This year’s event will be hosted across a series of live-streamed videos, coordinated by the Entertainment Software Association, which has overseen the event since its debut in 1995.
Below you’ll find everything you need to know to prep for the event, including how to watch online, the presentation schedule, the big reveals that have already happened and what Launcher’s staffers anticipate we’ll see over the course of the four-day conference.
Where can I watch E3?
What do we know already?
In the days leading up to E3, we’ve already gotten a fair amount of big news around some highly anticipated games:
“Elden Ring” is coming in January: The highly anticipated project from the makers of the challenging and beloved “Dark Souls” series (FromSoftware) and “A Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin debuted its reveal trailer Thursday during Geoff Keighely’s Summer Games Fest Kickoff Live event. A fantasy action role-playing game, “Elden Ring” is one of the most anticipated titles known to be in development. First announced in 2019, little had been heard about the project until its Thursday reveal, which provided the first major highlight of the E3 extended weekend.
Xbox is building a new streaming device: On Thursday, Phil Spencer announced Microsoft is building its own game streaming device, and working with TV manufacturers to embed Xbox Game Pass into smart sets with no extra hardware except a controller. Spencer also said the company was determining new subscription tiers for Xbox Game Pass. The company’s current gaming strategy can be traced back to a fateful meeting in which Xbox chief Phil Spencer was presented with an Xbox One console running “Perfect Dark Zero,” an Xbox 360 launch title. Read more, here.
“Battlefield 2042,” which will have a gameplay reveal on Sunday, won’t have a battle royale mode: Game director Oskar Gabrielson made it clear: There are no plans for “Battlefield 2042” to feature a battle royale mode at this time. The developers touted, but did not detail, two new experiences: One described repeatedly as “a love letter to Battlefield fans,” is still unnamed and will be revealed at EA Play on July 22. The other is called Hazard Zone and was described as a squad-based mode that will be entirely new to the franchise.
What should viewers expect from the four-day event?
Even with “Elden Ring” already on display, there should still be a number of big games featured in some fashion this weekend, in addition to a number of other intriguing plotlines to follow.
The Xbox/Bethesda show: Sunday’s main event is undoubtedly the 1 p.m. double showcase for Xbox and newly-acquired Bethesda Softworks. It will be the first major moment for the companies since Microsoft paid $7.5 billion to acquire Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media Inc. earlier this year.
Xbox already snagged the spotlight once this conference cycle, announcing some more business-y plans Thursday, including the aforementioned plan to stream Game Pass titles directly to smart TVs and phones. Part of Thursday’s plan was to regularly produce first-party games for the Xbox ecosystem, and Bethesda figures prominently into that plan. One of those games figures to be the highly anticipated “Starfield,” a space RPG Bethesda has been developing for several years now. Some kind of an update on the game seems like a decent bet during this showcase. Along with …
“Halo Infinite” take two: The world already got a glimpse of the next installment of the Halo franchise and … it did not go over well. The reaction from fans was so poor the game got delayed from its intended release date alongside the Xbox Series X last holiday season to Fall 2021.
In a video Thursday, in which Xbox Executive Vice President of Gaming Phil Spencer and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivered the company’s strategic plans, Nadella sported a “Halo Infinite” branded hoodie. That wardrobe choice would be rather questionable if Xbox wasn’t prepared to provide another glimpse of the game this weekend.
The next Nintendo Switch? What about “Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2”: These are less clear. It has been long rumored that Nintendo will soon deliver an updated version of the Nintendo Switch with improved hardware. But to date, rumors are all we have. With Sony and Xbox both debuting their new consoles last year, the E3 stage is all Nintendo’s to dominate new console news. And it’s indisputable that the best way to showcase any new hardware would be to reveal a first glimpse of the sequel to the most beautiful looking Zelda title to date. The original “Breath of the Wild” captivated E3 audiences when first shown in 2014.
A surprise moment … or more: “Surprise and delight” is a phrase you’ll always hear from developers when they discuss high-level goals for their games, so it’s no shock publishing companies strive to deliver to fans. E3 is prime time for that effort, so it’s almost a certainty there will be something off the radar showcased that will steal some headlines from the more expected announcements. A glimpse of “Breath of the Wild 2” would certainly qualify, as would any kind of look at Ubisoft’s previously announced open-world Star Wars game, even if it’s just a title and/or logo.
The Launcher team offered a few more predictions during their preview and reflections on E3 during Thursday’s live stream:
What’s the E3 presentation schedule?
Here is the full E3 schedule (all times are Eastern time):
Saturday, June 12
- 1 p.m. Broadcast Pre-Show
- 3 p.m. Ubisoft Forward
- 5 p.m. Gearbox E3 Showcase
- 5:45 p.m. GamesBeat Session
Sunday, June 13
- 11:45 a.m. Broadcast Pre-Show
- 12:30 p.m. 24 Entertainment’s NARAKA: BLADEPOINT
- 1 p.m. Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase
- 3:15 p.m. SQUARE ENIX
- 5 p.m. Warner Bros. Games’ Back 4 Blood
- 5:30 p.m. PC Gaming Show
- 7 p.m. Future Games Show
Monday, June 14
- 11 a.m. Broadcast Pre-Show
- 12 p.m. Verizon
- 12:45 p.m. Intellivision
- 1:15 p.m. Take-Two Interactive Panel
- 2:10 p.m. Mythical Games
- 3 p.m. Indie Showcase
- 3:30 p.m. Freedom Games
- 4 p.m. VENN
- 5:30 p.m. Capcom
- 6 p.m. Razer
Tuesday, June 15
- 11 a.m. Broadcast Pre-Show
- 12 p.m. Nintendo Direct and Nintendo Treehouse: Live
- 5:25 p.m. BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.
- 6:20 p.m. Yooreka Studio
- 6:35 p.m. GameSpot Play For All Showcase
- 7:45 p.m. Official E3 2021 Awards Show
Launcher, The Washington Post’s video game coverage team, will be following the biggest announcements live on YouTube.
Who isn’t going to be at E3?
As big as E3 is, not all major games companies will be participating. Sony and Electronic Arts (EA) won’t be at E3 this year, nor will Activision Blizzard.
In 2019, PlayStation announced it would not be presenting at E3, explaining that the company was looking for new, more innovative ways of reaching their fans. That year, E3 suffered a decline in attendance, and was the subject of significant scrutiny after it was revealed that the ESA, which runs the event, inadvertently made a spreadsheet with the personal information of press and influencers who had registered for the event publicly available on their website.
EA will be hosting its own event, EA Play Live, on July 22. Some EA games will still make an appearance during E3, however, such as the “Battlefield 2042” gameplay reveal during Microsoft’s Xbox showcase on Sunday.