LOS ANGELES -- The video game industry's biggest trade show is in full swing and all gamers' eyes are turning to the Los Angeles Convention Center, where major studios are announcing and demoing their biggest projects for the year. The annual show, called the Electronic Entertainment Expo or "E3," is a weeklong celebration of all things video games.
Sunday night, Bethesda Softworks kicked things off with an announcement-packed news conference in which it detailed its post-apocalyptic "Fallout 4" -- which will be set partly pre-apocalypse for the first time -- its demon-destroying chainsaw-heavy shooter "Doom 4," fighting game "Battlecry," and the assassin game "Dishonored 2." The company also introduced a social network just for its many titles called "Bethesda.net," showed off a newly released update to "Elder Scrolls Online" and surprised the crowd by introducing a stand-alone iOS game based on Fallout. The game is called "Fallout Shelter" and draws inspiration from games such as "The Sims" to let you control an underground colony post-nuclear attack.
Here are some major storylines to watch from E3 this year.
Virtual Reality: From a gadget perspective, virtual reality is the story at this year's E3. While we've seen demos and heard buzz about the technology at past shows. But these things are getting real now: these gadgets have shipping dates.
Oculus and Microsoft have teamed up to say that Xbox One games will be compatible with the Rift through users' PCs. Meanwhile, Sony has its own "Project Morpheus" virtual reality headset that the company is expected to talk about during its presentation. Overall, there are 22 virtual reality exhibitors on the show floor, said Michael Gallagher, chief executive of the Entertainment Software Association, which puts on E3.
Games, games, games: We already ran through the list of games that Bethesda showed off during its news conference, and that is just scratching the surface. It's more or less a given that we'll get more information about new titles from favorite franchises such as "Call of Duty," and "Assassins Creed," "Forza" and "Gears of War" plus updates of music titles "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero" -- remember those?
Microsoft's expected to reveal details about some of those titles as well as "Halo 5" during its conference. Ubisoft will likely focus on titles including "Assassins Creed: Syndicate," and updates on anticipated titles such as "The Division." Electronic Arts is slated to reveal more about "Star Wars Battlefront" and "Mirror's Edge" among other titles. Sony is likely to pull Morpheus out for a demo or two, and is also likely to talk about a new "Uncharted" title and to offer more details about its ambitious exclusive adventure game,"No Man's Sky."
Nintendo, as per usual, is opting not to do a big news conference, but is streaming an announcement to fans on Tuesday. The company is expected to show off its latest "Star Fox" title. The company has said that it won't be releasing new information on its upcoming "Legend of Zelda" game, but there is chatter that it may step up with a new "Metroid" game.
Mobile: There are 70 mobile exhibitors at E3 this year, showing that the industry understands that the average gamer is likely to be more often than not huddled over a smartphone screen these days. The show traditionally has been focused on the console world, but Gallagher said that the ESA is committed to working with more mobile studios to pull them into the fold.
But you can also expect to see traditional studios put more emphasis on mobile games as well. Bethesda announced three games that work on mobile devices in its presentation: a companion app to "Fallout 4" for iOS and Android, the iOS-only "Fallout Shelter," and a strategy card game, "Elder Scrolls: Legends" that will run on PCs and iPads.
Moving beyond games: Games, of course, are the heart and soul of the show. But you can expect to see some of these companies shift their focus slightly away from the pure console games we've come to know and love. Microsoft has already made clear that it wants the Xbox to be more than just a gaming console, with its entertainment features, and it will be interesting to see if the company expands that ambition -- and how.
Bethesda set the tone for this with the introduction of "Bethesda.net" which is a digital platform that will host discussion forums, fan modifications to games and grant insider access to members. It also announced a modding tool for Doom called "Doom Snapmap," which lets players build their own levels and challenges.
Fan engagement is a major part of this year's show -- the show floor opens to 5,000 consumers for the first time this year, showing that the industry is trying to stay on top of social and playing trends that drive gaming in an always-connected world that doesn't necessarily center around the living room anymore.