I’m OK with whatever, as long as they don’t call it the “new” Nintendo Switch. It’ll apparently let us play our Switch games in 4K resolution, which strikes me as being pretty un-Nintendo-like, but they’ve certainly done stranger things in the past. And I wouldn’t say no to a 4K trailer for the as-yet-unnamed Breath of the Wild sequel, either.

Speaking of The Legend of Zelda, we’ll probably get to see more of the upcoming Skyward Sword remake – and the franchise is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, so we could see a slew of other Zelda content as well.

Metroid Prime 4 and Splatoon 3 seem like safe bets, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of Pokémon Legends: Arceus and/or Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. My dream announcements? Mario Kart 9 and a new Rhythm Paradise would be great, thanks.

An early screenshot from Pokémon Legends: Arceus
I’m dying to find out more about how Pokémon Legends works.

Meanwhile, in Xbox & Bethesda Land, it feels like it’s about time The Elder Scrolls VI and new sci-fi IP Starfield got proper reveals – they were both announced at E3 2018, three whole years ago.

One other wildcard I want to mention: is it just me, or has the BioShock 4 hype suddenly picked up in the last few days? It’s been stuck in confirmed-but-not-quite-announced limbo for a long while now, so it’d be great to find out more about it. Mind you, it’s heavily rumoured to be a (timed?) PS5 exclusive, so probably don’t expect it to turn up during Microsoft’s show.

Regardless of what – and who – ends up appearing at E3 2021, we’ll be here to tell you all about our favourite announcements. And we’ll be back to bring you a complete schedule as soon as we get it.

Best ofE3 2021FeatureGuide