After being forced to skip a year in 2020, E3 is making its grand return for 2021, albeit with some notable differences.
Thanks to the worldwide pandemic, E3 2020 was ultimately cancelled, resulting in most publishers hosting their own virtual events to announce their upcoming projects. There was also the Summer Game Fest, which was created specifically to fill the void left by E3 2020.
This in turn prompted a lot of discussion and debate about whether E3 was even needed anymore. Organisers the ESA clearly thinks it is and, eventually, they announced that E3 2021 will be going ahead, albeit as a purely virtual event.
While many big names will be participating this year, between some publishers holding completely independent presentations and the Summer Game Fest running concurrently, this year’s schedule can be a tad confusing.
We’ve broken down exactly what’s happening with and around E3 this year, with confirmed dates for all the major presentations and predictions for what the likes of Microsoft and Nintendo intend to reveal.
It’s worth bearing in mind though that nothing is guaranteed at E3 and publishers regularly add and remove games from their schedules at the very last minute. Here though, is the current best guess as to what will be there.
What is E3 2021?
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (or Electronic Entertainment Experience, as it is this year) is the world’s biggest video games trade event. It’s kind of the gamer’s equivalent of the Super Bowl, as fans everywhere tune in for what are essentially glorified advertisements for upcoming games.
While the world is gradually starting to escape the clutches of the pandemic, things aren’t quite back to normal yet. So despite the ESA’s own efforts to hold a traditional physical event in Los Angeles, E3 will be a virtual event this year.
E3 2021 begins on Saturday, June 12 and lasts until Tuesday, June 15, with the ESA promising live press conferences and a four-day long stream, which can be viewed on Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
And, with its own online portal and app, anybody with an Internet connection can attend the various exhibitor booths, which will feature their own special events and act as hubs for key announcements.
Ubisoft Forward 2021
Saturday, June 12 @ 8pm BST
Ubisoft’s live E3 presentations are notorious for how bizarre they can be, with dance sessions to promote the latest Just Dance games usually the least of it. But that may not be the case this year, if things are online only.
As for what will be shown, some safe bets include further details on Far Cry 6 (which recently got a gameplay trailer and new release date) and perhaps more DLC details for Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
The publisher also has a couple of outstanding projects that are in dire need of an update. Beyond Good And Evil 2 was announced four years ago and Ubisoft hasn’t even confirmed which platforms it will release for yet. The last bit of news about it was that director Michel Ancel was quitting the games industry entirely.
The Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time remake was also supposed to have released in January, only for it to be delayed to March and then delayed indefinitely. When it was first revealed, it drew a lot of criticism for its rough visuals (the faces in particular) so a development update would be appreciated.
At the very least, Ubisoft could finally show off Rainbow Six Parasite, which is supposed to be releasing before the end of September. Gameplay footage leaked earlier this year, but Ubisoft itself has barely talked about it.
Brand new announcements are harder to predict. It’s far too soon for a new Assassin’s Creed game, but Ubisoft could always have a smaller spin-off in the works. Some are eager for a sequel to strategy game Mario + Rabbids or maybe Ubisoft will remember Rayman exists and give him a new platformer game.
If we’re really lucky, maybe Ubisoft will show off its Star Wars game for the first time. It’s probably still a couple of years away, but an explanation of what it’s about would be most welcome.
Xbox & Bethesda Showcase E3 2021
Sunday, June 13 @ 6pm BST
With this being the first E3 since Microsoft bought Bethesda, the two will be collaborating on this year’s presentation. Microsoft made a big deal out of the acquisition so it’s hardly surprising to see it show off Bethesda like it’s a new-born child.
Its showcase last year announced a lot of major releases, but most of them comprised of vague CGI teasers and lacked any real details. This year is the perfect opportunity to make up for that and show those games in more detail.
It’s possibly too soon to expect much for games like Fable and Avowed, but Halo Infinite is guaranteed to be shown in some fashion, since it is supposed to be releasing this autumn.
And with Bethesda clearly being a big focal point, you can expect to see Microsoft unveil some proper exclusives for its Xbox consoles and PC. The elusive Starfield is widely believed to being getting a proper reveal following the brief teaser in 2019 and to be confirmed as an Xbox/PC exclusive.
Other Bethesda franchises include Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Doom so it could have new projects in those series planned. Elder Scrolls 6 was already confirmed a couple of years ago, but it may only get a passing mention or another brief teaser at best. There’s also the Indiana Jones game by Wolfenstein makers MachineGames.
There has also been chatter surrounding the next Forza Horizon game, with rumours suggesting it’ll be set in Mexico. A new Forza Motorsport is in development too, so both games could be mentioned depending on how far along they are in development.
Gears Of War fans may be expecting Gears Of War 6 to make an appearance, but insider Jeff Grubb has suggested that won’t happen. The Coalition is supposed to be working on a new franchise altogether, so maybe it’ll discuss that instead.
Square Enix E3 2021 Conference
Square Enix Presents – TBC
As well as starting its own digital presentation series in March, Square Enix confirmed that it will be attending E3 as well. However, they also said they’d have another Square Enix Presents in the summer, and it’s not clear if that’s one and the same event.
When it comes to games, the big one is obviously Final Fantasy 16, which was announced last year as a PlayStation 5 exclusive. There has been little new information about it since and E3 would be the perfect time to release a new trailer and provide a closer look at the gameplay.
However, there have also been rumours of a second PS5 exclusive Final Fantasy game being announced at E3. It’s purportedly called Final Fantasy Origins and is being developed by Team Ninja, and will even play similarly to their Dark Souls-esque Nioh games.
The same source claims that an Eidos-developed game will be at the presentation as well. While they didn’t provide much more information than that, news of Square Enix’s Guardians Of The Galaxy game has sprung up again, which is supposed to be in development at Eidos-Montréal.
Speaking of Marvel, no doubt details for the next major update for Avengers will be shown, especially since Black Panther is supposed to be coming to the game this summer. There may also be another trailer for the new Life Is Strange game.
The last Square Enix Presents saw Project Athia get a proper name, Forspoken, which is also on track for a PlayStation 5 release (as well as PC). Details on that remain scarce, but the last trailer was plenty intriguing.
Finally, with Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s PS5 re-release just around the corner, there are some expectations for an update on the remake’s second instalment. At the very least, we could see a teaser trailer for it, but Square Enix has been keeping mum about it so far, possibly to avoid drumming up too much excitement before it’s ready.
Nintendo E3 2021 Conference
Nintendo Direct – TBC
Nintendo fans arguably have the biggest expectations of anyone for E3 this year. Between the likes of the Zelda: Breath Of The Wild sequel, Metroid Prime 4, and Bayonetta 3, it’s hoped Nintendo has an unusually large number of games to show off this year.
Of course, this is Nintendo and it very much beats to the tune of its own drum. And with there being next to no leaks surrounding its E3 presence, it’s hard to tell if any of those aforementioned games will even get lip service.
Chances are that Nintendo has a bunch of entirely new announcements rather than updates on existing ones. Some sources claim that a new Donkey Kong game from the Super Mario Odyssey team is supposed to be releasing this year, for instance.
Although that’s not to say it will consist only of new games. Splatoon 3 got a surprise teaser at the end of January’s Direct so that’s bound to be discussed in more detail, especially since it’s meant to release in 2022.
What is likely is the reveal of the next DLC fighter for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In fact, since Nintendo revealed two of them at E3 2019 and there are only two more left to complete the roster, it could decide to announce both of them. And with it being E3, fans expect them to be massive pulls from third parties. Popular choices include Master Chief, Crash Bandicoot, and Sora from Kingdom Hearts.
The one thing bigger than a Breath Of The Wild 2 update is an announcement for the Nintendo Switch Pro. The thing has been rumoured for a couple of years now and a recent surge of insider reports and leaks suggests that Nintendo will finally reveal it very soon.
And with it reportedly more powerful than the base Switch, some theorise Nintendo will have a major game release to coincide with the Pro’s launch and drive up sales. Breath Of The Wild 2 seems like one obvious choice but knowing Nintendo it could be anything.
EA Play 2021
July 22 @ TBC
Since EA has ditched E3 and begun doing its own digital EA Play presentations, this year’s one isn’t happening until long after E3 ends. But while the hype surrounding E3 may have faded by July time, that doesn’t mean EA won’t have any major reveals of its own.
At the moment, the big one is probably the new Battlefield game (commonly referred to as Battlefield 6), but that’s being revealed in June. EA will probably have more in-depth demonstrations of its gameplay at EA Play the following month and with competitive multiplayer game Knockout City now out, that’s bound to get some attention as well.
With EA also being the home of BioWare, there’s every chance fans will get a new look at either the new Mass Effect or Dragon Age games (or both). It would make a lot of sense for the former to be shown at least, what with Mass Effect: Legendary Edition being such a big hit recently and revitalising interest in the franchise.
As for new announcements, while it was already confirmed, EA could properly reveal The Sims 5 and provide some more concrete details on that. And, if we’re lucky, we could see a teaser for the Star Wars Jedi sequel (or at least something Star Wars related).
One safe bet is the usual gamut of sports games announcements, so don’t be surprised to see FIFA 22 and Madden 22, and maybe even that new PGA Tour golf game EA announced in March.
Warner Bros. E3 2021
Warner Bros. was supposed to hold its first ever E3 conference in 2020 but that obviously didn’t pan out. The company is participating in E3 this year, but it so far hasn’t set a date for its presentation (or even if it will have a presentation at all).
What new games it could announce is difficult to predict at the moment (Shadow Of Mordor 3? Mortal Kombat 12?), but, aside from possibly one more trailer for Back 4 Blood (the Left 4 Dead successor due in October), the primary focus is likely to be on the two games it was supposed to release this year: Gotham Knights and Hogwarts Legacy.
Both are major releases for the company, with the former being the first major Batman game it’s had since 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight and the latter being the Harry Potter role-playing game fans have dreaming about for years.
Perhaps we’ll also see some gameplay for Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad game, since the original announcement was only a CGI teaser. Or, on the subject of DC, Injustice 3 could be announced. Support for Mortal Kombat 11 seems to have wound down and NetherRealm has so far alternated between the two series.
There were rumours of NetherRealm making a Marvel fighting game, but it’s doubtful that Disney would allow such a game to be announced at a rival’s showcase.
Sony E3 2021
State Of Play – TBC
Once again, Sony will be completely absent from E3 this year and will no doubt hold another State Of Play or similar in its own time. But, for the sake of convenience, and because it could happen adjacent to E3, we’ll give Sony a mention here anyway.
Sony already showed off new gameplay for Horizon Forbidden West very recently, so we can probably rule that out in terms of being the major focus.
The obvious draw would be God Of War: Ragnarök, which was teased with a logo last year and is suspected of being a PlayStation 5 exclusive. Barring that, something from Naughty Dog could be shown off, like Last Of Us Part 2’s multiplayer spin-off. Or maybe this will be where Sony admits to the The Last Of Us remake.
There was apparently going to be a new Uncharted game from Bend Studio, which made Days Gone, but that project was cancelled. Bend’s working on something else now, so we could see that. At the very least, don’t expect Sony to pull a 180 and un-cancel the Days Gone sequel. Although that doesn’t mean it definitely won’t happen…
There’s also every possibility Sony’s presentation is where some third parties will save their announcements. For example, Square Enix looks to be on very good terms with Sony, with Final Fantasy 16 and Forspoken highlighted as strong post-launch PlayStation 5 games in Sony’s own financial documents.
E3 2021 publisher predictions
There are several other publishers that will be present at E3 in some capacity. They are unlikely to hold their own presentations, but will still have some major announcements/updates they could make during the week.
Activision: Call Of Duty 2021
Bandai Namco: Tales Of Arise, Elden Ring
Capcom: Street Fighter 5 update (or even Street Fighter 6), Monster Hunter World update, old franchise revival
Gearbox: New, unnamed franchise
Koch Media: TimeSplitters, Dead Island 2
Sega: Lost Judgment, Yakuza, Sonic The Hedgehog 30th anniversary
Take-Two: Bioshock 4, GTA 6 (ha ha, no)
Several smaller events will be taking place over the course of June that aren’t technically related to E3 but clearly want to be. Some of them are even included as part of Summer Game Fest, which is set to begin on June 10 from 6pm BST.
Some of the E3 presentations, like Ubisoft’s and Microsoft’s, are considered part of Summer Game Fest as well, but the only detail you really need to worry about is when the presentations take place, not who they’re associated with.
Guerrilla Collective: June 5 @ 4pm BST and June 12 @ 4pm BST
Black Voices in Gaming: June 5 @ 6pm BST
Koch Primetime: June 11 @ 8pm BST
IGN Expo: June 12 @ 9pm BST
Wholesome Direct: June 12 @ 6pm BST
Future Games Show: June 13
PC Gaming Show: June 13
Steam Next Fest: June 16 @ 6pm BST
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