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The Week in Gaming: Breaking down the E3 schedule with Nintendo, Bethesda, Square Enix & more

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Jun 4, 2021, 7:11 PM EDT (Updated)

Welcome to The Week in Gaming, the place where we pause each week to take a look at the video game news beats both big and small that you might be missing — while also taking a peek around the corner at what's ahead. Check in each Friday for news (and occasionally even views) on everything from sprawling RPGs to Metroidvania platformers to the latest in VR and free-to-play. We'll even throw in a good old-fashioned board game every now and then!

With E3 just around the corner, it feels like video games are popping off again in a big way. They never exactly went away, surging into one of the few burgeoning bright spots in all of entertainment through a strange, pandemic-muted 2020.

But even as all things gaming-related continued to boost sales higher and higher through the past year, it all came with a more subdued level of hype; with canceled or dramatically scaled-back fan events. And E3, long the tentpole video game moment of the year for the kind of outsized studio announcements that can adrenalize fans for months on end, was canceled last year outright.

Though it’s sticking to a remote digital format after taking 2020 off, E3 is finally back, and the T-minus 7-day countdown to next week’s June 12 kickoff marks a welcome return of the kind of early-summer buzz that typically surrounds the event’s anything-could-happen feel. Unlike last year, the hype is palpable and present — not just for a single game or the launch of a single system; but for hidden possibilities and surprises across the board. It’s in the air: players are ready for another Keanu Reeves walk-on moment; for another seismic fan-quake on the order of Square Enix’s internet-melting Final Fantasy VII Remake announcement.

The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has just revealed its preview schedule for this year’s E3, and even though it’s all online, seeing the big studios and hardware makers (minus Sony) all lined up to take their turn again just feels right. In some ways, fan access may be greater this year than ever before, since everyone can “attend” just by logging in online. This year, there’s no sitting at home and pining away that you can’t be part of the vibe at E3’s customary on-site home at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

So what’s on tap? Hopefully a few surprises…but for now, we’ll stick with what we know. Things get warmed up at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 12 with a pre-show hosted by emcees Alex "Goldenboy" Mendez, Jacki Jing and Greg Miller. Then the main event picks up in earnest as the game studios, led immediately after the pre-show by Ubisoft, take their turn behind the plate. After that, there’s not a lot of rigid, clock-watching scheduling, as E3 explained in its programming reveal. But if you’re registered and logged in online, you’re sure not to miss a thing.

Ubisoft will use its virtual stage time Saturday as the platform for its next Ubisoft Forward presentation, which is set to begin around 3 p.m. ET. Once the main event has ended, there’ll be a deeper dive into Ubisoft’s next Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six game during a breakout post-show that begins at 4 p.m. ET. Gearbox Entertainment will take over the main spotlight after Ubisoft Forward ends on Saturday, with early speculation focusing on a possible Borderlands spinoff game announcement (though as with all things surrounding pre-event hype, we’re taking that with a wait-and-see grain of salt).

Bethesda Softworks on YouTube

On Sunday, Microsoft and Bethesda will get the big spotlight with their first joint press conference since joining forces via Microsoft’s big Bethesda buyout. In addition to the ages-ago announcement that Skyrim successor The Elder Scrolls VI is in the works, Bethesda may (or may not) offer updates on other in-development titles including new sci-fi IP Starfield, as well as potential updates on what’s next for DOOM, more news on Arkane Studios’ Deathloop, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout, and possibly even some fun stuff that’s not yet on anyone’s radar.

Sunday’s Microsoft/Bethesda show begins at 1 p.m. ET, with the rest of the afternoon highlighted by pair of big studio conferences including Square Enix (which has a ton of stuff in the works for new-generation consoles — most notably Final Fantasy XVI for the PlayStation 5). Square Enix hasn’t said whether FFXVI will make an E3 appearance, but fans can expect already-announced news on Babylon’s Fall from Platinum Games; more looks at the upcoming Life is Strange: True Colors and the Life is Strange Remastered Collection; and “the world premiere of a new game from [Deus Ex studio] Eidos-Montréal” during the 40-minute event.

Warner Bros. Games, which has recently been quiet on its upcoming Gotham Knights game and also has pushed Hogwarts Legacy to an early-2022 release, is also set to make a presentation on Sunday.

PlayStation on YouTube

Things set up on Monday, June 15 for fans to pace themselves. There’s a full day of featured presentations and breakouts on tap, beginning at 11 a.m. ET with a focus on projects from indie studios, as well as headlining panels from Capcom and Take-Two Interactive.

Like Square Enix, Capcom’s got a ton of treats on its gaming menu, though we don’t yet know where it’ll focus fans’ attention at E3. The studio is coming off recent smash releases in the both the Monster Hunter and Resident Evil franchises (and there’s more Resident Evil stuff happening later this year). But PS5 and Series X/S owners are also hoping to see a new glimpse of new sci-fi IP Pragmata, which Capcom first teased last year. So far, Take-Two hasn’t revealed specific projects for its E3 showcase.

Nintendo on YouTube

Nintendo’s name hasn’t come up yet, and that’s because it’s on deck on Monday, June 15 — the last day of E3. The Big N will use its E3 spotlight as a vehicle for its new Nintendo Direct showcase, though it hasn’t hinted at what games we might see. It’s been two years since Nintendo wowed E3 audiences with an announcement trailer for the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and even longer since it restarted development on Metroid Prime 4 with original Prime series developer Retro Studios at the helm.

Will either of those games get an E3 mention? No one knows but Nintendo. But with 40 minutes of Nintendo stage time, fans are sure to come away impressed by something…even if it’s something they never saw coming.

With the all-online format, E3’s individual press events and stage presentations will be available online through each studio’s lineup of social platforms. But to virtually “attend” the event, catch everything on official channels, and tap into the whole E3 fan ecosystem, you can register ahead of time at the E3 website and download the official E3 app.

The cost to register and snag a front-row digital seat at this year’s E3 is the low, low price of totally free — and it’s all just a week away. We’ll be right there watching, too, with news and updates on all the fun gaming reveals — and hopefully a few surprises — as the world’s most-buzzed gaming expo makes its 2021 return.